Document 5D: Statement of Karen Nielsen, Statewide Coordinator for Volunteer Advocates for Victims of Domestic Violence, Salt Lake City, Utah, Senate Hearing 103-726, 13 April 1993. Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 103rd Congress, First Session on The Problems of Violence Against Women in Utah and Current Remedies, Salt Lake City, Utah. Serial No. J-103-11.

STATEMENT OF KAREN NIELSEN

        Ms. NIELSEN. Thank you, Senator Hatch and distinguished peers, for this opportunity to address domestic violence. Without having an opportunity to understand the complex problems of domestic violence and violence against women, any attempt at rectifying the situations which emerge from this horror will be mere "bandaid solutions." In order to begin a dialog on solutions, we must confront the insidious sources of violence in America, respond proactively against violence as a system, and reeducate our children toward nonviolent means of expression.

        I would like to submit to the Senate at a later date a more detailed comparison and contrast of Mr. Biden's and Mr. Hatch's bills. In my brief exploration of these bills, I observed that the Hatch bill omitted important civil rights issues addressing the root of the problem of violence against women and replaced this focus with heavier punishment levied on the perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault.

       [The comparison and contrast paper follows:]

THE ROLE OF THE OFFICE OF SOCIAL SERVICES IN THE COORDINATION AND PROVISION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SERVICES

        This paper has been prepared by the OSS Domestic Violence Steering Committee to present the components of an effective violence treatment network and to outline a blueprint of service that Office of Social Services regions can follow in helping develop each local community's response to domestic violence.

        The role of the Office of Social Services in the delivery of domestic violence services has evolved differently in each of the four regions of the state, and even quite differently within each region. Some regions have developed staff positions to provide most resources on victim services while others have focused more attention on perpetrators services. Some areas of the State have efffective local coalitions or volunteer advocate programs, while others have yet to develop those resources.

        The Office of Social Services (DFS) has been mandated by the State Legislature as the lead agency in coordinating domestic violence services.

        Likewise, with perpetrator treatment contracts all moving to the open ended format next year, OSS is responsible to be the referral point for court ordered perpetrator treatment services.

        Please note the figure on page 3, which outlines the following basic components of a domestic violence service network:

        1. The Office of Social Services coordinates the development of a Local Domestic Violence Coalition that includes law enforcement, prosecution, court personnel, legal aid, perpetrator treatment providers, shelter/victim treatment providers, medical care staff, volunteer advocates, and other appropriate community members. This coalition coordinates services and assures that the domestic violence treatment components are in place in each community.

        2. Components of effective victim treatment include the following services that may be provided by OSS staff, OSS contracted providers, other agencies or volunteer advocates:

  1. Public education and prevention services including TV, newspaper, radio, presentations to schools, churches, local civic clubs, public service agencies, etc.
  2. Sensitive and consistent law enforcement response to victims (trained in DV dynamics).
  3. Volunteer advocate services to assist victims in obtaining needed protective orders, connection to self sufficiency services, etc.
  4. Emergency Medical Services (aware of DV dynamics).
  5. Available, on site, crisis counseling for victims.
  6. Shelter services to protect victims and their dependents.
  7. Assessment for and referral to child abuse or neglect
  8. when indicated (usually in about 50 percent of cases).

  9. Assistance in obtaining protective order.
  10. Individual and group counseling for victim.
  11. Referral of children in domestic violence situations to appropriate childrens' protection/treatment programs.
  12. Connection to self sufficiency services including public Assistance, day care, food stamps, medical care, transitional and permanent housing, legal help, etc.
  13. Development of a volunteer advocate system to facilitate the above services staff does not have the time to provide.
  14. Family reunification services when the victim and perpetrator wish to reconcile.

5. Assure that failure of court ordered perpetrator who fail to follow through on treatment, or who re-abuse a victim, are referred back to the referring court either by OSS or a contracted provider.

6. Coordinate with DFS, the State Domestic Violence Advisory Council and the local domestic violence coalition the training of local law enforcement, prosecutors, medical personnel, treatment providers and others as appropriate, in domestic violence issues.

7. Participate, as needed, in the domestic violence community education and prevention efforts initiated by the local domestic violence coalition.

8. Support the development of local volunteer advocate services that provide initial and ongoing support to victims to help them access law enforcement protection, legal systems, housing, medical care, and social services.

       Senator HATCH. Let me have your comments.

       Ms. NIELSEN. Submitted as part of my written testimony is the research that I participated on advocacy and the potential for that here in Utah. I am the Statewide Coordinator for Volunteer Advocacy and I will address any questions about that after my verbal testimony. In the remarks here I will focus on medical protocols and child-abuse definitions related to domestic violence issues.

        Studies indicate that as high as 37 percent of all women entering the emergency rooms are there because of the injuries received in domestic violence. The number of domestic violence injuries to women exceeds those of rapes, muggings, and auto accidents combined. A need for responsible proactive intervention at this level must be addressed through Federal legislation requiring professionals to report any severe bodily devastation, "non-accidental trauma," perpetrated by an intimate partner. The reporting procdure needs to be protective of the victim's saftey. If the victim does not wish to press charges nor have any investigation from the law enforcement agency, this needs to be taken seriously. However, a simple call and a report of the incidence shouldn't endanger the victim. In the long run, this report, along with complete medical documentation will serve as admissible evidence in court.

        The subcommittee which I cochair on medical protocol of physicians, nurses and other health professionals will implement medical protocols in Utah. Four components of these protocols are: One, questions asked directly regarding the origin of the injury; Two, assessment of lethality; Three, referrals; and Four, thorough charting is done. Protocols equal secondary prevention. Prevention of further abuse may result in the saving of lives, millions of dollars in medical bills and further in treatment. Federal funding in support of this is needed desperately. The children. One must consider the children. The severe emotional trauma that witnessing domestic violence creates must be criteria for "mental injury" under the Federal definitions for child abuse. We must recognize the needs of these victims who often wear no physical bruises but progress to become victims and perpetrators of domestic violence as adults.

       These concepts lead to informed policies which makes clear our role as responsible State agencies in identifying and investigating these underrecognized victims of child abuse. In Utah, 144,000 children currently live in violent homes. Every 15 minutes four Utah children witness domestic violence. Children who grow up in violent homes are 7 times more likely to commit suicide, boys who witness domestic assults, father beating mother, are 24 times more likely to commit a sex crime.

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