Refuge House, Sheriff Join Forces to Help Domestic Violence Victims

By Giulia Marsico

Outlook Writer

The Refuge House is in collaboration with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office to implement a new program in Tallahassee they hope will drastically reduce domestic violence cases.

The program, Intimate Violence Enhanced Service Team, or InVEST, is a collaboration between law enforcement and domestic violence centers in the Big Bend area for the purpose of reducing or eliminating domestic violence homicides in a community.

Meg Baldwin, executive director of Refuge House, which is a domestic and sexual violence center in Leon County, believes this program will help create new ways for law enforcement to help identify domestic violence situations.

InVEST was developed by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) and is based on a pilot project called the Hubbard House, which began in Jacksonville. The Hubbard House is an emergency domestic violence shelter serving Duval and Baker counties. The program dropped Jacksonville’s domestic violence homicide rate by 60 percent.

“In the Florida counties, where the program is in place, there have been no homicides of victims who participated in the program in the last three years. We hope to see similar results here in Leon County,” said Baldwin.

Each of the 17 counties participating in the program haven’t had a single homicide of a woman in three years.

The InVEST program provides victims, law enforcement and domestic violence centers new ways to help identify and respond to high-risk domestic violence situations.

Deputies will ask specific questions to domestic violence victims to help determine if they are in an abusive relationship.

“By having direct access to the InVEST advocates on a 24-hour basis, we hope to assist in breaking the cycle of violence and provide position intervention as soon as possible,” said Lt. James McQuaig, public information officer for Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition of Domestic Violence in Denver, described some of the indicators that can help to determine if you are in a life-threatening relationship.

“Some of the signs that indicate you are in a life-threatening relationship would be that your partner is very controlling,” Glenn said. “If you are not feeling that you are in control of your own life, and that you can’t make your own decisions, you are probably in an abusive relationship.”

According to the FCDAV, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

“So often the abuser tells them that you are alone and no one is going to help you,” said Jessica Pinto, training and community education program director for Refuge House in Tallahassee. “Refuge House and the InVEST program counteracts that message.

“You are not alone and we can help.”

You can contact the Refuge House 24/7 through its hotline number (850) 681-2111, or toll free (800) 500-1119.