Police officers, Haven representatives and volunteers will walk home-to-home in several neighborhoods to place 5,000 door hangers with printed information about how to recognize and to help those impacted by domestic violence.
Teams will meet at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Leesburg Recreational Complex at 1851 Griffin Road and work through the early afternoon until all the door hangers are distributed. Participants will focus on residential areas with higher occurrences of domestic disturbances.
The goal is to raise awareness about this sensitive issue and to encourage more people to seek help. “We’ve got to get people talking about it,” said Kelly Smallridge, executive director at Haven. “We need people who are willing to get involved and learn more about this. Don’t just say this is not our business – it is our business.”
Leesburg Police Lt. George Whittaker said police officers are trained to handle emotionally charged situations of domestic violence. But often law enforcement assistance is not requested until after the violence has erupted.
Last year, the Leesburg Police Department received more than 1,000 calls related to some form of domestic violence. About 400 involved specific offenses resulting in 166 arrests.
Men, women and children all can be victims of domestic violence. Women account for 85 percent of domestic violence by their partner, according to national statistics. One in four women has experienced domestic violence during her lifetime.
Most Americans – about 74 percent – say they know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. Still, many cases of domestic violence are not reported.
“We are helping to educate the community to be more aware about domestic violence,” Whittaker said. A lot of people don’t know where to get help – our goal is to inform them that resources are out there.”
Haven was established in 1977 to provide free help to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in this area. In a 12-month period, the organization and its 15 employees help an average of 12,000 people. Programs are funded in large part with support from the community. For more information, visit www.havenlakesumter.org.
For more about Saturday’s event, contact Lt. George Whittaker at (352) 728-9786, ext. 3840.
Leesburg is a progressive city of more than 20,000 residents in northwest Lake County. The city government serves twice as many people with its electric, gas, water, wastewater and fiber-optic public utilities. Leesburg also is a central hub for commerce, attracting 50,000 people to work each weekday.