October Community Meeting Notes: Domestic Violence


Through the FY2012 budget process, the state of Massachusetts created a new temporary housing program called HomeBASE and altered family shelter to focus on families headed by a parent under age 21 and families made homeless due to domestic violence, fire or natural disaster. As a result, Homes for Families October family homelessness community meeting focused on domestic violence and how to work with families affected by domestic violence. The meeting featured Tammy Mello, Josh Lubbers, and Sue Hubert from the Department of Children and Families’ Domestic Violence Unit.

I.               Overview of domestic violence services under DCF.

    • The domestic violence unit in DCF consists of 12 employees who work with 100 contracted programs throughout the state. DCF domestic violence services are offered free of charge, and households do not have to be enrolled in other DCF services to access. The primary goal is provide safe programs and services for individuals and families.
    • A family does not need to have DCF involvement to access their DV services, which are also available to individuals.
    • There are 423 shelters beds in the domestic violence system. Some families have been in this system for 5, 6 and 7 months. The system was not designed for families to stay this long.
      • Community-based services – services offered to individuals living in the general community such as counseling, support groups, assistance with restraining orders, etc.
      • Residential housing/stabilization – Local Housing Authorities provide housing and DCF provides services for the families.
      • Emergency Shelter
      • Child witness to violence programs – These programs are designed for children who have witnessed domestic violence in the home or the community.
      • Substance Abuse and Mental Health
      • Supervised visitation – When a court grants an abuser visitation rights that must be done under supervision.
    • SafeLink (1-877-785-2020) – is a hotline that was originally used to place families in safe shelters. Today anyone can call on behalf of a family who has experienced domestic violence and the hotline provides information about local programs, services and does assist with placing families in safe shelters.

II.             What is domestic violence as defined by DCF?

  • Pattern of coercive controlling behaviors over that one-person exercises over another in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence, by definition, does not take place between family members unless they are engaged in an intimate relationship. Abusers typically exhibit a pattern of domestic violence.

III.           Power and Control wheel

This diagram represents the many ways in which abusers exert power and control over another. Many of them do not deal with physical violence but psychological, emotional and sexual abuse. The larger circle surrounding the wheel represents a larger and more covert threat of physical and sexual violence that adds another layer of fear and therefore motivates victims to comply with the abusers actions. As it sometimes may be difficult to ascertain whether domestic violence is taking, the presenters suggested using this wheel with only the headings and not the descriptions, allowing the victim to complete the wheel. This may provide the worker with more information about the situation. For the completed and blank diagrams click here.

IV.           When working with families who have experienced domestic violence but the worker has no formal experience in DV, who is available in the community to help provide assistance, expertise or recommendationsThese types of services can be provided by local community-based on-call advocates and local organizations funded by DCF to provide programs and services to domestic violence survivors. To view the list click here.

V.             Mandated reporting

  • A mandated reporter is not obligated by law to file a 51A in the case of domestic violence as this may pose more risks to the family. It is up to the reporter and depends on the severity and possible harm to the child. For instance, children can witness domestic violence but may not necessarily be impacted depending on the environment in which it took place and the distance of the child from the violence. In general a 51A is a tool and not an intervention. There are 29 DCF offices around the state through which someone can file a 51A. Each of these offices contains staff with different levels of experience, training and education so a reporters experience may be different from one office to the next. However, a report is mandated in certain situations were the child is threatened with death, the family fears for their safety, and if the child has been physically abused when one of the parents was the target of the abuse.
  • For more information on mandated reporting when domestic violence is occurring see these 2 brochures, which can be found at the following addresses: http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/dss/promising_approaches_publication.pdf

And http://www.mass.gov/Eeohhs2/docs/dss/can_mandated_reporters_guide.pdf

For the entire notes including domestic violence legislation presented by Jane Doe click here.

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6 thoughts on “October Community Meeting Notes: Domestic Violence

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