Pin It
Favorite

Under One Roof 

A new workgroup is taking aim at shortfalls in serving victims of domestic violence

click to enlarge YWCA Programs Director Patty Wheeler is part of a new domestic violence policy group. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • YWCA Programs Director Patty Wheeler is part of a new domestic violence policy group.

Despite the ease of modern technology, Patty Wheeler believes there's a certain value to being in the same room.

"I keep telling people you don't make friends through email," says Wheeler, programs director at the YWCA. That's why she and some others who work with domestic violence cases are pushing to go back in time, to when many of them were housed in one building instead of counting on phone calls and emails to work together. In hopes of finding support for the idea, Wheeler is part of a new workgroup, made of judges, advocates and lawmakers, that's meeting to take a big-picture look at the system that serves domestic violence victims and perpetrators. After its first meeting, certain systematic problems are emerging.

In the 1990s, city and county prosecutors, detectives and advocates dedicated to domestic violence cases were housed together in one building, but a loss of funding shuttered those operations. Today, some domestic violence detectives and advocates are housed in the Spokane Regional Health District, though Wheeler says the offices provide less privacy, which makes talking with victims more complicated. But creating a bigger "co-located" domestic violence hub poses a funding challenge and is likely to come up against other immediate demands, like the reforms advocated by the Spokane Regional Criminal Justice Commission, which released its final report this month. That's why the new workgroup includes policymakers like City Councilwoman Amber Waldref and County Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn. Waldref says even if funding a brand-new space isn't immediately possible, she hopes to help the group find a new, more functional home at the cost of its current one.

Communication gaps also persist in the courts that handle domestic violence cases. Superior, District and Municipal Court each use a different computer system, making it difficult for one to know if a domestic violence perpetrator faces separate charges in another, says Superior Court Judge Annette Plese. That means up to six attorneys can be working with one offender, making it difficult to address the root causes of the crimes.

"We would like to move to where we look at the whole family, not just the criminal charges," Plese says. "We need to fix the family. We can't just fix one person."

Beyond making the system run more smoothly, better communication can keep victims safer. In a 2010 review of domestic-violence-related murders, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that not only did just 4 percent of abusers serve their full sentence, but victims had often sought out services or court protections before their deaths, but weren't adequately protected by the courts.

"I feel that as a community we're moving forward, but we have slipped backward," Wheeler says. "We have to regain that momentum again." ♦


Calculating Danger

If you or someone you know needs help, call the YWCA's 24-hour crisis helpline at 509-326-CALL (2255). In Idaho, call the North Idaho Violence Prevention Center at (208) 664-9303.

One bright spot locally is the use of a "lethality assessment" by officers responding to domestic violence calls. The Spokane County Sheriff's Office uses the assessment and the Spokane Police Department is now in the process of training its officers to do the same.

If a victim answers "yes" to any of the first three questions in the assessment — 1. "Has he/she ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?" 2. "Has he/she threatened to kill you or your children?" 3. "Do you think he/she might try to kill you?" — an officer will dial a victim helpline at the YWCA. (Four "yes" answers to a second tier of questions — like "Does he/she have a gun or can he/she get one easily?" — also trigger the call.)

"We're increasing the likelihood that [victims] feel supported," says YWCA Associate Director of Legal Services Chauntelle Lieske, who has helped implement the assessment. "You're not just getting filed away somewhere."

Tags: ,

  • Pin It

Speaking of Policy

  • Gaming the System
  • Gaming the System

    The Big Short and neoliberalism: The story behind the crash
    • Jan 21, 2016
  • The Drawing Board
  • The Drawing Board

    Public hearings prompt cannabis board to propose revised rules
    • Jan 14, 2016
  • More »

Latest in News

  • In Defense of Refugees
  • In Defense of Refugees

    In the aftermath of the presidential election, local residents seek ways to love and support their refugee friends
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • No License to Kill
  • No License to Kill

    Task force says officers should be held responsible for police shootings; plus, state auditor clears Spokane Valley firing of city manager
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Trumped-up Education
  • Trumped-up Education

    Could the President-elect's support of school choice trickle down to Spokane?
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
Gaiser Conservatory Holiday Lights

Gaiser Conservatory Holiday Lights @ Manito Park

Dec. 9-18

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Heidi Groover

  • Brachytherapy Breakthrough
  • Brachytherapy Breakthrough

    A new option for treating skin cancer skips the scalpel
    • Dec 1, 2014
  • It's Exploding
  • It's Exploding

    Why lawmakers and cops are worried about people blowing themselves up
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • GU Shake-Up
  • GU Shake-Up

    The woman overseeing reports of sexual assault at Gonzaga resigns; plus, a new study on Lakeland Village
    • Nov 25, 2014
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Unfinished Business

    Isaiah Wall wants to get his life on track. But first, he's gotta buy drugs for the police
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Fake-News Nightmare

    The social media dream of the 2000s is fading, but we can reset the system by sticking up for the truth
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Briefs


green zone


marijuana


trail mix


Comment


Readers also liked…

  • The <i>Real</i> Rachel Dolezal
  • The Real Rachel Dolezal

    The story goes far beyond just a white woman portraying herself as black
    • Jun 17, 2015
  • Grading the Session
  • Grading the Session

    The Idaho Legislature made some wise decisions in Boise, but they still get a "C" for "crazy"
    • Apr 22, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation