Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney James VanEerten has submitted a grant application to the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services seeking funding to create the Ottawa County Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Response Team (DV/SART).
If approved, the application would utilize Ohio’s Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program for the two-year budget cost of $253,000.
The Ottawa County DV/SART Program would be led by Ottawa County VanEerten, who would hire two new full-time employees to run the program and provide necessary services. The direction of the program would be overseen by an advisory board of law enforcement, mental health and addiction treatment providers, housing specialists and other community stakeholders.
The program has been called a “second responder” program to provide in-person services to the victim. When dealing with victims of assault, he or she can often have more questions than answers. The DV/SART officer can provide assistance in answering questions and linking victims to necessary services.
Police responding to domestic/sexual assault cases are often tasked with fact finding and and often times do not have the resources or specialized knowledge to provide immediate crisis intervention to the victims. Leading scientific research has shown that crisis intervention and links to services greatly increases the likelihood of conviction and lowers the rate of recidivism in assaults
In a majority of cases, said VanEerten, victims become uncooperative with the prosecution, often recanting statements or obstructing prosecution because they feel like they cannot live without the abuser for financial support, transportation, employment or child care.
Without crisis intervention and emergency social services, the victim may feel they have no other choice than to return to the offender. The DV/ART program would provide needed services, from crisis intervention to emergency housing, transportation, long-term housing solutions, linkage to mental health and addiction services and counseling, employment, and other social services, such as Medicaid, food stamps, and cash assistance and rental help.
Victims can get specialized support, especially during the initial stages of the investigation to ensure evidence necessary for prosecution is gathered and documented, and to reduce the victim’s level of trauma.
It is VanEerten’s belief that if the DV/SART program can provide the necessary services to victims, it can increase the efficacy of their prosecutions and lower the number of repeat offenders and victims.