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Hands of Hope partners to let victims call for help

CALLING FOR HOPE: TCC Gives founder Julie Moorehead, second from right, speaks during a press conference at Verizon Wireless on Monday to announce a program that will provide phones to local law enforcement for use by victims of domestic violence who want to call Hands of Hope. From left are Marion Police Deputy Chief Stephen Dorsey, Grant County Sheriff's Capt. Ed Beaty, Chief Deputy Tim Holtzleiter.

BY Sara Barker - sbarker@chronicle-tribune.com

One of the biggest barriers of getting domestic violence victims out of potentially violent situations is letting them know what is available to them. On Monday, Hands of Hope announced it would be teaming up with local police departments to help give victims another option.

Hands of Hope, an organization focused on free community intervention and prevention services, gave smartphones to both the Grant County Sheriff's Deparment and Marion Police Department to distribute to domestic violence victims.

In the past, police officers responding to a domestic violence call would hand their cell phone over to the victim. This way, the victim’s abuser could not look at the victim’s call history and see that they were seeking help.

However, Hands of Hope Director Linda Wilk said in a press conference Monday that with the development of the smartphone, it has become more of a challenge to trust a stranger with your personal, valuable piece of technology.

“Back then, cell phones weren’t that comprehensive,” Wilk said.

So, Hands of Hope has partnered with the TCC Gives Foundation to provide cell phones to police departments to use only in these situations.

Director of operations at the Sheriff's Department Ed Beaty expressed support of the phones, of which five will go to the Marion Police Department and five to the Sheriff's Department.

“This will cut down on time on scene so we could get to the next call,” Beaty said.

He compared the phones to what officers already carry around with them on a shift, saying a cell phone has “given our officers another tool.”

However, identifying a victim of a lethal domestic violence situation is not a simple process. Since 2009, police departments across Grant County have used a system called a lethality screen developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The purpose of the screen is to see if a victim’s relationship is violent to the point where they may be killed by their abuser.

The screen asks the victim questions like “Does he/she have a gun or can he/she get one easily?” and “Is he/she violently or constantly jealous or does he/she control most of your daily activities?” that are prepared for an officer to ask a victim.

According to a Family Service Society press release, two homicides have occurred in nine years with victims participating in the screen.