By Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director Ronald G. Rios, chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Domestic Violence is a devastating form of physical and mental abuse that affects men, women and children and causes damage to our entire society. Given the overwhelming statistics, it may even be likely that someone you know has been a silent victim of this type of attack.
In Middlesex County alone, there have been over 500 reported cases of domestic violence this year. This number represents only a fraction of the instances of domestic abuse since, unfortunately, many cases go unreported. Just as unfortunate is the fact that, in nearly every case, victims who do file reports change their minds and drop the charges, leaving violent offenders out on the street.
Several years ago, Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce J. Kaplan developed a new method of recording the initial events and collecting evidence, so, in cases where victims decide not to press charges, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office is still able to pursue cases and convict violent offenders.
During this month of outreach and recognition, I am pleased to report that Prosecutor Kaplan has streamlined this system even more, by creating a new domestic violence reporting form. The form requires police to fill out a checklist that not only reminds them to be certain each step in the gathering of evidence is completed, but requires police to file the form with the Prosecutor’s Office within 24 hours of the time the crime is reported.
In this fashion, police will remember, for example, to be sure to collect a threatening text message or voice mail, while investigators in the Prosecutor’s Office see to it that each victim gets counseling quickly. By reaching victims quickly, investigators will have a better chance of arresting and prosecuting the violent offenders who have harmed them.
Also in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Women Aware of Middlesex County is encouraging residents to take part in its new awareness program, Shine the Light on Domestic Violence.
Shine the Light is a countywide initiative that encourages residents to replace white light bulbs with purple colored ones or display purple string lights to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month as a way to bring attention to this devastating problem and to show support to those who have suffered its effects.
Earlier this month, I presented Phyllis Adams, the Executive Director of Women Aware, with a resolution on behalf of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the County and lending support to the Shine the Light on Domestic Violence program.
No one should have to live in fear and no one should have to suffer in silence. In coming together as a community, we can make our county stronger. I applaud and support the efforts of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office and Women Aware and I would like to ask you to lend your support and help bring attention to this very devastating form of abuse.
For more information, call Women Aware’s 24-hour hotline: 1-732-249-4504 or visit www.womenaware.net.
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