ST. PETERSBURG — The first time police arrested Melissa Dohme's abuser, she remembers the officer who pulled her aside for a talk.
"You are worth more than that," he told her. "You do not need to be with this guy."
A few months later Dohme's ex-boyfriend lured her outside her home and stabbed her 32 times.
Dohme survived the nearly fatal attack and has become an outspoken advocate for domestic violence victims. Her attacker is serving a life sentence.
Although many people have helped with her recovery, she said remembers the police officer who offered help with striking clarity.
Dohme, now 21, believes in the moments after domestic abuse, first responders are uniquely positioned to help victims understand their options.
At a news conference Wednesday morning, Dohme helped introduce a new partnership between Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) and Sunstar Paramedics, the group of first responders who helped save her life after she was stabbed.
In 2012, a CASA spokesperson said, there were more than 6,000 reported cases of domestic violence in Pinellas County. In the United States, the crime affects one in four women.
CASA provides refuge, crisis intervention, advocacy, professional training and community outreach to Tampa Bay area victims of domestic violence. Sunstar community outreach coordinator Charlene Cobb said the partnership will involve CASA training for all paramedics and emergency medical technicians as well a discussion of how they can discreetly give victims a list of options other than returning to their abusers.
"They heal those wounds," Dohme said, "and CASA is there to pick up all the pieces."
Sunstar also donated $500 to CASA at the Wednesday conference, and spokesman Rob Smith said the emergency response company hopes other fundraisers will allow for future donations.
Claire Wiseman can be reached at (727)-893-8804 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @clairelwiseman.