Less than a year into a new partnership involving the YWCA, law enforcement and prosecutors, domestic violence victim advocates say they’re already seeing a difference.
“Our clients have hope. They feel safe. They feel as if their needs are being met,” said Nia Platt, a paralegal at the YWCA who helps victims navigate the legal system.
The Spokane Family Justice Center opened in February at the YWCA office on North Monroe Street with the goal of making it easier for domestic violence victims to access services. Police officers, prosecutors and advocates work together in one office that offers free child care and a more inviting atmosphere than a police station might.
City officials and YWCA staff spoke about the center’s progress Monday at a news conference for national Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“Domestic violence is not at all contained to any one neighborhood, socioeconomic group or even gender,” YWCA CEO Regina Malveaux said.
In the city prosecutor’s office, misdemeanor domestic violence charges that might have been ignored in the past due to lack of staff are being filed: 488 protection order violations, 313 assaults and 66 domestic violence arrest warrants in the past six months, according to Spokane police Lt. Mark Griffiths.
So far this year, 172 felony domestic violence assaults have been reported in Spokane – one more than in the same period last year, according to Police Department statistics. Griffiths said the number isn’t dropping because domestic violence is an underreported crime. When patrol officers follow up with victims a few days after an initial report, they often find evidence of new crimes, he said.
“The officers going to people’s houses find charges that were never reported,” he said.
Follow-up also helps prosecutors build a stronger case against abusers.
“We’re now able to prosecute some cases that would have been dismissed in the past,” said city Prosecutor Lynden Smithson, who handles domestic violence cases.
Some of the progress is due to law enforcement resources. Two Spokane police detectives, three officers and a sergeant work out of the YWCA. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office also has dedicated deputies at the center.
Offering services in one place also makes it easier for victims to get what they need to feel safe, advocates say.
“Our clients no longer have to walk around downtown to get their needs met,” Platt said. “The Family Justice Center brings a sense of hope and safety.”
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