A report in March 2012 noted that probation agents were going to do more thorough threat assessments of misdemeanor domestic violence cases and that prosecutors were going to be at bail hearings to let perpetrators know the crime is being taken seriously.
The program also helps officers assess the threat when they are called to domestic violence cases. Judges would be acting on bail hearings with safety in mind of domestic violence cases, not just whether the suspect showed up in court.
The Femicide report suggests more of the same and a kind of community-wide approach to helping victims of domestic violence but also assessing the risk of offenders in re-offending.
While the report notes some domestic violence victims don’t have contact with the legal system, they often have contact with the medical system and the housing and human service systems. Those systems should be aware that domestic violence is everyone’s issue. The report suggests all agencies form partnerships and set up assessment and screening for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
The report and the Blue Earth County effort both noted that resources for agencies to add the coordinated domestic violence effort are taxed at every level. But domestic violence programs and funding should be a priority.
The community must understand how it can prevent domestic violence. That may involve creating an environment where, according to the report “everyone knows that violence will not be tolerated and where healthy, respectful and violence-free relationships are the norm for everyone.”
Parents, partners, workplaces, neighborhoods, the report notes, all need to “talk about domestic violence and work to create healthy communities where domestic violence is not accepted or tolerated.”
These may be tough charges. It may mean we report our neighbor who is having a loud and profanity-laced argument with his or her partner. It may mean reporting what kids hear about other kids’ parents at school. It may mean intervening in a parking lot episode that looks like it is turning violent by calling police.
Legislation will help, but ultimately the community effort will make the most difference to reducing the startling numbers of domestic violence cases and murders.