OLYMPIA - Thurston County officials have completed the latest review of progress on domestic violence and sexual assault (DV/SA) issues identified in a 2003-05 study sponsored in part by the United States Department of Justice. The central question of that study was:
To what extent does the Thurston County criminal justice system accommodate or provide for the safety of marginalized/underserved victims within intimate partner violent relationships, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking?
This year's review was an update on how law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and courts have worked over the past 3 years to increase knowledge of domestic violence offenses, the causes and effects and to increase effective prosecution of D.V./S.A. offenders. Gail Gosney-Wrede of the Thurston County Prosecutor's Office says the demand for assistance in such cases continues to increase. "Calls to 9-1-1 related to domestic violence and/or sexual assault continue to rise in Thurston County at an annual rate of about 4% per year."
One of the issues being worked on is contradictions in the criminal justice system between victims and alleged perpetrators. Currently Thurston County Superior Court judges are reviewing all domestic violence related no contact and protection orders to try to eliminate conflicting orders and increase accountability from offenders.
Gosney-Wrede says work still needs to be done on a number of related issues including-
• Recent budget cuts for Thurston County have reduced Sheriff's Office and Prosecuting Attorney positions thereby reducing the capacity to arrest and charge people who are committing domestic violence and sexual violence crimes.
• Victims still have to contact several organizations/agencies in order to get all the assistance they need to be safe and survive
• Some services for victims have been reduced particularly in outlying areas of the county where access to services remains a large concern
• There continues to be a large need for medical, social and legal services for victims of domestic violence/sexual assault who are non-English speaking.
Once involved with the system however, the report says most victims reported the quality of the services were high. Most people were able to get the assistance they needed, including interpretation/translation services. However, accessing those services often requires contacting five or more agencies or organizations which increases the trauma experienced by victims.
The report concludes that there have been large improvements in standardized protocols, inter-agency coordination, staff training and judicial responses to the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in Thurston County, over the past three years. These improvements have resulted in better 9-1-1 responses to victims, more consistent responses by law enforcement officers throughout the county, more advocacy and shelter services for victims, fewer court delays, fewer conflicting protection orders, a sexual assault protection order and a firearm removal protocol that are now utilized by all law enforcement agencies in Thurston County. The report also concludes that much work remains to be done and tight finances are making those improvements a challenge to accomplish.
Those who wish to view the report can visit the Thurston County Prosecutor's web site at