COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The City of Columbus will soon be taking a new approach to helping survivors of domestic violence, working to have them connected with advocates faster.
According to data from the Ohio Attorney General’s office, there were nearly 2,600 incidents Columbus police responded to in 2021 which resulted in a domestic violence-related charge. There were more than 6,500 incidents that did not result in charges.
The pilot program, called the Domestic Violence Wrap Around Response Pilot, is a partnership between the attorney general’s office, police, and advocates for survivors, with the plan to put advocates with survivors as soon as possible.
“We want to make sure that if we’re able to be something positive in kind of the worst day in their life, why shouldn’t we be able to do it and try to help them remove any hurdles they have to staying safe,” said Sandy Huntzinger, court system coordinator for the Center for Family Safety and Healing.
The center supports survivors of all types of family violence, working to prevent abuse. Some of its advocates will be taking part in the pilot program with Columbus.
“It really is bringing all of the different disciplines together to try to figure out where the gaps in services are for survivors,” Huntzinger said.
Funding from the program is covered by $500,000 from the Department of Justice, which was approved by Columbus City Council this past Monday.
Huntzinger said the program will allow an advocate to support a survivor as soon as police secure the scene of a domestic violence call.
“Law enforcement are able to focus on their role, the advocate is able to focus on their role, and the survivor is able to get what they need as quickly as possible,” she said.
According to Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, the pilot is a partnership between his office, advocates, and the Division of Police.
“Having someone who’s trained in this space and understands what the individual is going through, that has the expertise to help the individual, I think, is a really reassuring thing that is being presented at probably the scariest part of that person’s life,” he said.
Through the pilot, an advocate will also be helping survivors at the domestic relations court’s family protection center.
“In the end, we just want to make sure survivors are getting what they need and they’re able to stay as safe as possible, no matter what decision they make,” Huntzinger said.
Klein said exact details for where the advocates will work are still being worked out. Huntzinger said through the pilot, two will be at police substations and one will be helping with the court process.
If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, visit LSS Choices or call 24 hours a day at 614-224-4663.