20th Annual Family Violence Conference looks at progress made, reforms still needed
More than 200 professionals from criminal justice, child welfare, victim advocacy, mental health and education are expected at Tuesday's 20th Annual Family Violence Conference in Niagara Falls. The goal is to share best practices for minimizing trauma suffered by survivors and families.
Presented by the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara and other Niagara County agencies during this National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the event aims to inform professionals about the latest evidence-based interventions while sharing the reforms still needed.
Keynote speaker Michelle Kaminsky will be using the 11 cases in her new book, Reflections of a DV Prosecutor: Suggestions for Reform, to illustrate the complexity of domestic violence cases.
"The idea that there is any one general solution to the isssue of domestic violence, that's not the case. Each case has to be looked at individually," Kaminsky said, who has 26 years experience prosecuting domestic violence cases. "The role of the prosecutor has to be balancing public safety and the need for accountability with the needs of the victim that's sitting before us."
Among the topics presenters will be addressing at the all-day conference are violence within military and veteran families, human trafficking, cyberstalking and opioid use. Kaminsky said domestic violence cases are also "very difficult" to prosecute because of the inability to bring out the history of prior abuse at trial.
"You need to show in these cases that it's not the one, isolated act," she said, "it's the whole history of abuse that provides the context for understanding the particular incident that has resulted in the arrest."
Kaminsky praised the introduction of family justice centers and specialized domestic violence courts and units within police departments and district attorney offices. However, still complicating cases is when the batterer is the sole financial provider of a family, she said, plus juries bring their own personal biases into the courtroom on the question of "Why did the victim stay?"
"I think there is a much better understanding now as to the dynamics of abusive relationships and why people get trapped in relationships and how difficult it is to get out," she said. "What hasn't changed is the misogyny. It's deeply rooted and until we address those attitudes and beliefs about women, we're not going to stop the violence."