They will act as assistants, advisors and advocates.
Eighty-eight volunteers from throughout Essex County began training on Tuesday with the Essex County Prosecutor's Office to learn the signs of domestic violence and how to respond appropriately.
The 13-week domestic violence traning program is focusing on volunteers from houses of faith and social service agencies.
Very often the first place a victim of domestic violence will go for help is a church, mosque or synagogue – not the police,’’ said Pamela McCauley, coordinator of the Victim-Witness Advocate Unit of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. “We want to equip those on the front lines with the skills necessary to be able provide appropriate help to victims.’’
Clergy and others have sometimes referred couples, who are truly in crisis, to couples counseling which often is not appropriate in a situation where there is violence, McCauley said.
The sessions run from 6 to 9 p.m. They will be held at the Leroy Smith Building, located at 60 Nelson Place, Newark, behind the Essex County Court House.
“While the primary function of the Prosecutor’s Office is to prosecute those who commit crime, prevention of crime is just as important,’’ said Acting Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray. “There are many families in crisis and the stress of the holiday season, particularly during these tough economic times, can cause simmering problems to escalate. Having skilled people in the community can literally save lives.’’
At the first session, Asia Smith, a survivor of domestic violence, spoke about why victims stay and some of the myths surrounding domestic violence.
This is the fifth and largest training session held by the prosecutor's office.
Volunteers will learn how the court system works, the impact of domestic violence on children, how to deal with diverse populations and related issues.