ACTS: Helping Those Facing Domestic Violence

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By Olivia Overman

Sponsored by Action In the Community Through Service (ACTS)

Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) is defined as “an innovative strategy to prevent domestic violence homicides and serious injuries.” This strategy is employed by Action in Community Through Service (ACTS) and the Prince William county police officers operating as first responders. Through this collaboration, the county is helping reduce the number of deaths due to domestic violence.

Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) Defined

Initiated by ACTS in 2018, the nationally recognized LAP program ensures that all first responders are trained to use the same protocol when identifying the severity of domestic violence victim’s circumstances. Through a series of questions, first responders can identify whether there is an increased risk for homicide. If this is the case, the officer places a phone call to the LAP line where victims receive risk assessment and safety planning from trained personnel. “In Prince William County, we have 700 police officers trained in LAP,” said Dotty Larson, Director ACTS Domestic Violence Services. She goes on to say that this training is helping to reduce domestic violence, which is “a big problem” in Prince William.

The nationally recognized LAP model was developed by the Maryland Network to End Domestic Violence in 2005 and has been shown to be highly successful in preventing deaths from domestic violence. According to the Virginia Office of Attorney General, “public health research indicates that community responses to violence are most effective when they are immediate, consistent and proportional.” ACTS and the Prince William county police officers are working together to meet this immediate response.

Other Domestic Violence Intervention Services Offered

ACTS Domestic Violence Services provides the only comprehensive Domestic Violence Intervention program in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park.

Through a 24-hour hotline, victims have access to assistance from trained personnel. In cases where emergency shelter is needed, ACTS can provide access to a Safe House. Located within a residential neighborhood, the ACTS Domestic Violence Safe House provides a safe place for anyone who is in immediate fear for their safety. Shelter is provided at no cost, with a case manager assigned to help the victim plan for their future by helping them find a job and a new place to live. The case manager also provides access to any of the services provided by ACTS. Children of victims also have access to services to help them deal with the ordeal.

While the Safe House is often full, “LAP clients may be housed in a hotel for a night or two,” said Larson.

ACTS also offers the following services:

  • Dealing with the court system can be extremely frightening and confusing. ACTS Domestic Violence Intervention Services provides counseling on court procedures. They also provide a court advocate that can accompany a victim, providing support when attending court.
  • An adult advocacy program supports adults to help set boundaries, and to empower them to lead abuse-free lives. ACTS provides both individual and group support programs.

Domestic violence is a national problem, one that can often lead to death of the victim. Data from U.S. crime reports suggest that 16% (about one in six) of murder victims are killed by a partner. Here in Prince William, ACTS is helping lower that statistic through the services offered that provide emergency assistance, when needed, and help stop the cycle of abuse going forward.

Stopping Abuse Before It Starts

In many cases abusers are perpetuating actions they have been witness to during their lives. By offering education awareness programs in the community, as well as Domestic Violence and Anger Management programs, ACTS hopes to quell the continuance of abuse and violence in relationships.

ACTS Domestic Violence Hotline: (703) 221-4951

The staff and volunteers who work for ACTS are determined to help achieve its mission, which includes assisting victims of abuse and helping them live successful lives.

For more information about the services offered by ACTS, please go to


Olivia Overman ([email protected]) is a freelance writer for both online and print organizations. She earned a M.A. in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, Washington, D.C.



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