ORADELL, N.J. — Ridgewood Police Lt. Heath James has responded to dozens of domestic violence calls -- and returning over and again to the same homes only to find nothing had changed.
James understands, though, that escaping an abusive relationship isn’t so simple, thanks to workshops led by A Partnership for Change that aim to break the cycle of abuse.
Allison Bressler of Oradell, who launched APFC with Gloria Sgrizzi in 2007, gives domestic violence first responders a new perspective, James said.
“We become anesthetized to what happens and all the questions we ask ourselves while responding to the call," the lieutenant told Daily Voice. "The programs are a great shift from that ‘by-the-book’ perspective. It shows you what it’s like from a victim or batterer’s eyes."
Bressler and Sgrizzi, who worked together years ago at a shelter in Westchester, founded APFC after meeting first responders who didn't know what to do when someone discloses they’re being abused.
“First responders like police — who will talk about a restraining order and that’s it — hospitals, emergency rooms, teachers,” said Bressler, also a counselor in Westwood. “We developed the agency as a conduit between the first responder and the victim.”
AFPC has three core programs:
- PowerBack : dating abuse, an education;
- Intimate Partner Violence Advocate ( IPVA ) Certification Program;
- Police Response Enhancement Program : designed to help law enforcement personnel effectively identify and respond to victims of domestic violence.
One in four adult women are domestic abuse victims, as are one in 3 teenage girls and one in 7 teenage boys, said Bressler, citing the 2013 FBI Unified Crime Report.
Approximately 65,000 domestic violence incidents were reported in New Jersey that year.
"Domestic violence shelters are in crisis mode all the time because they're dealing directly with victims and their needs," Sgrizzi said. "Education and prevention kind of get pushed down on the list because they're dealing with the crisis first."
APFC aims to ensure that victims get the services they need.It helps responders, too, James said.
"It takes courage to stand up and realize it could make us better officers -- and better people in all of our relationships," he said.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call 1-800-572-SAFE .