From left: Corporal Lance Chandler; Dawn Culp, MSN, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, FNE, DV & Gang Consultant, Bayhealth's forensic nurse coordinator; Dover PD Chief James E. Hosfelt, Jr.; Master Corporal Derek Lawson; Sergeant Chad Bernat.
If there is one thing Dawn Culp, MSN, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, FNE, DV & Gang Consultant, Bayhealth Forensic Nurse Coordinator, hopes to communicate to the numerous battered and abused women, men, and children she sees each month at the Bayhealth emergency departments, it is this: come to the hospital, and we will help you.
“Most of our patients are not aware of the resources we can offer them,” Culp said. “Providing untraceable cell phones, putting new locks on the door at home, acquiring protection from abuse orders—there are things we can do and people we can contact to help.”
Calls to domestic violence hotlines are increasing in Kent and Sussex Counties despite the efforts of groups from law enforcement to non-profit organizations.
Culp believes the rise in domestic violence is caused by poor economic conditions and an influx of illegal drugs, such as heroin, throughout Delaware.
“When you have a large number of people living below the poverty line, stressed about survival, and you combine that with the effects that drugs have on a person’s mind, you will see more violence, both verbal and physical,” she explained.
As part of the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (DVCC), a state agency legislatively created in 1993 to improve Delaware’s response to domestic violence, Culp works with advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement, and community organizations to enhance victim safety.
The DVCC celebrated its twentieth anniversary with a ceremony last month at Legislative Hall in Dover. When the DVCC was founded in 1993, Delaware was the only state in the U.S. that did not offer victims of domestic violence the ability to petition the court for a protection from abuse order.
The Honorable Patricia Blevins, State Senate Council Chair and DVCC chair, thanked committee members for their dedication. Praising the accomplishments of the last 20 years, Blevins emphasized that further vigilance is required to ensure that all Delawareans are safe.
This month, in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Culp and her colleagues are assisting the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence in collecting gently used luggage to distribute to victims who are trying to leave unsafe situations.
They will also partner with Verizon Wireless in the HopeLine program, which collects old cell phones to refurbish and sell, with proceeds funding non-profit agencies that support victims of domestic violence. Refurbished phones are also made available free of charge to victims.
“These initiatives may seem small, but they give us ways to help victims of domestic violence become more independent and build up to leaving an abusive situation,” Culp said.
A large percentage of victims in Kent and Sussex Counties are immigrants who may face cultural barriers when seeking assistance. They may not have access to cell phones or be able to rely on a family network for support.
“We see many victims with children, who feel trapped in their current lifestyles. Fortunately, we work with organizations such as Abriendo Puertas and People’s Place that offer support and planning services to anyone,” Culp said. “But we have to keep working to get the word out, so people know.”
In order to raise awareness, Culp and her staff of SANE forensic nurses educate the community through seminars at high schools, daycare centers, Delaware State University, and employers such as Dover Air Force Base.