Domestic violence survivors call for more legal training | United States government and politics
CONCORD, NH (AP) — Advocates for victims of domestic violence and people who feel they have not been treated fairly by New Hampshire family court judges called on a newly created task force on Friday to provide more training to the judiciary.
The New Hampshire Justice System Domestic Violence Cases Task Force heard stories of people in family court cases who felt victimized by decisions, rather than helped, or had difficulty. struggling to navigate the justice system due to obstacles such as not being able to speak English.
“My request today is that you recommend ways to ensure real oversight and a measure of accountability for judges who make decisions that impact the safety of our most vulnerable citizens and their children,” he said. testified Erica Austin, who said she was a survivor of domestic violence and a mother of an abused child who did not feel protected by a judge’s rulings in her case.
“It’s the most important thing you can do,” she said. “Recommend a transparent process of accountability, evaluation, training and monitoring by a group of experts in the field of domestic violence.”
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The task force was formed last year when the judiciary considered the case of a woman who was shot, allegedly by her ex-boyfriend, a month after a judge denied her request for an order permanent protection.
While concluding that the judge reasonably applied the law to the facts of the case, the review made recommendations, such as reviewing and updating forms related to protective orders, and providing access legal assistance for victims of domestic violence.
Rhonda Hodge, a psychiatrist in Salem, testified that she no longer felt comfortable seeing patients in situations of domestic violence.
“There’s no way I expect New Hampshire judges or judges nationwide to know what complex PTSD looks like; know what it’s like to be a victim; know what narcissistic personality disorder looks like. You have these facts in front of you that are not in your wheelhouse. There’s no way – you’re not trained in developmental psychology or basic medicine or pediatric medicine.”
Alan Cronheim, representing the New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, testified that while the task force’s work is important, “I think it’s best approached with real data and not anecdotes from complainants or of defendants”.
He and Hodge also testified that it is difficult to protect children and focus on their needs in cases of domestic violence.
The task force, which is chaired by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Anna Barbara Hantz, reviews existing court “practices and procedures” in cases involving allegations of domestic violence; analyze the state of state legislation regarding domestic violence, including the legal definition of “violence” and its relationship to spousal abuse; and exploring opportunities to give victims better access to lawyers and victim advocates, among other topics.
The group is due to publish its report by March 1. It includes representatives from the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys and others.
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