Center now offering 24/7 advocacy services to domestic violence victims

Center now offering 24/7 advocacy services to domestic violence victims

Domestic violence victims in the Beloit area will now be able to get an in-person response from an advocate with the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center 24 hours a day, under a newly-created program.

While its crisis line continues to accept calls around the clock, the BDVSC will now be able to send “community response advocates” day and night to service providers who encounter victims.

“Whether they’re with police, or they’re at the hospital or even if a teacher at school sees that something is going on here, there might be some domestic violence going on, they can call us,” BDVSC community response advocate Dana Lewellyn said. “We can have an advocate actually go out and actually be that emotional support, provide those resources in that moment.”

Lewellyn said this will allow victims to receive access to resources immediately after a domestic violence situation, a critical time period.

“If they’re supported in that moment of crisis, it’s more likely that they’ll continue to use those resources in the long run and probably get out of that situation probably sooner than they may have without those services,” Lewellyn said.

Lewellyn said she and other advocates are able to discuss the crucial next steps for victims beyond the immediate incident, like safety and goal planning or finding jobs and housing.

“By us coming in, that next step can be fulfilled,” Lewellyn said.

Beloit police Capt. Dan Risse said his department is excited to play a part in the program, which will help move victims beyond just their initial encounter with law enforcement officers.

“In the past, what an officer would do is provide them with the domestic violence shelter phone number that could be contacted during normal business days,” Risse said. “A lot of times perhaps the victim, by the next day, has a change of heart, maybe got some other information, but that doesn’t really provide them that immediate service that they may need.”

The program, Risse said, will help fill that immediate void.

“While law enforcement has a great deal of experience in domestic violence up to the point of arrest, an advocate will have the experience on ‘what do I need to do next?'” Risse said.

The program now needs additional volunteers, Lewellyn, one of only four community response advocates, said.

“We need the volunteers, we need the help and the community needs it too,” Lewellyn said.

Anyone interested in joining the team and becoming an advocate must be at least 18 years old, pass a background check and attend 10 hours of training. Visit the BDVSC’s website to learn more.

Anyone affected by domestic violence in the Beloit area can call the center’s crisis line at 608-365-1119.