As the centerpiece of the newly declared Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Westerville will hold a Healthy Families Forum to provide information and answers about domestic violence issues and similar situations.

Scheduled at the city's municipal building, 21 S. State St., from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, the forum responds to a need identified by city staff members.

Westerville has held active-shooter trainings and a human-trafficking summit in recent months, and has been asking for feedback on other topics residents would like addressed with more information.

City spokeswoman Christa Dickey said that after the human-trafficking event, domestic violence came to the forefront.

"We've done a couple of different community forums ... so when those evaluations come back in, the police division always asks what type of training they would like to see in future," Dickey said. "Domestic-violence awareness rose to the top of that list after the human-trafficking forum."

Dickey said Westerville City Council would declare October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city at their Oct. 9 meeting, indicating the importance city council and staff place on the topic.

The goal of the forum, Dickey said, is to provide a baseline of information for anyone who may be affected by domestic violence, including victims, their family members or those who know a victim.

The forum is designed to be part question-and-answer session and part presentation, with Westerville police and central Ohio domestic-violence-related organizations represented.

"This is something that's part of a broader initiative for us," Dickey said.

"There are some pretty startling statistics associated with (domestic violence). So we know that this is a real issue in our community."

Dickey said the city expects about 80 people to attend the forum, but having too many to fit in the council chambers would be a good outcome in terms of awareness.

If that happens, she said, other forums would be scheduled.

The topic of domestic violence was at the forefront in Westerville earlier this year when city police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli were killed in the line of duty while responding to a domestic-violence call Feb. 10.

Dickey said although that situation highlights the need for awareness, it didn't directly contribute to the forum.

"It would be difficult to speculate on whether there's a direct correlation there," she said. "But what I can say is that this has always been an issue that the PD encounters. They train for this and they're frequently responding to domestic-dispute calls and they're prepared for every situation they walk into."

Dickey said she hopes that anyone who can find value in the forum will attend, even if they don't have first-hand experience with domestic violence.

"This isn't just an intimate partner issue," she said. "It's also a family issue, so it affects the whole family."

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