After leaving the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office in 1976, I was appointed to serve as the Chief Assistant to Los Angeles City Attorney Burt Pines at a time when domestic violence cases were a low law enforcement priority throughout the United States and even challenged as a legitimate criminal prosecution concern by many who considered conduct in the home as a private family matter.
“Reluctant victims” were hesitant to cooperate with the prosecution and were at risk of being threatened by perpetrators to “drop charges.”
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, where I was responsible for supervising approximately 125 prosecutors in its Criminal Branch, instituted a program in 1978 that changed this culture, initiating reforms that have become standard in the last 45 years. The objective was to establish an understanding that crimes of violence committed by persons living in a continuing personal relationship are not less criminal than those involving strangers. Emphasizing the public prosecutor’s sole responsibility to file and dismiss criminal charges, threats from perpetrators were no longer effective tools of intimidation.
Many of the reforms initiated by the Los Angeles City Attorney have been implemented in California law during the last 45 years, and what was innovative then has become the standard today.
Nevertheless, domestic violence continues to represent a constant threat to children and the fabric of our community. It takes strong voices to break the silence around domestic violence, but every single step and every single voice counts, from those involved in legislation to families, friends, and neighbors. It is imperative that all of us continue to work together to reduce the incidence of domestic violence, to stop the cycles and eliminate the stereotypes that provide obstacles to progress.
Here in Santa Barbara County, we are fortunate to have Domestic Violence Solutions to provide safe and confidential shelter, support and advocacy and to play a leadership role in education and effecting social change.
I urge you to “take a step” to raise awareness and save lives by signing up to run, walk, and roll to support Domestic Violence Solutions in its 5K Run for Love at dvsrunforlove.org.