Domestic Violence Prosecution Project
Domestic Violence Committee
The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys is a national organization that supports prosecutors to create safer communities. It serves as a forum for collaborating with our criminal justice partners and advocates on behalf of prosecutors on emerging issues related to the administration of justice. We are a national non-profit supporting all prosecutors, including both appointed and elected prosecutors, as well as their deputies and assistants, whether they work as city attorneys, tribal attorneys, city prosecutors, district attorneys, state’s attorneys, attorneys general, or US attorneys. APA has formed a Domestic Violence (DV) Committee to enhance domestic violence prosecution by creating practical and innovative guidelines and model practices.
The Domestic Violence committee will focus on the needs of prosecutors responding to DV and supporting APA in its efforts to improve the criminal justice response to DV. Prosecutors in APA see DV at its worst, where murder, rape, assault, trafficking, stalking, and serial offenders beset specialized units in large numbers and present questions of trauma, safety, and accountability. APA has been at the forefront of supporting prosecutors in their efforts to create safer communities. Every prosecutor’s office faces challenges of how to manage large volumes of DV cases while promoting dignity and respect for victims; fostering community involvement; creating office cultures that support and sustain prosecutors and staff doing difficult work; innovating and reforming DV response; all while trying to maintain the prosecutor’s mission “to ensure justice and safety.”
There are no easy answers in DV response. The realities of recantation (the most common and difficult DV cases), lethality, or finding treatment that “works” to stop the cycle of abuse across large caseloads is a daily challenge. The DV committee will work collaboratively to share practical policies, practices, and innovations between offices to help build more effective and efficient responses across DV caseloads. Good DV work is happening all over the nation but many offices operate in isolation and remain unaware of the potential for new approaches or are unable to implement because there is too much to do. The goal of this committee/collaboration is to helping each other find real ways to manage the people and policies of DV and to research and innovate to make things better.
The DV Committee will support the field by bringing DV into the national criminal justice reform discussion, for both victims and offenders, through member expertise and new partnerships. For example, creating new partnerships with national Civil Legal Aid organizations to help victims get the civil legal relief they need; the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges on firearms relinquishment; the Center for Court Innovation for DV Offender treatment, diversion, and reentry; or Futures without Violence to find ways for prosecutors to promote prevention in their communities.
There are many DV reforms already taking place in many jurisdictions throughout the country. For example, the Manhattan DA recently issued a strong report calling for systematic overhaul of DV response; Alleghany County is engaged a multi-year effort on DV treatment; Maricopa County has created protocols on workplace wellness and SANE/Strangulation from its DV unit. Prosecutor offices are more receptive to change when they know of and understand the intentions and practical realities behind innovative solutions.
The APA DV Committee is a place for working DV prosecutors and managers from many of the largest and finest prosecutors’ offices to share what they know in their response to DV, encourage reform, move away from the old, conventional role of prosecutors as ‘case processors’ to becoming ‘crime preventers’ and ‘problem solvers.’ The DV committee will share and review effective, evidence-based and community-driven practices and other emerging solutions to the complex problem of domestic violence in America. The DV committee is comprised of 15-20 prosecutors from major jurisdictions who are experienced in DV prosecution and management. The committee will meet on a quarterly basis to develop guidelines protocols for offices and their allied domestic violence partners. After working together to establish model practices in the field, the findings established by the DV committee will be memorialized, and will culminate in a yearly report, which will be publicly distributed at their annual domestic violence symposium.
Other APA Domestic Violence Initiatives
APA has partnered with AEquitas’ and the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women created the Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women to encourage prosecutors throughout the country to build strong partnerships with their law enforcement, medical, and victim advocacy organizations to achieve justice for victims and the communities they serve. The mission is to improve the quality of justice in sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking cases by developing, evaluating, and refining prosecution practices that increase victim safety and offender accountability and provide prosecutors with the support, training, mentorship, and resources necessary to objectively evaluate and constantly reexamine and refine their approach to justice in cases involving violence against women.
AEquitas receives funding from a number of sources including the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and in the spirit of promoting a coordinated response to violence against women, AEquitas collaborates with advocates and agencies to encourage a victim-centered response to these cases while giving prosecutors the tools they need to succeed in court. AEquitas also partners with forensic healthcare professionals, law enforcement, the judiciary, and other organizations representing allied professionals to ensure the proper collection and preservation of evidence, effective use of expert witnesses, and to improve results in the criminal justice system in order to more effectively prosecute offenders.