New victim advocate appointed to serve Hancock County

GREENFIELD — An Anderson-based crisis center dedicated to helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse in Central Indiana has appointed a new representative to assist Hancock County residents in need.

Rachel Dennis has been named Alternatives Inc.’s victim advocate and outreach coordinator to Hancock County. She replaces longtime victim advocate Kelly Buzan, who held the post for more than 10 years.

As the county’s victim advocate, Dennis will assist police with crisis response for both domestic violence and sexual assault cases — a cause she’s chosen to dedicate her life to, she said. She’s eager to help further spread Alternatives’ mission to Hancock County residents, reaching out to those who might not know of the organization’s work while also learning about the ongoing efforts in Hancock County to prevent domestic crimes. She said she’s most excited to head into the county’s schools to further discussions with young people about safe dating and healthy relationships.

Dennis began her career with Alternatives early this year, working at the organization’s domestic violence crisis center in Anderson as a shelter advocate for about six months before applying to fill the open position in Hancock County.

As a shelter advocate, Dennis worked closely with women and children who have been abused, often answering phone calls from women seeking help or shelter and then assisting new residents settle into their life at the shelter.

Dennis’ time working at the shelter in Anderson — the heart of the Alternatives organization, she said — gave her a deep understanding of the nonprofit’s mission and instilled within her a desire to further help crime victims, she said.

The experience Dennis gained by working at Alternatives’ gave her an unmatched understanding of the organization’s mission to help people in crisis, Buzan said.

Often, shelter employees are at the front lines of a domestic violence investigation, Buzan said. At times, women call the organization for help before ever reaching out to police, so Dennis was able to see first-hand the trauma and pain many victims face, she said.

Dennis’s office will be housed at the Greenfield Police Department.

Having someone nearby who can step into the talk with a victim about different social services offered in the community is helpful to law enforcement, Greenfield Detective Lt. Randy Ratliff said.

The advocate is able to step in to counsel and comfort the victim while detectives focus on the investigation, Ratliff said.

Once Buzan was promoted to a new post within Alternatives, she immediately took the lead training Dennis and will continue to be a resource to Dennis as she learns the ins and outs of Greenfield.

Dennis has enrolled in Leadership Hancock County to help learn more about the community — something Buzan did when she began working in Hancock County. She’s hopeful the classes will give her a better understanding of the organizations where she might need to refer victims.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.