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Troy L. Wheeler

Troy L. Wheeler

 

 

Strategy: Responding Immediately to Domestic Violence Calls

Strategy Immediate response from law enforcement to domestic violence calls helps reduce the severity of injury to the victim. . . .

Strategy

Immediate response from law enforcement to domestic violence calls helps reduce the severity of injury to the victim.

Community Problem Addressed

Recent statistics indicate that domestic violence persists as a national problem. According to research cited in 1996 by the National League of Cities, women who stay in violent relationships are at a 75 percent greater risk of being killed by the batterer than those who leave the relationship. Children of those families are also at significant risk. In one 1997 study sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice, children who had been victims of violence within their families were 24 percent more likely to report violent behavior as adolescents than those who had not been maltreated in childhood. Factors that can contribute to battered partners staying in physically abusive relationships include economic dependence and fear of their partners.

Key Components

A key component of this strategy is a service that provides victims with a security system and an electronic device that with the press of a button summons help from the local law enforcement agency. Typically the devices are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When the victim signs up for the program, the company requests his or her home address. If a person involved in the program feels in imminent danger of attack, he or she activates the electronic device or the security system mounted in the home. Dispatchers then alert the local law enforcement agency that a call has come in from a domestic violence victim. The service is typically available to those who have suffered serious domestic abuse, have already sought other forms of protection such as a restraining order, and have expressed a willingness to testify against the abuser in court if he or she is apprehended following a call placed using the system.

Key Partnerships

Law enforcement partner with a security company who would provide the security systems and electronic devices.  Court officials, domestic violence officials, victims services providers, and law enforcement officers who have responded to domestic violence calls at the homes of victims are the most logical advocates for promoting this type of service to victims of domestic violence.  The local media can also promote the service and the commitment of the local police department to prioritize response to homes where it is in use.

Potential Obstacles

Victims of domestic abuse are often afraid of the batterer, unaware of the range of services within their community to help them and their children, and embarrassed to admit that they are victims of abuse.  The victims may have to be persuaded that alternative and more positive living situations exist and that the response system can help ensure their safety as they work toward that goal.  A service that requires subscription fees could limit participation, with low-income victims possibly excluded from getting help.  A service that requires the victim to speak to the responding service operator could limit participation to English-speaking, non speech-impaired victims with no physical injuries that could prevent them from responding to the call.

Examples of Success and Results

Sponsored by ADT Security Systems, Inc., the Abused Women's Active Response Emergency (AWARE) program was started in 1992. The company provides women who have reported serious cases of physical domestic abuse with a free security system and a free emergency electronic pendant, both of which send a silent alarm when activated. The typical criteria for participating in the program include a commitment from the local law enforcement agency to prioritize calls forwarded by AWARE's 24-hour monitoring system; imminent danger to the victim; an active restraining order in place against the abuser; and a victim willing to prosecute the abuser and testify against him in a court of law if he is apprehended as a result of the use of AWARE. ADT requests that once the victim no longer needs the device that it be forwarded to another victim in need. ADT also works with local law enforcement to guide victims using the service to locally based victim assistance programs, following up monthly after the device is installed to determine the victim's status and to check on her safety.

As of the end of 1998, over 150 local law enforcement agencies had requested and were providing AWARE to domestic violence victims in their communities. Among the participating jurisdictions: Henrico County, Virginia; Northampton, Massachusetts [population 29,289]; Kernerville, North Carolina [population 10,836]; and Santa Fe County, New Mexico. Since its inception, AWARE is credited with saving the lives of over 25 victims of domestic violence.

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