Today’s post is a shameless request! I am asking everyone who reads this to please go to the Huffington Post’s Mayors Challenge (HPMC) page and vote for my hometown, High Point, NC as the Fan Favorite. Voting ends March 6 and you can only vote one time. Then share this request with others.
Why should you? Because the Fan Favorite winner gets $50,000 to put towards its program. That would be a terrific contribution to the work we are doing. And I’m asking nicely (see the word “please” above).
And the work we are doing? It’s a novel approach to stopping domestic violence. There’s a short video about our work (and the work of all the other finalists) on the HPMC page. However, there is so much more to say. And even if we don’t win the Fan Favorite contest or the Mayors Challenge, I want you to know about this approach because it might work in your hometown as well. That’s one of our goals.
Our program is called the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative. It’s patterned after a violence reduction program we created and have been using for over ten years, which has reduced our violence and homicide rates significantly. It is a collaborative effort between the law enforcement agencies (local, state, national agencies as well as probation/parole offices) and the community (residents, volunteers, service agency representatives, business owners, etc.). Law enforcement identifies 4 levels of domestic violence offenders – individuals who are showing initial signs of abuse patterns to those who have a record of abuse – the worst of the worst. Those showing initial signs receive warning letters as well as visits from law enforcement officers to explain why this behavior is wrong and what will happen to the offender if it happens again. A repeat offense moves that individual up the ladder of levels and results in other consequences.
Those with established patterns of abuse are asked to come to a meeting. We call them “notifications” or “call ins”. This is a highly structured event, hosted by a local non-profit organization, High Point Community Against Violence (HPCAV), and the High Point Police Department. Members of HPCAV address the individuals first, explaining that their past behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated. We are very purposeful with our words and what is said is based on research done in the area of domestic violence offenders. Following this part, representatives from a multitude of law enforcement agencies as well as the state and federal court system make their comments. The heart of the message is that domestic violence – abuse of intimate partners – will not be tolerated by our community or our law enforcement. Any repeat offenses will result in immediate and severe consequences. These include moving that person to the top of the list for a court appearance, a look at how to get that person the most jail time possible and a promise that the community will show up in court to let the judge know that a warning was issued but ignored. The meeting closes with an offer from HPCAV: if you are willing to change what you are doing, we are willing to help you make that change. We stay to have conversations with any of the individuals who want to talk. We explain how we can help them connect with established programs or services that can help them control their anger or resolve some of the challenges that may lead to violent behavior. Our director is available to listen, to guide, to support.
This particular initiative started almost one year ago and is based on careful research and data gathering. Domestic violence victims and service agencies have been a part of the research and planning. Our six month data looked very promising in terms of a lower number of repeat offenses. We are excited and hopeful that the first year’s results will be as good or better.
Imagine what our communities and our country would be like if we could stop domestic violence. Imagine what it would mean for women and men, girls and boys. What it would mean for children.
This is a very shortened explanation of a complex and well-conceived program; it’s what is being considered for the Mayors Challenge. While winning would be an incredible gift to our city, what we really hope for is results, real results. We want a real decrease in the number of domestic violence incidents, this year, next year, and 10 years from now. We want a program that you or anyone else could replicate in your city or town with confidence, because it has been successful in our city and because we have the research to prove it. We want every home to be the safe haven it should be, for all of us.
I hope you’ll vote for us and I hope you’ll keep this effort in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you!