PENDLETON - Domestic Violence Services received a two-year grant this week that will fund a Domestic Violence Reduction Team (DVRT), which will take a multi-disciplinary approach to combating domestic violence in Umatilla County and preventing repeat offenders from continuing their cycles of violence.
The U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women awarded DVS $487,273 to create the team, which will be made up of two domestic violence investigators from the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office, a probation officer from Community Corrections, a deputy District Attorney, a victim advocate and project coordinator from DVS.
"We're pulling a team together and attacking the problem from all angles," said Umatilla County Undersheriff Shane Hagey, one of the DVRT program directors. "Before, I think (the different agencies) had the same goals, but we were approaching it from different ways."
DVRT will take a systematic approach to helping end the cycle of domestic violence by more thoroughly investigating situations for more solid cases to prosecute and providing the support victims need.
When a domestic violence incident occurs, local police will respond to the initial call as they do now. But with the DVRT program, a DVRT investigator from the sheriff's office will assist local agencies by performing follow-up investigation needed for the case to be prosecuted.
The DVRT investigators will provide the DVRT advocate with information about the victim, and the advocate will contact the victim and offer support services, such as shelter, counseling, safety planning and court advocacy, such as restraining order assistance, peer support and information and referral.
"The law enforcement officers are already really good about giving out our card and encouraging (victims to make) a phone call for help," said Valerie Morrow, director of DVS.
By having DVRT investigators follow up on investigations and provide additional documentation, the deputy District Attorney will more likely be successful in prosecuting the case, even without assistance from the victim.
Often, the victim will not agree to testify in a case against the batterer because of fear of retaliation, fear of losing her children, or fear of the loss of the spouse/significant other's financial support if he's sent to prison.
Even if a conviction happens and a batterer serves time in prison, once back out on probation, DVRT jumps back into action with a probation officer, who will hold the batterer accountable. The probation officer will oversee treatment plans, community service and other probation conditions of the batterer. DVRT directors hope this plan will keep batterers from repeating their offenses.
"We tend to see a lot of these same victims' names over and over again," Hagey said. "We want to get the families the help they need to stop the cycle of violence."
Treatment is a big part of making sure these offenders do not strike again. Mark Royal, director of Community Corrections, and one of the DVRT program directors, said offenders who go through treatment, such as anger management classes and alcohol or drug treatment, are more likely the people who do not end up coming back through the criminal system.
"With DVRT, you have all these people working the same case, essentially," Royal said. "It is a model that works for Umatilla County."
Hagey and Stacy Pierce, DVRT project coordinator from DVS, said prosecuting domestic violence cases has been difficult because the victim is often the only witness.
"If there's a good follow-up investigation and if investigators can present a solid case for the district attorney, you could even have victimless prosecution," Hagey said.
Domestic violence cases often are felony cases, thanks to an Oregon law that says anytime a child witnesses a domestic violence dispute, it's a felony offense.
Oregon also has a mandatory arrest law for officers to follow if they arrive on a domestic violence call and find anyone with injuries.
"Not only have the laws begun to change, but they're changing and keeping in mind domestic violence," Pierce said.
Hagey said local law enforcement agencies have said they're supportive of the program, which used to be in effect before the previous grant ran out and the program was left without funding to run.
"We're definitely supportive of it," said Lt. Mark Swanson of the Pendleton Police Department, which handles numerous domestic violence calls each month. Swanson said his department receives calls from "a lot of the same" victims.
The program takes effect Friday. Other program directors include Umatilla County District Attorney Chris Brauer, Hagey, Morrow, Royal and Pierce. The sheriff's office will have two deputies, Jan Good and Paul , assigned as DVRT investigators; Larry Crisswell is the DVRT probation officer; and the DVS advocate will be Elsa Pantoja, who is bilingual.
Domestic Violence Services
Domestic Violence Services will host several domestic violence marches during Domestic Violence Month in October.
Hermiston March: Oct. 5 at 6 p.m.
Meet at City Hall and proceed to Second Street, where there will be a candlelight ceremony with guests speakers. For more information, call 567-0424.
Boardman March: Oct. 7 at 6 p.m.
Meet at the old City Hall and proceed to Department of Human Services Office, were there will be a candlelight ceremony. For more information, call 567-0424 or 481-2832.
Milton-Freewater DV Awareness Day and March:
Oct. 13, starting at Christ King Lutheran Church, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Displays, information sharing, video tapes and an exercise called, "In Her Shoes," performed in both English and Spanish. The march will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Rite-Aid parking lot and proceed to the Courthouse, where there will be a candlelight ceremony and guest speakers. For more information, call 938-8266.
Pendleton March: Oct. 14 at 5:30 p.m.
The march will begin at the train depot on Southwest Frazer Avenue and proceed to the courthouse, where there will be a candlelight ceremony with guest speakers. Call 276-3322 for information.