The Safe on Scene (SOS) program is a unique, collaborative effort by the Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) and the Honolulu Police Department (HPD). Through the SOS program, an expertly-trained DVAC advocate meets police and the survivor on the scene of a domestic violence incident. This allows the advocate to help the survivor deal with complex emotional, psychological and physical trauma, while the police focus on the perpetrator and the investigation.
Receiving immediate support from expert advocates at the time of an assault makes an enormous difference to survivors who, in addition to trauma, now face the daunting task of navigating the maze of the justice system and of social service, mental health, and healthcare agencies. SOS advocates have extensive knowledge of the Hawaii legal system and the services available to survivors. Advocates also understand that different survivors have different concerns in the aftermath of violence. For example, a college student will worry about her safety on campus and her academic performance. A parent will think of her children and custody. A visitor or newcomer to Hawaii will often face complete isolation in an unfamiliar environment, where language can also be a barrier. For many, making the transition from living with an intimate partner who is abusive and employs tactics of control to a single-parent, single-income household is an enormous undertaking. The trauma, the self-doubt, and the unknown are immobilizing. Seeking assistance, asking questions, exploring options and developing a pathway to safety, self-sufficiency and personal can be difficult if not impossible without help from an expert advocate trained to navigate these helping systems. SOS advocates listen to each individual, conduct careful assessment, and provide guidance tailored to each survivor’s specific needs.
The SOS program is currently implemented in Districts 1 (Chinatown/Downtown/Nu’uanu/Ala Moana and 7 (Mo’ili’ili, Makiki, Manoa, Palolo, Kaimuki, Kahala, Aina Haina, Hawaii Kai) of the Honolulu Police Department, with support from the Department of Community Services of the City and County of Honolulu. To date, it has successfully complemented and enhanced law enforcement’s responses to domestic violence incidents. As Honolulu Mayor Caldwell has publically recognized, “[d]omestic violence is an issue that threatens the safety of victims, the harmony of family life and the well-being of ours communities. Safe on Scene promises to change the way we respond to such incidents” (O’ahu News, City and County of Honolulu September 2016). Leadership and officers in Districts 1 and 7 are very engaged and working closely with DVAC to make the SOS program a continued success.