Since 2001, the HopeLine program from Verizon Wireless has focused on supporting, expanding and implementing programs that effectively help prevent domestic violence in communities across the United States.
Although the programs that HopeLine supports run throughout the year, we frequently highlight the best of those programs during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month. As the title of the month implies, awareness is the goal of so many of our efforts. Awareness allows the professional work that domestic violence centers and legal agencies perform on a daily basis to be seen in the broader community, hopefully making the problem more real to more people and engendering a sense of urgency about domestic violence prevention.
There are also a handful of unique programs HopeLine supports that are designed to take the fight against domestic violence to the next level and engage everyday citizens in the work to end domestic violence.
One such program is known as the “Stop The Violence” campaign and was the brainchild of the Springfield Police Department and its Family Violence Task Force. The second annual “Stop The Violence” conference was held in Springfield, MO on October 30, 2014.
The idea is simple. Police, members of the legal system, health care professionals and people who provide services through domestic violence shelters make up the professional core of the people who deal with domestic violence and abuse cases on a daily basis. The concept of the “Stop The Violence” campaign is to provide training to the general population in an effort to expand that core group who can recognize, understand and start the process of intervention in instances where violence and abuse are not readily apparent or have not yet been reported to the authorities.
In essence, the program provides additional eyes, ears and engaged citizens who can report what they see. These trained volunteers can make the first move in situations where women fear for their economic viability or even their lives and work to make it clear that situations of abuse actually do exist across all demographic groups in our communities.
Those extra eyes and ears are important.
According to conference keynote speaker and nationally known domestic violence expert Victor Rivas Rivers, many people are currently afraid to report the crime of domestic violence. According to Rivers, “Domestic violence is the most under-reported problem in America. It is referred to as a ‘quiet’ crime, and it flourishes in an environment of shame, fear and silence.” The lack of reporting may make it appear that the problem is not that great in our communities, but that is simply not the case.
Lisa Cox of the Springfield Police Department explained how pervasive the problem really is. “We want the community to know this is a big problem,” said Cox. “We are seeing thousands of cases just from the Springfield Police Department each year – and we know not every instance of domestic violence is being reported. If we can alert more people to the problem, we have the opportunity to intervene in more cases – and possibly save lives in the process,” added Cox. According to Springfield Police, about one-fourth of the city’s murders and most of the assaults are the result of domestic violence incidents.
From a financial point of view, the “Stop The Violence” project makes an enormous amount of sense, as well. HopeLine from Verizon Wireless provided seed funding of $15,000 for this year’s training program. The $15,000 donation represents approximately 1/6 of the annual cost of hiring one new full-time police officer dedicated to domestic violence and abuse in Springfield, MO. Instead, the program used that $15,000 to provide training to nearly 300 people who are now part of the trained and informed core of people who can detect signs of abuse in our communities, regardless of their everyday jobs or expertise.
We applaud the Springfield Police Department, the Family Violence Task Force, the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Missouri State University and Harmony House of Springfield for partnering with HopeLine from Verizon Wireless to make this year’s conference a success. We look forward to working with the Springfield community again next year and hope this unique program will have a dramatic, positive effect on curbing the “silent” crime of domestic violence and abuse in Springfield, MO and every other city.
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