By Brenda L. Holmes
PITTSBORO — Two employees of the Pittsboro Veterinary Clinic became heroes in their community when they intervened in a domestic violence situation on Feb. 22.
Pittsboro Police Chief Christi Patterson said their actions were nothing short of heroic.
“Ashley Mason was taking the trash out behind the clinic when she heard screams,” Patterson said. “She saw a male trying to pull a female out of a truck and into a house.”
She said Mason went back into the vet clinic and got her co-worker, Jennifer Powell.
“I think the report said they heard ‘blood curdling’ screams and called 911,” Patterson said. “They observed the house and saw the woman come outside. They grabbed her and took her over to the clinic.”
She said Mason and Powell kept the woman safe until police arrived.
Patterson said Neal McKinney, the man involved in the domestic dispute, even came over to the clinic and demanded that the woman be returned to him.
“The two ladies locked the doors and told him the police were on the way,” she said. “They put themselves in personal endangerment and helped someone from receiving any further harm.”
Patterson said McKinney was arrested and charged with domestic battery.
Mason and Powell will be honored by Patterson and the Pittsboro Police Department during the Pittsboro Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. March 19 in the council’s chambers.
“I am allowed to recognized local citizens for going above and beyond,” Patterson said. “The honor will actually be for an ‘act of bravery.’”
Patterson said she was so impressed by what the women had done that she shared the story with Julie Randall, director of the Hendricks County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“I was just amazed,” she said. “What they did was amazing. They stepped up and did the right thing. They were just courageous.”
The coalition encourages bystanders to take action to prevent violence.
“It is frightening to witness violence like this,” Randall said. “People don’t want to be nosy or think it’s none of their business. But there could be a good opportunity to do something and have an impact on a situation.”
She said the two women who helped in this instance may have put themselves in danger and she doesn’t recommend that to everyone.
“What they did was great, but they could have been hurt,” Randall said. “They did the right thing by calling 911. There are other ways to intervene that might not be so dangerous.”
The coalition created an action plan for those who observe domestic violence.
“We put this together this summer after Emily Waddell (Giles) was murdered,” Randall said. “She had never interfaced with the system. There were no protective orders.”
She said the only people who knew about Giles’ abuse were her friends and family.
“Many people knew there was violence in the home,” she said. “We want all people to have the tools needed to intervene in these situations.”
Randall said there are some warning signs to watch for. Someone who may be an abuser might act excessively jealous of their partner, insult or embarrass their partner in public, or yell at or try to intimidate their partner.
Someone who is a victim may act submissive; have physical injuries or wear unusual clothing as if to hide an injury (such as sunglasses indoors or long sleeves in the summer); seem overly anxious to please their partner; seem afraid of their partner; talk about the partner’s temper, possessiveness, or jealousy; be restricted from seeing family and friends; have limited access to money or a car; seem depressed, anxious, or suicidal.
“Ask the victim about the situation in a safe place where the abuser cannot overhear,” Randall said. “It’s also very important you tell the person, typically a woman, that the violence is no fault of her own. We also encourage people to support the person, not to give advice. You don’t want to take power away from her. You want to encourage her to make her own decisions.”
She said it is also important to help a victim have a safe way to leave their abuser, such as going to a domestic violence center like Sheltering Wings.
“You really want them to leave safety — use the resources in the community,” Randall said. “Most women murdered are murdered after leaving the relationship.”
There is a danger assessment for victims to use to see if they are in a domestic violence situation. That assessment may be found online at http://hccadv.org/danger.pdf.
“There are 20 questions that women can ask to help find the level of risk,” Randall said. “And people need to know that they can go to Sheltering Wings for help, but they don’t have to go and live there.”
Sheltering Wings operates a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence at 745-1496. The advocates who operate this line can provide a well-informed listening ear; can assist with safety planning; and can provide shelter and service referrals. The shelter hotline can also help people get protective orders and come up with a safety plan, as all women who are in a domestic violence situation do not need to go a shelter.