How will I keep my children safe?
Where will I sleep tonight?
What do I do now?
Those are questions victims might have after a domestic battery takes place. And that’s when Crisis Intervention Advocate Tonya Harden arrives on the scene.
She might ride to the hospital or a safe place with victims and stay with them until family members or caseworkers arrive.
She tells them about safety planning and how to obtain protective orders.
She fills them in on programs available to help them in and around Brown County and lines them up with Victim Advocate Erin Kirchhofer in the prosecutor’s office to help them understand what to do next.
“A lot of people in crisis are not thinking very well, so they’re not thinking about themselves. They’re worried about, ‘I gotta get my kids taken care of. What am I going to do with the dog? What am I going to do with the house?’ Tonya helps them out with a lot of options,” Nashville Police Chief Ben Seastrom said.
Harden became the full-time “CIA” for the Nashville Police Department on Oct. 1. She’s on call 24/7.
The work is familiar to her. Until March, she had been the victim’s advocate in the Brown County prosecutor’s office for seven years.
She began working as an administrative assistant for the Nashville Police in May.
The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute provided the grant that funded Harden’s last job as victim’s advocate with the county. While talking on behalf of the police department with the ICJI grant coordinator about possible grant opportunities for law enforcement, Harden said she found there was a lack of service in the county and town for an on-call victim’s advocate who can provide immediate crisis intervention.
The victim’s advocate at the prosecutor’s office is now Erin Kirchhofer, who is the mother of young children, and she is not able to be on call as easily, Harden said. Harden’s children are grown.
“That wasn’t really something she was interested in. With my background in law enforcement and working with the officers, that was something I was very much interested in still doing,” Harden said.
Harden and Kirchhofer work together to help victims.
“I consider it crisis and then ongoing,” Harden said of the difference between the two jobs. “We have two advocates now that are working hand in hand.”
Protective orders can now be done through the Nashville Police Department for all victims of any crime in the county.
Kirchhofer works with victims after charges have been filed and through court proceedings.
Harden calls the new job a perfect fit for her. Prior to working with the prosecutor’s office, she worked at the domestic violence shelter in Columbus.
She said counseling women who experienced a traumatic event helped her learn how to deal with crises.
She added she enjoys being able to give women who have been in abusive relationships options for their independence — something they might not have had while in the relationship.
Sometimes, she disagrees with their decision making, she said, but she wants all victims to know she is there for them no matter what they decide.
“If you go back to that abusive relationship, that’s your choice. I learned a long time ago that I can’t make them do what I want them to do.
“Of course, I don’t want anybody to go back to an abusive situation; but just knowing that we’re there for them, that we don’t judge and that they can come back if it doesn’t work out,” she said.
She has not been called to assist at a scene yet, but when the call comes, she will be ready.
“I’m just waiting to go.”
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To request help from the Nashville Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Advocate Tonya Harden, call the NPD at 812-988-0341.