The Richmond Register

July 22, 2013

Local law enforcement, court workers form group to combat domestic violence

By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — To Get Help

Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline: 877-HOPE-040

Hope’s Wings: 623-4095

info@hopeswings.org

The police arrive at a house to find a man bleeding from the forehead, claiming his wife hit him in the head with a glass ashtray. When officers ask the sobbing woman if she did it, she nods yes.

If they were confronted with this training video scenario, most officers would arrest the woman on an assault charge.

Community leaders with area police departments, social services, judges and other court personnel gathered Friday morning at the Central Bank meeting room to learn more about domestic violence in a presentation led by Suzanne Howell, assistant director of Hope’s Wings.

Howell next showed the group more of the training video that officers usually don’t get to see – the moments leading up to the assault.

The husband had been yelling at his wife over buying an expensive dress. He grabbed her forcefully by the shoulders, backed her into a corner and began taking his rings off. That’s when the woman hit him with the ashtray.

Richmond Police Department Assistant Chief Bob Mott acknowledged that in most cases, officers would not want to hear what led up to the assault and would have seen the man as the victim because he had an injury.

However, state statutes don’t just apply to forceful contact, they also protect domestic violence victims who face an “imminent threat” of violence.

Howell encouraged officers and court personnel to dig further when they encounter domestic violence situations as depicted in the video, where it might not be immediately clear who the aggressor is.

“We need to address domestic violence as a pattern of behavior, not single incidents,” Howell said.

To provide officers a better tool in evaluating similar situations, Hope’s Wings will be hosting a workshop next month to teach law enforcement how to perform a lethality assessment with domestic violence calls.

Research has found that this list of questions can help determine what level of danger a victim is facing. The questionnaire asks if there are guns in the house, are drugs and alcohol involved in the confrontations and is there a history of controlling and jealous behavior from the partner.

“It’s not a certainty,” Howell said “But it’s a tool we can use to reach out to people in the community who may be in danger.”

Depending on the answers to the questions, it can trigger an automatic call to the Hope’s Wings hotline. If the victim doesn’t want to talk to the workers there, the officer will relay information.

The training Aug. 2 on how to perform a domestic violence lethality assessment will be led by the head officer with the Louisville police domestic violence unit and an employee of the Louisville women’s shelter.

The group of local leaders who meet with Hope’s Wings on a monthly basis is called PEACE – Promoting an End to Abuse through Community Effort.

“Everyone here represents an important link in the chain,” Howell said.

Among Friday’s attendees were Madison Circuit Court Clerk Darlene Snyder, Madison District Judge Earl-Ray Neal, Madison Family Judge Jeffery Wasson, Madison County Attorney’s Office Victim Advocate Jennifer Gibson and representatives from Richmond and Berea police and social services.

Also in attendance was Sgt. Stuart Adams, who was hired with grant funds as a special victims investigator for the RPD. In addition to working with various law enforcement agencies, Adams serves emergency protective orders.

Adams has been able to increase the amount of orders served to nearly 90 percent, according to Hope’s Wings representatives.

Howell said the meetings are important to make sure all agencies who deal with domestic violence victims are enacting the same policies that may help reduce abuse and prevent serious, life-threatening assaults.

“We’re so overloaded with cases, it’s difficult to step back and look at everything sometimes,” Howell said.

“But we all agree that the common link (in the group) is our desire to enhance victim safety and offender accountability,” Howell added.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.