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Muncie agencies unaffected by Department of Justice change


MUNCIE, Ind. (NewsLink) - The U.S. Department of Justice recently updated its definition of domestic violence on its website, but two local agencies say they’re continuing the work they do and including what was taken out by the DOJ.

The old definition included multiple forms of abuse, such as physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological. Now, the website says domestic violence “includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence.” Shelby Looper, director of the Muncie Police Department Victim Advocate Program, says domestic violence is the crime of person between romantic or family relationships.

“Anything in nature of physical, verbal, emotional, stalking, intimidation, anything of that nature is domestic violence,” Shelby Looper said. 

Last year, the MPD Victim Advocate Program served approximately 1,000 people and an additional 50 were helped in January.

“My first thought was that [the change] was completely ridiculous. We've come such a long way in domestic violence that we can't be taking steps backwards, and that’s what i feel like this is,” Looper said. “As a whole, as a country, as a complete justice system, we’re taking a step back by taking out elements of the definition. As we know, domestic violence is not always physical. It can be everything but physical.”

A Better Way provides a variety of services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Last year, oven 400 adults and children were served by A Better Way.

"The new definition really minimizes the nature of domestic abuse and the different forms that it takes," Tracy Bevis-Smiley, Sexual Assault Program Coordinator at A Better Way, said. “We know that there are different forms of abuse, we know that the forms of abuse that have been taken out of the definitions are the ones that are always there, and they’re there from the beginning all the way to the end. They’re really the ones that keep individuals in an abusive relationship,”

Both A Better Way and Looper say nothing will change with their agencies because of the new definition.

“We’re going to keep dealing with each victim the way we did before, so even if it’s not physical abuse, we’re going to handle it the way we did before,” Looper said.

“As far as right now, it’s not going to have any impact with the services that we provide to our clients,” Bevis-Smiley said. 

To contact A Better Way, click here. To contact the MPD Victim Advocate Program, click here.