Posted on October 08, 2012 at 11:11 am
PHILADELPHIA – Women Against Abuse (WAA), Philadelphia’s leading domestic violence agency, along with event sponsor Verizon Wireless, will kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Philadelphia with its 5th iPledge Press Conference on October 10 at 4:30 p.m. at Love Park. Mayor Michael A. Nutter will serve as the keynote speaker, and the conference will highlight significant advancements in the coordination of the city’s legal and law enforcement systems to improve safety for victims of domestic violence in life-threatening situations. It will also introduce an exciting new education initiative to curb dating violence among youth.
City agencies and nonprofits convened after an astonishing number of domestic violence homicides were reported in 2009 — 36 deaths compared with 21 the year prior. Funding from U.S. Department of Justice enabled Women Against Abuse to launch a new initiative, the Telephone Outreach Program, in partnership with the Office of the District Attorney, the Philadelphia Police Department, and local nonprofit agencies. Under this collaboration, police forward domestic violence reports to WAA staff who assess cases for lethality according to known risk factors, which include stalking, the involvement of fire arms, and strangulation. WAA reaches out and provides safety planning and resources to high-risk victims, who often do not know their legal rights and options.
Women Against Abuse will award Deputy Police Commissioner Patricia Giorgio-Fox at its iPledge Press Conference with the Pat Fox Trailblazer Award in honor of her long-standing commitment to addressing domestic violence, which has enabled such innovative domestic violence solutions as the Telephone Outreach Program. Since implementation in 2010, WAA staff have identified 3,709 high risk cases and provided follow-up assistance and safety planning to clients. In 2011, the number of domestic violence homicides fell to 24 deaths.
“This is groundbreaking. Two decades ago, whenever my husband got violent and I called the police, nothing seemed to happen,” said Renee Norris-Jones, a survivor and domestic violence advocate. “They would walk him around the block and then let him go.”
Approximately one-tenth of the 108,525 domestic violence incidents reported to police come from repeat victims, who may be unaware of domestic violence services in the city and unable to procure help other than immediate assistance from police officers during crisis moments. The Telephone Outreach Program helps disrupt the cycle of violence by connecting vulnerable clients with resources right after police involvement in a domestic dispute. Renee, who met her husband when she was 16, experienced up to 7 years of violence before being able to fully escape.
Education for dating violence provides a critical opportunity to break the cycle of violence before it escalates. Recent studies report that approximately as high as 1 in 3 girls experiences dating violence, yet stigma and lack of public awareness continue to undermine prevention efforts.
In 2010, Pennsylvania legislators passed the Senate Education Omnibus Bill, which recognized the need for teen dating violence education and recommended that all Pennsylvania high schools enact dating violence curricula. School districts, however, do not receive any dedicated funds to enact such a program.
This year’s iPledge Press Conference will announce a new initiative by Women Against Abuse to launch teen dating violence interventions in Philadelphia middle and high schools. WAA staff, who currently provide semester-long teen dating violence programs to three high schools and one middle school in Philadelphia, noted the importance of providing teachers and school staff with training on intervening into dating violence. With support from the Verizon Foundation, WAA educators will host a series of trainings for up to 80 city school teachers.
“Schools have reached out to WAA for education and training in the past because they recognize that dating violence is an ongoing issue with cascading implications,” said Azucena Ugarte, Director of Education and Training at Women Against Abuse. “It affects the teen holistically, from school performance, mental and physical health, social life, self-esteem, and overall well-being. It affects the community just as much when we let violence happen without challenge.”
To learn more about dating violence, Women Against Abuse welcomes the public to attend the iPledge conference wearing purple, the official color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The iPledge Press Conference will also feature the Verizon Journey of Hope bus, an education center that tours the country each October to increase awareness for domestic violence. Visitors at the Journey of Hope bus will be invited to spin the “Wheel of Hope” – a customized prize wheel that will award prizes while also exposing passersby to domestic violence statistics. In addition, visitors will be encouraged to share words strength for survivors of domestic violence on purple sticky notes, to be displayed at the Journey of Hope bus’ “Wall of Hope.”
“For over a decade, Verizon Wireless has been dedicated to providing the tools and resources necessary to support domestic violence awareness and prevention. As a part of that mission, we are thrilled to bring the Journey of Hope bus back to Philadelphia for the iPledge campaign again this year,” said Mario Turco, Regional President of Verizon Wireless. “By actively engaging visitors and passersby, we hope to remind them that it a shared community responsibility to stand against domestic violence and together we can truly make a change.”
In addition, the Verizon Journey of Hope bus will be accepting donations of new stuffed animals, to be donated to Women Against Abuse and their partners.
WAA invites the public to get involved by signing the pledge at any time at www.ipledgewaa.org and learning more about how to get involved throughout the entire month of October at www.womenagainstabuse.org.
Development Director, Women Against Abuse
For Verizon Wireless
Women Against Abuse Director of Training and Education
Women Against Abuse Legal Center Director
William’s daughter was victim of a domestic homicide; he reacts to the changes in the police protocol that make it clear that investigating officers may enter the home on suspicion of domestic violence. This change would have made a difference to him and his family when his daughter went missing.
About Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Starting in 1981, domestic violence advocates gathered to remember victims and celebrate survivors of domestic violence. In 1989, Domestic Violence Awareness Month became officially recognized by congress. For more information, visit www.nrcdv.org/dvam.
About Women Against Abuse
Women Against Abuse (WAA), Inc., one of the largest domestic violence programs in the country, serves more than 15,000 individuals each year through emergency housing, legal services, hotline counseling, education and advocacy. For more information, go to www.womenagainstabuse.org.
About the HopeLine from Verizon Program
The HopeLine from Verizon Program collects no-longer used wireless phones, batteries and accessories for victims of domestic violence. The initiative began in 1995, and to date, Verizon Wireless has collected over more than 7 million phones with more than 300 million minutes of free wireless service to be used by domestic abuse survivors and awarded more than 7.9 million in cash grants to domestic violence agencies across the country. For more information, visit www.verizonwireless.com/hopeline or download the HopeLine app on your mobile device.
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Katie Young Wildes