P.O. Box 7857
Madison, WI 53707-7857
J.B. VAN HOLLEN
For Immediate Release For More Information Contact:
October 28, 2008 Bill Cosh 608/266-1221
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October has been Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The month’s observance allows all of us, especially those of us in law enforcement, an opportunity to examine the criminal justice and the general public’s response to domestic violence in Wisconsin.
Just last week at the Law Enforcement Summit I hosted, I was pleased to offer recognition and congratulations on behalf of the Department of Justice to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence for thirty years of service to Wisconsin’s victims of domestic violence and other domestic abuse programs. WCADV provides networking opportunities that support, educate, and offer policy development and technical assistance to victims, individuals, and programs in the effort to assist victims and address this troubling criminal and social problem. I was pleased to acknowledge their efforts, history and growth and at the same time encourage their continued mission.
The Department of Justice is the repository of reports on domestic violence cases forwarded, each year, by each of Wisconsin’s District Attorneys. These reports reflect that last year, close to 30,000 domestic violence cases were referred to Wisconsin district attorneys’ offices. While a snapshot, it does reflect an increase in cases over 2006 in Wisconsin. More troubling because literature on domestic violence estimates a mere 25% of victims report physical assaults to the police. While victims want the violence to stop, they are forced to confront cohabitants, often people with whom they have deep emotional ties and relationships, with the impacts of engaging the criminal justice system.
Family violence affects every member of a domestic violence household and the community at large. Sadly, many children are affected by domestic violence in the very place that should be a bastion of safety and security for them: their home. The impact on these children can probably never be fully measured. They are traumatized when they witness violent acts against someone they love. The violence spreads when children are sometimes targeted by abusers in order to exert and maintain control over a child’s parent. Domestic violence is not limited to family members. We have seen many examples of how intimate partner violence has escalated to violence against others in the community.
A domestic violence victim faces sometimes impossible choices when determining how to stay safe and yet meet basic needs. The criminal justice response is just one piece of the puzzle. Victim services and support groups help make available to victims the resources to understand their options. Without this support, victims are less likely to report abuse and less able to participate in the criminal prosecution of their abusers. That’s why the Department of Justice has recently awarded $2.8 million in grants to organizations in Wisconsin who help victims of domestic violence. Helping domestic violence victims find appropriate resources is one of the cornerstones of an effective public safety strategy to ensure that offenders are prosecuted for their crimes. Law enforcement response is another.
Wisconsin law provides guidelines for law enforcement including a mandatory arrest provision, requiring an arrest in certain domestic violence incidents. The law also requires law enforcement agencies to have in place policies and procedures regarding domestic violence arrests. The statutes encourage law enforcement agencies to consult with community organizations and other law enforcement agencies when developing domestic violence response protocols.
This is the type of interagency collaboration that has been a frequent topic of discussion during my law enforcement roundtable discussions with community and local leaders throughout the state. The prevalence and complexity of domestic violence requires enormous resources in order to provide adequate protection to victims and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable. Collaborative efforts are a wise use of resources and effectively increase public safety, improve victim services and help protect victims and witnesses of crime. I will continue to vigorously advocate for partnerships that help reduce domestic violence by providing adequate victim services, training and technical assistance for law enforcement and the resources prosecutors need in order to prosecute those who perpetrate domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month also provides opportunities for the general public to become more knowledgeable of and involved in local and statewide efforts to eliminate domestic violence from our communities. I encourage schools, businesses, faith leaders and others to join me in bringing awareness and attention to this serious matter.
For more information about domestic violence, including victim resources, go to www.doj.state.wi.us/cvs.
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