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Numerous “best practices” were on display in domestic violence criminal court yesterday.
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Almost any day court is open, you can find Court Watch volunteers in each of Montgomery County’s three courthouses. We are observing judges, interpreters, bailiffs and clerks in each case on the protective order docket. Monitors also observe domestic violence criminal cases twice weekly. The most common dv-related criminal charges are second degree assault, violating a protective order, and malicious destruction of property.
Volunteers collect data on questions such as these:
- Do judges tell abusers to turn in their firearms once a protective order is issued against them?
- Are victims safe from their abusers when they leave the courthouse? (Do bailiffs allow victims to leave court at least 10 minutes ahead of their abusers, so they do not have to fear being harassed or assaulted on the way to their car or bus?
- Are both parties treated with courtesy and respect by judges, baliffs, clerks and interpreters?
Stories from court: in their own words
In the past four years Court Watch Montgomery volunteers have listened to over 4,000 victims of domestic violence tell their stories in court. Theses stories remind us how desperately survivors need full and effective legal protection.
“He took me outside in the winter in my wheelchair, and he sprayed me with the hose.”
“He threatened to throw our three month old baby into the ocean and let her drown, or throw her over a balcony.”
“He held a blowtorch near my leg.”
“He pushed and shoved me. My six year old son and I fell down the stairs. My son hurt his neck.”
“He told me bodies burn at 800 degrees and that he would kill me and hide my body in the forest in Pennsylvania and no one will ever find me.”