Lynchburg’s Domestic Violence Response Team Taking Shape

SEPTEMBER 20, 2017

Alissa Smith

Known as DART, the group is dedicated to improving criminal justice responses to sexual assault, dating violence and stalking in the city of Lynchburg, Donna Nash, grants administrator forthe Lynchburg Office of the Commonwealth Attorney said.

Lynchburg DART Coordinator Kelly Glenn said the group is a type of Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) that brings together dozens of different agencies to better assist victims of domestic abuse.

“We’re really trying to evaluate interagency response to domestic and dating violence, identify gaps and barriers to service, find ways to connect with underserved areas and populations and find ways to help the community understand what victims are going through,” Nash said.

After just two meetings the group includes the Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, Victim/Witness Program, Public Defender’s Office, Lynchburg Police Department, Lynchburg Department of Emergency Services (LYNCOMM), Magistrate’s Office, Court Services Unit, Community Corrections and Pre-Trial Services, Department of Corrections Probation and Parole, Child Protective Services, YWCA of Central Virginia’s Domestic Violence Prevention Program (DVPC), YWCA of Central Virginia’s Sexual Assault Response Program (SARP), Centra Health’s Forensic Nurse Examiners and Horizon’s Behavioral Health.

To make sure DART is responding to needs, it conducted a needs assessment to identify gaps and barriers in services that address domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, Nash said. The group looked at the process of reporting child abuse, sexual assault and worked with the city’s fatality review team to look at closed fatal cases involving domestic violence to learn which services were difficult to find, use and contact.

The fatality review team, formally known as the Lynchburg City Family Violence Fatality Review Team, is connected to the Victim/Witness Assistance Program, according to Virginia Department of Health Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

However, identifying gaps and barriers to services is only the broad focus, Glenn said.

“Gaps and barriers can exist in any stage of a response to domestic violence, so we want to review the response of community partners and agencies at each point of service to ensure that every door is an open door to someone seeking safety,” she said.

Glenn, who summarizes her role as “the researcher, organizer, and facilitator for a team of practitioners who are on the front line of domestic violence work every day,” said DART was the natural next step for Lynchburg.

“Lynchburg is part of an extremely successful Domestic Violence Coalition [Coalition Against Domestic Violence for the 24th Judicial District], and we have a fatality review team that has completed reviews of domestic violence related homicides,” she said. “The next natural step was to establish a team that could carry on a review of our policies and procedures, even when there are no fatalities to review.

“With grant funding available, it was the right time to begin this project.”

DART is funded by a $470,000 U.S. Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women grant awarded in Oct. 2016. The 3-year grant will fund the group and other initiatives until Sept. 30, 2019, Nash said.

“At this point, we’ve held two meetings, both of which were dedicated to laying a good foundation for our work, such as formulating a mission statement and selecting our first areas of focus,” Glenn said.

The team is still gaining speed, with Glenn hired in January and the team choosing its name in August, Nash said. About 25 people attended the second meeting on Aug. 31, she said.

“Lynchburg has such a great history of collaboration in response to domestic violence that it was not difficult to identify the agencies and individuals who would be involved,” Glenn said. “Many of the team members are familiar faces who have been working in the DV field for several years. They are known for their passion, are well respected, and considered experts in this field.”

DART’s next step is to begin reviewing current practices in the protective order process, Glenn said.

This will include walking through each step of the process together, assessing the steps through “the eyes of the people receiving [the] services,” said Glenn.

It will also involve evaluating current forms to see if updates are needed or if paperwork can be consolidated or eliminated and then coordinating training.

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