On the eve of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin hosted a forum titled “Focusing Survivors of Interpersonal Violence: Creating Interventions that Heal, Not Hurt.”
Hosted by the Victim Services Division of the SFDA, the forum’s discussions focused on interpersonal violence, why the systems in place do not meet the needs of survivors, and what systems in place can do better for survivors. Panelists included experts, advocates and survivors who spoke about their experiences creating better interventions that focus and meet the needs of survivors of interpersonal violence.
This event marks the start of a series of upcoming NDVAM-centric announcements that will provide SFDA with an opportunity to hear first-hand and professional testimony on how the legal system has served survivors. Last month, the SFDA announced a city-wide expansion of services for survivors named the memorandum of understanding which also extended to the UPD. Boudin said one of the ways the SFDA gets feedback is at events like these. In this way, the community and the SFDA are exposed to transparency, commentary, criticism and community leadership.
“One of the ways we get feedback is at events like this, and one of the reasons we hosted this event and invited so many community leaders from San Francisco and the national scene was precisely because we want the work we do. – and proud of – to be exposed to transparency, commentary and criticism, ”Boudin said.
The event had two panels: “Focus Survivors” and “Create Healing Interventions”, no harm. Experts ranged from survivors themselves to advocates and experts currently working in the area of interpersonal violence.
Notable speakers were: Kelli Dillion, former incarcerated survivor of interpersonal violence and founder of Back to the Basics Community Empowerment; Pauletta Perez, survivor of domestic violence and board member of Voices against Violence for Women and Children; program director of Futures without Violence Juan Carlos Areán; and professor at the John Hopkins University School of Nursing, Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell.
“We have been truly fortunate to have an extremely diverse range of experts and survivors who share their experience, professional experience, lived experience and vision of how we can better respond to and prevent domestic violence,” said Boudin said in an interview with Xpress. .
The panelists touched on many topics such as upholding responsibility instead of incarceration, promoting empathy for all parties involved, how marginalized communities are treated inappropriately by the justice system and the how survivors respond to police interventions. Many panelists noted a lack of empathy or action on the part of first responders towards survivors.
The ACLU found that 88% of advocates, service providers, lawyers and other professionals said that the police “sometimes” or “often” do not believe the victims or blamed the victims for the violence, and 83% said that the police ” sometimes ”or“ often ”does not take allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence seriously. It affects the response to domestic violence. Participants also revealed that they believed that the police’s prejudices against marginalized communities affected the willingness to call the police.
Panelists discussed similar experiences encountered by survivors they had worked with and pointed out that those from marginalized communities often have a harder time finding help. Some have said that survivors feel police responders will not believe them or react inappropriately, and feel they are often treated as evidence.
According to a report on survivors’ responses to police responses by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 70% of participants believed police involvement would make matters worse. According to 2020 SFDA Victim Investigation Report, domestic violence was the second most reported crime.
In an interview with Xpress, Sarah Yousuf, deputy director of communications for the SFDA, said that there are countless incidents of interpersonal violence that never lead to a police report or arrest.
“This is part of why we organize these events, because some of the practitioners in the community can deal with cases that never reach the arrest or prosecution phase,” Yousuf said. “We want to make sure that we hear from people and hear about incidents that are not our own experience. “
Dillion acknowledged that survivors often don’t seek the same results law enforcement does. They may want accountability that does not end with incarceration and often need support in other areas, such as housing assistance. In her speech, Dillion said prevention begins with identifying the signs of interpersonal violence, and often interpersonal violence is not limited to physical violence.
“It’s not just about being physically beaten, you can actually be sexually assaulted by a partner, you actually can’t have any financial control over your own money, and that’s a form of abuse,” Dillion said. “We have people who are technologically wanted by partners, where people know exactly where they are and threaten them. I think education around “What is domestic violence” is also essential, because otherwise we just put bandages on gunshot wounds. ”
Yousuf said the main goal of the SFDA is to listen to survivors and learn about their experience with the criminal justice system and how they were treated by the people they interacted with. Boudin said he recognizes that incarceration does not decrease effectively and understands that each case is unique.
“What I encourage my assistant prosecutors to do is really dig in and figure out what kind of interventions will be most effective and empowering for survivors to hold accountable those who have caused damage in a way that breaks the cycle and prevents future damage, ”Boudin said.
The SFDA will announce future events on its website and provide victim services through its advocacy program which provides crisis support services and counseling, referrals to local resources and emergency assistance. Local organizations that provide further information include the San Francisco Consortium on Domestic Violence and the Young Women’s Freedom Center. The national domestic violence helpline number is (800) 799-7233 and is also available through to discuss.