Domestic violence is a horrific crime that poses a real and constant threat to victims. At its most tragic, it can be fatal. Already this year, 57 North Carolinians have lost their lives to domestic violence homicides. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we shine a light on this crime that often occurs in the dark behind closed doors so that people who are in abusive relationships know that there is help available to them.
As your Attorney General, and even before I took office, I’ve worked to make sure that we’re keeping victims of domestic violence safe in North Carolina. I fought to make sure that the courts are accessible to people trying to leave abusive relationships, even during natural disasters. I fought to make sure that the state offers every person legal protection from their abuser, regardless of their sexual orientation or the type of relationship they’re in. I’ve fought for changes to state law that reflect a better understanding of how abusers can trap and harm their victims.
In 2019, my office launched a powerful and innovative initiative to expand the use of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP). LAP is a research-based checklist that law enforcement officers use to respond to domestic violence incidents. If an officer determines that a victim is at a high risk of being harmed, the officer immediately connects the victims with domestic violence service providers in their area. These providers can help give people the resources and assistance they need to get and stay safe. I’ve seen LAP in action when I joined officers on a call, and watching it put to work to protect people showed me how arming our officers with this tool makes a difference.
My office’s Public Protection Section and the North Carolina Justice Academy, which my office oversees, along with the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, conduct LAP training with law enforcement and domestic violence service providers across the state. Already, law enforcement in several counties are using LAP. Earlier this month, I met with local leaders in Charlotte and learned about how they’ve been using LAP to help victims. I am so grateful for their work and partnership and encourage more agencies across the state to reach out to my office to learn more about LAP.
But this work is not enough. For victims of domestic violence, the threat of intimate partner violence is constant and affects every part of their lives. And this violence impacts people from all walks of life – regardless of age, gender, race, where you live, or any other factor. We all have a responsibility to look out for the people around us – our friends, our neighbors, and our coworkers. Be on the lookout for signs of domestic violence, including physical abuse, emotional manipulation, financial exploitation, isolation, changes in a person’s behavior and self-esteem, or intimidation and fear tactics.
You can learn more at https://www.ncadv.org/signs-of-abuse. And if you or someone you know needs help, please visit https://www.enoughnc.org or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or online at https://www.thehotline.org. Together, we must do all we can to keep our people safe from this violence.