Suffolk County prosecutors, victim advocates, and others assigned to Charlestown District Court came together this week for a day-long training seminar in Boston that they hope will help interrupt the cycle of domestic violence and identify defendants whose abuse may become lethal, District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
The main speaker at the Nov. 25 “DV and the DA” event was Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell. A nationally and internationally respected authority on intimate partner violence, Campbell is the author of seven books and more than 200 articles on DV and related topics, has been the primary investigator in numerous federally-funded research grants, and co-chaired the steering committee for the World Health Organization’s Multi-County Study on Violence Against Women and Women’s Health.
Conley’s office recruited Campbell for the training as part of an ongoing continuing education program that ensures Suffolk prosecutors are constantly honing their skills in fundamental and emerging areas of law. Though Massachusetts doesn’t require legal education for lawyers once they pass the bar, Conley last year implemented a policy that mandates at least 12 hours of continuing education per year. Members of Middlesex County DA Marian Ryan’s office also took part.
Campbell presented a five-hour training on the Danger Assessment, an interview- and calendar-based questionnaire that weighs the seriousness and frequency of domestic violence incidents, determines the level of potential danger that an abuser poses to a victim, and suggests potential safety strategies. Reviewing a victim’s responses to the Danger Assessment can shed light on the escalation of abuse.
“Once the Danger Assessment has been conducted with a domestic violence victim, prosecutors can use its results in bail arguments, dangerousness hearings, sentencing recommendations, and other proceedings,” Conley said. “Victim advocates can also use it to help their clients recognize the threat an abuser poses, and that can encourage victims to seek help in leaving the relationship.”
Members of Conley’s and Ryan’s offices also heard from Dr. David Adams, co-founder and co-director of Emerge, the nation’s first counseling program geared specifically toward men who abuse their partners. Adams has trained law enforcement and social service providers in 44 states and 16 nations and spent more than an hour debunking myths surrounding domestic violence and profiling abusers’ characteristics as partners and parents. Adams’ presence was made possible by DA Ryan’s office.
About 135 attendees took part in the training. They included prosecutors and victim advocates from every level of their respective offices, ranging from district court assignments to superior court trial teams that handle domestic violence, sexual assault, and even homicide in Suffolk and Middlesex counties – a geographic area home to more than one-third of the state’s total population. Middlesex is the most populous county in Massachusetts, while Suffolk has the highest number and rate of violent crimes.
The event was organized by Assistant District Attorney Donna Patalano, Conley’s chief of Professional Integrity and Ethics, and Assistant District Attorney David Fredette, Conley’s chief of Education and Training. It was held at the historic John Adams Courthouse in downtown Boston, which houses the state’s Supreme Judicial Court and Massachusetts Appeals Court.Help is available for anyone who feels trapped in an abusive relationship. Victims are urged to call 911 in an emergency, but SafeLink, a statewide domestic violence hotline, can be reached at 877-785-2020. SafeLink is answered by trained advocates 24 hours a day in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, as well as TTY at 877-521-2601. It has the capacity to provide multilingual translation in more than 140 languages.