To experience an act of violence at the hands of someone you love and trust is truly traumatic. The physical marks may only be temporary, but the emotional scars stay with you forever. Unfortunately, I know that private pain all too well.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and as a survivor of abuse and as mayor of LA, I have worked to leverage every resource at my disposal to end this cycle of violence. But we have our work cut out for us.
Last year, the LAPD received over 48,000 domestic violence-related calls and reported over 20,000 domestic violence-related crimes. To address these alarming statistics, my office established Stop Abuse From Existing (SAFE), a long-term commitment to reducing domestic violence. Now, anyone can log onto www.safela.org and find emergency hotline numbers, a list of shelters, and lists of legal services available through government and private organizations.
A vital part of the SAFE initiative is the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART). DART is a law enforcement-based effort that pairs private advocacy groups with LAPD officers, and together they respond to domestic violence at the scene of the crime to serve victims and provide services that include case management, advocacy and counseling.
For the first time in our City's history, every LAPD Division has a lieutenant who is designated as a domestic violence coordinator and is responsible for coordinating domestic violence cases with an advocacy group in that division. Last year, my office secured $1.1 million in federal grants to continue our fight against domestic violence in the City, including $140,000 for the DART program alone.
It is a tragedy that cities and states all over the country are cutting back on vital programs like these. Just recently, city leaders in Topeka, Kansas, decriminalized domestic violence altogether.
They blamed "budget cuts."
I know a thing or two about budget cuts. I know how hard the decisions can be, but I also know that our unwavering commitment to public safety has prevented horrible crimes and saved lives.
The state of California stopped funding DART in 2005. Other cities might have raised the white flag, and given up on the people that need help the most. But not Los Angeles. Instead, we worked with the federal government, we worked with local nonprofits, and we went back and doubled the program over the last six years. No matter the economic climate, protecting the safety of our families is number one in my book.
The fight against domestic violence takes an entire community, from the officers who respond to emergency calls, to the counselors and volunteers at shelters, to the friends and family who are there to help victims when their world is crumbling around them.
That is why the City of Los Angeles is committed to raising awareness this month about the help we have made available. We've got a lot of work to do, but we're on the right track.
We're here to say to the victims that even in your darkest moment, you are not alone.
Los Angeles has zero tolerance for domestic violence. If you are looking for help or know someone who is, please visit www.safela.org and find the resources you need to end the abuse.
Follow Antonio Villaraigosa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LAMayorsOffice