A shelter for battered women is working with law enforcement authorities in two western Massachusetts cities to intervene in domestic violence cases before there is a tragic outcome. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Teams of prosecutors, probation officers, domestic violence specialists and police are working together to identify especially volatile domestic disputes and take preemptive action to prevent a death or serious injury. These so-called high risk assessment teams have been working in the cities of Chicopee and Holyoke for the last few months. .
Karen Cavanaugh, Executive Director of Womenshelter/Companeras, the Holyoke based domestic violence agency believes this effort will save lives.
Cavanaugh said a focus on the abuser is long overdue.
The intervention teams follow up on restraining orders that are issued through the district courts in Chicopee and Holyoke. Carmine Nieves, who is in charge of community education for Womenshelter/Companeras said when a high risk case is indentified prosecutors might seek a dangerousness hearing to keep an abuser locked up without bail, and counselors will step in and help the family.
Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette praises the high risk assessment team approach.
Chicopee police began scrutinizing court issued restraining orders in the aftermath of a deadly case of domestic violence last spring. A man who had months before held his girlfriend hostage at gunpoint returned and did it again. A resulting shoot out with police terrorized an entire neighborhood. A Massachusetts state trooper was wounded. The gunman died.
Mayor Bissonnette awarded Womenshelter/Companeras a $15,000 grant from the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant allocation. That money will be used to pay for shelter operations. The work of the high risk assessment teams is paid for with a grant from the Hampden County District Attorney’s office.
Womenshelter/Companeras provides emergency shelter to roughly a thousand people a year on an annual budget of $1 million.