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Historically, our legal system has become involved only after the pattern of abuse is well established, the level of physical injury has become serious, or the violence has spread beyond the intimate relationship or family.

The costs to the victim of being involved with the criminal justice and legal systems-in money, time, lost work, lost privacy, and retaliatory acts by the abuser-are daunting. Quite frequently, over time or simultaneously, a victim will be involved in a family offense proceeding, a civil contempt matter, custody, support, and visitation proceedings, a matrimonial action, and criminal proceedings in multiple courts. This fragmentation, coupled with the differing standards of proof, rules of procedure, and an extraordinary diversity of record-keeping practices, exhausts resources and often demoralizes and inadvertently endangers victims and their children.

Early intervention and a coordinated response to domestic violence provide the best path to protecting victims and their children, preventing the escalation of a pattern of abuse, reducing the rate of domestic homicide and felony crimes, and where possible, maintaining family stability. Not only should our legal and public safety institutions, such as police and probation departments, the courts and prosecutor's offices, take affirmative steps to accomplish these objectives, but also the individuals who work within those institutions should direct their work to the same ends. The courts are critical to this coordinated response. Although county government has no oversight or authority over the judicial system, recommendations are made here to include the courts as a partner in this coordination process and to develop protocols within and between the civil and criminal justice systems.

In addition to incorporating the following system-specific recommendations and the recommendations  outlined in the  Guiding Principles and the  Employers sections into their responses to domestic violence, the criminal justice, legal, and judicial systems should also be aware of the potential need for individualized responses based on factors such as age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, employment status, urban vs. rural residency, and marital status. Awareness of and sensitivity to these factors, however, should in no way relieve an offender of responsibility nor reduce the consequences for his violent behavior.


a.When the pattern of abuse includes acts that are violations of state and federal criminal laws, the responsibility for investigating, pursuing, prosecuting, and supervising the dispositions of these matters shall lie not with the victim, but with the appropriate law enforcement, prosecutorial, court, probation and community corrections professionals.

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