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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 6, 2004
Lead Coordinator, Dee Koester at 360-786-5540 x 6248

Victim’s Assistance Program Sets New Precedence

OLYMPIA -- The previously reported Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office -Violence against Women Act (VAWA) grant (awarded last October for $469,000 for two years) has broken new ground for Thurston County, the State of Washington, and perhaps the nation.

The Audit process required settling on a specific question to be addressed by the Audit. The Audit Coordinators chose a question that continued the focus of the grant.

" To what extent does Thurston County provide for safety of victims of domestic violence (intimate partner violence) to include sexual assault and stalking within marginalized populations?"  Marginalized populations include rural, culturally different, non- English speaking and vulnerable (developmentally delayed /disabled, mentally ill, elderly populations).

This specific question has never been audited according to the founder of the institutional ethnography tool, Ellen Pence Ph.D., located at Praxis International in Duluth Minnesota.

The grant focuses on the development/provision/improvement of victim services and offender accountability systems in areas within the county, who currently do not have victim advocates, who have contracted legal services, who are rural in nature and who have communities of underserved populations. These community characteristics increase isolation and danger for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The communities served are Yelm, Rainier, Tenino, Bucoda and Tumwater.

The first part of the South Thurston County Rural Project is to conduct a Victim Safety and Offender Accountability Audit. The Audit uses the structure of a research methodology known as institutional ethnography.

Institutional ethnography is a process of observing, interviewing, conducting focus groups, and analyzing institutional text to determine where the strength and weakness of a system reside. The Audit is not about blame or pointing fingers, but assumes everyone wants to do the best job possible within their respective professions. 

The Audit is partitioned into four phases. Phase I is looking at the CAPCOM/Dispatch system, Law Enforcement response and investigation and Prosecution to the point of the charging decision. Phase II of the Audit will look at processes through negotiation and plea -bargaining. Phase III will look at processes from treatment to re-offense / non- compliance. Phase IV will look at other systems and other impacting or intersection points, not previously covered, such as Safeplace, the Thurston County jail, and specific underserved populations and their experience with the criminal justice system. Memorandums of Understanding have been secured from participating agencies for Phase I.

The first report back to the community will be presented at the October 8th, 2004 "Best Practices in Domestic Violence- Developing A Coordinated Community Response " Conference, by Rhonda L. Martinson from the Battered Women's Justice Project in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Victim Safety and Offender Accountability Audit Coordinators are: Dee Koester, Prosecutor's Office, Detective Louise Adams, Thurston County Sheriff's Office, Laura Hurtado- Webb, Safeplace, and Sheryl Reese, DSHS/Adult Protective Services. 

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3