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Program Tackles Domestic Violence

A victim of abuse never feels completely safe unless the perpetrator is locked away in a jail cell. But a coalition of organizations is doing what it can to bring fearful women some peace of mind.

AWARE (Abused Women's Active Response Emergency) is a group of concerned organizations, including police forces, women's shelters, and ADT Canada Inc. AWARE is active in 23 Canadian cities, and 65 in the USA.

The program provides victims of abuse, all women to date, with a personal alarm device. When the alarm is activated, it is considered an assault in progress. A signal is sent to ADT, who relay it to the local police department. A review of assault cases showed that, in a typical incident, the attacker tore out the telephone, so ADT suggested they use an alarm system independent of the telephone. ADT provides the alarms free of charge, and teaches women and their children how to use them.

A truly co-operative initiative, AWARE fills a critical void in a time of massive cuts to government social services. As Windsor Mayor Mike Hurst said when his city joined the program last February: "The partnership of the Windsor Police Services, Hiatus House and ADT Canada is another example of how business can work in a creative way with public organizations to meet critical needs when public funding is reduced."

AWARE (formerly DVERS) was born in Winnipeg in March, 1991 when a local women's shelter realized that its clients needed a direct line to police in situations where they needed physical protection. The shelter initially used a medical alert system linked to a local hospital, but the hospital was not set up to transfer signals to the Winnipeg police.

To further complicate matters, in Winnipeg, permits are required for alarm systems that elicit police response. Winnipeg police recommended that a company specializing in security systems be consulted. This was when ADT entered the picture.

Police departments and women's groups have developed criteria to screen applicants. For instance, an applicant must have already made a complaint to police of physical violence towards her; she must be separated from her partner, or spouse; the potential abuser must be under charge, investigation or court order in connection with violence or threats of violence; and reconciliation cannot be an option at the time of application.
The applicant also must be willing to co-operate with help groups and police, and be willing to follow other protective measures and be competent to carry out instructions on how to operate the alarm.

Those involved agree AWARE alone cannot solve the deep-rooted challenge of domestic violence. But people must do what they can to help says ADT director of marketing Ana Castanheira: "These acts of violence, and the enduring effects they have on women and their children, must be stopped."


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