Stopping the Cycle: Hollywood Police program tackles domestic abuse

WSVN — Police officers will tell you domestic violence cases are tough for so many reasons, but one reason is that the victim often takes her abuser back over and over again. Now the Hollywood Police Department has started a program they hope will stop the cycle of abuse.

"Laura" thought she had finally met her Prince Charming.

Laura, domestic violence victim: "Tall, handsome, you know, he came into my life when I was just at the end of my rope. He swept me off my feet."

She had lost her job and couldn’t pay her rent. He came to the rescue and quickly moved in.

Laura: "It just seemed like the perfect situation at the time."

But within a few weeks, the romance turned rocky.

Laura: "He was in charge of the finances. My every movement was dependent upon him."

He took total control, isolating her from friends and checking her phone.

Laura:  "Unbeknownst to me, he had put an app on my phone that retrieved my deleted text messages."

When he read texts about him, he became enraged.

Laura: "So at this point I’m more scared than I’d ever been in my life."

He beat and choked her.

Laura: "It even crossed over to sexual abuse, but at that point, I kind of felt like it was my fault."

She did call police and he was arrested, but by the time he was released, Laura took him back and dropped the charges. Police officers say most victims of domestic violence never prosecute.

Hollywood Police Sgt. Rhett Cady: "That moment of anger dissipates, and it kind of turns into, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t want to put him through this or put her through that.’"

Hollywood Police hope to stop the cycle of violence with a new program that focuses on the abusers.

Sgt. Rhett Cady: "You know who the perpetrator is almost before it happens, so it’s something we should be able to get ahead of."

Officers created a database with a list of names of those involved in domestic disputes, from minor spats to serious altercations. Then, officers hit the streets to hand-deliver a warning to those offenders.

Sgt. Rhett Cady:  "Uniformed officers are coming to your house, they’re providing a deterrence message in the form of a letter. A letter that says. ‘I am writing to let you know that the Hollywood Police Department is taking a new approach in preventing future acts of domestic violence. Consider this a fair warning, so you can avoid criminal charges, court appearances and possible imprisonment.’"

They hope, by letting offenders know police are watching, it will make them think twice before becoming violent.

Sgt. Rhett Cady: "Now I’m in your head, or we’re in your head, and you’re thinking that the Hollywood Police Department knows what I did, and it could change your behavior the next time around."

Laura says her violent relationship didn’t end until he ended up in prison. Her advice to other women is to tell someone.

Laura: "A lot of times you’re so ashamed, you don’t want to tell anybody."

She hopes by telling her story now, it will give other victims the courage to get the help they need to stop the cycle.
    
Police say the program is new, but it’s working. The number of domestic violence calls in Hollywood are down dramatically.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Hollywood Police Department
954-967-4411

Domestic Violence Offender Focused Program:
http://www.hollywoodfl.org/index.aspx?nid=939

United Way/First Call for Help: 211