Through a federal grant obtained in collaboration with the UMass Amherst and Amherst police departments and the Center for Women and Community, the Northampton Police Department now has a civilian advocate to to provide confidential support and advocacy for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and related violence or abuse.
Jessenia Aquino will provide follow-up advocacy, safety planning, and referrals to victims after a crime has been reported and is also available to assist victims who have not reported a crime. Victims can arrange to meet with Aquino at the Northampton Police Department, Center for Women and Community and additional locations including the district court.
Aquino brings more than six years of experience in the field of domestic and sexual violence as an advocate, counselor and educator with the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT) and SAFEPLAN.
Funding for position is from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. The grant also provides funding for developing policies in the area of domestic violence and sexual assault response, educational programs, training in police departments to improve tracking of cases involving domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. It is also aimed at strengthening legal advocacy service programs for victims of domestic, sexual violence and stalking, including assistance to victims involving immigration matters, elder concerns and individuals with disabilities.
Northampton Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz said, “This is a position I have wanted to implement at Northampton Police Department for years, and I am happy to welcome Jessie to our department. I thank the Amherst Police Department, the University of Massachusetts Police Department and the Center for Women and Community for allowing this department to become partners in this grant. Such a partnership will enable us to provide a more supportive, safe and individualized relationship with victims of domestic and sexual violence.”