Monday, January 20, 2014

Domestic Violence advocate for victims in civil proceedings - 2014 Indiana Senate Bill 138

20 January 2014

Senator Vaneta Becker has introduced a bill relating to Domestic Violence advocates and service providers in civil proceedings.

Here is the synopsis of the bill;
Victim advocates in civil proceedings. Removes restrictions on grants from the victim services division of the Indiana criminal justice institute for certain entities to enter into a contract with the domestic violence prevention and treatment council. Provides that a court may allow a victim advocate to attend a civil proceeding and confer with a victim as necessary. Specifies that a victim advocate is not considered to be practicing law when performing certain services.

The following language would be stricken from the current statute;
[strike] However, the division may not grant more than seventy-five percent (75%) of the money necessary for the establishment or maintenance of a domestic violence prevention and treatment center during a specified time. The amount granted by the division for use by a single domestic violence and prevention treatment center may not exceed one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) each year. [close]

This is replaced by three lengthy section that define “victim,” “victim advocate,” and “victim service provider.” Each includes a provision that services relate to someone who “is not accused of committing an act of domestic or family violence” and other related offenses.

The fourth, and final, section is as follows;
(a) In any civil proceeding, a court may allow a victim advocate to attend the proceeding, sit with the victim, and confer with the victim as necessary.
(b) A victim advocate is not considered to be practicing law when performing the services described in this section.

What I do like about this bill is that it provides clear definitions and allows for advocates to become more involved in the judicial process in an effort to mitigate acts of Domestic Violence. However, unless I have missed it elsewhere I strongly oppose the unilateral approach that it takes towards Domestic Violence - essentially that Domestic Violence is the result of the “victim” not receiving services. The existing language ion the statute provides that services are to include “domestic violence prevention and treatment.” While prevention can be based upon avoiding perpetrators it should also include preventing perpetrators from committing the acts or having the desire to do so. This should include treatments such as anger management, effective communication skills, and cognitive behavioural therapy.

For illustrative purposes I will use shoplifting as an example. This phenomena can be attacked from two perspectives; 1] store based preventative measures [locked display cases, RFID tags, personnel selection], and 2] offender treatment [incarceration, CBT, employment opportunities]. It would seem logical to try this dual attack approach. Providing increased knowledge and security measures to stores but also providing services to the offenders to get at the root of what is sometimes simply an underlying compulsion to steal although one is sufficiently financially able to pay. To deny services to offenders would essentially proclaim the problem to be one that is victim based and incidents would likely increase.

Domestic Violence is a phenomena that can be attributed to a cycle. That is it is primarily a learned behaviour from parents. Perpetrators say or experienced Domestic Violence as a children as a means of exertion of control. In our society and similarly in Germany it is still widely acceptable to teach children, by example, that the reinforcing stimulus to achieve compliance with one's commands is violence. Similarly, “victims” have been taught that violence is the result of a violation of rules and that it is deserved. Both assessments are wrong.

Violence as a means of exerting control is wrong and both “victims” and perpetrators need to hear that message and be able to receive services that can help convey that message.

Proposed amendments -
As used in this chapter, “alleged perpetrator” means:
(1) an individual against whom an act of:
(A) domestic or family violence;
(B) dating violence;
(C) sexual assault (as defined in IC 5-26.5-1-8);
(D) human and sexual trafficking (IC 35-42-3.5); or
(E) stalking (IC 35-45-10-5);
has been alleged or substantiated.

AMENDED Sec. 4. (a) In any civil proceeding, a court may allow a victim advocate to attend the proceeding, sit with the victim, and confer with the victim [insert]or alleged perpetrator[close] as necessary.

This bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is scheduled for a Committee hearing on Wednesday 22 January 2014 in Room 130 of the Indiana State House at 0900.

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