Volunteers Needed to Guide NJ’s Domestic Violence Victims. Here’s How to Help
Responding to a domestic violence call is sometimes only half the battle for police in New Jersey. Handling the victim takes a different set of skills that cops may not be able to perform in the heat of the moment.
So they count on the expertise of specially-trained volunteers throughout the Garden State. Groups in several counties are constantly looking for interested individuals to join their Domestic Violence Response Teams.
"We still have to investigate a crime, where the Domestic Violence Response Team member is going to talk to the victim and not ask questions," said Sgt. 1st Class Brian Miller of the State Police Victim Services Unit.
When domestic violence advocacy groups are recruiting, the State Police like to publicize the push, usually in the form of press releases.
When called upon, the volunteer meets confidentially with a domestic violence victim at police headquarters. The volunteer can provide information, referrals and a safety plan to the victim at the time of crisis, and discuss their rights as it pertains to a temporary restraining order.
"Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, they'll respond to the station and they'll meet with the victim," Miller explained.
Becoming a volunteer for these services is a major commitment. On top of at least 40 hours of training, volunteers are usually needed in the late night and early morning hours.
In 2015, Mercer County's volunteers responded 550 times to speak with domestic violence victims, providing counseling and support to 579 individuals.
Domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous situations for police to approach, Miller said. And sometimes, by the time police arrive on the scene, the victim does not want their alleged attacker to be charged or taken away.
But when police see any signs of injury, Miller said, "it's an automatic lockup."