INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana on Tuesday became the third state to allow domestic abuse victims to apply for wallet-sized cards intended to help police take action against abusers who violate court orders.
The free Hope Cards will include the abuse victim's information and details about protective orders or restraining orders they have obtained, along with the name, photo and description of the abuser it covers, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said while visiting the Julian Center, an Indianapolis shelter for domestic abuse victims.
In crisis situations such as a confrontation with an abuser, Zoeller said, victims can't always find or access the multipage court orders police must see before arresting someone for violating an order. Hope Cards will allow abuse victims to more quickly give officers the essentials of their order — and specifics about the person it covers, he said.
Zoeller said between 10,000 and 12,000 Indiana victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking likely would meet the criteria to obtain the one of the cards.
"It's not a small problem. It's a significant thing for the courts and for law enforcement," he said.
Indiana, which began accepting applications Tuesday, is the third state after Montana and Idaho to offer victims the cards, officials said. The program is open only to people who have been under protective orders for a year or longer.
Michelle Bumgarner, director of victim advocacy programs for the attorney general's office, said more than 75 victim advocates and others who aid domestic violence victims already have received training to help eligible residents apply for the cards.
She said her father, a retired police officer, told her the cards would be a valuable tool for law enforcement to quickly confirm information in volatile domestic abuse scenarios.
"Time is of the essence in those situations," Bumgarner said.
Melissa Pershing, executive director of the Julian Center, said the Hope Cards will become "a very big deal" to abuse victims living in fear.
"It's a shield and goes with you wherever you go, even if you have forgotten all of those papers that say 'protective order' on them," she said.
The program's launch is being funded with a $30,000 Verizon Wireless grant, although Zoeller said the state eventually may fund the effort.
Michelle Gilbert, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless in Indiana, said the grant money came from used cell phones and accessories dropped off at Verizon retail stores that were recycled or refurbished and resold. Last year, she said, Verizon donated all the money it raised through reused or recycled cells phone — about $200,000 — to domestic violence organizations in the form of cash grants.
"This is truly an issue that needs to be fought by the community as a whole," Gilbert said.
Zoeller also visited Terre Haute and Evansville to discuss the program Tuesday and was scheduled to make similar stops Wednesday in Lafayette, South Bend and Fort Wayne.