The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is implementing a new program intended to help domestic violence survivors find community resources and navigate the legal system.
The program will be overseen by DGSO community outreach and support advocate Morgan Haney, who will work with staff at the Willow Domestic Violence Center to provide support for victims and survivors of domestic violence. The Willow offers services including immediate shelter, safety planning, transitional housing, education, and support as they move through the court system.
“I do think there is a way for advocacy work to have a spot within a law enforcement agency, so that we can support the civilians we are trying to help,” Haney said in a news release. “This work is important because it’s an under-served population, and it can be incredibly difficult for survivors to get resources they need without someone there supporting them.”
Haney will also coordinate training for DGSO deputies and police in both Baldwin City and Eudora, educating them on available resources and teaching them how to identify victims of domestic violence or stalking while working in the community.
Sheriff Jay Armbrister said in the release that this training would enable law enforcement to extend its support to victims beyond immediate crisis intervention.
“Often we would respond to the initial call, and possibly make an arrest, but often no one reached back out in the short term to even check if the witnesses and victims were okay or needed anything, much less asked if they understood what was happening, what would or could happen next and help the victim and witnesses navigate what is already a stressful and foreign system,” Armbrister said.
The sheriff’s office is funding the program with $30,863 through the Federal Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors Violence Against Women Act Formula Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. A similar position within the Lawrence Police Department was funded through a STOP VAWA grant in 2021.
The STOP VAWA program was established to strengthen law enforcement and prosecution strategies, provide victim services, and support a community response to violent crimes against women and victims of domestic abuse. The Douglas County district attorney’s office and the Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center also received funding from STOP VAWA grants in 2022.
The DGSO plans to apply annually for additional program support while grant funding is available.
“This has been a shortcoming in the system for years and decades,” Armbrister said. “We knew coming in last year we wanted to fill that gap between the incident itself and resources and the criminal justice system.”
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Andrea Albright (she/her), reporter, can be reached at aalbright (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.
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