Domestic violence, sex abuse require dedicated opponent

Published 6:32 pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sheriff Donald Hill knew the strength of his force would be shored up by the addition of at least one more investigator. He also knew what he planned to task this investigator with would require an intense level of dedication.

Det. Sgt. B.J. Bayne joined the Polk County Sheriff’s Department at the beginning of this year focusing primarily on domestic violence and sexual abuse offenses. Credit is due to the department for entrusting these delicate cases with a committed individual focused solely on protecting victims of such crimes.

Evidence shows in the multiple arrests made this month alone that even in a small county people are not protected from violent crimes. Crimes such as these, in particular, are more times than not committed by people the victim knows personally.

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Steps to HOPE Executive Director Rachel Ramsey said the addition of a domestic violence and sex crimes investigator means more victims of such crimes might see justice.

“By the time court dates roll around too often victims are getting uncomfortable, they are getting scared and often times intimidated,” Ramsey said. “This on a regular basis causes the case to be dropped because the client doesn’t show up to court. With the sheriff’s department dedicating an officer to these cases, I think we’ll see more adjudication.”

Ramsey said her agency is particularly enthusiastic to see Bayne, who worked with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in the past, return. She said she knows Bayne to be someone who is easy to talk to and compassionate.

“The collaboration is invaluable; when we can work together we can get the best results for victims,” Ramsey said. “I think victims see that connection between the sheriff’s department and Steps to HOPE and it makes them more willing to come forward.”

The sheriff’s office is also located next door to Steps to HOPE, which Ramsey said allows officers to interview victims in a less threatening environment and provides for open communication between the department and the agency. Ramsey said officers are also given palm cards with Steps to HOPE information to provide to potential victims, especially in situations when a potential abuser has not been arrested.

“We’re all in this together,” Ramsey said. “We have to support each other and we know if we get reports from them we can work closely with the victim.”

Sheriff Hill and his force likely did all they could do over the past few years to ensure these victims were not ignored but without a steadfast investigator the issue gets lost in the deluge of other crimes to solve.

Ramsey said she is encouraged too by an aim within the district attorney’s office to dedicate additional manpower toward domestic violence and sexual assaults. The district attorney’s office, which covers Polk, Henderson and Transylvania counties, plans to submit a grant proposal to the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission to provide funds for a dedicated assistant district attorney to handle domestic violence cases.

Ramsey said Steps to HOPE and other domestic violence prevention agencies in Henderson and Transylvania counties have signed off on the proposal.

“People are beginning to say, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got to do something about domestic violence and sexual abuse,’” Ramsey said.

– Tryon Daily Bulletin Staff