Law enforcement agencies learn new way of understanding domestic violence victims’ stories to lock up offenders

Each year, thousands of domestic violence and sexual assault victims come through the Hampden County Hall of Justice seeking help.

trauma-informed-response

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Local law enforcement agencies are being encouraged to take a different approach to domestic violence cases.

“For every 100 reports of sexual assault, we were only prosecuting six cases,” said prosecutor Donna Kelly of the Utah Prosecution Council. She knew there was a problem in the way sexual assault and domestic violence cases were handled in the state of Utah. She said, “Law enforcement and prosecutors were not understanding what they were seeing and what they were hearing because they didn’t understand trauma so they assumed that the victims were lying.” Statistically, only five percent of assault victims lie about their experiences.

She said, for example, at times, trauma causes victims to forget parts of their assault and the timeline of the attack, but interviewers could interpret that as lies. In one year since that discovery and taking a different approach, the prosecution rate increased to 24 percent. Kelly and her detective partner travel the country educating agencies. They were at the UMass Center in Springfield on Tuesday morning, training members of the local and state law enforcement, Department of Children and Families, and the District Attorney’s office.

Each year, thousands of domestic violence and sexual assault victims come through the Hampden County Hall of Justice seeking help. Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni hopes through this seminar, more offenders will be prosecuted.

DA Gulluni is also focused on education to prevent assault. “We’ve really put an emphasis on that and invested a lot of resources in terms of specialized prosecutors, specialized support staff, specialized victim witness advocates who work on supporting victims through the court process,” DA Gulluni told 22News.

Each domestic violence case is unique: Some require restraining orders, others require shelter. All require the proper approach to bring the offenders to justice.

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