New Dodge County domestic violence prevention efforts include ‘Lethality Assessment Program’
JUNEAU, Wis. — Advocates for victims of domestic violence say a new program implemented earlier this year, designed to prevent fatal domestic incidents, has increased the number of victims reaching out to seek resources.
The program is called the “Lethality Assessment Program” and is a partnership between the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office and People Against A Violent Environment , Dodge County’s domestic abuse crisis center.
When a Dodge County deputy responds to an incident involving a victim of domestic abuse, he or she will now ask them a questionnaire to determine whether their situation has the potential to turn fatal, Ashley Welak, a system specialist with PAVE, said.
If a victim meets the criteria, they are connected with PAVE and other resources, Welak said. She said the program has seen results.
“Since (February), we’ve provided 63 victim services,” Welak said. “That is a huge number compared to what we typically see.”
Welak said prior to implementing the Lethality Assessment Program, deputies might have just handed a victim a brochure with listings for local services. Now the program allows them to actively connect victims with PAVE.
“They’re easing them into services versus the victim just reaching out for services,” Welak said. “Only about 4 percent of victims would receive services if law enforcement just handed them a brochure. By asking these questions, we feel it’s helping the victims.”
Welak said it takes a victim an average of seven times to leave an abusive relationship. But many abuse victims never do, leading to their deaths.
She said while initially, it took a while for advocates to get comfortable with the idea of letting victims know that their situations could lead to their deaths, the potential of preventing violence is well worth the tough love.
“I think it has a huge impact on victims,” Welak said. “It’s harsh words for us to say to a victim, but realizing that this could potentially save a homicide in our county, we have to say that.”
Dodge County law enforcement also recently conducted a warrant sweep for accused domestic violence perpetrators.
On Oct. 19, as part of the annual National Family Violence Apprehension Detail, Dodge County deputies, along with police officers from Juneau, Horicon, Lomira, Randolph and the Town of Beaver Dam cleared 14 warrants related to domestic abuse and contempt of court, according to a news release.
For law enforcement officials, clearing warrants isn’t a simple task.
“It’s hard to find them,” Sheriff Dale Schmidt said. “A lot of times if we go to their homes, what will happen is they won’t come to their doors (and) we don’t have probable cause to go in and get them. We may not have the right address or phone number to get a hold of them. They may be out of state.”
Additionally, Schmidt said in November, all of this month’s “most wanted” fugitives in the county are being sought by law enforcement on domestic abuse or child support related child charges.
“We will not tolerate domestic abuse,” Schmidt said. “We will not tolerate family violence.”
Victims of domestic abuse in Dodge County can call PAVE’s crisis line 24/7 at 800-775-3785.
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