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Huntsville police Domestic Violence Responder Program helps victims from the moment they call 911

Huntsville police lead the nation when it comes to breaking the cycle of domestic violence.

Posted: Sep 24, 2019 6:06 PM
Updated: Sep 25, 2019 3:12 AM

Domestic violence tears apart families and communities.

Breaking the cycle is far from easy, but the Huntsville Police Department created a unique partnership to help start the healing process. They're leading the nation in helping domestic violence victims.

For the last 21 years, Huntsville Police have partnered with Crisis Services of North Alabama to help break the cycle, one call at a time.

"You see things. Things that we have seen (that are) maybe seen in a movie, we've actually seen in person and it's devastating," said Domestic Violence Responder Bobbie Conner, "We are assigned at the precinct during roll call. You get your officer and we go everywhere they go."

Her job is to ride with officers like Leah Henry, serving as a victim's advocate on the front lines.

"A lot of times they'd rather talk to us than the officer, because we're not wearing a uniform," explained Conner.

"They have our backs and I have their back(s) and we just we do what we do," said Huntsville Police Officer Leah Henry.

Working hand-in-hand to educate those in need, Domestic Violence Responders connect victims to the resources available to end the abuse.

"We're not there to tell them what to do," said Conner. "We're there to give them options and (let them know) help is out there, and explain how domestic violence works."

"I would say we can go on one house call, to the same house maybe seven times before that person will actually make a move and do something," she continued.

"This doesn't have to affect them for the rest of their lives," said Henry.

The bonds forged between DV Responders and officers run deeper than just responses to calls.

"With them sitting right there in my seat, I can just chat with them and debrief and it's really awesome," said Henry.

"(It) speaks volumes for HPD that they are willing to go the extra mile because there's no one that we know that does this," said Conner.

Huntsville police is one of the only departments in the country to offer this service. A small team of 15 volunteer their time to serve their community. Riding shotgun, they work second and third shifts Fridays through Mondays.

"These people go out every weekend, they do not wear a vest, they ride in police cars in the most dangerous situations and they are willing to do whatever it takes to help somebody get the help they need," explained Joleen Heckman, with Crisis Services of North Alabama.

"Unfortunately we'll never be able to cover all the calls," she continued, "Calls are hundreds a month, thousands a year."

So what can the community do to help support their efforts?

"Supporting victims of domestic violence," Heckman said, "Believing them, listening to them, making sure that they're getting that power back, because a lot of domestic violence has power and control and that's what we're teaching is letting them know they have choices."

"We don't take it lightly you know that nobody should be putting their hands on anybody else took over control over anything," said Huntsville PD Investigator Daphne Treece.

Treece has witnessed first-hand how influential the trained responders can be when it comes to getting information they need to hold the abusers accountable.

"(To have) somebody in their corner, trying to give them back their confidence it is very important," she said.

More than just a booklet with contact numbers, this unique partnership allows HPD to tailor their response to meet the individual needs of the community.

"People respond to face-to-face rather than like oh here is this number," said Henry.

"My goal when we get there is if I can leave that victim in a better place than I found her, then I feel like I've accomplished something."

Crisis Services of North Alabama is always looking for volunteers. If you or someone you know needs help leaving an abusive relationship, help is available 24/7. You can call the hotline 256-716-1000 or 1-800-691-8426 or Huntsville Police.

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