When it comes to domestic violence, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the nonprofit Laura’s House share a top priority: the safety and protection of domestic abuse victims.
And while OCSD deputies who respond to domestic violence calls have made victims aware of the emergency shelter for some time, educational briefings held recently are providing deputies with a deeper layer of empowerment.
“We definitely try to support law enforcement when they are intervening in a domestic violence case to try to help break the cycle of violence so hopefully law enforcement doesn’t have to keep going back to the same home over and over again,” said Adam Dodge, Laura’s House legal director.
Laura’s House recently reached out to the OCSD to let the agency know it wanted to hold periodic briefing sessions with deputies.
“We just want to be a good partner to the Sheriff’s Department,” Dodge said. “So, we come to briefings like this and explain what we do.”
Deputies now are being made aware of all the services provided by Laura’s House and given informational material to pass along to victims, which includes the shelter’s hotline number.
“If our card can get into the hands of a victim and they can call our hotline and get life-saving services or shelter or just some kind of intervention, we are happy to do that,” said Dodge after a recent briefing.
Deputies can transport victims to the safety of an emergency shelter, even if the suspected abuser has fled before they arrive.
“That one or two days might be what it takes in investigations to track that person down and arrest him,” said Sgt. Don Voght of OCSD’s Family Protection Detail. “Now he or she can go back home and feel safe.”
Named after a domestic abuse victim who was murdered by her husband, Laura’s House was started in 1994 by a group of women from the South Orange County Domestic Violence Action Committee.
The women wanted to establish a shelter for battered women in South County.
Laura had gone to the hospital several times and sustained multiple injuries at the hands of her abuser before ultimately dying from the injuries.
Laura’s mother contacted the committee, telling representatives her daughter had nowhere to turn for help.
Laura’s House has expanded from a small community organization to a full-service operation with 70 staff members and two locations. It offers emergency shelter, transitional housing, a 24-hour crisis hotline, children’s programs, counseling, legal services, and prevention and education outreach training.
“We’re very busy and we just keep growing exponentially,” Dodge said.
Even when the O.C. District Attorney doesn’t file a case against a suspected abuser, Laura’s House still will help victims pursue restraining orders, he said.
The nonprofit processes close to 1,000 domestic violence restraining orders annually, Dodge said.
“We’re both looking for the same outcome,” Voght said of the briefings with OCSD personnel. “The goal with Laura’s House and with law enforcement is for the safety of the victim. The goal is for us to work together to insure the victim and the victim’s children aren’t victimized in the future.”
He added: “Hopefully, it will be one of those things that one, two or three years down the road, it will just be an automatic option.”