Domestic Violence Center bestowed honors during annual program
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Against the backdrop of sobering statistics – 53 domestic-violence fatalities in Pennsylvania last year out of about 1,500 nationwide – the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County recognized individuals and organizations Tuesday night that have worked to reduce those numbers.
Hours after the Chester County Commissioners issued a proclamation establishing Domestic Violence Awareness Week, the center celebrated “An Evening of Remembrance and Recognition” at the United Methodist Church of Chester County in West Chester.
The program, which included the Lincoln University choir, addressed the importance of recognizing the signs of domestic abuse and connecting victims with the resources to defeat it. Advocates in law-enforcement who have helped empower victims were enthusiastically honored and victims who lost their lives were fondly remembered.
Singled out for efforts to combat domestic violence were Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Frei, Coatesville Police Officer Rodger Ollis, and the police departments in Oxford and Coatesville, under the leadership of Police Chief John Slauch and Interim Chief James Bell, respectively.
Terry Moody, director of development and communications for the Domestic Violence Center, said incidents of domestic violence present challenges for all members of law enforcement. Victims don’t always acknowledge the abuse, and even when they do, they often recant for a variety of reasons, including fear of reprisal.
Hogan said Frei excels at understanding those challenges and overcoming them. “Michelle Frei is the heart and soul of our domestic violence prosecutions,” said Hogan. “These are difficult cases, but Michelle never rests until justice is done.”
Moody said police officers in Coatesville and Oxford have received training for a program called Rapid Response Recovery, which aims to connect potential victims with immediate assistance, which can range from counseling to relocation.
Ollis was instrumental in bringing another initiative to Coatesville called Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), which provides officers with a checklist designed to determine whether a victim faces an imminent threat, Moody said. “He took a very proactive approach,” she said of Ollis’s involvement.
Moody said many victims feel ashamed of their circumstances and often unfairly blame themselves. “It’s a community education,” she said, stressing the importance of awareness. “We need more people to talk about it so the community will recognize it.”