Recently retired as Madison Police Chief, Noble Wray believes everyone has a story in terms of how they have been touched by domestic violence. He served as chief of police for 9 years, having originally joined the force in 1984.
Wray joined more than 125 people in attending a groundbreaking ceremony on July 24 for the dawning of a new DAIS.
Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) operates the only safe house in Dane County for women leaving a dangerous abusive situation and their children. For some time now, the waiting list on a given night for the safe house has been running 50 to 80 people.
DAIS recently broke ground on a 35,000-square foot facility located at 2102 Fordem Avenue in Madison. The new building will provide seven times the space now available to the organization, and house twice the number of people in its emergency shelter.
“This wouldn’t have happened 25 years ago,” Wray was overheard saying to Darald Hanusa at the event. Dr. Hanusa is a therapist and Madison-based expert in the field of domestic violence.
We caught up with Chief Wray, who made time in his very busy schedule in the few final weeks before his retirement to speak with this DAIS volunteer. We wanted to know, why not? And why is it happening now?
Back in the day
Chief Wray remembers what it was like as a 23-year-old police officer, when the prevailing law enforcement approach was, “Is there someplace else you can take the male half?”
In reflecting on how things were back in the early 1980s, when it came to domestic violence calls, he said, the community mindset was more of a “go, separate, mediate, and you move on.”
Soon a few people were really pushing the issue in the 1980s and starting to challenge the overall thinking about domestic violence. “The advocates were the trailblazers and once that this was an issue, we made significant strides,” he said.
As a result of consciousness raising in the 1990s, domestic abuse went from being seen as a family situation to being deemed a crime. Shortly thereafter, it meant mandatory arrest.
During this third phase, the community started getting coordinated to begin to address domestic violence from a different perspective. It was more of “Let’s meet, talk, and work with prosecutors and advocates,” Wray said.
Starting in the late 1990s and more recently, more people began seeing that domestic violence is something that has gone beyond the people daily involved.
Let the sun shine in
Fast forward to 2013. “It seems and appears that the (DAIS) Capital Campaign has been a focal point to rally around and galvanize support in the community, ” said Wray. It’s helped to lessen the stigma surrounding abuse, and has gotten more people mobilized to address the issue.
He said he was encouraged by what the broad base of support at the groundbreaking ceremony—state representatives, members of the media, and local business people.
He talked more about then and now, addressing how the new shelter will be housed at a public location rather than in an undisclosed setting.
“We had to hide where the facility existed,” he said. “It was our dirty little secret, and that (groundbreaking) day demonstrated to me that the sun is shining on this issue,” he said.
Putting discussion in new places
Wray brought up Shannon Barry’s strong leadership as executive director at DAIS and how it has greatly impressed him. “Shannon has been steady; she has been inspirational; she has looked at new ways to bring partnerships together,” he stated.
Barry honed in on the idea of bringing the private sector together to move forward regarding domestic violence as well as the creation of a new building, he said. “There’s more of a reason to galvanize, thanks to Shannon.”
The positive impact of all of this has been that “it put the discussion (about domestic violence) in places where it’s never been before.”
Awareness started with advocates, moved to law enforcement and then the coordinated community response, Wray explained. However, it never fully reached the private sector in Madison and Dane County until this past year.
“It’s become more of a main stream issue,” Wray said, likening it to an all-out anti-smoking campaign that a community embarks on.
Companies like CUNA Mutual and others are stepping up and saying we need to address domestic violence, he pointed out, even though it’s not the mission or the vision as such of their agencies.
It’s impressive to see someone’s vision and dream become a reality, said Wray, who met with Barry three or four years ago at the Capitol, when the dream was just a dream. “But to see that dream come to fruition was very impressive. It is really important for me to emphasize the credibility of this agency (DAIS),” he said.
Moving into the future
Looking ahead, Wray does not want the community to lose momentum on the issue of domestic violence. “We must be vigilant,” he declared. “We cannot stop the momentum…”
Clearly, an understanding of what can happen as a result of trauma in early life has emerged, thanks to research on the subject. “Domestic violence is in the heart and soul of that whole thing…,” Wray pointed out.
Some years back, the local police looked at case studies involving the most violent gang members in the area. There was also a cross section of service providers in the room that knew these same individuals as kids.
“It was an eye-opener, how you could trace back trauma in their earlier life” to what happened later on in terms of choices they made, things that happened, and crimes.
“From a public safety standpoint, the community has to invest in prevention,” he said. Acknowledging that there will be a cost involved in doing this, he stands firm that it will pay in the long run, by reducing the harm to themselves and others later on.
“I get a lot of focus on gang violence, because we can talk about it publicly,” explained Wray. “So many times, because we don’t want to re-traumatize the victim, we don’t talk about it (an incident of domestic violence)…From a public information standpoint, you have to be sensitive to the victim. The unintended consequence is people may not be aware of the impact domestic violence really has in the community.”
“I can talk in great detail about what happens outside of someone’s door,” he said, “but you can’t talk about what’s happening inside their door.”
Even if people can talk about abuse with their family members, he said, it’s an important step because it helps raise awareness. He encourages folks to start small by discussing the issue with people in their circle, as it may help save a life.
Making strides through LEAP
Wray referred to the LEAP (Law Enforcement Advocate Partnership) program, which got started a few years ago at the urging of police officers.
“We ran a pilot out of the South District, and we thought it was very successful. In sharing it with others, it got support,” he said, smiling
Wray has made a budget request for 2014, to expand the LEAP program to other districts. So far, he reported, this effort had garnered Mayor Soglin’s support as well as that of alders.
“We’re really excited about connecting victims with advocates,” enthused Wray, who’s put in a supplemental request of $60,000 to expand the program in Madison.
“I really do feel we have a good chance of expanding this next year,” he said. In fact, addressing domestic violence has become part of the fabric of the (MPD) organization, he said, focusing on the issues and trying to be as proactive as possible.
Wray said that most of the homicides in Madison in the last decade have involved “young African American men and/or (cases of) domestic violence. For a community that prides itself on addressing homicide…you can never move away from this issue (domestic violence) if you’re talking about homicide prevention,” he stressed.
“We are really in the early stages of seeing how law enforcement can be part of focusing on trauma early on,” Chief Wray said. By dealing with some of the root causes in childhood, it can make a difference later on as they grow into adults.