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Delco Recognizes October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

(From a press release)

Delaware County Council members Christine Reuther and Kevin Madden, District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, and Sheriff Jerry Sanders were honored to participate in a Domestic Violence Survivor Vigil on October 26 in front of the County Courthouse.

The vigil hosted by the Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County (DAP) was held to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Since 1981, October has been recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with the goal of educating communities, individuals, and families about advocacy services and community resources that can help prevent and raise awareness of domestic violence.

During the vigil domestic abuse survivors shared their emotional and powerful journeys and urged people who may be experiencing abuse of any kind- physical, sexual, or emotional- to speak up, seek help, and empower themselves.

The vigil also remembered 104 domestic abuse victims in Pennsylvania who were killed in 2022, including four victims in Delaware County.

Sadly, one in four women, and one in seven men in the United States suffer severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations. 1 in 15 children are exposed to domestic violence each year, and 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to the violence. Homicides in Delaware County have been directly related to domestic violence.

Last fall, Council worked with District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer to form the Delaware County Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force, dedicated to the prevention of domestic abuse, and assisting survivors. The Task Force’s mission is to increase coordination and resources among key stakeholders who share a common interest in serving survivors of domestic violence in Delaware County.

Goals of the Task Force in the next year include: expanding the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP); training. LAP is an evidence-based assessment tool used by law enforcement officers responding to intimate partner violence calls. The tool uses a series of questions to determine if the victim is at an increased risk of lethality and helps connect the victim directly with services through DAP.

Police Departments who have received the training and who use the LAP tool consistently have stated its helpfulness in knowing what to ask and what to look for, how to better assess domestic violence situations, and how to better document calls so they can provide DAP with information that allows them to best serve the victims with whom they are helping. Currently, approximately 435 officers across 44 police departments in the county have received LAP training.

And creating a county system-wide education session on domestic violence and victim experience. The Taskforce is working to create an education session for all county departments and stakeholders, including law enforcement and the courts, who are involved in the experience of a victim of domestic violence.

The training will include information on domestic violence such as misconceptions and data. The training will also look at how a victim navigates our systems so that we can come together to identify how to best serve victims while providing an experience that recognizes their trauma, rather than adding to it.

Creating school-aged programs to offer prevention and support for parents and guardians, educators, and students DAP and the Victims Assistance Center are working to create materials and potential education sessions for schools in Delaware County to provide information to parents, guardians, educators, and students. The information is being designed to help identify and prevent domestic abuse as well as supporting students and staff with age-appropriate information and guidance.

During the vigil, Council Member Christine Reuther presented the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP) with a resolution proclaiming October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Delaware County and commended DAP Executive Director Michelle Brown and her team for their work, dedication, and compassion serving the community.

Empowering survivors of domestic abuse and domestic violence prevention are core to DAP’s mission and accomplishments. Annually, thousands of survivors of abuse and their children are supported through a 24/7 hotline, emergency safe shelter, counseling, and legal advocacy. county Council recognizes these vital services and commends the DAP staff for their dedication and compassion towards domestic abuse survivors.