AOC is investigating cases of domestic violence
Oct 1 – Sexual, domestic and dating violence survivors and their advocates say more efforts need to be made to improve access to the judicial system to address language barriers, as well as training in better languages for addressing survivors.
Survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, and dating violence in western Kentucky had an open-floor forum Thursday with the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts’ Domestic Violence Program to share their experiences in Kentucky courts regarding theirs Discuss cases.
The forums, in addition to a previously conducted survey of survivors, are designed to help the AOC gain a full picture of the judiciary’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual violence and how it can help to improve it.
Vanessa Chauhan, AOC domestic violence program coordinator, said no nationwide needs assessment for the judicial system had been conducted in about a decade.
While the results of the survey and forum will be released later this year, the open floor forum allowed survivors and lawyers to speak openly in an anonymous setting about their specific concerns about the judicial system regarding sexual or domestic violence .
Many of the questions expected in surveys, according to Megan Gross, advocacy coordinator for New Beginnings Sexual Assault Support Services, relate to whether survivors are treated with dignity and respect by judges, law enforcement, and court officials during trials.
She said it also allows lawyers to raise concerns they regularly see with their own clients.
“It’s really about being a voice … for the customers and speaking out on issues that I see the most, and hopefully being able to come up with solutions to make those things better for the customers,” said Big.
Lawyers and survivors discussed accessibility to trial during Thursday’s forum, particularly regarding language barriers.
One person indicated that more interpreters needed to be available, especially when doing paperwork.
In addition, another person said that sign language interpreters should be more accessible.
Individuals also raised concerns about better guidance throughout the process to better understand how the judicial system works and how to properly fill out paperwork.
Another major concern of attendees was the language used by court staff, judges, and law enforcement agencies in relation to the survivors.
One attorney said she witnessed her clients being constantly being blamed.
She said she was once involved in a case where a survivor was denied a protection order because the judge focused more on what she could have done to prevent the violence than on the person who committed the violence Has.
The case, she said, has been challenged, but that is rare in domestic violence cases.
She said appeals cost money, time, and also require the survivor to want to proceed after negative court experiences.
“The victim must want to continue to be part of the system to challenge it after they are told these things,” she said. “It affects the outcome of the case if someone says they need help and someone says, ‘Well, you should have done something different'”
Gross said steps to move forward will mainly depend on the results of the survey and forums, but she expects this will likely lead to additional training for court staff, judges and law enforcement agencies.
“It may be that there are certain jurisdictions where we need to do more training with law enforcement or court staff, or maybe it is just a matter of establishing better lines of communication between us and the courts or the clients and the court,” she said.
The AOC hosted three more forums for the Kentucky regions this week.
Christie Netherton, [email protected], 270-691-7360