By Dr. Ron Wallace, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, at American Military University
Criminal justice professionals are often the first on the scene in instances of domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence. This makes law enforcement officers, as well as probation and parole officers, the initial line of defense for victims.
Unquestionably, the public expects criminal justice professionals to play an active role in domestic violence awareness. However, we should not limit ourselves to simply raising awareness of domestic violence and prevention, but also consider what more we can do.
Why Get More Involved in Domestic Violence Awareness?
Criminal justice professionals may find themselves questioning the importance of becoming more actively involved in this issue. My answer to them is quite simple. The more criminal justice professionals understand about domestic violence, the better prepared they will be to appropriately address the causes and problems that follow.
It is important for criminal justice professionals to understand the unique characteristics and dynamics of this crime. One way to do that is to become more actively involved in community events that address domestic violence.
October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Each year, October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and communities nationwide hold events to highlight awareness of and provide education about domestic violence. Attending some of these events not only allows criminal justice professionals to increase their knowledge of how to handle domestic violence, but also provides a great opportunity to create a network of resources that can be helpful in these cases.
No single individual is equipped to handle instances of domestic violence alone. Rather, it can take the combined effort of multiple organizations and support programs to address the complex issues a victim of domestic violence faces.
How to Find Domestic Violence Awareness Events
Locating events in your area can be as simple as contacting a local agency that provides domestic violence services or taking the time to conduct a quick search on the Internet. Also, I would recommend keeping an eye out for posters and public service announcements (PSAs) in the media. These posters and PSAs often appear in late September and early October, in line with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Once you have located an event in your area, plan to attend it. These events will not only extend the opportunity to expand your network of resources, but you will also probably learn about opportunities to volunteer in your community. Getting involved as a volunteer is just another additional step you can take that goes beyond your professional role in criminal justice to address the problem of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Awareness Volunteers Needed Year Round
Of course, people need help over the course of the entire year. For example, homeless shelters experience a high volume of volunteers around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this enthusiasm fades once the holiday season is over. This means that shelters often find themselves in desperate need of assistance at other times of the year.
Similarly, domestic violence gets a lot of attention in October. Volunteers are abundant during that month, but all too often, enthusiasm wanes soon. However, although the desire to help may decrease, the need for volunteers remains. This is why it is so important to offer continuous involvement in the organizations that address domestic violence.
No Large Investment of Time Is Required
Your participation does not necessarily have to take a huge amount of time. Consider donating money or items to local shelters that provide emergency services to victims of domestic violence. Some agencies operate thrift stores where donated items are sold and the profits then go towards providing services for victims. Friend to Friend in North Carolina and Hubbard House in Florida are two examples of such agencies.
Figuring out how you can assist victims of domestic violence, not only in October but during the other 11 months of the year as well, can make a huge difference. Domestic violence awareness shouldn’t center around a holiday; the need for your support is continuous.
About the Author: Dr. Ron Wallace is a criminal justice professional with more than 30 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. He has worked with criminal justice agencies nationwide as a consultant on various projects and has several years of teaching experience at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Ron currently serves as an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at American Military University.