RD887 - Domestic and Sexual Violence in Virginia 2021 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. In 2021, there were more than 70,000 calls to domestic and sexual violence hotlines across the state.(*1) A total of 3,939 adults and 2,361 children received 216,725 nights of emergency or temporary shelter due to domestic violence; however, 405 families requesting shelter services were turned away due to lack of shelter space.(*2) A total of 56,610 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.(*3)

In 2020 and 2021, 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. In addition, state, local, and private partners had to continue to make accommodations in order to provide assistance, advocacy, counseling, shelter, etc. for victims of domestic and sexual violence while COVID-19 mitigation protocols remained. For example:

• In CY2021, the Commonwealth’s Attorneys Services Council’s Violence Against Women Resource Prosecutor (VAWRP) organized and implemented over 50 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) credit for Virginia’s prosecutors on issues related to the investigation and prosecution of domestic and sexual violence and stalking cases. That training included four hours of training specifically focused on ethical issues that arise in the investigation and prosecution of these cases. The VAWRP also provided over 30 hours of in-service PIC credit training to officers in the areas of domestic violence and sexual assault.(*4)

• The OAG’s Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative (SAKI) has coordinated with law enforcement agencies across Virginia to submit all eligible PERKs for testing that were identified as unsubmitted in the two inventories. Testing of 2,664 PERKs and secondary review of analysis results by DFS was completed in September 2020. From these PERKs, 905 new DNA profiles were added to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) resulting in 386 matches, or “hits", to offenders/arrestees or evidence in other cases.(*5)

• The OAG conducted a third inventory, this time looking at PERKs that had undergone testing, but with early technology that did not allow for uploading DNA profiles to the DNA databank. The inventory began January 2021 and was completed by July 2021 with 100% participation by all law enforcement agencies in Virginia. DFS reviewed almost 800 cases listed on inventories to determine the most recent form of testing; identifying almost 600 cases that qualify to be tested with current DNA technology.(*6)

• In 2021, the Office of the Executive Secretary for the Supreme Court of Virginia (OES) provided training on bail considerations in domestic violence situations, emergency protective orders, marital rape, and larceny as it pertains to married couples were some of the domestic violence topics covered in magistrate certification training. Fifty-nine (59) new magistrates have attended certification training in 2021.

• As of September 2021, Hope Cards (a wallet-sized card containing essential information about a final protective order), created by OES, are available in one-hundred eleven (111) courts in Virginia. Out of these 111 courts, seventy (70) are juvenile and domestic relations district courts; twenty-five (25) are general district courts; and sixteen (16) are circuit courts. In the first nine months of 2021, forty (40) new courts signed on to become a Hope Card court. Of the forty newly participating Hope Card courts, nine (9) were circuit courts, nineteen (19) were general district courts, and twelve (12) were juvenile and domestic relations district courts.(*7)

• The Domestic Violence Action Team (DVAT), a statewide multidisciplinary team focused on improving domestic violence services, completed the first phase of the Promising Practices Guide (PPG) based on requests from the field and a recognition of gaps in service across the Commonwealth. The PPG is a series of entries highlighting various subject areas that were identified through a DVAT exploratory process and that relate to domestic violence programming and services. The PPG is unique in that it will advance the needs of survivors through a trauma-informed lens while including opportunities to reflect on the racial justice and social justice impact of an entry. These entries include concrete strategies for implementing promising practices and highlight domestic violence programs in Virginia who are already making strides in certain programmatic areas.(*8)

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 2022, 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) Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Domestic Violence Services in Virginia – VAdata Report 2019 (2020).
(*2) Id.
(*3) Information provided by the Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia.
(*4) Information provided by the Commonwealth’s Attorneys Services Council
(*5) Information provided by the Office of the Attorney General
(*6) Id.
(*7) Information provided by the Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia
(*8) Information provided by the Department of Social Services, Office of Family Violence