Domestic violence conference tackles trauma that affects first responders, service providers

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Twenty years ago, Lynette Grace experienced an incident of domestic violence that changed her life forever.

She was visiting a friend in Toledo before heading home to Atlanta, GA when an argument broke out between her friend and her friend’s son.

After the argument, she found the body of her friend stabbed and bleeding in the basement of the home.

“I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do because by the time I found her she was gone,” said Grace, who shared her story at the third annual Columbus Division of Police Domestic Violence Conference at the Columbus Police Academy on Wednesday.

Her terror was just starting, Grace said.

Having attacked his own mother, the son turned the knife on Grace.

“Before I escaped, her son stabbed me in various places,” said Grace. “I got stabbed in the chest, in the face, in the arm, in the leg. I ran out the back door in my pajamas. I’m bleeding from head to toe, barefooted, running down the street knocking on doors trying to get help for his mom.”

The son has since spent the last 20 years in prison on a 40-year sentence. Grace said she has forgiven him.

The event was traumatic for Grace, who has since changed careers and hopes to help other victims of domestic violence.

“I’m hoping to be able to give back since I survived what happened. You know I’m hoping to be an asset,” said Grace.

Sgt. Richard Ketcham, of the Domestic Violence Unit of the Columbus Division of Police, helped organize the conference.

This year’s theme was trauma, and not just the physical kind suffered by victims, Ketcham said.

The central focus of the conference was vicarious trauma that affects first responders, social workers, and even the medical personnel that help victims.

“It’s imperative that not only do we educate our officers and other folks in similar lines of work about vicarious trauma and things to recognize, but I think it’s incumbent on us as other individuals in the career field to recognize it in other people as well,” Ketcham said.

That vicarious trauma can cause serious problems like changes to personality and even burnout, according to Ketcham.

“I know for a fact, I am a different person than what I was 20, almost 24, years ago when I started at the police academy, and it is by virtue of my experience as a police officer, the things that I have been involved in and dealt with through my career,” said Ketcham.

Burnout is a serious concern for probation officer Jason Young as well.

“I want to feel passionate about what I do, but sometimes it’s difficult to do that especially (because) the years of wear and tear on you,” said Young.

He was one of nearly 130 people attending the conference this year.

Randi Aden has been a social worker for nearly 30 years. Much to her appreciation, she was surprised by the conference theme.

“It’s about helping me, so that’s awesome. (It’s) something I feel like is needed,” said Aden.

The day-long conference was capped off with an optional self-defense training session.

Participants could employ the techniques themselves or share them with victims.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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