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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, September 26, 2008
Gail Gosney-Wrede, Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office, 360-786-5540

Domestic Violence Report Shows Successes and Challenges

OLYMPIA – A report on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in Thurston County shows that a lot has been accomplished since a 2003-05 federal audit however, there is a lot more to be done.  The Audit helped to identify challenges that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault face when going through the criminal justice system.  The goal of the audit was to identify what could be done better; how to make victims safer and how to increase offender accountability.   Thurston County has been making improvements in the law enforcement system's response to victims ever since the audit was completed. 

The populations targeted in the audit included rural, non-English speaking, and vulnerable adult populations residing in unincorporated Thurston County and the towns/cities of Bucoda, Rainier , Tenino, Tumwater and Yelm.  The result of the Audit helped to identify the following improvement goals:

  • Improve services and safety of underserved victims of partner violence;
  • Have more consistency with law enforcement, prosecution and judicial response to perpetrators of such violence including more comprehensive domestic violence training for 911 dispatchers, police, prosecutors, and judges;
  • Increase advocate support/involvement;
  • Create better standardized procedures and forms with protection orders, no contact orders and restraining orders; reduce the number of conflicting orders and create better consistency with weapon surrender issues;
  • Provide training for professionals and community members related to specialty areas of child victim/witness, stalking and strangulation cases;
  • Create a better coordinated community response to crimes of intimate partner violence.

There have been 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, 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 is now utilized by all law enforcement agencies in Thurston County.

The Audit also pointed to the need to work more closely with Fire and Emergency Medical Service responders because they are an important resource in the fight against domestic violence.  Olympia and Lacey Fire Departments employees participated in the 2007 Thurston County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Summit.  Those departments are now educating and preparing their personnel to better assist victims and strengthen evidence collection for court cases.

In addition, No Contact Orders have now been standardized in all the courts throughout the County.  The Prosecuting Attorney's Office has also been working closely with the municipal, district and superior court judges to improve communication and decrease conflicting protection orders.

However, there is more to be done and officials must work together to:

  • Provide more outreach, support and services to rural area victims in Thurston County and non-English speaking victims;
  • Provide more translation services for non-English speaking victims  and make obtaining such services easier;
  • Continue to reduce conflicting protection orders between jurisdictions and improve information sharing between agencies in the law and justice system;
  • Create centralized service delivery to enable victims to visit only one place to receive information, support, services and protection;
  • Reduce the disparity between the number of victims and the amount of affordable, available services as well as provide more treatment services for offenders;
  • Continue to provide basic and up-to-date training system-wide to provide better information and services to victims.

A concern has been raised by Task Force members that current and future budget cuts may reduce the ability of governmental agencies to continue to fully respond to domestic violence in our community.

The Audit recognizes the need for professionals to come together once a year in order to help meet some of the goals listed above.  On October 10th, 2008 at the Little Creek Casino in Shelton, the Thurston County Domestic Violence Task Force will sponsor a conference on issues involving domestic violence and sexual assault.  Conference workshop sessions include:  Collecting Evidence at the Scene, Report Writing, Sexual Assault Treatment Providers, At Risk Youth, Computer and High Tech Crimes (Internet Predators, High Tech Stalking, and Examination of Digital Response)and Military Response to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.  The conference will also have a track focusing on related Native American Issues.  Interested community members can register to attend the conference by contacting Allison Woody at the Thurston County Prosecutor's Office, woodya@co.thurston.wa.us  

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3