Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Other Community Context for Domestic Violence

10/01/1996

The domestic violence community in San Diego County views itself as extremely lucky that it has been able to develop a system of coordinated and comprehensive services while being spared a lawsuit or a tragic and publicized case (as has happened in many other communities). The coordination and communication among providers has developed slowly over time and grew out of frustration rather than financial or tragic circumstances.

While some state laws exist that are very helpful in holding offenders accountable and keeping victims safe, many of these were in place before the coordination and the development of specialized units occurred in San Diego. The local policies and protocols that have developed through the work of the DV Council have been the keys to successful arrest, prosecution, and conviction of offenders, as well as safety planning for victims. It was not until the local policies and protocols for police and prosecutors were developed by the DV Council that there was actually a change in the number and quality of the cases that were brought to the court system. The law defining domestic violence as a felony has made arrest of offenders much easier than when domestic violence was a misdemeanor and required a citizen's arrest, thus putting the burden on the victim.

The DV Council has been officially sanctioned by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. While this lends some legitimacy to the effort, most of those involved feel that the key factor to their success has been the grassroots involvement on the DV Council, not the sanction of city and county officials.

The entire DV Council was involved in writing the protocols for handling domestic violence cases. This way, it was not just police officers deciding how police officers would respond to domestic violence calls, and it was not just probation officers planning how the probation department would handle domestic violence cases. Rather, anyone who knew anything about any aspect of domestic violence was involved in the process.

There is mixed response to the mandatory certification for batterer intervention programs. Because San Diego was already certifying their programs, having to certify according to the State of California criteria simply added another layer of bureaucracy to a process with which many people in San Diego was already satisfied. However, lengthening the mandatory treatment to one year is viewed by most people as a positive change.