October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Mesa Family Advocacy Center housed within the Mesa Police Department is raising awareness through social media, internal events for city employees, and connecting people with resources.
They are promoting awareness through the city of Mesa’s social media accounts, using #MesaWearsPurple and #dvam2017–the posts include statistics and links to resources on Mesa Police Department’s website about domestic violence.
The Victim Services Team, which is part of the Mesa Family Advocacy Center, is partnering with the Victim Services Team from the Mesa City Prosecutor’s Office, in addition to the Crime Prevention Team and Public Information Office, said Shelly Ward, victim services administrator at the Mesa Family Advocacy Center.
A speaker from the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence presented to Mesa staff and a social media campaign since the beginning of October.
“#MesaWearsPurple, our message is for domestic violence awareness plus action equals social change,” Ward said. The posts include statistics, places and resources to contact for assistance. In addition, SROs (school resource officers) are conducting informational presentations at Mesa Public Schools.
“We’re not going to arrest away domestic violence,” Ward said. “It’s an issue that really requires a concerted effort from the community on a lot of different levels to ensure not only the safety of the victims and survivors, but also to make people aware that the behaviors and things they’re seeing may be red flags and indicators that domestic violence or coercive of control is part of a relationship.”
The Mesa Family Advocacy Center was started in the 1990s by a couple of detectives who didn’t like the way sexual assault and abuse cases were being investigated, Ward said. They thought the method of the person having to go to many different places for resources revictimized them, since they had to tell their story multiple times, she said.
“They came up with this model of having all of the services and things necessary for the investigation and support of the individual in one location,” Ward said. “At our location, we have our sex crimes SVU detectives, we have my team, the victim services unit, that consists of my advocates, we also have a full-time therapist from San Tan Behavioral Health, we partner with investigators from Office of Child Welfare Investigations, we work with DCS, county attorney’s office, we also work with adult probation, and we have doctors and nurses who come on site from Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Honor Health to do medical examinations at our medical facility.
“We’re a multi-disciplinary team, so due to the sensitive nature of those cases, and some of the intricacies in those investigations, the approach of having the whole units sort of band together and discuss the approach is very important,” Ward said.
It’s also important to note the statistics regarding gender and domestic violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men in the U.S. have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
“We do treat men and boys here at the center, unfortunately, those kinds of crimes tend to be underreported,” Ward said. “We have to find a way to reach out to men to let them know that this is something that happens…we absolutely are here to provide that assistance and help them heal and move forward. We get stuck on the pronouns all the time,” Ward continued. “It’s always she…it’s not just a male aggressor going against a woman, I think it’s the same type of behavior happening, and your gender doesn’t preclude you.”
As part of the domestic violence awareness campaign, Ward said Domestic Violence detectives are spearheading an effort to provide purple light bulbs to apartment complexes and businesses in Mesa. Home Depot partnered with the Mesa Police Department and donated about 50 light bulbs–the detectives went to apartment complexes in Mesa and asked residents to put the light bulb externally in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The Mesa Family Advocacy Center is also collecting items and donating the money they receive for the shirts to domestic violence shelters including My Sister’s Place shelter and their Pathways program.
“Next year, I think we would love to expand this and have more shirts available for the public,” Ward said.
To learn more about Mesa Family Advocacy Center, visit: Mesaaz.gov.
– Mesa resident Alyssa Tufts is a freelance writer for MyNewsMesa.com.