Social Worker Partnership with Police Helps Domestic Violence Victim Move On

There are everyday experiences in our lives that we can look back on and point to as pivotal to who we are how far we’ve come–those clear moments in hindsight that were clearly crucial to our wellbeing. For Sarah** that moment was when she met Christine Santos, a social worker on the VOCA Victims’ Assistance Program at the East Providence Police Department where she sought refuge after a fight with her boyfriend.

Honestly I feel like I may have been dead by now if I hadn’t talked to Christine that day,” Sarah said. “She kept driving it at me, saying ‘You’re in danger, you’re in danger.’ Christine gave me all the warning signs– and I knew she was right.”

She says she’d gotten up the courage to come to the station that day to file a complaint against him with police “in case something happened to me, they’d know.” She had no idea she’d also be able to speak with a social worker there about what was going on. And it changed her life.

Sarah was educated about the dangers of domestic violence and came from a long line of strong women and –like so many women in her situation– never thought something like this could ever happen to her. He seemed ok at first when they began dating. She moved to Rhode Island from upstate New York to live with him. She didn’t have many friends as it was and didn’t have a local support network of her own just yet. As is the case a lot of the time, he was taller and stronger than her. They got along well for a while. But then the emotional abuse started and everything began to unravel.

Sarah wasn’t able to leave him that day for a variety of reasons, but she carried Christine’s heartfelt word of warning with her. The next time when there was an altercation that turned physical, the police were called and she felt ready to finally take Christine’s advice – even though it was very difficult.

While the police just said to her “someone needs to leave, someone needs to leave” Sarah insisted there was no way it would be her, that it had to be him that left—after all, the apartment was in her name. It was only because of the conversation that she’d had with Christine that she was finally felt ready to take that step and leave to be safe. Christine offered her some gift cards to help ease the burden during the transition away from her boyfriend to help with food and necessities. She credits Christine’s knowledge and compassion for her situation for making all the difference.

“It was the way she was saying things, her way of caring was different than the police’s approach. It was almost like she knew me. She took time to listen,” Sarah said. “Her words just got too hard to ignore.”

As a way of giving back and helping others going through similar circumstances, Sarah recently donated a few gift cards, like the ones she’d received, to the VOCA Victims’ Assistance Program so others might find the strength to get themselves out of the same situation.

“With COVID, a lot of women with families are going through this same right now,” she said. “I want to help someone else get a fresh start, too.”

Previous Part 3: Helping Victims When They Need It Most