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The grant covers a three-year period.
The money will be used by the Belchertown and Northampton police departments, funding the services of a victim advocate from the University of Massachusetts Center for Women and Community. This is the first time Belchertown Police have had a dedicated advocate working out of its department. An advocate gives individuals a chance to speak with a civilian, which may alleviate the reluctance and discomfort some experience when speaking to officers, Pronovost explained.
The partnership between the two departments is a way for the Northampton Police Department to continue having a victim advocate even after its grant funding finished. The advocate will start with outreach to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the community. Lockwood said she hopes that the two police departments will feature the victim advocate on their websites as a way to let victims know that they can reach out to someone without necessarily going to the police first.
While the victim advocate will act as a bridge between victim and police, information given to the advocate will still be confidential, Lockwood said. The funding will also be used to provide specialized training to officers in the areas of sexual and domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking and violence against elders and the disabled. Lockwood said the training will inform officers of the best practices to use when helping victims.
These practices include trauma-informed interviewing, a set of techniques for police to use when interviewing a sexual assault victim. The victim advocate, Lockwood said, will also help identify areas in police protocol that need to be changed to include the best research-backed practices.
The grant allows the departments to work in collaboration with several area service providers, including Safe Passage, the Center for New Americans, Casa Latina and the Stonewall Center. The grant will be managed by the Belchertown Police Department and advocate services will begin later in the month.Sex dating in Belchertown
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