The VOICE of Justice

Honored for his work to combat domestic violence by Harbor House of Central Florida

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it’s a subject that is all too often set aside despite the traumatic effects it can have on an individual experiencing this heinous, and demoralizing attack. The physical and emotional scars of domestic violence can cast a long shadow. Too many individuals, regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, circumstance, or race, face the pain and fear of domestic violence. But organizations like Harbor House shine a light on this violation of the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse.

Nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have suffered from domestic violence by an intimate partner. All people deserve to feel safe with loved ones, and Harbor House is committed to eliminating this scourge and supporting survivors’ healing — and ensuring that survivors and their families have access to the resources, care, and support they need to do so.

Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Michelle Sperzel, CEO of Harbor House and Antony Cardoza, Harbor House Board member (far right) stand with Michael McKinley, the 2017 recipient of the Champion of Justice Award. McKinley is the Chief of Police at the Apopka Police Department.


Harbor House of Central Florida offers more than emergency shelter, court injunctions and a hotline. They are there before the desperate calls to 911, before abusers lash out in anger. Their goal is to prevent – and end – domestic abuse through education. They attempt to reach and teach everyone from children to business leaders to “Recognize, Respond and Refer”.

Harbor House is determined to break the cycle of domestic abuse from one generation to the next. Preventing abuse means everyone has to recognize what a healthy relationship is in addition to the warning signs of an unhealthy one. Healthy communities are ones that do not tolerate abuse and speak out when they see it.

And Michael McKinley has been on the front lines of the fight to end domestic violence for his entire career.

McKinley, the Chief of the Apopka Police Department, was recognized as the 2017 Champion for Justice by Harbor House of Central Florida. Chief McKinley was honored for his work in leading efforts by the APD to combat domestic violence in the Apopka community.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award and to be recognized by Harbor House,” said McKinley. “There are many Champions of Justice in law enforcement and although I am receiving this award, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that this award is the result of the hard work the men and women of the Apopka Police Department do every day to fight domestic violence. They are champions of justice in their own rights and support all the initiatives the Apopka Police Department does to combat and bring awareness to domestic violence. As I accept this award, I am accepting it for all those in the Criminal Justice System who stand and fight every day to address domestic violence.”

Throughout his career that spans three decades, McKinley has seen far too much domestic violence, and recognizes the effects it can have on a family.

“I was fortunate growing up and was not exposed to domestic violence. It was not until I became a law enforcement officer that I truly learned what domestic violence was about. Since becoming a law enforcement officer and seeing the effects of domestic violence on its victims and our community, domestic violence has become personal and that is why I have endeavored throughout my career to support domestic violence programs and assist victims of domestic violence.”

McKinley has assisted victims of domestic violence and ensured they had access to the resources they need to help them get out of their abusive relationship, but it was during his time on a domestic violence task force that he became even more focused on the issue.

“At the beginning of my career, statutes did not support law enforcements intervention in domestic violence cases. Through organizations such as Harbor House our statutes have evolved and law enforcement now has the resources needed to intervene. This is why throughout my career I have attended many training courses on domestic violence and its effects on the family. I was fortunate to be a member of Mayor Jacobs’ domestic violence task force. While on it, I chaired the 911 to arrest subcommittee. As a law enforcement executive, I strive to ensure our first responders and support personnel receive the training and support they need to effectively address domestic violence in our community.”

According to McKinley, the fight against domestic violence is a team effort that includes law enforcement, and organizations like Harbor House.

“It is important that law enforcement agencies partner with Harbor House in order to ensure victims of domestic violence receive the support and services they need. Although I am honored and humbled to be recognized as the Champion of Justice, we cannot forget that the true Champion of Domestic Violence prevention is Harbor House. Their Board of Directors, their community partners and all their wonderful staff do a great job brining awareness to the fight against domestic violence. Without Harbor House many of the strides we have made in combating domestic violence over the years would not have been possible. Harbor House is a tremendous resource for law enforcement and it’s an honor to partner with them in the fight against domestic violence.”

According to McKinley, everyone can be a champion in fighting domestic violence. It is important that the community realize that no one should have to live in a violent relationship and it will take all of us working together to stop the violence.

“It starts by supporting organizations such as Harbor House,” he said. “Everyone can get involved, not just with financial support but also by volunteering at the many events Harbor House has throughout the year to bring attention and awareness to combating domestic violence.”

A community’s character is tested whenever the injustice of domestic violence is tolerated. When anyone is targeted by someone they place their trust in, everyone has a responsibility to speak up. Everyone has a role to play in building a bright and safe future for each other and for future generations.

To donate to, or volunteer with Harbor House, go here.

If you are in danger or wish to speak with an advocate, please call:

24-HOUR HARBOR HOUSE CRISIS HOTLINE (407) 886-2856, or by visiting
 Or the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline: +1 (800) 500-1119, or by visiting its website.
Or the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE, or by visiting


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