All too often there is someone in our community who is involved in a domestic violence relationship that they don't know how to cope with, how to get out of, how to be safe, or how to ask for help. In January 2011, the Madison Police Department and Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) implemented a pilot program called L.E.A.P. (Law Enforcement Advocate Partnership) where officers make advocacy referrals to DAIS when investigating incidents of reported domestic violence. The program was designed to quickly connect victims of domestic violence with the advocacy services provided by DAIS and other domestic violence service providers in the area. Typically it is left up to the victim to reach out for services and support, but this program starts with an investigating officer completing a L.E.A.P. referral to DAIS. After receiving a referral, DAIS domestic violence "advocates" follow-up with the victim at a time that is determined to be safest. The advocate completes an assessment and provides resources to victims such as emergency shelter, safety plans, support/community resources for themselves and their children, legal advice and support, support groups, crisis line information and even arranging emergency shelter options for pets of the victim. Through the South District pilot program there has been a demonstrated increase in victim awareness of and access to domestic violence advocacy services. We have also seen that victims better understand why police took the action they did and that having officers complete the referral forms leads to a better response time from DAIS, which then translates into quicker assistance to the victim. Unfortunately, due to a loss of funding, the program was suspended in April 2012. This past August, Community Services was able to re-store some funding for L.E.A.P. so that we could re-start our pilot program in the South District. I am happy to announce that the 2014 Budget, with the support of Mayor Soglin and the City Council, includes funding to expand L.E.A.P. city wide by the end of next year.
Domestic violence is abuse in a relationship – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and/or economic abuse – that affects so many people in our community. Some of the most dangerous calls our officers are called out on involve domestic violence. There are many programs in our community that offer resources to domestic violence victims. L.E.A.P. is one particular program that the Madison Police Department is proud to partner with DAIS to strengthen our community's response to domestic violence.
There are many individuals and organizations that have worked hard in creating this program and in making this program successful. I would like to commend and thank all of them for their hard-work and support of this very important initiative.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone at anytime. It not only affects the person being abused but it can have a substantial effect on their family members, such as children. The Madison Police Department and DAIS believes in a world that is free from violence. By providing resources, advice, a listening ear, support, education and outreach we hope to advocate for change and empower those affected by domestic violence.
If you would like more information regarding the services offered by DAIS please go to their website: http://abuseintervention.org/