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Hamilton County Launches State's First Text Service For Domestic Violence Survivors

Hamilton County
The text service also includes contact information for the organization Women Helping Women.

Hamilton County became the first in Ohio to launch a new technology-based warning system to help protect survivors of domestic violence.

County Clerk Aftab Pureval – joined by Sheriff Jim Neil, domestic relations Judge Amy Searcy, and Women Helping Women president and CEO Kristin Smith Shrimplin – announced the introduction of a text and email service that notifies survivors in real time when a respondent has been served papers.

Previously, it could take up to two days for papers to be served, and up to five days for survivors to be notified, Pureval said.  

“The real revolution in this technology is that it turns a time period of days into a time period of minutes," he said.

That, according to Pureval, is important when studies show a 21 percent chance of an escalation in violent behavior after a protection order is issued.

The service is currently only used in a handful of states, and is only available for domestic violence civil protection orders. Survivors also must choose to opt in to the service.

Sheriff Neil added that the new system also gives a survivor proof should a respondent violate an order. By having the information captured in his or her cell phone, “if in the future there would be a violation of that civil restraining order, (the victim) can say, ‘Police officer, here it is. Here is my notification that the respondent was served,’” he explains. “That gives us probable cause to affect arrest for violation of those court orders. That’s how fast this has sped up that process.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Once a deputy serves a respondent a civil protection order, the deputy immediately calls to notify the office.
  2. The office enters the information into the system.
  3. The technology produces an immediate notification to the survivor that the respondent was served.

The message includes the phone number for Women Helping Women, an organization in southwest Ohio dedicated to preventing gender-based violence and empowering survivors. Shrimplin says her agency serves nearly 6,000 people a year.

“Until an order is served, survivors live in a state of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear,” she says. “They may be afraid to go to work, answer their phone, drop their children off at their school, or even live at home.

The new warning system, she says, is a game-changer.

“Imagine that: Survivors who had power stripped from them, now have the power to instantly connect with additional support and services with an advocate at the most dangerous point of their lives," Shrimplin says.