Two advocates for victims of domestic violence presented a partnership between the Madison Police Department and Madison’s main service provider for victims of domestic violence to a local government committee Tuesday.
MPD Capt. Joe Balles and Domestic Abuse Intervention Services Executive Director Shannon Barry, leaders of the Law Enforcement Advocate Partnership, told the city’s Public Safety Review Committee they hope LEAP receives $90,000 in funding, which would allow them to restart a program to assist victims of domestic violence.
Balles said LEAP would require police officers who are called to a domestic violence incident to send a referral about the victim to DAIS, who would then call the victim within 48 hours following the incident to offer the victim services.
He said MPD based the idea off of a program that works successfully in Milwaukee. LEAP, a 14-month pilot program, began in January 2011, and was originally funded by the stimulus package.
“There was an opportunity to form our own model that would work here in Dane County,” Balles said.
He said before the program started, police officers would only hand victims a list of services; they would not advocate for any particular service.
Balles said before the advocacy started, fewer than five victims would connect with DAIS and receive services. He said that with the advocacy, 45 percent of the victims were able to make a connection and receive services.
Barry cited a study that found fewer than 4 percent of domestic violence homicide victims had ever been connected to an advocacy service. She said even when victims are given the number, they often do not reach out because of the trauma of the situation, adding the victims receive more services when DAIS reaches out to the victims.
Barry said the program could start up by June 1 if it receives funding. Barry said DAIS provides services to residents in Dane County, including legal advocacy, support groups, child care and emergency shelters for domestic violence victims.
“We’re very different from homeless shelters,” Barry said. “Ninety-five percent [of our clients] are not homeless — they just do not have a safe home.”
She said one-in-four women will be a victim of physical or sexual assault, adding last year DAIS received 7,400 calls on their 24-hour helpline last year.
DAIS serves 1,300 people face-to-face annually, Barry said, including 500 people who stay in the shelter, which had a zero vacancy rate for the entire year. She said the shelter has 25 beds, and frequently has more than 50 victims on the waiting list, which forces DAIS to prioritize.
According to Barry, DAIS usually only shelters people who are at risk of being murdered by their abuser.
Balles said LEAP originally served only the South District in Madison, but he hopes to expand it so it serves the South, North and East districts.
Even though the program is over for now, officers still send the referrals to DAIS, Balles said.
“They have hope,” he said. “I’ve got officers so passionate about this they’re filling out the referral slips.”