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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Senate Document No. 27
    PUBLICATION YEAR 2000

    Document Title
    Family Violence Prevention

    Author
    Commission on Family Violence Prevention

    Enabling Authority
    SJR 396 (Regular Session, 1999)

    Executive Summary
    The Virginia Commission on Family Violence Prevention, pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 396, was directed to study family violence including domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, sexual assault and stalking to: (i) develop recommendations related to custody and visitation matters when family violence is present; (ii) develop and provide training to judicial personnel related to family violence; (iii) develop recommendations for a mechanism to assure coordination across state agencies related to training and community services that address, prevent and treat family violence; and (iv) assist state agencies in implementing the 1999 recommendations of the Commission. The Commission was directed to complete its work in time to submit its final report and recommendations to the Governor and 2000 Session of the General Assembly.

    The Commission is comprised of 32 members as dictated by SJR 396. The Commission acts on recommendations from the Community Response/Public Awareness, Law Enforcement and Legislative/Judicial subcommittees. The subcommittees are comprised of assigned Commission members and additional citizens representing public and private sector agencies and organizations with expertise in family violence issues.

    A detailed discussion of the Commission's work over the past year is contained in the body of this report. The Commission focused its primary attention on determining the roles, functions and tasks of the Commission that should be continued after the 2000 session and developing recommendations to support those efforts.

    Family violence continues to be a problem with a significant impact on the Commonwealth and its citizens. The Commission on Family Violence Prevention, at its final meeting on September 24, 1999, supported a transition plan that assures that the key functions, traditionally identified with the Commission, are continued. The Commission recommended that its policy and legislative duties, along with the coordination of collaborative efforts, be sent to the Virginia State Crime Commission since many of the primary legislative efforts of the Commission on Family Violence Prevention have dealt with criminal justice issues. At their meeting on December 8, 1999, the Virginia State Crime Commission approved the Commission on Family Violence Prevention's proposal that a standing subcommittee of the Crime Commission, focused on family violence issues, be established.

    The Commission also recognized the continuing impact of family violence on the judicial system and similarly, the impact of the judicial system on family violence. The Commission recommended that a staff position be maintained within the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia that will support training and technical assistance to the courts related to family violence.

    The following are the Commission's specific recommendations:

    I. CHILD CUSTODY & VISITATION WHEN THERE IS FAMILY VIOLENCE

    The presence of family violence and its impact on children raises significant issues when the custody and visitation of the minor child is before the court. The courts are looking for alternatives that balance the need for safety far victims of family violence and the need for parents to maintain relationships with their children.

    The Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia should:

    • continue to explore methods to ensure that information on the presence of family violence is before the court in custody and visitation matters; and

    • collaborate with the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice to review and revise the custody investigation forms to include questions on family violence and the nine factors (Va. Code 20-124.3) the court is to consider when making custody decisions.

    The Family Violence Subcommittee of the Crime Commission should:

    • distribute the suggested formats for custody reports to professional groups; and

    • consider a study of supervised visitation to determine availability, cost, use, qualifications of providers, enforcement of orders, and outcomes of supervised visitation. The Virginia Commission on Youth and the Virginia Department of Child Support Enforcement should be consulted regarding their participation in such a study.

    II. TRAINING TO JUDICIAL PERSONNEL

    The Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia should continue to provide training and technical assistance to the courts related to family violence issues to include but not be limited to:

    • establishment of an electronic interface between the courts and the Virginia Criminal Information Network for the purposes of transferring information related to Protective Orders;

    • implementation of the Full Faith & Credit provisions of the federal Violence Against Women Act;

    • methods to assure compliance with court orders; and

    • court handling of family violence cases when there are children in the home.

    III. COORDINATION OF EFFORTS THAT ADDRESS, PREVENT AND TREAT FAMILY VIOLENCE

    The Virginia State Crime Commission should establish a standing subcommittee to provide direction, guidance, coordination and oversight of policies, legislation, funding and services directed at family violence to include but not be limited to:

    • data collection systems designed to track family violence cases through the criminal justice system;

    • establishment of a statewide protective order registry;

    • establishment of a statewide family violence homicide surveillance and local review system;

    • efforts to assure compliance with court orders, including probation, parole and court ordered treatment programs;

    • allocation of state and federal funds directed at family violence; and

    • statewide public awareness efforts.

    IV. IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMISSION'S 1999 RECOMMENDATIONS

    The increase in public awareness, extensive law enforcement training and increased presence of prosecutors in family violence cases have all combined to create a marked increase in demand for social services to support the victims of these crimes.

    • Adequate funding be allocated to assure social services are available and sufficient in all localities to respond to citizens seeking help.

    The 1999 report recommended the Commission work with the Department of Juvenile Justice to identify and provide information to localities on the types of early intervention and diversion programs that are appropriate and available for juveniles who are violent with family members. The Commission took no action on this recommendation during 1999 due to limited staff and resources.

    • The Department of Juvenile Justice should be encouraged to continue to identify and provide information to localities on the types of early intervention and diversion programs that are appropriate and available for juveniles who are violent with family members.

    In order for the 1999 marital sexual assault legislation (see 1999 Senate Document 17) to have its full impact, intensive public awareness and training efforts need to accompany the legislative changes in these areas.

    • Efforts to provide public awareness and professional training related to marital sexual assault should be continued, and law enforcement and victim service protocols for response to marital sexual assault should be developed.