To combat domestic violence, all segments of a community have to work together to send a consistent message that violence is not acceptable. Domestic violence courts can play a critical role in raising public consciousness and convening disparate partners to improve interagency communication.
Create strong linkages with a wide range of partners. Because of its complexity, domestic violence inevitably involves a variety of local systems, agencies, and individuals. Recognizing this, domestic violence courts should aspire to expand the range of organizations that are involved in the court’s efforts. Partnerships between the domestic violence court and the many agencies that provide victim assistance/advocacy and defendant monitoring help to strengthen the message to the defendant—and to the community—that domestic violence is not tolerated.
Convene regular meetings with criminal justice and social service partners. Interagency collaboration is crucial to ensuring communication, consistency, and continuing education about the court and domestic violence. The domestic violence judge can be a catalyst, providing leadership to the collaboration. Judges should invite all of the court’s partners—representatives from the prosecutor’s office, the defense bar, court officers, victim advocates, resource coordinators, batterers intervention programs, and probation—to participate in regular meetings. The meetings create an opportunity to clarify and understand the court’s expectation of everyone’s roles. Partner meetings can also focus on strengthening outreach to underserved communities and devising preventive education models. Partners, meetings in Westchester County, for example, frequently draw representatives from as many as fifty agencies to share new strategies and form new linkages.
Provide court personnel and partners with domestic violence education and training. Domestic violence courts can continually educate and update staff and partners by scheduling regular court-sponsored trainings. In New York’s domestic violence courts, trainings have been held on a variety of topics featuring a wide range of both local and national experts. Trainings have ranged from “Domestic Violence 101” presentations held during Domestic Violence Awareness month to more in-depth day-long presentations focused on specific issues such as the overlap of child maltreatment and domestic violence. The goals of these trainings are really twofold—to provide ongoing support and reinforcement on domestic violence issues to court personnel and partners as well and to highlight the court’s commitment to handling domestic violence cases in an educated and serious manner.