Town of Newton and Township of Andover Forming Domestic Violence Response Team – Seeking Volunteers
Monday, April 2, 2012 • 9:18pm
NEWTON, NJ – For victims of domestic violence, seeking the help of authorities can be an intimidating process, which may become even more intimidating once in front of a police officer.
For female victims especially, Sergeant Dean Coppolella of the Newton Police Department said, “The victim may be uncomfortable speaking with a male, and someone in uniform.”
As part of a 2000 mandate from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, each jurisdiction is required to appoint a domestic violence response team.
Last spring, Coppolella said DASI (Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Intervention Services), reached out to the Newton Police Department to form a team.
The team, which is currently accepting applications and is forming, will be open to volunteers in both the Town of Newton and Andover Township, working with both police departments.
“I am proud Newton will offer this service, other communities are not as forward thinking,” said Newton Town Manager, Thomas S. Russo, Jr.
Russo said it is important for police to understand the signs of abuse, with a group of dedicated community volunteers.
Russo, who had been on the board of directors at the Jersey Battered Women’s Service, has some insight into the types of abuse that exist, from his tenure on the board.
“There are a variety of forms it [abuse] can take,” Russo said. “People don’t ask to be abused. And none of them should be tolerated.”
When a victim pursues a restraining order, DASI is called and meets the victim at the police station, informing them of their options and providing emotional support. Coppolella said this allows the police officers handling the case to process the paperwork.
“This is where the community response team comes into play,” added Russo. “It’s a great resource the town will offer.”
Russo describes the volunteer as a “first responder for emotional support”.
Jessica Minnick, the DVRT Coordinator for DASI, said in the 1990’s Hamburg had a team, and in the early 2000’s, Vernon and Hardyston had a team of 20 volunteers.
Minnick said some victims are not aware of DASI’s existence, and the services offered by the not-for-profit group are free and confidential.
Minnick said the process begins when a victim places a call to police, and a volunteer is then dispatched to the police department, committing to two 12-hour shifts monthly. If called, the volunteer will meet with the victim in a room set aside by the police.
“It’s confidential, it’s private, and the victim won’t have any interaction with the batterer,” Minnick explained.
Volunteers will be required to go through an application process, supply three references, and then police do a background check. Once cleared with the background check, volunteers will qualify for the interview process. Following the interview process, the volunteers will be required 40 hours of training, planned for approximately twice weekly in the evenings, and one all-day Saturday session.
Once a volunteer has completed training, Minnick said DASI representatives would always be available to answer questions.
Coppolella is the officer liaison for the Town of Newton, and Patrolman Ed Diklich for Andover Township.
Minnick said the State Police in Augusta are also forming a team.
“Volunteers meet victims, they don’t keep records, only statistics,” Minnick clarified, indicating statistics would include general information such as age and sex.
“Domestic isn’t just spouses,” said Minnick, who clarified it can be two adult siblings, roommates, and even male clients.
“The only people we don’t serve is the batterer,” Minnick said.
The only incidences when confidentiality would be broken, Minnick said, would be if a victim revealed plans to commit suicide, harm someone else, or if child abuse is discovered. Minnick said these acts must be reported to authorities by law.
“Our goal is eventually to have respective teams with each police department in the county,” said Minnick. “The police say the volunteers are a huge help to them.”
Volunteers can seek applications by phone: (973) 579-2386, or email at: email@example.com.