Reducing domestic violence killings requires multifaceted approach, report says
MIKE ARCHBOLD; Staff writer
When it comes to ending deaths from domestic violence, a 13-year review of many of those cases statewide concludes that everyone, not just police and courts, has a role to play.
“One of the key things we learned is that we can’t rely any one system alone,” said Kelly Starr, spokeswoman for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which coordinated the fatality reviews. “We all have a role to play.”
“In almost every case,” she said Wednesday, “someone knew about the abuse
a family member, a co-worker, a neighbor. They wanted to help, but they didn’t know what to do.”
Educating everyone – police, prosecutors, courts, schools, churches, employers, neighborhoods – about domestic violence is important, she said.
Since 1997, when the coalition began tracking and reviewing domestic violence homicides, 566 men, women and children have been killed statewide by their abusers. Some 160 abusers have committed suicide.
In Pierce County during that period, 103 people were killed; there were 30 suicides by abusers.
The coalition’s report, released Wednesday, summarized lessons learned from reviewing 135 domestic violence-related homicides over the past 13 years. It used local review panels, including one from Pierce County, made up of representatives from all segments of communities to gather and review cases.
The report found “failure at every point in the criminal-legal system, from the 911 calls to the police response, prosecutors, sentencing and probation.”
While there were examples of excellent responses by police, prosecutors and courts, they were “not (the) consistent practice,” according to the coalition.
Founded in 1990 by survivors and their allies, the coalition is a nonprofit network of more than 65 domestic violence programs. Member agencies in Pierce County are the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, the Korean Women’s Association and the YWCA Pierce County.
The coalition advocates for survivors, conducts research, and supports domestic violence agencies and public policy.
Its report outlines 11 goals to improve response to domestic violence – from education and culturally relevant services for immigrant and minority communities to improving how family courts address victim and child safety in divorce to providing affordable housing options for victims.
“We have learned so much from those who have lost their lives,” said Nan Stoops, executive director of the coalition. “Now we must turn that knowledge into action.”
Starr pointed out that victims in 31 percent of studied cases were under 21 when they started dating an abuser. Research indicated schools do not provide adequate education to address dating violence or to help students understand what a healthy relationship is like.
By looking at cases in depth, the reviews point out when and where intervention could have saved a life, said Karin Tautfest, director of shelter and advocacy programs for YWCA Pierce County.
“Pierce County does has done a good job expanding awareness and education of domestic violence and the opportunities” for people in general to be part of the solution, she said. But “more needs to be done.”
Mike Archbold: 253-597-8692