Washington County VA

Finding ways to speed up domestic violence cases

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Experts say there is no easy solution to domestic violence, partly due to the complex nature of the crime and a lack of witnesses, and partly due to the cumbersome court system.

Washington County, Virginia Sheriff's Office Detective Steve Reed talked to us about the topic on Thursday. "In a lot of cases, without some type of help or intervention, there's going to be another incident down the road," said Reed.

Detective Reed told News 5 that time is the enemy. Reed has had cases go 11 months or more before heading to court. "The victims don't want to wait that long. They don't want to feel on pins and needles for that period of time, and then have to go through so many processes in the court system," said Reed.

This is where attorneys like Elizabeth Bruzzo come in to play; she helps victims navigate the turbulent judicial waters. "I work in it every day, and I still learn something new every day. They have multiple processes. This isn't just where the victim goes to court and says, 'I'm being abused. I need help,' and that's the end, " said Bruzzo.

Bruzzo told News 5 that an emergency protective order is just the beginning for abuse victims.There are often custody issues, divorce proceedings and in some cases eviction. Court is not quick. "It is not short. It's very long." said Bruzzo. "If there are children involved, it can be drawn out a period of time until they are 18."

Both Bruzzo and Detective Reed are part of a group dedicated to making the court process easier: the Washington County/ City of Bristol, Virginia Coordinated Community Response Team. The CCRT looks at how the system as a whole responds to domestic violence, and tries to address gaps in victim services.

Bruzzo said the CCRT was able to get a special court session for abuse cases. An expedited domestic abuse court docket is held every Tuesday of each month, except the first, between 9 a.m. and noon. "The court only hears cases related to domestic violence or sexual violence, " said Bruzzo.

"Victims just want to move on and sometimes the court system holds them back from moving on," said Reed.

The CCRT is trying to cut down on that delay.

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