According to government statistics between 3-4 million children ages 3-17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year. Ninety-five percent of these cases involve female victims — typically the child’s monther — at the hands of male partners. But using kids as witnesses in domestic violence cases is a practice often avoided by many law enforcement officers.
Join this recorded webinar, as Hilary Weinberg of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and Detective Sergeant Patrick Beumler of the Glendale PD discuss:
- common best practices for law enforcement investigators putting a case together when a domestic violence crime was committed in the presence of a child(ren).
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): Your webinar is specifically about children in domestic violence cases. Without giving the webinar away, can you help us some of the challenges involved?
Hilary Weinberg: Children are often forgotten witnesses. Many times officers are hesitant to speak to young children or don’t know how to get a forensic interview set up. Additionally, children are easily coached and by the time police show up to a scene, an involved adult has already told the child what to say to the police.
JCH: What are perhaps some of the most common myths or misunderstandings law enforcement or prosecutors might believe regarding children as domestic violence witnesses?
Hilary: Children are sometimes thought of as too young to be witnesses. However, if the child is capable of communicating, reasonable efforts should be made to interview this key witness.
JCH: The work that you do is important, but must be challenging at times. What drew you to this particular area of justice? What keeps you motivated or inspired to keep doing this work?
Breaking the cycle of domestic violence is difficult. Victims are not being attacked by strangers but by those who are closest to them, and getting them to leave their situation or proceed with prosecution when police are involved is often a challenge. Getting a family member away from the domestic abuser is a huge victory. Children should be taught that domestic violence is not ok or we will just see the next generation of abusers and victims.
A large number of our readers and subscribers are in law enforcement, but we have representation from all parts of the justice arena. Can you share some specifics of what different types of justice professionals or first responders will gain by attending your webinar? What skills or new knowledge will they gain that they can immediately use the next day on the job?
Patrick: The information from this webinar would be useful for professionals ranging from law enforcement, court personnel, child protective service, victim advocates and any other specialties that may interact with the justice system in regards to children. The information provided will enable participants to have a greater understanding of current best practices in handling the use of children as witnesses throughout the criminal justice process.