High Risk Team

High Risk Team

The night my abuser set my house on fire, I was placed on the High Risk Team by the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. This is a program that Jeanne Geiger launched back in 2005, the first of its kind in the United States and they continue to roll it out across the US. DVHRT is an evidence-based risk assessment to alert the domestic violence response system when a case has a high risk of turning lethal. In their words “Once a high risk case is identified, a multi-disciplinary team of domestic violence advocates, local law enforcement, prosecutors, probation, corrections, and other community-based organizations implements case-specific intervention plans to mitigate the immediate danger.”

I’m not sure, but I think I was placed in the group after the detective on the team interviewed me in the ER. I had never heard of the Geiger Center and it never occurred to me that I was a domestic violence victim. Unfortunately, I left the state for five months before speaking with an advocate and I floundered in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania while my abuser stalked, coerced, threatened and intimidated me. Meanwhile, my family blamed me for my “part” in the failure of my marriage and abandoned me.

If only someone had told me that I had been identified as being at high risk of being murdered. If only I had been given the resources and education I desperately needed, then I think things would have been much easier for me. But I did eventually return to Massachusetts and I did take advantage of their resources. And I believe the High Risk Team and its resources are the reason I am still alive.

But it took a tragedy to bring about the development of this program. Dorothy Giunta-Cotter was murdered by her estranged husband while their daughter was on the phone with police. He shot her and then turned the gun on himself, leaving two traumatized daughters behind. I remember when it happened. I remember being horrified that a man could do that to the woman he supposedly loved and to his own kids. I never EVER imagined that because of what happened to Dorothy, I’d be considered a “high risk” case for potentially being murdered.

I feel like I owe Dorothy a thank you. I wish I could honor her somehow. But the only way I can think of is to share her story and the efforts undertaken by the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center to keep battered women across the United States alive. I urge you to read Dorothy’s story here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/07/22/a-raised-hand

I urge you to watch this video, listen to that phone call and learn.

In Memory of Dorothy Giunta-Cotter

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