RD1 - Domestic and Sexual Violence in Virginia - 2014 Annual Report

Executive Summary:
Domestic and sexual violence impact our families, homes, communities, schools, and workplaces on a daily basis. Domestic and sexual violence impact all socio-economic levels, cultures, and religions. Whether the impact is open and obvious, such as a tragic homicide that receives media attention and spurs a community to action, or hidden and subtle, such as the emotional and psychological effect on children who silently live with the violence, domestic and sexual violence can penetrate even the deepest levels of our society.

The available data highlights the impact of these crimes in Virginia. It is estimated that, based upon the most recent data available, in 2013, there were 122 family and intimate partner homicides, representing a four percent 4% increase from 2012. (*1) Also in 2013, there were more than 65,000 calls to domestic and sexual violence hotlines across the state. (*2) A total of 3,281 adults and 2,677 children received 188,669 nights of emergency or temporary shelter due to domestic violence; however, 3,639 families requesting shelter services were turned away due to lack of shelter space. (*3) A total of 48,865 emergency protective orders were issued by magistrates and judges across the Commonwealth to protect the immediate health and safety of victims and their family members. (*4)

During the 2014 Session, the General Assembly passed legislation to continue to improve and strengthen laws surrounding domestic and sexual violence. The General Assembly passed House Bill 1248, which provides that recordings and records of 911 emergency service calls shall be deemed authentic transcriptions or recordings of the original statements if they are accompanied by a certificate that authenticates them as true copies and the certificate contains the date and time of the incoming call. House Bill 1233 passed the General Assembly, which makes victims of stalking eligible for participation in the Address Confidentiality Program. The General Assembly passed House Bill 708, which adds unlawful wounding in violation of § 18.2-51 and strangulation in violation of § 18.2-51.6 to the list of offenses that, if a person has been previously convicted of two such offenses within a 20-year period and such offenses occurred on different dates, enhance the penalty of assault and battery against a family or household member from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony. The General Assembly also passed House Bill 972, which allows the court to grant the petitioner possession of a companion animal on protective order if the petitioner is the owner of the animal.

In 2014, Virginia’s state and local agencies and organizations provided tools and resources to prosecutors, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, health care providers, social service providers, and allied professionals. State, local, and private partners also promoted public awareness and prevention initiatives and supported collaborative efforts among agencies and organizations to enhance the overall response to domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking. For example:

• In 2014, the Virginia Department of Health hosted one facilitator training for 20 individuals on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) prevention using the evidence-informed, “Stewards of Children” Curriculum developed by Darkness to Light. These facilitators have since conducted over 41 trainings of the “Stewards of Children” program reaching over 400 individuals.

• The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Hotline was established through a contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections to respond to incarcerated individuals who are seeking outside support for experiences related to sexual violence. The Hotline staff will provide support to callers and when requested connect callers with volunteer victim advocates who may provide ongoing support through medical exams and/or legal proceedings related to sexual violence. The PREA Hotline can only be accessed from within Virginia DOC facilities.

• On August 21, 2014, Governor McAuliffe, Attorney General Herring, the presidents of every public four-year college or university, and the Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System signed a joint declaration pledging to aggressively combat campus sexual violence. To coordinate Virginia's efforts to combat campus sexual violence, Governor McAuliffe has signed Executive Order 25 creating the Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence. This Task Force is chaired by Attorney General Mark Herring.

• In September 2014, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), in collaboration with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance), Virginia Network for Victim Assistance, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund, hosted a three-day training, “Domestic Violence Homicide Reduction Conference” in Williamsburg. This conference focused on two domestic violence homicide reduction strategies, the Lethality Assessment Protocol and the High Risk Teams. There were over 200 participants at this conference, who attended in teams that had a minimum of one law enforcement officer and one community-based domestic violence advocate. This conference was the launching point for a statewide initiative for bringing the Lethality Assessment Protocol to Virginia. A statewide partnership has been created to focus on best practices and key components of a protocol. Training for trainers is in the process of being planned for CY15.

• The OAG hosted a one-and-a-half day training in October 2014 in Richmond for all of Virginia's public colleges, universities, and community colleges. This training provided an overview of Title IX, Clery, and VAWA, information on taking a trauma informed approach to investigating sexual violence cases and having trauma informed policies and procedures regarding sexual violence, student awareness and response, information on due process, and case management. There were approximately 110 participants from the state colleges and universities.

• In addition to the annual "Trauma to Trial" training, which provides training on investigating and prosecuting sexual violence cases, the Commonwealth's Attorneys Services Council (CASC) also offers domestic violence and sexual assault prosecution training at its larger, statewide training programs. At CASC’s Spring Institute, held in April 2014 and attended by 695 prosecutors, CASC offered classes on forensic experiential trauma interviewing of victims, prosecuting strangulation cases, elder abuse, and cases involving military defendants. At the VACA Annual Summer Conference, held in August 2014, CASC provided instruction on identifying and prosecuting human trafficking and negligence in elder abuse cases. At the 2014 Executive Program in December, CASC will offer a 1.5 hour presentation on lethality assessment programs (LAPs).

In addition, these agencies and organizations identified and collected data on family and intimate partner violence-related fatalities, domestic and sexual violence-related crimes, protective orders, and services to victims and children in order to assist with providing a broader picture of these issues that confront our communities. Much of that information is included in this Report.

As we enter 2014, we must continue to support the efforts of agencies and programs across the Commonwealth that work tirelessly to promote victim safety and offender accountability, while learning new ways to provide services both efficiently and effectively.
(*1) Information from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Virginia Department of Health. The number for domestic violence homicides in 2013 is current as of December 2014. This number may change, however, as some cases from 2013 remain under investigation.
(*2) Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Domestic Violence Services in Virginia – VAdata Report 2013 (2014).
(*3) Id.
(*4) Information provided by the Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia.