Campus & Community
Officer Jessica Zaccari joined the Department of Public Safety (DPS) as a campus peace officer in 2018. Given Officer Zaccari’s background and the fact that October is the month of the dating and domestic violence awareness, we thought this would be a great time to sit down with her and discuss what she does and the resources that are available to members of our campus community who are experiencing dating or domestic violence.
Where did you work before becoming an officer in the DPS?
I worked at a victims’ advocacy center where I provided direct services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other crimes. Most of my time has been dedicated to our emergency shelter and community outreach. What I liked most about working for such a great organization is that it takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to supporting victims.
How do you use your past experiences and apply them to the work you do now in law enforcement?
I took the same trauma-informed practices and applied them to my work now as a law enforcement officer. Acknowledging the trauma has been key as it helps me better understand what a victim may be going through and how to best support them. I have also developed de-escalation skills that can be helpful to anyone going through a crisis.
More importantly, my decision to seek a career in law enforcement was reaffirmed by my advocacy work. I sincerely believe that every person has the fundamental right to be safe and to live a life free from violence. This belief is the driving force for me when I serve the Syracuse University community.
How does DPS help those affected by interpersonal violence?
DPS officers understand that it takes immense courage for victims of interpersonal violence to come forward to law enforcement. We respond quickly and begin the investigation process once a report has been made. Depending on the circumstances of each call, officers may discuss safety strategies such as protective orders. Officers will also provide information about the rights of victims of crime that are protected by New York State. Additionally, all DPS members have recently received several in-service trainings on trauma-informed practices. I work alongside many amazing police officers on patrol who use these practices and work tirelessly to keep our campus safe.
What departments do you partner with on campus to help survivors and victims of interpersonal violence?
Our campus partners are so important because we want to make sure that survivors receive support in every way possible. We work closely with the Barnes Center Sexual and Relationship Violence Response Team (SRVR). The team is made up of staff therapists who are trained and experienced in supporting survivors of sexual and relationship violence.
Can you share details about the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program you help teach on campus?
RAD is a nationally recognized women’s self-defense course. It is a comprehensive course that begins with awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance, and progresses to the basics of practical defense training.
From statistics, we know that interpersonal violence is very prevalent among college-aged students. I really hope that we will have a good turnout for this upcoming course so that we can continue to raise awareness about this topic and empower women in our community.
To learn more about RAD and to register for the spring semester session, visit the DSP website.
For more information on resources, reports and programs, visit the Sexual and Relationship Violence Resource Website.