Mayor Thomas B. Concannon, Jr.

Domestic Violence Action Committee

In the spring of 1993, in an effort to establish a greater link with community groups, the Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Unit organized a city-wide roundtable, which was to become known as the Newton Domestic Violence Action Committee (DVAC).

Under the direction of the Newton Police Chief and chaired by the Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Unit, DVAC was created. Members represented a cross section of Newton life, including the Newton Wellesley Hospital, The Newton District Court, The School Department, battered women's shelters, Newton Department of Human Services, the Newton Clergy, and local colleges. The identified mission of the group is education and awareness. Initially, this mean networking among members. One of the earliest direct benefits for the police department was the development of a Domestic Violence Investigation Check List which came from a member of DVAC. This was integrated into the patrol bureau's standard response to domestic violence incidents mandating that a check list must be field with the police report whenever an arrest is made, a warrant sought or a complaint action filed. The value of such a checklist is that it enables the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office to prosecute domestic violence cases even if the victim chooses not to testify.

The first big project undertaken by DVAC for the benefit of the broader community was the development of an educational brochure containing general information about domestic violence as well as very specific local resources available to victims and other persons searching for domestic violence information, support or emergency assistance. The cover of the "You Are NOT Alone" brochure was designed by a victim and DVAC members provided the information it contains. Members of the police department organized the information, produced it and were primarily responsible for distribution. The brochure has been in huge demand, especially by medical groups, womens' groups, local universities and colleges, and other police departments. It is in its third printing (6,000 copies). Total cost of the brochure to date has been approximately $300 lending credence to the oft quoted budget director's statement that effective materials do not require a large bankroll.

DVAC went on to become the sponsor of a cable television program on domestic violence. Members of the Newton Police Department wrote the script and did the filming and editing for a three part video entitled "You Are NOT Alone: A Community Looks at Domestic Violence." The cameras, lighting, accessory equipment, editing equipment and graphics were provided by the Newton Cable Company. Since the police department had purchased a membership for under $100, there was no cost for the use of this equipment. In February, 1994, DVAC held a "premiere" showing of part one of the video. City and state officials, community leaders, victims and other members of the community were invited. Approximately 75 people attended to watch the program's initial screening on a 52-inch television. The three parts of the video are entitled "Understanding," "Police and the Court System," and "Your Community Resources" respectively.

As part of the Newton Police Department's effort to provide a more holistic approach to domestic violence, a Peer Advocate Program has recently (February 1995) been implemented. Whereas court-based advocacy projects serve victims who have progressed to the state of seeking court assistance, this innovative victim support program can be there for those victims who have not yet made the decision to take legal action. Peer advocates may reach victims who otherwise would be without support ow who, while waiting for the court support system to kick in, may suffer intimidation from their abuser and go back into the abusive environment rather than proceed with a restraining order. The Domestic Violence Training and Resource Institute designed the program and trained the volunteers as advocates. Each volunteer, over a six-week period, received 40 hours of intensive training in the psychological, social and legal aspects of domestic violence. Once trained, advocates are available around the clock to meet with victims.

On June 14, 1995, DVAC also sponsored a three-hour workshop for employers entitled "Domestic Violence and its Effect on the Workplace." The workshop was hosted by the Newton Wellesley Hospital and attendance was overwhelming.

CONTACT: Lt. Robert F. McDonald, Newton Police Annex, 25 Chestnut Street, West Newton, MA 02165, Telephone - (617) 552-7251, Fax - (617) 552-7726.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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