First published in the Feb. 5 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The city of Burbank and several nonprofits are working to create a series of training sessions later this year to spread awareness of domestic violence.
The Domestic Violence Task Force, a group consisting of municipal officials and representatives from Burbank organizations, met on Wednesday to discuss the series. Few details were finalized regarding the program, but assistant City Manager Judie Wilke said the in-person sessions were slated to start on Sept. 14 and run weekly or biweekly until late October — Domestic Violence Awareness Month — or early November.
Though she emphasized that both the dates and topics of the meetings could change, Wilke added that potential subjects include the dynamics of domestic abuse, common traits of abusers, particular challenges faced by members of the LGBTQ community, responses from the Burbank Police Department and City Attorney’s Office toward domestic violence reports, and advocacy resources.
“Anybody could attend these,” Wilke said Wednesday. “Victims, families or friends of them, advocates — that was initially kind of what we talked about, could we run a series and help people become advocates?”
The training sessions are largely based on a 40-hour seminar hosted pre-pandemic by Family Service Agency, a mental health nonprofit whose programs include couples counseling and transitional housing for families experiencing domestic violence. “Crash course” events offered by the city, as currently scheduled, would be led by FSA, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Burbank YMCA’s Social Impact Center, the BPD, the City Attorney’s Office and the Zonta Club.
One of the events could also feature stories from survivors of domestic violence, Wilke added.
“The ‘why’ is obviously to help people identify these situations that could be happening around them … or to help people they know … who [are] in these situations,” she said.
The BPD received 220 domestic violence reports in 2019 and 253 in 2018, according to data from the California Department of Justice. Another 175 reports were recorded in 2020, but advocates have warned that the first year of the pandemic artificially decreased an already underreported issue as many people experiencing domestic violence found themselves isolated with their abusers. Some nonprofits, however, said that they saw an increase in domestic violence survivors coming to them for aid in 2020.
Reducing underreporting of domestic violence is one of the goals of the training series, officials said, one they believe they can further by demystifying the legal process of contacting the authorities.
“What I’m hoping to accomplish here is actually an increase in domestic violence calls,” said Shannon Carter, a deputy city attorney with Burbank’s prosecution unit. “I think a lot of times people don’t report domestic violence because they’re afraid of what will happen. … [But] early reporting prevents later violence.”
Laurie Bleick, executive director of FSA, emphasized the importance of having representatives from a variety of nonprofits and city departments to share information with the public during the events, adding Wednesday that her organization had received four calls that day inquiring about its program for abusers who want to — or are required by law enforcement — unlearn their abusive behavior.
“Without this coordinated response, people will continue to get hurt,” she said.