Orange County law enforcement, volunteers raise domestic violence awareness

‘It Takes Courage’ event returns following pandemic, hurricane hiatus

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – More than 300 volunteers and members of law enforcement set out across Orange County Saturday to raise awareness about domestic abuse.

It was the first time in four years Harbor House of Central Florida was able to hold its annual “It Takes Courage” event after the pandemic and recent hurricanes put it on pause for a bit. Sixteen-thousand door tags were hung on the doors of Orange County homes.

“We worked in partnership with Orange County Sheriff’s Office and also OPD to identify different neighborhoods that will be good for us to go in where they are seeing a lot more domestic violence calls,” said Michelle Sperzel, CEO of Harbor House.

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Volunteers, Orlando police and Orange County deputies passed out the tags, which hold life-saving tips from Harbor House on how to prevent and get help in domestic abuse situations.

“The information is our crisis line hotline number because we know that that’s our entry way into our system,” Sperzel said.

She said based on their recent data, this was needed now more than ever.

“Just in this past year, year to year, we saw a 40% increase in the number of people who are calling our emergency hotline or texting it,” she said.

Sperzel added that’s not a completely bad statistic in the organization’s eyes.

“That means that someone who is in a domestic violence situation is identifying and saying ‘I want something different’,” she said.

The hangers, they hope, will get that help to more victims.

“We respond to over 3,500 domestic violence calls every single year in unincorporated Orange County,” Sheriff John Mina said.

Mina told News 6 he hopes it will also help victims’ communities save lives.

“Maybe a neighbor will call 911 next time they hear what sounds like domestic violence and save someone’s life,” he said.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, Harbor House’s hotline is always available. You can call or text: (407) 886-2856.

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About the Author:

Molly joined News 6 at the start of 2021, returning home to Central Florida.