DuPage County Police and paramedics can now offer victims of domestic violence and abuse a more discreet way to find out about help — a QR code that, when scanned by phone, leads to a special website.
The idea belongs to John Caldwell, a firefighter medic from the Lisle-Woodridge Fire Department. Caldwell said paramedics are often called in to help people they suspect have suffered violence. They try to give the victim a “tear-off sheet” with a list of institutions that can help them.
“The problem we have is that we don’t want to send them back to the house (where the abuser is) with this leaflet,” Caldwell said.
Sometimes victims refuse to take a piece of paper, fearing that abusers will find it, he said. The authorities say that abusers can attack their victims just because they have this information or seek help.”
Caldwell is a member of the steering committee of the DuPage County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, which developed the QR code in conjunction with the DuPage County Prosecutor’s Office.
The QR code leads users to a fictitious website where they can click on a link to access a real website with information about agencies that can help them, about the prosecution of abusers and how to get a protective order, find asylum, get legal assistance and much more.
DuPage County Prosecutor Robert Berlin and Judge Ann Celine O’hallaren Walsh announced the news at a press conference on Wednesday.
According to Walsh, it took about a year to develop the website and QR code. The current website is in English, but they plan to make a website for Spanish speakers and then for other languages, she said.
Police departments are trained to work with a QR code in a video featuring Berlin and Walsh. The code will also be distributed to fire departments and six hospitals for medical workers who treat people affected by violence or conduct examinations on the facts of sexual violence.
Heather Jamison is the head of the Judicial Protection program for victims of domestic violence at the Metropolitan Family Services of DuPage Family Shelters. She says victims are often stunned when they call the police. Using a QR code allows you to get “valuable information right in the palm of your hand,” Jamison said.
Another version of the QR code for the general public will be released this week. Walsh said it could be posted on bulletin boards, in public toilets and other places where there is information about resources.