‘It is an honor and a privilege to be appointed as the first commissioner and I intend to raise the voices of victims and survivors of all ages, status and background and ensure that we shine a light on practice that fails them.’
- Nicole Jacobs
‘It is an honor and a privilege to be appointed as the first commissioner and I intend to raise the voices of victims and survivors of all ages, status and background and ensure that we shine a light on practice that fails them.’ - Nicole Jacobs
A Hanover College graduate with strong ties to the Jefferson County community has been selected to lead the government’s response to domestic abuse in the United Kingdom.

Nicole Jacobs, who graduated from Hanover in 1993, will be the UK’s first Domestic Abuse Commissioner, a position announced Wednesday by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. Jacobs will be charged with leading the drive for improvements in the response to domestic abuse throughout the UK, championing victims and making recommendations on what more should be done to better protect victims and bring offenders to justice.

“Establishing the Office of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner shows the government’s commitment to reducing harm and improving the lives of those who experience domestic abuse,” Jacobs said of the appointment. “It is an honor and a privilege to be appointed as the first commissioner and I intend to raise the voices of victims and survivors of all ages, status and background and ensure that we shine a light on practice that fails them.”

“Domestic abuse is unacceptable, and I am absolutely determined to do all I can to protect victims and their families and ensure perpetrators face tough action,” Patel said. “I am delighted that Nicole will be taking on the crucial role as commissioner and acting as a voice for those who need it most.”

The new role for Jacobs involves essentially doing much of what she has done for more than two decades in the private sector except now on a national scale.

After graduating from Hanover College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government, Jacobs went to work for the statewide domestic abuse coalition in her native Alabama before marrying a native of England and moving there. She has worked since her move on behalf of domestic abuse victims, including most recently as CEO of Standing Together Against Domestic Violence.

She said Standing Together has assisted domestic abuse victims through shelters and support programs as well as lobbying government for stronger laws and penalties for perpetrators and support programs for victims. The group has identified what works and what does not and she hopes to expand the reach of that work in her new job.

She met her husband, Jeff Masters, while he was working as an attorney representing death row inmates in Alabama.

“When I got to England, I wanted to just keep on with the same,” Jacobs said. “I just found out what was going on there and I worked at one of those early advocacy projects and it grew.”

Jacobs stepped away from domestic abuse work for two years when her family moved to Boston while her husband worked on his master’s degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Politics. She took a job with the Institute of Politics at Harvard. It was during that time, she said, that she realized she could either continue to help individual domestic abuse victims on a case-by-case basis or try to make a wider difference by attacking the problem from a policy standpoint.

“You can help individual people or do something that helps more,” Jacobs said a few weeks ago while visiting Madison. “Some people work in a shelter or as an independent advocate and they will love to do that, because they like the interaction and they know that they are helping people day to day. The organization I’m working for now (Standing Together) and leaving to go to this commissioner role, is a lot about getting the systems to work. It’s a systems change so that you can do and know that you are helping a lot more people who will then pass that on and help others. And that really motivates me personally.”

Jacobs has dealt with domestic abuse across the board, as a frontline practitioner, in senior operational and management roles and as a trainer and strategic leader. She will now be a champion and watchdog encouraging good efforts in preventing domestic abuse; identifying those at risk of abuse as well as those perpetrating abuse and improving the protection and provision of support to those affected. Her office will compile statistics and publish reports that hold statutory agencies and the government to account.

“Part of the role of commissioner is to shine a light on other people’s work,” Jacobs said. “It’s not all about my own opinion. It’s kind of about ‘where are the trusted people who have been working for years and years and how can we implement what they are doing on a wider scale.’ ”

Now a mother of two girls, Millie and Cassie, Jacobs calls England home. She has a faint British accent but far less than her husband. However, her roots are in Alabama and Jefferson County, Indiana.

In fact, it is those Jefferson County ties that brought Jacobs to Hanover College for her undergraduate work. Two of her grandmothers, Ruth Marshall Jacobs and Carolina Weber Bonadio, are from Jefferson County and both graduated from Hanover College and her father and mother, Tony and Nadine Bonadio Jacobs, are also from Jefferson County.

“Both of my grandmothers went to Hanover ... my uncle, my cousin ...” Jacobs said. “And I loved Hanover and I loved being here, because when I was here, I was near to family. My mom’s from Brooksburg and my dad is from Madison. I loved my days at Hanover.”

Jacobs said one of her professors at Hanover, Ruth Turner, was especially influential.

“She was one of the professors of politics, and she definitely encouraged me to really think outside the box and not think of really the obvious path that you might take for politics,” Jacobs said. “I think potentially that I was quite curious about other things and I can remember her really helping mentor and talk about issues I was interested in and I found her really inspiring as a person. She was very independent. I thought she was a great teacher and I had for years kept in touch with her, and would try to come back, but since I’ve been living in the UK, we don’t come up to Indiana as much, we tend to just go to Alabama, where my parents are living. But yeah, she definitely stands out in my mind.”

Jacobs will work as the designate commissioner until the Commissioner’s Office is placed on a statutory footing.