December 10, 2010
Support for Victims of Domestic Violence
On the 911 call recording, it often sounds like this: a woman screaming, a child crying, a voice raised in anger, then silence as the line goes dead. When police arrive at the scene of the crime, a broken telephone dangles from the kitchen wall, or the remains of a smashed cell phone litter the floor of the home. Sometimes officers find children hiding in closets and pets cowering under furniture. Always, they find signs of a terror strong enough to compel one family member to call police for protection from another.
Domestic violence usually occurs behind closed doors and shuttered windows. Columbus City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer’s office prosecuted nearly 5,000 cases of domestic violence in 2009. Every one of the cases involved a victim (or several) who were swept up in the torrent of cases flooding the Franklin County criminal justice system. Many of the victims were children. Most female adult victims were mothers with young children, whose children were forced to attend court with them because child care was unavailable. And most victims attended at least two court hearings, and sometimes half a dozen hearings, before the criminal case was over.
“Domestic violence does not discriminate. It happens throughout our community every day and affects us all, yet the problem is often overlooked, excused or denied. Members of the Columbus Bar Association Auxiliary recognize the struggles of domestic violence victims and support the efforts of the City Attorney’s office to help rebuild a community based on healing and strength,” says Roxanne Malek, CBAA President.
The Domestic Violence and Stalking Unit of the Columbus City Attorney’s Office helped these victims navigate their course through the court system, and provided a safe place in the courthouse for these women and children to shelter while waiting for justice to follow its course. Every year, more than 5,000 domestic violence and stalking victims find a safe haven with the Secure Victim’s Waiting Room in the DVSU.
The waiting room was safe, but it did not provide the cozy and nurturing environment that the Columbus City Attorney’s Office wanted for the youngest victims of domestic violence, the children. Heather Robinson Lindsey, an attorney in the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office and a member of the CBAA, had a brainstorm. The Auxiliary is an organization that cooperates with the Columbus Bar to foster understanding of the legal profession through education and community service including financial contributions to law-related activities. The CBAA wanted to undertake a significant project during its 50th anniversary year. Heather brought the two groups together, and in 2009, the CBAA donated the renovation of the waiting room, providing victims who are awaiting their court appearances a warm, welcoming, and family-friendly environment. A few months later, the CBAA donated the additional renovation of the reception room, helping victims feel more comfortable and relaxed when they are first introduced to the area.
Although much has been accomplished, there is still more to be done. The Columbus Bar Foundation, Columbus Bar and CBAA are promoting fundraising efforts throughout December to assist domestic violence victims and their families.
When you visit the Bar this month, you will see a display about domestic violence, highlighting the work of the DVSU and asking for your help. CBAA volunteers will staff a table during CLE breaks to answer your questions. Your donations will be used to purchase snack items, local bus tickets, and personal care kits for both adults and children to use when safety means not returning home to retrieve a toothbrush.
While attending your next CLE seminar, please consider making a donation to the Columbus Bar Foundation and Columbus Bar Association Alliance fund to support victims being assisted by the DVSU.