In 2008, the Shelter for Abused Women & Children formed a Primary Prevention Community Action Team to address and eliminate domestic violence in Collier County.
Over time, this group evolved into the Collier County Domestic Violence Task Force, charged with creating a safe and strong community that nurtures healthy families and, in doing so, forming the best community in America to live, work and play.
Through discussions and assessments, the task force has compiled data and determined what agencies in our community were doing in response to domestic violence, highlighting what was and was not working in Collier County. Moreover, the team has been tracking domestic-violence incidents and determining where, geographically, they are increasing and/or decreasing.
What we discovered is that during an average 12-month period, 594 domestic-violence cases were prosecuted by the State Attorney's Office; the Children's Advocacy Center documented domestic violence in 95 percent of the families within their supervised visitation program; and the shelter created 28,114 safety plans and sheltered 514 adults and children while serving 3,423 unduplicated participants.
Despite these facts, our local court-ordered Batterer's Intervention Program (BIP) has decreased alarmingly. During one year, only 58 of the 1,710 perpetrators arrested for domestic violence related crimes were ordered to complete BIP.
Our research also revealed what the people of Collier County want: communities that are safe and free from domestic violence; services that meet the needs of men, women and children experiencing violence; justice responses that are effective; and a system that holds batterers accountable while supporting the resiliency of survivors.
On Tuesday, after years of collaborations with law enforcement, the justice system, social-service agencies, the health-care community, the school district and other partners, the task force unveiled "A Coordinated Community Response" to address these needs and end domestic violence.
Since the inception of our coordinated community response, we have expanded our collaborations; modified the Intimate Violence Enhanced Service Team (InVEST) program with local law-enforcement agencies (an initiative designed to reduce the number of domestic-violence homicides); implemented domestic-violence prevention programming in most Collier County schools; and created a position to track batterers, monitor their compliance with court orders and report noncompliance.
We are also creating a domestic violence college course, complete with internships at agencies represented in the task force, which is set to begin this fall at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Members of the task force know that society can no longer just accept the world as it is and expect that the problems and dangers of domestic violence will "go away."
Since this epidemic continues to change, the task force will continue to work on increasing public awareness and education; acquiring commitments to uphold the communitywide plan; implementing specific initiatives; acting in concert to change the social norms that allow this global problem to exist; and holding each of us accountable for preventing and eliminating violence.
What's come from this process so far is each partner agency's commitment to creating a peaceful community for residents and visitors alike.
Together, we are developing Collier County into a community where no one excuses abusive behavior and where batterers are held accountable. Today, we ask for your commitment to be part of the solution in ending the violence.
For more information on the Collier County Domestic Violence Task Force and the Coordinated Community Response, please call 239-775-3862, ext. 206.
The Collier County Domestic Violence Task Force is comprised of: the Aesthetic Surgery Center, Children's Advocacy Center, Collier County Emergency Medical Services, Collier County Family Law Attorneys, Collier County Men of Character Coalition, Collier County Public Schools and School Board, Collier County Sheriff's Office, David Lawrence Center, Department of Children and Families, FGCU School of Criminal Justice, Haitian Leadership, Legal Aid Service of Collier County, Marco Island Police Department, Mother Perry Foundation, NCH Healthcare System, Naples Police Department, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), state Attorney General, State Attorney's Office, the Youth Advisory Council and the shelter.
If you or someone you love is living in fear and violence, please call the shelter's 24-hour crisis line: 239-775-1101, TTY 239-775-4265, or visit www.naplesshelter.org. In emergencies, always call 911.