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Domestic Violence: Victim Safety
Family Court Monitoring Project     Victim Safety in Hawaii

League of Women Voters of Honolulu

Introduction     Response     Services     Legal System     Conclusion     Acknowledgments     References  
Domestic Violence
Victim Safety in Hawaii

Coordinated Community Response

Current research shows that a coordinated community response is the most effective means of addressing the problem of domestic abuse in our communities. A coordinated community response begins with the understanding that domestic violence is a crime against the community and not merely a private domestic squabble. It requires the cooperation of publie and private agencies, including the police, the courts, and health and other social service agencies to create a system that supports, advocates, and protect victims, while using the full force of the law to hold perpetrators accountable. Community-wide education, beginning with kindergartners is a necessary component of a coordinated response since violence prevention is an important way to ensure safe communities where people are free from family-related violence.

An effective coordinated community response emphasises victim safety, perpetrator accountability, and education. In communities such as Quinsy, Massachusetts and Duluth, Minnesota, there have been almost no domestic violence homicides in the last ten years, In a large city such as Los Angeles, a coordinated community response has significantly reduced domestic violence. The Los Angeles Police Department reports that 4% of the homicides occurring in the City of Los Angeles between 1991 and 1995 were domestic violence related. Domestic violence related deaths accounted for 24% of all homicides in San Diego and 17% of the deaths in Honolulu in the last year.

In most communities, a coordinated community response to domestic violence is developed through same kind of family violence council. A government body such as a county board of supervisors, a city council, or a state legislature often establishes these councils, A council is often led by the judiciary because of its key role in addressing crime and safety issues in the community. The mission of a family violence council is usually quite broad. The goals of the San Diego council are:

  1. to effectuate coordination between agencies, departments and the courts with victims of domestic violence and abuse;

  2. to promote effective prevention; intervention and treatment techniques which will be developed based upon research and data collection; and

  3. to improve the response to domestic violence and abuse so as to reduce incidents thereof.

There have been efforts in Hawaii to create a coordinated community response, but these efforts have not been entirely successful. Each of the County Task Forces, the Hawaii State Coalition on Domestic Violence, the VAWA Planning Committee, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic & Sexual Violence consists of segments of the domestic violence service community. For different reasons, explained in part below, none of these groups has managed to organize the various elements of the community into a coordinated program. Advocates have said that the most effective coordinated community response must include input from battered and formerly battered women who have had recent experiences with the system. The communities in our state, with perhaps the exception of Maui County, need improved coordination between service providers, local police departments, the prosecutor's office, and the judiciary (both civil and criminal courts).

1. County Task Forces

The Oahu Domestic Violence Task Force was created and is managed by the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline (DVCLH). Many agencies are members of the Task Force, and their representatives are actively involved in creating elements of a coordinated community response. Some of the work does not appear to be taken seriously by policy makers. This may be because it is not an official body, or that its mission is not clear. Same members of the Task Forte have suggested that the DVCLH leadership limits full participation by other members. One example of the relative ineffectiveness of the Task Force and an indication of the lack of coordination between the groups are the lack of uniform standards for domestic violence programs for perpetrators. In 1996 The Task Force developed proposed statewide standards for these perpetrator programs, but the standards have not yet been adopted by the agencies that run the programs.

The Task Force does not include an effective advocacy voice, Until recently, battered women who are in the system, or had recently been through it, were not represented on the Task Force. The members who are directors of agencies that serve battered women are professional social sense providers who, along with their concern for victims, are equally as concerned with the survival of their agencies. They are trying to fulfill their contracts, attract or maintain funding, and provide services for their clients. It is the opinion of advocates that the voices of battered and formerly battered women should be heard and represented on every task force or coalition in order to adequately present all the concerns of the victims and to make these entities more effective.

Maui has the most effective task force and it has the support of the police chief and other policymakers. In 1494, Maui s program to combat domestic violence was nationally recognized as a model program by the U. S. Department of Justice, Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The Big Island has an active task force, but there are problems with the police department's domestic violence response. Kauai has a Family Violence Council that meets once a month to keep members informed of conferences and activities, to follow legislation, and to do public education.

A 1994 evaluation of judiciary-funded programs (An Evaluation of Domestic Violence Programs in the State of Hawaii, David B. Chandler, Ph.D.) commented that the Task Force tends to react to events rather than set its own agenda, and that the decision making process was unclear and did not always reflect group consensus. The 1494 evaluation team suggested that the Task Force use an independent consultant to review its mission and membership. It was suggested that questions similar to these be asked:

    Who are the stakeholders necessary to implement the mission in the most effective way?

  • What is the best organization, decision making, and leadership structure to ensure energy and continuity?

2. The Hawaii State Coalition on Domestic Violence (HSCDV)

HSCDV brings together the majority of domestic violence service providers from around the state. The Coalition is a private, nonprofit agency, which receives federal funding along with some private donations. Its primary purpose is to advocate on behalf of its member agencies. Coalition members are supposed to work together to improve services to battered women and programs for perpetrators by assessing gaps in services, educating the community - including the legislature, and providing technical assistance to member organizations. These goals do not appear to be met. The Coalition has been criticized by some advocates and some victims for its unwillingness to engage in open meetings, for its closed leadership, for being agency-focused rather than victim-focused, and for not providing a voice for battered and formerly battered women in the system. In the Iast year, the Coalition attempted to develop county-based battered and formerly battered woman task forces, but the views of victims were not given adequate recognition and these groups are now inactive.

A statewide coalition is a logical group to attempt to put together a coordinated community response, but the HSCDV, as currently organized, appears not to be very effective.

3. STOP Violence Against Women Planning Committee

The Department of the Attorney General, through which the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) funds are dispersed, has set up a VAWA Planning Committee. The committee was made up of 22 members in 1997 and was reduced to 13 members this year. The committee advises the Attorney General on the distribution of the federal VAWA funds and tries to determine where additional funds can have the greatest impact. In 1996 and 1997 most of the money was spent on training for the police and prosecutors and on a statewide-computerized information system that is not yet operational.

4. The Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic and Sexual Violence

The Ad Hoc Committee was established by Act 167, during the 1996 legislative session. The committee, convened by the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, conducted an analysis of the funding and programs for statewide direct services to female victims of domestic and sexual violence, as well as for perpetrator programs. It also looked at how the community has addressed the issue of violence prevention.

During its first year of existence, the Ad Hoc Committee included the Judiciary, the State of Hawaii Departments of Health and Human Services, the office of the Attorney General, many of the state's domestic violence and sexual assault service providers, and the Commission on the Status of Women. When the committee decided to continue its work for a second year, the leadership of the State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, along with some of its members and the judiciary ceased to participate. Other members of the State Coalition continued to actively participate. At the same time, several other participants joined the process, including the League of Women Voters, the Honolulu Police Department, Hale Ola Windward Abuse Shelter, Hope Domestic Violence Consultants, and the UH School of Nursing.

In its work to develop the 1997 report, the Ad Hoc Committee identified some significant issues in developing a coordinated community response to domestic violence and sexual assault. During its first year, the Ad Hoc Committee took as its mission, "to design and implement a comprehensive and coordinated service system for the protection of women and their children from domestic and sexual violence." The members agreed that a mechanism was needed to address problems such as gaps in services, the availability of appropriate and necessary services, means of measuring effectiveness, the ability to adapt to the changing needs of victims of domestic and sexual violence, and inadequate funding. The Ad Hoc Committee recognized that there was no dear picture of the available services, their level of funding, and who was providing them, As a result, the members undertook a comprehensive study of state funding of victim and perpetrator programs. The Ad Hoc Committee discovered that 4? percent of the $7.3 million spent for domestic violence and sex assault by DOH, DHS, and the Judiciary in 199b paid for perpetrator services. This sum does not include the cock of police, court procedures, or incarceration. They found that services were funded through the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, and the Judiciary, and they found that these agencies generally acted in isolation. Each agency had, and still has, different contract requirements and different goals far similar services. Lack of coordination has resulted in the uneven distribution of resources; poor public policy development and implementation, and little accountability. A chart of spending and programs is at the back of this report.

The State Domestic Violence Coalition and the Judiciary refused to participate during the second year; the recommendations of the 1997 report were incorrectly viewed as controversial and lacking community support. Victims and advocates, however, supported the recommendations of the report As a result of the confusion created by this disagreement, the Legislature has chosen not to endorse the Ad-Hoc Committee as a standing committee to inform its policy and funding decisions.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic and Sexual Violence is a valuable resource for analyzing these issues. without an entity such as the Ad Hoc Committee, there is no way of evaluating whether tax dollars are being spent on the most important community needs.

5. Death Review Teams

Some states have improved their coordinated community response to domestic violence by establishing adult death review teams. These interagency teams, which include police and prosecutors as well as victim advocates and service providers, examine domestic violence related homicides and try to determine where the system failed the victim. Looking at concrete cases is sometimes mare useful than trying to resolve abstract problems. Victim advocates support the establishment of death review teams, but the Honolulu prosecutor's office has not strongly endorsed the concept, The primary objection is that a death review team could interfere with civil or criminal proceedings, particularly if recommendations become public prior to a trial.

Other arguments against death review' teams include issues of confidentiality, the possibility that agencies will blame one another for the failure to prevent a homicide, or the equally problematic possibility that agencies will use the death review to protect one another. In cities and counties where death review teams have been established, the evidence suggests that members take their jobs seriously, maintain confidentiality, and see the process as an opportunity to improve their response to victims of violence, so as to prevent future homicides. There are also protections that can be built into the law to address these concerns.

Introduction     Response     Services     Legal System     Conclusion     Acknowledgments     References  

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