Ohio officer, nonprofit help domestic violence victim start new life
"We were able to wrap the arms of the city around her to make her life a little happier," Officer Anthony Roberts said
By Bethany Bruner
The Columbus Dispatch
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Anthony Roberts became a Fairy Godfather of sorts for a Columbus woman who was the victim of domestic violence.
Roberts, a nearly 24-year Columbus police veteran who works on the Mobile Crisis Response Team, said he and his team partner, Netcare Access clinician Phil McGeorge, received a referral to meet with a 33-year-old woman named Domonique in mid-May after she called police to report a domestic violence situation.
Patrol officers may refer incidents to the response team, which pairs officers with clinicians from Netcare to provide mental-health resources.
Roberts said the meeting went well with Domonique, whose last name is being withheld by The Dispatch because she is a victim of domestic violence. He and McGeorge did not think that mental health was a factor in the case. Further investigation and help had to be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic and protests in the Downtown area.
When Roberts and a representative of the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities followed up with Domonique a few weeks later, they were concerned about the emptiness of her Northeast Side apartment. The only furniture was a television.
"We asked if the world was free, what would she want," Roberts said. "Mainly she wanted someone to talk to and go to counseling."
When Roberts asked if Domonique wanted a bed, she wept.
Roberts later had a chance meeting with Nicole Banks, who runs the local nonprofit Starfish Assignment Columbus, which works with law enforcement officers to address needs they see in the community.
"Once an officer contacts us, we determine how Starfish Assignment can help and then turn to our volunteers for support," its website says. "Sometimes, the need is financial, but often the officers ask for donations such as sporting goods, household goods, or food."
Roberts asked Starfish to assist Domonique, and within hours of a call for donations, hundreds of dollars and offers of used furniture came in.
Roberts said he and McGeorge used a truck to pick up the furniture from donors and deliver it to Domonique on June 21, moving it all in themselves. The team did the moving during their normal shift, thinking of their children as they transformed Domonique's apartment.
The cash donations were used, in part, to buy Domonique a cellphone and prepaid phone cards, plus a gift card to Walmart.
"It felt like a new start," Domonique said, shocked by the generosity. "Like a brand-new person."
Roberts, who worked as a domestic-violence detective before moving to the mobile crisis unit, said he has a soft spot for people such as Domonique.
"Thinking of anyone mistreating her just makes you angry," he said. "We were able to wrap the arms of the city around her to make her life a little happier."
©2020 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)