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Experts Speak on The Health Effects of IPV and the Criminal Justice System's Response to Domestic Violence

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"DVCC360 is a natural outgrowth of our effort over the

last few years to create strong and highly collaborative partnerships that facilitate the work we are doing with our clients and that provide them with the wide circle of community resources so critical to their progress from violence to safety," said DVCC Executive Director Rachelle Kucera Mehra.

 Offering forums by Drs. Campbell and Klein are but one outcome of DVCC360, a recently launched platform through which the DVCC will work to advance research, advocacy, policy and community partnerships that we have identified as central to meeting the needs of victims. The focus will be to provide research and information on best practices and to advocate for policy and systems change within the legal, medical and educational communities in order to better serve victims of intimate partner violence. Our goal is to benefit all of our community partners as we work together to develop innovative approaches to combat domestic violence. As part of this project, DVCC360 will issue a monthly newsletter, VERVE, which will address a single topic each month relevant to enhancing the community's response to domestic violence. 

 Two nationally recognized experts in the field of domestic violence recently shared their knowledge with professionals in Connecticut's medical, legal and social service communities, as well as with DVCC staff, volunteers and supporters. Sponsored by the DVCC, each gave multiple presentations over a two day period in three different cities.

 Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, who is a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and a respected researcher on the health effects of domestic violence, held audiences in Stamford and Norwalk rapt for two hours while she talked about the horrific toll that intimate partner violence takes on the physical and mental health of its victims. The effects go way beyond the visible black eye or bruises often associated with domestic violence and they may last for years, even long after the abuse has stopped, according to Dr. Campbell. Research shows abuse victims to be at significant risk for hypertension, high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes, chronic pain, chronic irritable bowel syndrome and pregnancy-related problems. Head injuries and strangulation put victims at increased risk for strokes, memory loss, seizures, blackouts, dizziness and difficulties with concentrating. Many IPV victims are sexually abused, resulting in STD's, HIV, cervical cancer and internal injuries. And mental health repercussions of IPV include higher incidences of depression, post traumatic stress syndrome and suicide. During her presentation, Dr. Campbell discussed ways medical staff could assist victims of domestic violence and urged doctors to develop greater awareness of the possible connection between health problems and IPV in their patients. Attendees at the forums included representatives from Norwalk Hospital, the Stamford Health Department, the Norwalk Community Health Center, UCONN School of Nursing, Fairfield University School of Nursing, Yale School of Nursing, Family ReEntry and the Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education, among others. A separate presentation was held for supervisory nurses at Stamford Hospital.

 Dr. Andrew Klein, who is an expert in the study of the criminal justice system's response to domestic violence, focused on the topic of dual arrests and batterer programs in his presentation to members of the legal and law enforcement communities over two days in Hartford and Stamford. After giving some overall historical perspective on domestic violence and the criminal justice system, Klein homed in on the disparity between Connecticut's dual arrest rate in domestic violence cases and that of the rest of the country. Since 1988, dual arrests in Connecticut have accounted for 20% to 40% of domestic violence arrests, compared to 3.8% nationwide. Multiple problems arise when the victim is arrested along with the abuser. Dual arrests flood the domestic violence docket courts with cases of questionable merit. They often make it difficult for prosecutors to hold the appropriate individual accountable. And, most importantly, a dual arrest re-victimizes the victim by labeling her as an offender, which creates a level of mistrust and makes it less likely she will seek help in the future.

 "How devastating it is to suffer abuse and then be arrested for it" Dr. Klein said.