RD507 - Domestic and Sexual Violence in Virginia - 2015 Annual Report

Executive Summary:
Domestic and sexual violence affect 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 2014, there were 112 family and intimate partner homicides, representing a 13% decrease from 2013.(*1) Also in 2014, there were more than 71,000 calls to domestic and sexual violence hotlines across the state.(*2) A total of 3,163 adults and 2,578 children received 201,402 nights of emergency or temporary shelter due to domestic violence; however, 2,580 families requesting shelter services were turned away due to lack of shelter space.(*3) A total of 51,225 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 2015 Session, the General Assembly passed legislation to continue to improve and strengthen laws surrounding domestic and sexual violence. The General Assembly passed multiple bills this past session addressing sexual violence in the college campus setting including Senate Bill 712 and House Bill 1930, which compels responsible employees to notify Title IX coordinators of a sexual assault of which they were made aware, authorizes the creation of review committees for sexual violence reports, requires colleges to sign MOUs with local sexual violence programs, and requires that reporting victims be provided with information about the local sexual assault program. House Bill 2120 adds strangulation to the list of crimes charged for which there is a rebuttable presumption against admission to bail. Senate Bill 1188 and House Bill 1964 provides that any person who solicits, invites, recruits, encourages, or otherwise causes or attempts to cause a person to engage in prostitution with the intent to receive money or other valuable thing or to assist another in receiving money or other valuable thing from the earnings of the solicited person from an act of prostitution is guilty of a Class 5 felony. House Bill 2092 and Senate Bill 1094 establish the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Program Professional Standards Committee and requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to administer its activities by providing technical assistance and administrative support. The bills also establish an Advisory Committee on Sexual and Domestic Violence that has the responsibility for advising and assisting state and local entities on matters related to the prevention and reduction of sexual and domestic violence and to promote the efficient administration of grant funds.

In 2015, 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 October 2015, the OAG hosted the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, the creators of Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP), to train seventeen (17) jurisdictions and ten (10) local domestic violence programs in LAP. These seventeen localities and ten domestic violence programs will train staff and all law enforcement officers within their jurisdictions to use LAP on domestic violence calls to determine the risk of lethality to the victim. In high-risk cases, law enforcement will contact the local domestic violence hotline in order to provide immediate assistance to the victim.

• The Commonwealth of Virginia has received a $1.4 million grant to conduct DNA testing and analyze more than 2,000 untested Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs) associated with sexual assaults in Virginia. By testing these kits and searching the profiles against DNA databases, law enforcement will be able to identify additional crimes by known perpetrators and make connections between crimes committed by unidentified perpetrators. The OAG partnered with the Department of Forensic Sciences to apply for the grant.

• In 2015 the Commonwealth of Virginia was one of two states selected by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to serve as a demonstration site to identify and link systems of care for children and youth who have been victimized by a broad spectrum of crimes and other traumatic events, known as Vision 21. The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) is the project’s lead agency, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. Other partners include the Departments of Juvenile Justice, Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and Education, in addition to several other agencies. This initiative, for which the 15-month planning period began January 1, 2015, aims to ensure that every child entering any of the relevant systems is assessed for victimization, that children and their families are provided comprehensive and coordinated services to fully address their needs, and that practices and policies are established to sustain this approach long-term.

• During 2015, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance hosted two DO YOU Facilitator Certification trainings to familiarize advocates and youth-serving agency staff with the DO YOU Campaign, which addresses youth violence (dating and sexual violence, sexual harassment, and bullying) to promote positive development and healthy relationships. Participants were afforded the opportunity to bring teen mentors to the facilitator training. A total of 39 individuals received 12 hours of comprehensive training on the DO YOU curriculum and program structure.

• 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 signed Executive Order 25 creating the Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence. This Task Force, chaired by Attorney General Herring, concluded their work on May 28, 2015, submitting twenty-one (21) recommendations to Governor McAuliffe.

• The OAG hosted a two-and-a-half-day training in May 2015 for Virginia’s community colleges on campus sexual violence. Topics included victimization, interviewing victims and accused, Title IX and the Clery Act, utilizing threat assessment teams in sexual assault cases, and collaborating with local sexual violence programs. There were approximately 130 participants representing the Commonwealth’s community colleges.

• In late 2014, OES was awarded a continuation grant through the Justice for Families grant program (formerly known as the Court Training and Improvement program) by the Office on Violence Against Women. This 2-year grant award of $100,000 allows the Pulaski County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to continue operating its domestic violence dockets and to deliver at least four domestic violence trainings in the community. In 2015, the Pulaski County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court organized and co-sponsored three training events:

* “Enhancing Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence through Enhanced Supervision” for local probation

* A training on “Strangulation” was delivered to a multi-disciplinary audience in Dublin,

* “Domestic Violence 101: Understanding the Basics” and will feature a number of presenters

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 2016, 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 2014 is current as of December 2014. This number may change, however, as some cases from 2014 remain under investigation.
(*2) Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Domestic Violence Services in Virginia – VAdata Report 2014 (2015).
(*3) Id.
(*4) Information provided by the Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia.