When is the best time to start counseling for the victims of domestic violence? Right at the scene. But that has hardly been much of an option. The police officers are generally too consumed in subduing, arresting or at least calming the presumed perpetrator to devote much immediate time to the abused. It is at that moment that the victim is most deeply in need, and perhaps most easily reached with sound and sobering advice.
Fortunately, Los Angeles police in Van Nuys now have such options. That LAPD division is the first to field a Domestic Violence Response Team, which sends volunteer counselors out with patrol units when they respond to domestic abuse calls.
Gail Pincus is one of the volunteers, and she provided invaluable help to a woman who was recently battered into semi-consciousness by her husband. Pincus accompanied the woman to a hospital, filled out the financial forms needed to pay her medical bills, provided counseling, and contacted the woman's relatives.
"She was all alone and couldn't talk," Pincus told Times' reporter Jeff Schnaufer. Dealing with her immediate emotional and psychological needs "was not a police job," Pincus added. "They don't have the time."
Van Nuys Division Detective Mitch Robbins--a big supporter of the volunteer unit--says that his division has more domestic violence arrests than any other division in the Valley. As of last Sunday, the volunteers had responded to 69 calls, transporting some victims to safe locations and even issuing emergency protective orders that prevent an attacker from approaching a victim for five days.
This is the kind of program that is badly needed throughout the city. It frees the police to more quickly pursue other emergency calls, offers quick and substantial help to victims, and the program's costs to taxpayers are minimal because it involves volunteers. What could be better, other than ending the violence altogether?