Dear Editor,

Domestic violence is no longer the leading cause of homicide in Fairfax County- largely due to preventative efforts instituted by the County, our police, and community non-profit partners. Nonetheless, it remains a major problem that we must address. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the County, along with other groups, will be working to inform the community about this troubling issue.

The Domestic Violence Prevention, Policy, and Coordinating Council (DVPPCC), an organization I chair that fights domestic violence countywide, has refined its agenda for the coming year. Last year, the Office for Women, in partnership with the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) and the DVPPCC, implemented the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), a system designed to help determine exactly how serious a violent domestic situation might be. The system includes a questionnaire for victims, which can help trained personnel determine how dangerous their situation is. The DVPPCC has worked to make the implementation of tools like these critical. The result is that LAP victims can be more likely to participate in the criminal justice process, which may bring their perpetrator to justice.

This year, we have set two main priorities for the Council: increasing the availability of transitional housing to victims, and promoting outreach to and communication with the community regarding the importance of combating domestic violence.

Finding transitional housing for victims until they find permanent housing is very difficult here in Northern Virginia. Families that are in a violent situation often have to make immediate changes to ensure their safety. Victims are afraid to move, change their children’s schools, and even leave their pets. Increasing the housing options for families facing these challenges helps to return the family to normalcy as soon as possible. For example, the FCPD has partnered with the Fairfax County Animal Shelter to create Pet Haven, a program that will house a pet for up to 60 days, allowing victims time to make other housing arrangements. Steps like these are being taken to help victims in their time of need.

The community needs to know that domestic violence affects more than just the victim- it affects the entire community. Child witnesses suffer psychological effects and may have trouble focusing in school. A mother may not be able to keep up with work assignments. A family in crisis impacts our neighborhoods and communities.

We must inform our neighbors on what to do if they suspect a family is in trouble. If you do suspect someone is the victim of domestic violence, you may think that it’s none of your business and that it’s better not to get involved in their situation. You may think the situation will resolve itself. It won’t. To report a crime, call the FCPD at 703-691-2131 or, for emergencies, call 911. It is just as important to help lead a victim to the 24-hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline at 703-360-7273. Let’s work together to fight domestic violence here in Fairfax County and make this a safer community for everyone.

John C. Cook

Fairfax County Supervisor

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