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Agency-wide protocols are now in place for those who deal with cases involving domestic violence.
Earlier this week, officials from various agencies — the Wesley Shelter, Barton College, Wilson County Emergency Communications, the Wilson Police Department, Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Wilson Medical Center, Wilson County Department of Social Services, Legal Aid of North Carolina and the district attorney’s office — signed a memorandum of understanding that shows a commitment to implement the new community-wide protocols.
The signing is an outline for each agency to follow in how it responds at any point of contact with a domestic violence victim. The agencies will also work together using a victim-centered approach, officials said.
There are already community-wide protocols in place for cases involving sexual assault victims.
The Wesley Shelter, a United Way agency, began facilitating a Coordinated Community Response Team for sexual assault in November 2012, thanks to an Enhancing Rural Strategies Grant. Wilson was one of 10 counties awarded the competitive grant designed to bring multiple agencies together to improve sexual assault and domestic violence services and build relationships with victims and agencies. The three-year grant was renewed again in 2014.
This team is made up of representatives from agencies that could receive reports of domestic violence. Each agency will train current and future staff on these protocols, officials said.
“This shows how our community is committed to preventing domestic and sexual violence and stands behind those who have been affected,” said Wesley Shelter Executive Director Lynne White. “We are very proud of the work accomplished by the Coordinated Community Response Team. Although the grant that funded this project has ended, the team will continue to meet to monitor and maintain the great accomplishments. This shows their belief in and dedication to the cause.”
‘WE WANT VICTIMS TO FEEL SAFE’
The signing was held inside Wilson Medical Center’s auditorium Monday. The commitment is an effort to provide victim-focused services for those affected by domestic violence in the community and a commitment by all participating agencies to hold offenders accountable.
A community survey was initially conducted to see what residents viewed as strengths and weaknesses when it comes to services for domestic and sexual assault victims. The team looked at the results and built a plan around those issues.
The team focused on sexual assault protocols first, and once they were completed, members transitioned and focused on domestic violence protocols, said Donna Pridgen, the Wesley Shelter’s Coordinated Community Response specialist. The purpose of these protocols is to establish and maintain a consistent and effective community-wide approach on domestic violence.
“Oftentimes, when a project lasts this long, momentum is lost or members stop participating,” White said. “In this project, which began in 2012, momentum is still strong and even more members and agencies are joining the CCR Team. This benefits the entire community. So many victims of domestic and sexual violence never report what has happened to them. We want to make it easier for reporting and have agencies aware of signs and indicators of violence. We want victims to feel safe. We also want to see offenders held accountable for this crime.”
Other agencies who have joined the effort include Wilson County Schools, the Mediation Center of Eastern North Carolina and the Valiant Families Abuser Treatment Program.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.