Domestic violence victims given greater access to help
JACKSON, Tenn. - Law enforcement officers in Haywood, Dyer, Weakley, and Benton counties will now work with WRAP advocates, system advocates, and a Praxis International expert on rural domestic violence to explore Advocacy Initiated Response (AIR), an approach that simplifies the process of getting help to victims of domestic violence. If implemented, AIR will introduce a practical but impactful change.
Currently, when an officer responds to a domestic violence call, s/he provides victims with information about WRAP, the local advocacy program that provides a wide array of free, confidential services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. But, as a matter of practice, it’s up to the victims to call and ask for help. With AIR, WRAP will reach out to victims and offer services.
Crimes of domestic violence represent more than 50-percent of all crimes against persons in rural West Tennessee. In many of our rural West Tennessee cities, it is the main catalyst of violent crime, as Dyersburg Chief of Police, Steven Isbell, explains: “Domestic violence accounted for 54.9-percent of assaults, 38.27-percent of aggravated assaults, 33.33-percent of rapes, and 100-percent of kidnapping and abductions inside the City of Dyersburg in 2016. Domestic violence offenses are the highest category for violent crime in our city. These numbers represent people who are in relationships and are hurting each other. Services to the victims, families, and offenders must be implemented through community partnerships and our criminal justice system.”
Although WRAP’s services are available in 19 West Tennessee counties, many victims never call for services and the abuse continues, sometimes with deadly consequences. Benton County’s Sheriff, Kenny Christopher, explains why: “The intimate nature of this crime often prevents people from seeking the help they need. When you’ve been emotionally or physically abused, it’s really hard to reach out to strangers for help; most people don’t. We’ve learned, however, that if we let advocates know about a situation, then the advocates can reach out and offer help to the victims. When advocates do that, victims are more likely to accept the help—and the sooner we can get help to victims, the better it is for everyone—for the victim, for that relationship, that household, and that community.”
Brownsville Police Chief Barry Diebold wholeheartedly agrees, explaining that “when law enforcement, advocates, and the community collaborate, crimes of domestic violence can be addressed and reduced, and victims, families, and communities benefit.”
Lt. Permenter of the Dyer County Sheriff’s Department concurs, saying that by “working together, we can do more to keep victims, families, and our community safer. Community collaboration is the key to keeping us all safer and holding offenders accountable.”