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People in loving, nurturing, functional relationships oftentimes have trouble understanding that many people’s reality is far different from their own behind closed doors.

Even in rural, small-town Nebraska, Butler County Sheriff Tom Dion says domestic violence is an ongoing problem that isn’t showing any sign of stopping.

“More than a person would know,” Dion said of the prevalence of domestic violence and the number of house calls he and his deputies are forced to make checking on people’s well-being. “Just because you don’t always see them in the paper doesn’t mean that they aren’t occurring. They are kept quiet, for the most part, unless an arrest is made.”

And an arrest actually being made, much of the time, is dependent upon the abused being willing to press charges against the abuser. And that just doesn’t always happen.

In an effort to equip area women with some of the basic skills necessary to fend off an attacker – or briefly deal with a domestic situation within her own household while law enforcement is en route – the Butler County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Genesis Personal Development Center (Genesis House) to host a self-defense class from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Hruska Memorial Public Library, 399 N. Fifth St. in David City.

The Genesis House is an organization that focuses on available resources and services toward restoring wholeness to women and children recovering and escaping from domestic abuse situations. Annually, Genesis House works with approximately 100 women and children countywide.

The class is being taught by Butler County Sheriff’s Deputy Marla Schnell and will consist of informing women in attendance about effective hand/leg striking techniques and escape measures, among other things.

Nicole Gasper, who through her position as Genesis House Open Arms Program coordinator hosts informative, empowering learning sessions to area residents covering a variety of topics, said that communication with local law enforcement is vital for her organization simply because of its line of work.

“It isn’t always a clean break when someone leaves an abusive situation, it’s not always as easy as, ‘oh, I can just leave this person,’” Gasper said. “… And so that is where the important relationship with law enforcement comes into play.”

Not only is it important for officials of the Genesis House to have a good relationship with local law enforcement, it’s something the community at large needs to strive for, Gasper said. This is one of the reasons she and Dion have collaborated to host a Coffee with a Cop event that is being held from 2-6 p.m. Thursday at the Genesis House, 474 N. 12th St.

Women who attend Coffee with a Cop will be able to register for the Oct. 17 self-defense course for $8 instead of the general $10 registration fee. Proceeds from the self-defense class are being funneled back into the Genesis House, Gasper said.

Dion said the event is designed to help people feel more comfortable with law enforcement. He and a handful of other deputies will be onsite throughout the afternoon to engage with county residents and answer any questions they might have. Really, he said he just wants himself and his staff to be accessible and seen.

“I want that open-door policy,” Dion said. “Just so we can sit down and visit, and sometimes that’s all you need – someone to talk to. We are not just someone in uniform … My deputies live here and they are highly vested in this community.”

On Gasper’s front, she hopes that community members will capitalize on this opportunity by bringing their children and showing them that officers aren’t scary, intimidating people. She wants them to know that if a bad situation arises that they can rely on these people to help them and serve as advocates for their well-being.

“It just gets them familiar,” Gasper said of what the Coffee with a Cop can offer area children. “If law enforcement shows up to their house in the middle of the night do to an altercation of some sort, they won’t be as scared, you know? It’s not a bad guy coming to get someone in trouble, or whatnot. It’s like, ‘this person is on my side,’ and ‘oh, I’ve seen this person before and they were really nice to me.’”

Moving forward, Dion said the goal is to host more self-defense courses for area women and more gatherings like Coffee with a Cop. Ultimately, people will likely see even more collaboration taking place between Dion’s office and the Genesis House.

“We just want to keep working together to break down any barriers of mistrust or intimidation that can be felt between people and law enforcement,” she said. And with something like Coffee with a Cop, it's just a relaxed safe environment where people can talk with, and put a name to a face with their local law enforcement officials.”

For more information regarding the upcoming self-defense course or Coffee with a Cop, those interested are encouraged to contact the Genesis House at 402-367-3585.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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