PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – This domestic violence awareness month, local law enforcement is doing its part in sharing the dangers of intimate partner violence.
On Tuesday, the Portsmouth Police department hosted its first ever domestic violence forum called “You have the strength to break the cycle of domestic violence.”
About 20 people gathered in the Portsmouth Police Administration Building on 206 High St.
Michelle Sudderth, a HER shelter court advocate, shared information about the anti-violence resource agency.
“This is a public health crisis,” Sudderth said. “We believe no one should live with domestic violence.”
The HER shelter serves Portsmouth and Chesapeake residents with a wide variety of resources including two emergency shelters, a 24/7 crisis hotline, legal aid and court accompaniment.
Ashley Manuel and Ebony McGill with the Attorney General’s office shared information about the lethality assessment and address confidentiality program.
During the meeting, Police Chief Stephen Jenkins asked victim advocates several questions trying to come up with possible solutions for the department.
“It’s something that plagues our community,” Jenkins said. “Citizens are affected by domestic violence, whether it be family members [or] the victim itself. As a police department, as a city, we want to be aggressive in providing services to those individuals. Domestic violence affects everyone. We need to make sure we put the focus on the victims and providing necessary services for them.”
He said if you turn on the police radio at any given time, there could be four or five domestic calls at a time.
“Oftentimes we are sitting in the office and we’re hearing these calls,” Jenkins said, “and we’re always wondering ‘what is it about this particular situation?’ ‘What is being missed in the conflict resolution that could get or could mitigate some of these circumstances?’ Obviously, when we go to these calls over and over again, it’s a drain on resources, but it also has the potential to become more violent. We want to stop that as much as possible.
“The forum was good because it gave us some ideas to be able to plug people in services and make sure we’re we’re not missing some key elements for our people.”
Some of the possible solutions from the chief include: early intervention with kids in middle or high schools and strengthening laws for more successful prosecution rates.
“The conflict resolution part is probably to me the biggest,” he said. “Being able to teach people how to be able to be disagreeable without it becoming violent.”
Mayor Shannon Glover shared his experience with witnessing domestic violence growing up.
“What really, truly what made me want to come is because as a child I saw domestic violence and I know what it looks like,” Glover said. “We have to teach people … how to really resolve their issues and how to walk away and have another opportunity, perhaps to redo a conversation or situation. The most important thing that we can do is as a community, as leaders, is to make sure that individuals know if they’re in a situation to provide the opportunity for them to get the resources that they need.”
Councilman Mark Hugel, clergy, social services, survivors, police officers and chaplains asked several questions.
Jenkins plans to create a Portsmouth Domestic Violence prevention team to follow up with victims.
“This forum was good because it gave us some ideas to be able to plug people in services and make sure we’re we’re not missing some key elements for our people,” Jenkins said.
In February, Portsmouth Police plans to host a ‘Teen Dating Violence’ forum.
If you or you know someone who may be a victim of domestic violence or child abuse, click here for a list of local and national resources.