Victim Services-National Crime Victim’s Rights Week-DC Public Safety

Welcome to DC Public Safety-radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

See for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at

We welcome your comments or suggestions at or at Twitter at

– Audio Begins –
Len Sipes: From our studios in downtown Washington D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. This is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and one of the things we’re doing today is to talk about the issue of victims’ rights. I started with the victims’ rights issue decades ago when I was the senior specialist for crime prevention and victims’ services for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, and even back then, it was just an emerging topic, because there was a lot of conflict between victims and the criminal justice system that is designed to serve them, but in many cases did not. To talk about this whole issue of victims services in today’s world, we have three principals with us. We have Bonnie Andrews, she is the victims’ services program manager for my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we have Michelle Thomas from the United States Attorney’s Office, she is a victims program specialist, and again, from my agency, we have Peggy Sandifer, she is a community supervision officer dealing specifically with domestic violence, and to ladies, welcome to D.C. Public Safety, a very quick commercial. Ladies and gentlemen, we respond to every inquiry, every email, every Twitter, we really appreciate all of the response that you’ve given us, all the feedback, we’re up to about 130,000 requests on a monthly basis, and we are really appreciative. If you want to get in touch with me directly, it is Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – .sipes – S-I-P-E-S –, or follow me via Twitter at – L-E-N – sipes – S-I-P-E-S – no space, and back to our guests, Bonnie Andrews, the victims’ services program manager for my agency, again, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, tell me about a little bit about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Bonnie.

Bonnie Andrews: Good morning, Len. Thank you for having us here, and we’re always happy to talk about victims of crime, particularly this week, the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is the time when we celebrate victims of crime, the rights that victims have, and the service providers that do such wonderful work in their communities with working with victims of crime.

Len Sipes: An extraordinarily difficult topic. As a former police officer, I dealt with the victims and families all the time. And wow!

Bonnie Andrews: It is difficult.

Len Sipes: I, was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done in my life. How do you go up to a family and say that your daughter’s just been raped, and she’s at Memorial Hospital, and here are the circumstances as we understand them, we’ve got an active ongoing criminal investigation, so we’re going to need your help, in looking at a family of shocked people? I mean, so it’s not just the victim, as tragic as the story that I’m saying, it’s the victim’s family, it’s the larger community that is impacted by this, there are going to be hundreds, if not thousands of people that are going to be making decisions based on their perception of their own personal safety, based upon this case, so the issue of victims’ services is enormously important to us.

Bonnie Andrews: Absolutely. With any type of crime, it’s difficult to approach the victim and/or the family, where the family is a victim also, they become a secondary victim as does the community. But you have to keep in mind that dealing with the victim and the families, to be respectful, respectful of what they’re going through, and to be empathetic with that person, or people, and honest, that regardless of what they’re going through, that you have to be honest with them about the circumstances, but I think that Michelle Thomas could probably answer that question a little further –

Len Sipes: The perfect segue as we go over to Michelle Thomas! And Michelle, with the United States Attorney’s office, you know, again, Michelle, one of the things I do want to point out to our listeners is that anybody in the District of Columbia, although our show is heard worldwide, within the District of Columbia, within Washington D.C., the nation’s capital, all of the major criminal justice agencies have victims’ representatives, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s the police department, the United States Attorney’s Office, or our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the whole concept is that any one of us is there to assist victims of crime.

Nichelle Thomas: That’s true, and we’re all advocates. There are advocates on all fronts, whether it’s with the Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Attorney’s Office, or CSOSA, we basically have the same kind of role in assisting the victim. My role, in my office, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office is to basically listen to the victim, help the victim decide what his or her needs are, and try to figure out how to best meet those needs, to do a plan for safety for the victim and their family.

Len Sipes: Now one of the issues here, and I think this has been brought up in research, it’s been brought up probably through a hundred hearings or more, a thousand hearings or more throughout the country, is that victims of crime and their family members have complained bitterly in the past that we, within the criminal justice bureaucracy, simply don’t give them time, don’t, we won’t listen to them, that they’re, I don’t know, that they become almost adversaries. We have to do a criminal investigation, so we’re limited in terms of the information that we give out, one of their big complaints in the past have been prosecutorial officers throughout the country who would basically, decide upon a plea bargain without involving the victim, victims have said traditionally they’re left out, so what do we say to victims now?

Nichelle Thomas: Well, you know what? There is a basic law, it’s a crime victims rights act that defines the rights for victims, and that is a victim has the right to be heard, reasonably protected, timely noticed of proceedings, unreasonable delay, they need to be heard at the hearings, they can confer with the government prosecutors, they should be treated with dignity and respect. That’s basically it.

Len Sipes: The crimes victim – Crime Victims’ Rights Act is, what, national?

Nichelle Thomas: That’s a federal law.

Len Sipes: That’s a federal law.

Nichelle Thomas: Yes.

Len Sipes: And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to have you all here. It’s a federal law. It is a federal law with the things that you just mentioned, must happen, that we, within the criminal justice system – there are a lot of people that are in the criminal justice system, and I’m not quite sure they understand that there is indeed a federal law that applies to crime victims. So in essence, what that act is saying is that we, and that applies to local law enforcement agencies, and state law enforcement agencies, not just federal law enforcement agencies, or criminal justice agencies, I should say, it applies to all of us, and basically, it says that we’ve got to really listen to and respect the victim’s point of view.

Nichelle Thomas: We have to!

Len Sipes: Okay, Bonnie. Go ahead please.

Bonnie Andrews: Len, you mentioned that some of the victims have noted that their voices are not often heard, and that’s one of the purposes of having victim advocates within the agencies, the law enforcement agencies, is to have a sounding board available for that victim.

Len Sipes: Right, but here’s my point is that all of us work in bureaucracies. I have been in the criminal justice system since I was, for the last 40 years. Since I was 18, I was a cadet in the Maryland State Police. All of us know that bureaucracies can really push back hard when you’re being a pain. I’m a public affairs officer, sometimes I have to actually advocate for stuff that’s not popular amongst the hierarchy, and I’m not talking about this agency, I’m talking about all my agencies. It’s sometimes hard to push up against management saying your decision is not the right decision, you really do need to understand the circumstances here when I have to advocate for a reporter’s point of view! It’s the same with you guys, it’s not the easiest thing to get in there and be sure that the victim is taken care of.

Bonnie Andrews: Well, we operate within the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, and that is law, it’s a federal law.

Len Sipes: How often do you have to remind bureaucrats that that law exists?

Bonnie Andrews: Quite often. [laughter]

Len Sipes: Yeah, quite often. And that’s my point, my point is that all of us who are quite passionate about victims and serving victims, we’ve got to be advocates. All of us have to be advocates, correct? You know, Michelle, we have to be advocates for victim services, and sometimes we have to push our administrators to do the right thing.

Nichelle Thomas: And you know, one of the things that we’re doing during this week is to bring forward a mini conference. Now Bonnie Andrews hosts an annual roundtable discussion on different topics. This year, I’m privileged, because she’s pulled me in along with a group called “Breaking the Silence – East of the River Committee” so that we can pick a topic, and the topic that we picked to share, this year, is prosecuting cases with multiple victims and witnesses, and we’re putting in place all the blood, sweat, and tears that a team of people have to go through to bring a perpetrator to justice. So we’re doing that this week.

Len Sipes: And the key issue in all of this is interagency cooperation. I’m going to go to Peggy Sandifer. Peggy, one of the things that you do in terms of your outreach to victims is, and I know all of you, all three of you deal with the domestic violence issue, but you in particular as a community supervision officer here of my agency, you work with the domestic violence population, correct?

Peggy Sandifer: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, tell me a little bit about that.

Peggy Sandifer: Well, what I do, I facilitate groups for men and women who either have been convicted of or admitted to use of domestic violence –

Len Sipes: Okay, and it’s mostly men –

Peggy Sandifer: Yes.

Len Sipes: Overwhelmingly men.

Peggy Sandifer: But the female population is beginning to grow.

Len Sipes: Okay, and what does that, what does that mean? So you’re there telling the individuals who are charged, or convicted rather of acts of domestic violence, because we are, basically a parole and probation agency, so they’ve been convicted, I’m almost certain in virtually all cases, of probation, they’ve been placed on probation by a judge, and they’ve been basically put in, or we put them into domestic violence unit, what do you say when you’re talking to individuals about their victims?

Peggy Sandifer: Well the domestic violence intervention program is for people who have admitted to or either been found guilty of domestic violence. Then they come to our program, we have a 1-hour orientation program that will tell them or give them an idea what’s going to happen, or what’s going to be discussed for the next 22 sessions. Our sessions are once a week, an hour and a half, and we talk about the power and control week, such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, isolation, intimidation, and things like that, and they are confronted and challenged regarding their behaviors.

Len Sipes: The big complaint on the part of domestic violence victims is that the individual won’t leave them alone, especially if there is a protective order. We can actually put Global Positioning System or tracking device on them that automatically alerts us that if this individual is within a half mile of the victim’s home or the victim’s place of work, correct?

Peggy Sandifer: But the only problem with that, Leonard, is that when people are in love, and these emotions are going this way and that way, they don’t know if they want to stay, they don’t know if they want to go back, it’s very difficult.

Len Sipes: But isn’t that the heart and soul, Peggy, of why those of us in the Criminal Justice System who have been not the most staunch supporters of victims rights, isn’t that the heart and soul of the difficulty in terms of our relationship with victims, because victims are, one day, the victims want the individual prosecuted, and the next day, the victims are going, eh, I think I’ve changed my mind, and in some cases, they can change their mind, in some cases, whether they like it or not, they’re going to court.

Peggy Sandifer: My experience is that the ladies want the abuse to stop –

Len Sipes: Right. They don’t necessarily want them prosecuted –

Peggy Sandifer: Right, they just want the abuse to stop, and from my side, it’s very difficult to talk to a victim to get them to understand that domestic violence is progressive. It can start with an emotional abuse, and then it goes to physical abuse, maybe somebody calls you a nasty dirty name, and then the next time, they call you a nasty dirty name and they push. The next time, they call you a nasty dirty name, they push you, they shove you, and they pop you in the mouth.

Len Sipes: It is progressive, and I totally agree with you, and when we’re talking about domestic violence, because it’s the larger issue of service to victims, it gets down into stranger to stranger violence vs. interpersonal violence, and most child victims are victimized by somebody they know, most women are victimized by somebody who they know, and that’s U.S. Department of Justice Statistics. So we’ve got that part of it, and we’ve got stranger-to-stranger crime that we do need to talk about, somebody who pops out and just puts a gun to your head and wants your money, but even that’s stereotypical, because in 3/4 of robberies, a firearm is not displayed, but I’m digressing. Getting back to your issue, it is making sure that we respect victims’ rights, but once a victim has announced that they’ve been victimized in a domestic violence case, and when I say domestic violence, I’m not talking about, in many cases, shoving or hitting. I’m talking about, in many cases, if not most cases, the woman victim was beaten up, correct? Okay. So I just want to make that clear. Once she makes that announcement, then she has to proceed with those charges.

Peggy Sandifer: Well, when you’re talking about being victimized, a lot of shame and embarrassment comes with that.

Len Sipes: Right.

Peggy Sandifer: And it’s the thing, people, most of the time, a woman will have been victimized anywhere up to 6-10 times before she actually calls the police, and more often than not, a neighbor will call the police rather than the victim.

Len Sipes: And if it’s a case, in the District of Columbia and most cities throughout the country now, once the police respond to a domestic violence case, if they see evidence of domestic violence, they have to make an arrest.

Peggy Sandifer: Well, the law in District of Columbia, that arrest has to be made. Somebody has to go.

Len Sipes: There you go. And if they fight each other, then both go.

Peggy Sandifer: Both go.

Len Sipes: The issue, the larger issue, and this begot or begat a larger issue of, again, we’re there to serve victims, but victims, at the same time, need to understand that they need to cooperate with prosecutors, and that’s, isn’t that a whirlwind, we’re going to go back to Michelle Thomas from the United States Attorney’s Office, that’s a whirlwind problem of trying to accommodate the victim’s needs, trying to be sympathetic to the victims need, but the victim needs to be involved in prosecuting the person who did this to him or her.

Nichelle Thomas: Most of the victims want to be involved, but there are a lot of obstacles that would prevent a victim from going forward.

Len Sipes: They are?

Nichelle Thomas: If we’re talking about D.C. alone, there are probably a couple of shelters, there are two shelters that house victims and their children. They probably turn away maybe 9-10 families for every one that they can provide –

Len Sipes: That’s a tragedy.

Nichelle Thomas: – shelter for, so that’s a tragedy.

Len Sipes: So what she’s saying in terms, and we’re talking domestic violence, and I do want to broaden it to all crime, but in terms of domestic violence, if you don’t have any place to take the kids, you’re stuck with your set of circumstances, and that indeed is a tragedy, because we’re not talking about yelling, we’re not talking about screaming, most of the cases that I’ve been involved in as a police officer, you’re talking about the male really putting a hurting onto the female victim.

Nichelle Thomas: Well, in our office, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we have a no tolerance for crime, and prosecutors in our office will simply take a perpetrator to court, and it’s my role as an advocate, victim witness program person to assist with meeting the needs of a victim, finding a safe place, and often, there’s no safe place to refer a person to. We have the crime victim compensation program, our office has a witness security program, but we’re not always able to accommodate a victim.

Len Sipes: And that’s the crux of the criminal justice system across the board, because we don’t have enough cops, we don’t have enough correctional officers, we don’t have enough probation agents, we don’t have enough drug treatment, we don’t have enough mental health treatment, we don’t have enough victim service resources, so that becomes sort of a problem for all of us in the criminal justice system, this larger issue of resources. Go ahead, Ms. Sandifer.

Peggy Sandifer: And a lot of reasons why victim don’t leave is the economic piece, especially if the male is bringing in the majority of the money, you know, they don’t have any money coming in on their own, and we always try to encourage them to try to put a little money aside so that you can get away.

Len Sipes: These are real world issues, almost in many cases insurmountable issues that all three of you deal with on a day-in/day-out basis. What do you do to escape the pressure and strain? Bonnie Andrews, it is, I used to go and work directly with victims when I was in law enforcement, and boy, I had to go home and prop up my feet and have a beer or two, it was like, my heavens, that’s a tough set of circumstances to be, and how do you cope with it?

Bonnie Andrews: I’m an exercise junkie! [laughter]

Len Sipes: There you go! There you go!

Bonnie Andrews: I believe that we have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of the victim. We can’t neglect our own bodies or our spiritual base, we have to stay centered, and sometimes we are human, so we can’t always do that, we have off days just like everyone else, but the roundtable that I started to facilitate about 7 years ago is one of the resources that we use for victim advocates to come together and look at our obstacles that all of us face, whether we’re in Maryland, D.C. or Virginia, we continue to face the same –

Len Sipes: You all get together in the tri-state area from the District of Columbia, and Maryland, Virginia, to talk about all this?

Bonnie Andrews: We look at resources that may not be available, and we collaborate with the resources that are there, we put a face to the names of the providers that we talk to on the phone on a regular basis, and we share information that may be helpful with other victim service providers that we may not have had before coming to the roundtable.

Len Sipes: Want to remind everybody that this is D.C. Public Safety, we’re talking our halfway through break way late. Bonnie Andrews is the victim services program manager for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. From the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we have Michelle Thomas, she’s a victim program specialist. Also at the microphones is Peggy Sandifer, she’s a community supervision officer dealing specifically with domestic violence. Bonnie, I’m going to continue with you for a second. Okay, so how do we convince people who are very skeptical? I mean, calling the IRS, calling the Environmental Protection Agency, calling your local police department, I mean, most people are scared to death to do that. I’ve been in the system for 40 years, and I don’t like contacting government, because we have this view of government as being standoffish and bureaucratic and pushing back. How do you convince people that we really are here to help them? How do we convince people to call us?

Bonnie Andrews: We are here continuously providing education and information to the community, and we do this job because we are passionate about it. It’s nothing glamorous about working with a victim of crime and seeing that person at the worst possible moment of their life, so you have to have a sense of passion about the work that you do, and that shows in the work that you do every day.

Len Sipes: Metropolitan Police Department has their own victims services –

Bonnie Andrews: Yes they do.

Len Sipes: And most police departments throughout the country have their own victim services coordinator, but we did, I mean for everybody, it’s just really hard to convince people, come to us, we want to listen to you, we want to help you understand how the criminal justice system works and what to do.

Bonnie Andrews: You know, a person, a victim may call, for instance, a victim may call me and want services when they initially make that call, and after I have talked to them about the services that may be available, they may change their mind on that day, but I have to leave the door open for them to know that, if you don’t want the services today, maybe next week you might want the services or next month, and we have to leave that door open to let them know that they can come back at any time without any questions being asked or any judgment being placed on that person.

Len Sipes: But you understand the nature of the bureaucracy. An average citizen goes, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to call Motor Vehicles!” I’ve got stories to tell about Maryland’s motor vehicles, let me tell you! And so you have this, oh heavens, I’ve got to filter my way through this bureaucracy, in essence, any police officer is supposed to refer that person to victim services, any community supervision officer without our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency is supposed to refer people to you. Anybody within the United States Attorney’s Office is supposed to refer people to Michelle, we’re all supposed to be there instantaneously, but to me, I don’t know of a group of people who are more passionate within the criminal justice system than victim providers. You all are gutsy people to be able to deal with the bureaucracy on a day to day basis and deal with the people with huge needs, but that was my question, how do you really convince people – okay Michelle, and then we’ll go over to Peggy, how do you really convince people that the bureaucracy really wants to hear from you in your most difficult of times?

Nichelle Thomas: You know, a lot of the calls that I get are people that have called the police out of fear for their life, so sometimes the balance is so great it would prompt the victim to call, or the neighbors would call to say, please come, this person is in danger, and in DC, about 4500 complaints filed each year in domestic violence intake centers, so people are coming forward, but the outreach efforts on all our behalf, it’s necessary.

Len Sipes: But domestic violence is almost part of the everyday reaction of the Criminal Justice System. I mean, I do want to emphasize that there are victims of robbery, victims of burglary, there are people who would simply mug, there are people who were simply beaten up, there were people who were threatened or intimidated, you know, there’s all sorts of crimes that, when we talk about crime out there, so that person is walking down the street and was pushed to the ground, and their purse was taken, and they were violently pushed to the ground, they were injured, they have to go to the hospital, so suddenly this person who was just angry and hurt and scared all at the same time has to come to grips with, oh geez, now I’ve got to deal with the criminal justice system.

Nichelle Thomas: Well, you know, that’s a process. In D.C., the police, they play a really major role, because that’s the link between the community and the criminal justice system. For must of us on this panel today, most of our phone calls from victims come through interaction with police.

Len Sipes: And most cops are victims advocates. That’s my guess. Now am I right or wrong? Feel free to disagree.

Nichelle Thomas: For the most part, I mean, the police have come a long way. We do training as a matter of fact, for the Metropolitan Police Department to increase their sensitivity about cases that involve crime, and so for the most part, police have come a long way and made a great change toward victim advocacy.

Len Sipes: Okay. Stephanie, or Peggy, you’ve been trying to, enjoying the conversation, and I apologize for taking so long to get around to you. So what is your take on this, you represent the parole and probation system, do our people fully understand the needs and rights of victims?

Peggy Sandifer: Well we have to make, well I have to make contacts with the victims as well, and I always let them know about the services that are available for them, but you also have to go a little bit deeper than that, because most of us were brought up in homes where what goes on in our house stays, what goes on in our house stays in our house, and that’s why we try to keep that secret. You know, a family can look like they’re the best family in the world, a “Leave it to Beaver” family.

Len Sipes: Yeah, nobody knows what’s going on behind closed doors, that’s right.

Peggy Sandifer: But nobody knows what’s going on behind those close doors, there’s so much shame, and it’s very difficult to compare that kind of crime to somebody being robbed on the street, because people that’s involved in this, they have feelings about each other.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Peggy Sandifer: And that’s the difference.

Len Sipes: Well, that is the difference, but I didn’t want the show to be about domestic violence, I wanted the show to be about the broader issue of crime victimization, but the domestic violence part of it is something that has always been very special to me. My first case as a cadet in the state police riding with the trooper was going to a domestic violence incident with a trailer, and we knocked on the door of the trailer, and here’s a woman who answered the door, and her face is twice its size. He had beaten her with a frying pan, and the issue here is that she didn’t want to prosecute, and as far as we were concerned, that’s aggravated assault, we didn’t need her permission to arrest her husband, and her husband fought, as he was drunk, and from that day, I said to myself, “my god, how many women,” – I know men are victims too.

Peggy Sandifer: Somebody’s being abused right now.

Len Sipes: The degree of victimization is astounding, and the impact on their lives and the families is astounding. So that’s, I just wanted to broaden it, however important it is beyond the larger criminal justice system, we’re going to go back to Bonnie Andrews, so Bonnie, what am I saying that’s right or wrong?

Bonnie Andrews: Well, we don’t want to belabor this point about domestic violence, because we know this is National Crime Victims Rights’ Week, and that encompasses all types of crimes, but when we look at the crimes that we deal with, particularly within our agency, CSOSA, we come, we tend to, 90% of the time, we tend to come back to domestic violence –

Len Sipes: Really?

Bonnie Andrews: We do.

Len Sipes: Really?

Bonnie Andrews: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay, so the victims of robbery, and the victims of burglary, and the victims of muggings, and the victims of aggravated assaults, they pretty much go on with their lives?

Bonnie Andrews: No, I’m not saying that they pretty much go on with their lives, but when we get an offender that we are working with, at some point, even if that offender has been convicted of a drug crime, and I’ll give you, for instance, an example of a woman that I worked with this morning. Her husband had been convicted of a drug crime, but when she came in to see me this morning, she did not come into my office this morning because of his drug crime, but she came in because of domestic violence.

Len Sipes: And it just struck me in terms of this entire conversation, I’m stupid at times, and I just don’t get it at first, regardless of my years in the criminal justice – I am too, because I ask my wife and daughters. The point is, is that domestic violence is a continuing, ongoing thing, whereas robbery is a one-time event, so that’s why you’re probably seeing the degree of domestic violence victims. You’re going to have to wrap up, we’re almost through the 30 second point. Bonnie, I’m going to give you the final word. Just tell victims of crime what they need to do.

Bonnie Andrews: We are here for you in any agency, law enforcement agency that you come into contact with, there should be a victim service advocate, victim service provider within that agency –

Len Sipes: And if there’s not there’s somebody at the state level. If there’s not, there’s somebody within that agency who’s there to take care of you.

Bonnie Andrews: You will call 911. Want you to call 911 first, because the law, police, MPD, they need to be on the scene to protect you –

Len Sipes: And law enforcement agencies throughout the country, need to dial 911. Bonnie Andrews, the Victim Services Program Manager for the court services and offender supervision agency, from the United States Attorney’s Office. Michelle Thomas, Victims Program Specialist, and Peggy Sandifer, she’s a community supervision officer, otherwise known throughout most of the country as a parole and probation agent, she is now specializing in domestic violence. Ladies, thank you very much for being on the show. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Again, we respond to every comment, every call, every email, we appreciate your suggestions for the show, we appreciate your criticisms as well, anything that you have to say, we welcome them, and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.
– Audio Ends –

Meta terms: victim rights, victimization, crime victims, victim advocacy , domestic violence, crimes against women, reentry, crime, criminals, criminal justice, prison, incarceration


Supervising Domestic Violence Offenders

This Radio Program is available at

This Television Program is available at

[Video Begins]

Segment One

Leonard Sipes: Hi, welcome to D.C. Public Safety, I’m Len Sipes. Our show today focuses on domestic violence, and every one of us knows someone who has been a victim of this crime. The question is whether or not domestic violence offenders can be successfully supervised and treated? Can they end the cycle of interpersonal violence? To answer that question we have two individuals on our first segment; one currently under supervision by my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and the person in charge of supervising domestic violence offenders. They are branch chief Valerie Collins and Dennis Smith. And to Valerie and to Dennis, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Dennis Smith: Thank you.

Valerie Collins: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: All right, Valerie, you’re the person in charge, you’ve been around for 20 years, you’re the true veteran-give me a sense of your Domestic Violence Unit in the District of Columbia; how many offenders do you supervise, and how many staff are supervising people?

Valerie Collins: Currently we have about 1200 offenders under supervision for domestic violence.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, so that’s one thousand two hundred?

Valerie Collins: One thousand two hundred.

Leonard Sipes: That’s a lot of people.

Valerie Collins: It’s a lot of people.

Leonard Sipes: And how many staff do we have to do that?

Valerie Collins: And right now we have about 50 staff-

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Valerie Collins: -who provide supervision and treatment services.

Leonard Sipes: Well that’s a big staff and that’s a lot of offenders to supervise, and you just hit the two key themes of this show, which is supervising domestic violence offenders and treating domestic violence offenders. Tell me a little bit about the treatment.

Valerie Collins: Well, our treatment component is a 22-week psychosocial educational program; we follow the Duluth model for domestic violence, which is the national model-

Leonard Sipes: And the Duluth-the national model, yes.

Valerie Collins: -in the country. And basically what we do is we provide our services for the offenders, they come in once a week for a 90-minute period, they come into a group setting and they learn about domestic violence. They learn to take responsibility for their behavior. And then the key component is getting some skill so that they will no longer engage in this behavior.

Leonard Sipes: Right. At the same time, we do supervise the dickens out of them, we drug test them, we hold them very accountable, and we’ll get to that in a second. Dennis, one of the things that I wanted to do with you, Valerie mentioned taking responsibility, and in conversations that we’ve had, one of the hallmarks of where you are right now in terms of being charged with this crime is just that, taking responsibility, correct?

Dennis Smith: That is correct.

Leonard Sipes: Tell me a little bit about what happened to you and how you got involved in all of this.

Dennis Smith: Well basically I had an ongoing cycle with my wife. She was my live-in girlfriend for quite a while and we had many reoccurrences in the city of Richmond where I was charged with domestic violence, and I was given mild jail terms, suspended sentences. Moved to D.C. and within a ten-year period, we had no occurrences of that, once we got married the cycle picked up again.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. So the cycle of physical violence between intimate couples is not unusual. One of the things, and this question can go to either one of you, one of the things that I read in a Department of Justice document the other day was that one in 300 households experiences domestic violence. So as ride the train or the subway, or as we ride through the District or Virginia or Maryland, it’s easy to see thousands upon thousands of homes, which means we’re looking at hundreds of victims of domestic violence-this is not unusual. Valerie.

Valerie Collins: You’re absolutely correct, Mr. Sipes. Domestic violence cuts across all racial and socioeconomic lines, and so it’s not just a problem that you would say is in one particular neighborhood or you know, one particular city, but it is a national problem.

Leonard Sipes: Right. But Dennis, going back to you set of circumstances, all right, so you were charged before, you moved the District of Columbia, and you were charged again in the District of Columbia. Now what happened-the judge gave you what?

Dennis Smith: The judge gave me an imposed sentence of conditionary probation, meaning if I completed all the requirements of the program that the record would be expunged-

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Dennis Smith: -and that I would be turned released in good standing.

Leonard Sipes: Now you went through-when you came to the program, is this what you ordinarily got in the past, or was this a different experience?

Dennis Smith: This was a totally different experience. In the past I might have gotten seven days in jail, weekend incarceration, or what they call weekend support where I would do detail work for the Department of Transportation cleaning up roadsides.

Leonard Sipes: But nothing was there to help you understand that pattern of domestic violence and the fact that it’s, you know, completely unacceptable, as you and I would agree today, and that it’s wrong and that’s the bottom line, correct?

Dennis Smith: Correct. The difference here was that in D.C. it is mandatory upon being charged, that you go through what’s called pre-trial drug testing. And from what I gathered, that gave them the basic information to set up certain programs to educate me in ways of dealing with the stressing, the relationship, the financial difficulties that they go through which possibly leads up a lot of the domestic violence.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and basically talking about the triggers and how to deal with those triggers. In other words, when something happens in your life where in the past you would have reached out and hurt somebody or touched somebody, you know how to deal with those triggers without hurting or touching somebody, correct?

Dennis Smith: Correct. You implement what they call safety plans-they teach you how to implement safety plans and they give you fallback solutions, things that normally if you were caught in that cycle, you wouldn’t even think of, ‘hey, this is the simplest thing to do.’ You have a set of keys, walk out-walk away, turn around or just say, ‘I’m sorry,’ don’t react.

Leonard Sipes: Now I’ll express-the question can go to either one of you-I’ll express my own prejudice. There’s too much within our society that says it’s okay to hit women. I understand that it goes both ways, but the overwhelming majority of the perpetrators of domestic violence are men. So there is too much in our society-there’s too much in terms of music, there’s too much in terms of movies, there’s too much in terms of our attitudes that essentially says that it is okay for a man to physically assault a woman under those set of circumstances. And I think it’s very difficult because we in the larger society are sending a dual message; on one side we’re saying, ‘you do not touch your significant other, you do not touch your wife, you do not touch your spouse,’ and at the same time movies and music and the larger society for decades, for decades now has basically said, ‘no, it is okay to manhandle your significant other.’ Comments?

Valerie Collins: Well it was in the early 90s when things began to change regarding domestic violence, particularly in the District-1991, the mandatory arrest law, which indicated that, you know, when the police came to the home, we had to make an arrest. Previously, as Mr. Smith indicated, a lot times they come to the home and usually the male, 95% of battering is done by males, will be told to take a walk around the corner, go cool down, come back, there’s no intervention. And a week later the police are right back there to the same home.

Leonard Sipes: Over, and over, and over, and over again to the same home.

Valerie Collins: And over again-exactly. And the other thing with the treatment component is it’s the first opportunity for men to come and talk about what’s going on in terms of domestic violence-the issues of power/control, because that’s what it’s all about, domestic violence is power/control issues.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: So you give them the opportunity to talk about, you know, take responsibility for their behaviors, identify the type of behaviors they’ve engaged in, and then also have that forum with other men to discuss you know, ‘well what are your emotions beneath the anger? What are your cues to violence?’ as Mr. Smith talked about, and, ‘when you have those cues, how can I go ahead and take that time out?’ Walk away. A lot of men feel like if you walk away that’s not something that’s manly.

Leonard Sipes: Well Dennis, I want to get to that-how difficult is it for a group of men to sit together and talk about these feelings and talk about these emotions? Because my guess is a lot of the guys who are participating in these sessions feel up to this point, it’s a private matter.

Dennis Smith: Well, a lot of the groups I sat in, I found that amongst ourselves we’re able to let down that guard, but it’s totally different when you are in the moment, right in the moment of that situation that just blew out of control. And you’re looking at it from your perspective-it could be I just finished putting in 12 hours and I don’t understand why she’s coming in at me like this, and there’s no trigger to think-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: -at that point-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: -you just react.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: And before you know it, both of you are reacting and before you know it, it’s beyond reaction anymore. It’s gotten to the point where somebody, be it the male or the female, has reached out because no one had the ability to say, ‘okay, I can control this, I can stop this, this is gonna go way beyond where it needs to go.’ You’re reacting to that anger versus just kicking in a five-second, or a ten-second thought pattern and say, ‘why?’

Leonard Sipes: Do you feel that the folks within the group understand this, embrace it as you have? And you’re obviously very aware of what’s happened, you’re obviously very tuned into what’s happened, and I applaud you for that. But do you feel that the average man who comes into these groups is going to have the same sort of experience and thought process that you have now?

Dennis Smith: Initially I would say no, but the facilitators that y’all are using are the key role in establishing the control at that point. Some of the facilitators that I’ve worked with were able to break down that still present anger. You’re never gonna get rid of that anger until that individual accepts who he is, what he is, and accepts the change that y’all are trying to give him.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: But once that facilitator sees that channel of anger and he directs how to release it-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: -and within the group he tells us how to talk about it, how to get it out there. We don’t know-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: -we come at each other the same way we come at our mates in those groups.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: But that facilitator then interjects key things that we don’t know from living that cycle for so long. And if we absorb what that facilitator is saying and not take it personal as an attack on our character, then we can sit back and have a channel of thought. Once we engage that channel of thought that, ‘hey, maybe I am this controlling guy,’ because for me, personally I said-I constantly said I wasn’t controlling.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: And there were instances where I felt that the mate was the controller.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: But in all actuality what the facilitator taught me was I am the controller because I’m the one blowing it. I’m the one throwing steam.

Leonard Sipes: Right, and that you can control your own life, you can control set of circumstances, you can control those triggers.

Dennis Smith: I can also approach it, and that’s what he kept on emphasizing with me, the way I was approaching was the trigger.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: And her, not just my anger.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Dennis Smith: What I was saying and how I was saying was making her mad, making her come back at me. And each time she came back, I came back stronger because I was the stronger of the men.

Leonard Sipes: Valerie, we don’t have a lot of time in this first segment, but do you think that Dennis’ experience is pretty much characteristic of the other men who get involved in domestic violence, counseling treatment?

Valerie Collins: Dennis has said a couple key things. The first thing he said that he learned this-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: -you know, he says it’s something he’s been doing for a long time, so it is learned behavior.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: So they come to the groups, this is what they know; this is what they’ve learned in their family of origin. It’s intergenerational, you know, this has been going on, has been passed down, you know, from generation to generation as I said. And the other thing is the whole communication piece, and that’s the other thing as Dennis talked about in the group, is that you come and a lot of men, and this not an indictment on men, but a lot of men aren’t able to come and express their feelings. They’re able to say, ‘I was angry,’ but they can’t identify that they felt disrespected by their mate, you know, that they felt lonely when she went out with her mother shopping-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: -or something like that.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: So it’s getting them to identify their feelings and take responsibility for those feelings and then communicate that with their mate.

Leonard Sipes: If not only ending violence, but it’s improving the quality of their life at the same time.

Valerie Collins: Exactly, yes.

Leonard Sipes: Would the same message that domestic violence is completely unacceptable-

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: -and everybody knows that and everybody is comfortable with that after the treatment do you think?

Valerie Collins: Yes, I would say we have probably about 70, 75% success rate in terms of our group completion. So if people stay in there, they hang in there, it’s tough when you first get there.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: I would say those first three to four sessions no one wants to be there, they’re very angry, but if they hang in there and they bond with the group, then they’re able to move forward-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: -they’re able to deal with their own issues and their emotions and express that in a group-and get the help, like he said, from the facilitators.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, we’re gonna stop you right there. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us on the first half of D.C. Public Safety as we discussed domestic violence. Stay with us for the second half as we continue this very, very, very interesting conversation. We’ll be right back.
Segment Two

Leonard Sipes: Hi, and welcome back to D.C. Public Safety, I’m Len Sipes. Our next two guests are Valerie Collins, who you met in the first segment, and Mark Collins, a community supervision officer who supervises domestic violence offenders on a daily basis. And to Valerie and Mark, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. Welcome, Valerie, you had a major role in the first segment with Dennis as Dennis was explaining this whole metamorphosis that he went through. Certainly 15 minutes does not give it enough time, but we have this unfortunate sense of mostly men batters who think it’s okay to take out there expressions, to take out their frustrations in a violent way towards principally female victims. And I understand it’s a lot more complicated than that. For the men watching this show, I understand that whoever have been in this set of circumstances, I understand that they’re far more complicated than that. But the bottom line is that they can not hit, they can not touch, they can not strike their wives-significant other. They go through this training process, this counseling process where they learn that, and what you’re saying is that most of them come out of that with a sense that they understand that they can not do this.

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And that to me is a remarkable turnaround because isn’t a good part of the domestic violence problem cultural, that in many cases we come with this sense that it’s okay to do this?

Valerie Collins: Well it’s cultural, we’ve learned it just in society in general that you know, men are pretty much, you know, a king of the castle, that’s kind of in the historical point of view. And I can say it’s not changed until, you know, really the 90s when a lot of victims advocate groups got together and said, you know, ‘we have to make a change,’ and that’s because a lot of women were losing their lives as a result of domestic violence.

Leonard Sipes: And they were being battered half to death in some cases.

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: I going to tell you my experience, when I was a very young state trooper going to a house and finding the woman open the door and her face was twice its size-he had just beaten her with a frying pan. And my parents never-I never had this problem at home, and it was just completely flabbergasting. I can deal with horrible automobile accidents, I can deal with lots of different things, but that act of domestic violence completely threw me for a loop. That’s what we’re talking about in many cases aren’t we? The pushing and shoving and the hitting-in some cases, it can be pretty graphic.

Valerie Collins: It can be graphic but domestic violence is not only hitting and shoving and pushing. I think that’s important to understand that also, that there’s emotional violence, economic abuse, people threaten people with domestic violence. And the thing about domestic violence is if I threaten you, you know, maybe I point a gun at you or threaten to kill you, then I don’t have to hit you-it’s really all about power/control, it’s not just the hitting.

Leonard Sipes: All right. So larger issue-

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s a very important point.

Valerie Collins: Yes it is.

Leonard Sipes: So just to reemphasize, not to beat the point to death, and so we can have offenders who come into our program and actually truly recognize all of this and deal with all of this, and the vast majority will walk away with a sense that, ‘I’m not going to do this again,’ and they’re successful?

Valerie Collins: And we have to teach them also not to replace the physical violence with another form of violence.

Leonard Sipes: Right, okay.

Valerie Collins: So we do go through the entire what we call, you know, wheel of different types of violence so that they will understand that there are many forms of violence. And that really what you’re trying to get them to the point is where they’re gonna have what you call a relationship that’s based upon equality.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Valerie Collins: And so they have to understand about what it is to be in a relationship and a healthy relationship.

Leonard Sipes: I’m just trying-

Valerie Collins: So we go much beyond just talking about the hitting part of domestic violence.

Leonard Sipes: And that was my point of the first segment, was not only are they taught how to deal with their raw emotions during this time, but also as in many ways a way of improving their relationships with their significant others.

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Mark, you’ve been doing this for five years in the domestic violence beat, you’ve seen at this of the game just about everything possible. What’s your impression of the program and the sense of domestic violence across the board?

Mark Collins: Well I think CSOSA and the domestic violence program is doing wonders in the District of Columbia. Mr. Dennis Smith is one classic example of how the domestic violence-the treatment, the services that CSOSA has provided can actually impact an individual in a major way.

Leonard Sipes: And I think that’s one of the reasons why we have folks like Dennis on this program, was to, you know, whether the public hears it from me and hears it, sees it from you, I’m not quite sure it has the same impact if something like Dennis who has been caught up in the system, mature enough to understand that what he did was wrong and to learn from it and to move on and improved his life.

Mark Collins: Right, and that’s the key. We don’t want Dennis to leave or get off of probation this particular time and then to come back.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Mark Collins: We want him to be able to get off of probation and proceed with his life never to come back again, that’s our goal.

Leonard Sipes: In so many of these instances-again, as a young police officer, so many children are involved. You know, you go into a house and there’s an argument and a neighbor has called and you go in and there’s three or four kids. And the three or four kids are exposed to this, and you know that it’s not the first time that they’ve been exposed to it. So the other larger point that I wanted to make is that it’s just not these two individuals, it’s just not their relationship, it’s just not our statistics, it is the lives of multiple, multiple children who are caught up in this as well. And they are brought up with this sense of hitting and being hit and that this is the appropriate way to conduct their lives, then that propels them into acts of violence possibly in the future.

Mark Collins: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: You know, so I mean, is it-but a lot of our offenders if not most of our offenders, have kids.

Mark Collins: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: All right. When you supervise them, we do the normal supervision things where we go out to their home, where we join with the Metropolitan Police Department and we go to their home in terms of joint visits. In some cases we’ll put on global positioning system tracking devices on them to be sure that they stay away from their victims, you meet with them on a fairly frequent basis, you drug test them on a fairly frequent basis. Tell me about that experience.

Mark Collins: Well the whole experience, I think ever offender is different, every offender needs different services. A lot of offenders do have drug treatment needs, so we don’t want to just address the domestic violence needs-

Leonard Sipes: Oh, thank you for bringing that up, yeah.

Mark Collins: -we’ll address the drug treatment needs. And in Mr. Smith’s case, that was a service that he needed and it was addressed. And now Mr. Smith is drug-free, he understands-and one thing is important that Mr. Smith finally understood and was ready-his stage of change, he was ready to proceed on with his life, he was ready to be drug-free, he was ready to commit to the domestic violence, not just be in the classes, but commit to drug treatment, commit to the domestic violence intervention program. And one thing which is key, is the communication-Mr. Smith as well as other offenders, are very ready to communicate and ready to-I mean, sometimes me and Mr. Smith, we may sit down for a half an hour-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Mark Collins: -you know, an hour sometimes-we may have a conference with my SCSO. So we just want to make sure that he’s provided-that we can do everything possible so that he can go on and be productive.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s the key issue because I think-I go back to this cultural issue, I think it’s very manly of people like Dennis to look at his set of circumstances, to embrace the help that is there provided to him, and then to make that transformation. I think that that is gutsy; I think that that is manly. Obviously he knows what he did was wrong, but obviously he’s set now-and he was also telling me that he’s now employed as a contractor-

Mark Collins: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: -as an independent contractor and he’s working on a regular basis. So his life seems to have taken a substantial progress.

Mark Collins: Right.

Leonard Sipes: He’s making substantial progress.

Mark Collins: Major progress, he’s not even the same person that he was-

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Mark Collins: -back in February of ’06, not even the same person, just a totally different person.

Leonard Sipes: But at the beginning, I would imagine most of the offenders or most of the folks who come into our program aren’t that, they need to be restructured-

Mark Collins: Absolutely.

Leonard Sipes: -they need basically a wake up call-

Mark Collins: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: -that we’re not gonna tolerate domestic violence-

Mark Collins: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: -and we’re not gonna tolerate as Valerie put it, the larger psychological entrapment that many individuals use over their spouses, use over their significant others. Valerie, correct?

Valerie Collins: Oh, you’re absolutely correct, Mr. Sipes, and it’s because of people like Mr. Collins, their supervision, their extensive training in domestic violence, and using that special supervision to deal with this particular population. Always when they’re coming to the office talk to them about their relationships, doing a check-in with them, making sure that they are using the skills that they have learned in the treatment component. They generally end up completing their far before they complete their supervision.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: So it really is up to the CSO who has that-

Leonard Sipes: To continue that process.

Valerie Collins: -you know, day-to-day interaction with them-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: -who is gonna ensure that they’re using these tools. And so, you know, there’s a lot of services that are available. The CSO, they develop a supervision plan for the offender. A lot of times it is other needs outside of the domestic violence, it may be employment.

Leonard Sipes: Right, it could be anger management-

Valerie Collins: Oh yeah.

Leonard Sipes: -it could be employment-

Valerie Collins: Employment, yes.

Leonard Sipes: -it could be educational-

Valerie Collins: Parenting skills, all types of things.

Leonard Sipes: -vocational, parenting skills, yeah.

Valerie Collins: Yes, and we look at the entire situation for the person.

Leonard Sipes: And you’re also interacting with the family, you’re interacting with the victim?

Valerie Collins: Yes, yes.

Leonard Sipes: Because we are pledged to protect the victim.

Valerie Collins: Right.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s one of the things that we need to bring up in the final minutes of this show-

Valerie Collins: Exactly, yes, right.

Leonard Sipes: -that we work with the victim on a regular basis and we reach out to her principally, or him-

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: -and we try to the best of our ability to make sure that they’re protected.

Valerie Collins: Yes, and a lot of the cases, there’s a stay-away order, so we’re mandated to, you know, check in with the victim, ensure that there’s some safety for the victim as well. And we work very closely just in the city in D.C., the United States Attorney’s Office, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Victim Services Unit, even with the court, you know, the D.C Superior Court. Domestic Violence Court-we meet monthly and talk about the issues, so there’s a lot of information sharing. And I believe that also with the success that we’ve been having. I’ve traveled around the country, met a lot of other people who work in various DV programs, and we’re light years ahead in the District of Columbia. And I think that really attributes to our success because we are really working at that coordinated community response.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s one of the nice things that I find within the District of Columbia that you don’t find in lots of other cities-

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: -that level of cooperation between we and parole and probation, the Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Attorney’s Office, other federal agencies, I mean, that level of cooperation really is there, and that’s what makes a big difference in terms of our ability to supervise, and if necessary, take action against people who violate the terms of their-

Valerie Collins: Yeah, they go out with the police on the accountability tours-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Valerie Collins: -so most of them, as Mark probably could tell you, they know the officers and the particular PSA that they work in, so there’s really close collaboration.

Leonard Sipes: And then the officers know that this individual is under supervision for domestic violence-

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: -and if they get that call, you get notified.

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: So it’s just not an isolated incident, it’s just not, ‘well go ahead and-‘ In the District of Columbia, there’s no longer a walk around the block-

Valerie Collins: No, there’s no walk around the block.

Leonard Sipes: -if you’re involved in domestic violence, you’re arrested.

Valerie Collins: Yes, mandatory arrest.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah, and that is a key issue.

Valerie Collins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: All right. Thank you both, greatly appreciate you being with us today. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us on D.C. Public Safety. Watch for us next time as we explore another very important topic within the criminal justice system. Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison,
drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders.


Domestic Violence Unit

This Radio Program is available at

[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi, and welcome to the radio version of D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. At our microphones today is Nevile Campbell-Adams, he is a Community Supervision Officer with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in general supervision. Nevile, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Good morning.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, you’re with the Domestic Violence Unit, correct?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And just tell me a little bit about the Domestic Violence Unit.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: In the Domestic Violence Unit, we supervise civil protection order cases, deferred sentence agreements as well as probation and supervise release cases. The nature of charges that we supervise were simple assault, domestic, destruction of property, intimidation, attempted threats-charges of those sorts.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. I started my career in the Maryland State Police and I never saw my parents touch each other-they took their arguments behind closed doors. One of the hardest things I had to do when I was a cadet was to go out and to deal with domestic violence. Because we’re not talking about pushing, we’re not talking about shoving-I think my first domestic violence case was a man-they were living in a trailer together-a man taking a frying pan to his significant other’s head. And when we got there she was-her head was about twice its size, and that was shocking to me. I mean, when we’re talking about domestic violence, we’re talking about some fairly serious stuff, correct?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: That’s correct. The majority of the times, one would associate domestic violence with physical abuse, but that’s not always the case. There’s emotional abuse that far outweighs the physical abuse that one can impose on another.

Leonard Sipes: That’s an important point.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Yes because emotional scars last longer than the physical scars. And for a minute, let me regress and explain the different type of cases-the civil protection order cases, those are a case where one civilian can file a case against another civilian and the judge will determine whether or not the protection order will be issued. Various conditions can be imposed such attending parenting class or domestic violence class, anger management, substance abuse counseling-those are cases strictly where one civilian files a case against another one.

Leonard Sipes: Is this what we ordinarily refer to as a stay-away order?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Yes, and some people refer to them as peace orders in other jurisdictions.

Leonard Sipes: Peace orders, okay. Most of the offenders that we supervise are parents.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And so if you’re involved in an issue of domestic violence, in many cases, it involves the kids and emotional scars. The overwhelming majority of the offenders are males?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: That’s correct, but surprisingly, the number of female offenders is starting to increase.

Leonard Sipes: Really? Now is there a sense as to why that is?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: We haven’t exactly pinpointed the reason for that trend, but it’s surprising.

Leonard Sipes: Let’s get back to the kids when there are acts of domestic violence. When I was a police officer and going into the homes of various people, the great majority of the cases, it would be a male physically attacking a female. But inevitably, there would be kids in the background witnessing this, and I can not imagine a more difficult situation of kids growing up in a household where there is domestic violence because that’s gotta influence them psychologically for the rest of their lives.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Exactly, domestic violence is a learned behavior. When you expose children to those types of tactics, they think it’s the norm, so when they grow up, that’s how they handle conflicts with their intimate partners.

Leonard Sipes: And just the idea of mommy beating up daddy or daddy beating up mommy, I mean, just witnessing that is sort of a violation to the whole concept of what it is to be a child growing up in a supposedly secured household.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Yeah, it’s unfortunate for the children to grow up in those types of environments, and surprisingly, I had the experience of also working with-prior to my assignment to the Domestic Violence Unit, I worked in the Child Abuse and Neglect Unit. And it was a spin-off where you saw the abuse with the children; you also saw that there was abuse with the parents or intimate partners in the household.

Leonard Sipes: Let’s get back to the unit itself. We have stringent supervision and we do provide services, which is the hallmark of what we do here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We have low caseloads-you see your offenders a lot and that if warranted, you put them through programs for them to try to come to grips with their history of domestic violence, right?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: And tell me about these programs.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: These programs that we offer for the offenders in the Domestic Violence Unit assist them in changing their way that they handle volatile situations. If we incorporate change in their activity on how they want to handle situations, and show them that there’s a better alternative to violence. A lot of these offenders wouldn’t come into contact with the system.

Leonard Sipes: And a lot of offenders that I’ve dealt with throughout the years are sort of surprised when you tell them that absolutely positively you can not strike your wife, you can not strike your husband.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: That’s correct. A lot of them aren’t cognizant that the District of Columbia has a mandatory arrest law.

Leonard Sipes: So that means if both people are involved in the altercation, both people are arrested.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: That’s correct, one or both.

Leonard Sipes: And so you could have a husband and wife, two people being in the domestic violence caseload at the same time?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: That’s correct.

Leonard Sipes: And how does that ordinarily work ?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Sometimes it works out-if one of the partners is receiving services, they can incorporate what they’ve learned from the program and take it back into the household and assist their partner in seeing that there’s alternative ways how they can address the conflicts.

Leonard Sipes: Do you think that that combination of strict supervision as well as providing them with these multi-week domestic violence cases, do you think it helps?

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Yes, for the majority of the offenders that attend the programs, they indicate that at first they’re initially hesitant about going to the program, but after they attend the program regularly, the majority of them indicate that they really like the program and they express how it has helped them.

Leonard Sipes: Be better parents and be better partners and be better wives and husbands.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Right.

Leonard Sipes: And not to resort to violence, that’s the interesting thing.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Exactly.

Leonard Sipes: And to deal with your conflicts in a separate way. Nevile, thank you for being at our microphones today.

Nevile Campbell-Adams: Thanks for having me.

[Audio Ends]

Information about crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders.


Domestic Violence Unit #2

This Radio Program is available at

[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi, and welcome to the radio version of D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. At our microphones today is Alexander Portillo, he is with the Domestic Violence Unit, he is a Community Supervision Officer. And Alexander, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Alexander Portillo: Thank you, Mr. Sipes.

Leonard Sipes: Now, you’re with the Domestic Violence Unit-and we should set up the Domestic Violence a little bit, and then I want to go on to some unique aspects because some of the other radio shows we’ve done covered the Domestic Violence Unit. But in essence, you have a fairly small caseload, and what we do is we strictly supervise people who are on that caseload. But at the same time, we provide them with services-counseling, so that they understand that what they’ve done is wrong, and help them from reoffending in the future.

Alexander Portillo: Yes. Well I work for the Domestic Violence Intervention program. What that entails is a psycho educational program that teaches offenders that there’s other ways other than violence to react to certain situations. And what we do is teach them different healthy alternatives to help them to deal with those situations in familiar relationships.

Leonard Sipes: In many ways throughout criminology and the criminal justice system there’s a bit of a buzzword, it’s cognitive rearrangement, if you will, of their thinking patterns. What we have done in the last four or five years throughout the country to really focusing on the thinking process-the decision-making process. Now to the listener, they may find that absurd because we’ve all been taught one way or another in terms of making the right decisions and thinking through a process. But many of our offenders simply do not, correct?

Alexander Portillo: Right. What we try to do is teach them different things. Violence is not the solution to everything. We teach them that you can walk away from certain situations and then you can handle situations in a healthy way, that way you don’t get yourself caught up in trouble.

Leonard Sipes: But a lot of the people on the domestic violence caseload, which is mostly male, solve their problems by physically striking out.

Alexander Portillo: They do, and not just physically, but emotionally, verbal-I mean, they can be prosecuted for threats in the District of Columbia.

Leonard Sipes: Sure. But you get that person in the treatment process and what happens?

Alexander Portillo: What happens at first is a lot of people are very resistant to the change process because people don’t want to change because this is the way they’ve been all their lives. So what we do is educate them; maybe they can think a different way, therefore they don’t get involved in violence again and they’re not before the court one more time.

Leonard Sipes: If you have a history-if you have a lifelong history-and a lot of the attitudes that we have in terms of beating up on our spouses didn’t happen yesterday, it didn’t happen last year-I mean, we’re talking about from birth in some cases, you’re brought up to believe that if the woman gets out of line, you can smack her. In some cases there are women who are brought up to believe that if the male gets out of line you can smack them. Changing lifelong beliefs is not the easiest thing to do.

Alexander Portillo: Right. Correct. I mean, it’s a belief system that they’ve had all their lives, but what we try to do is challenge them and their belief system to get them to think a different way.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, and thinking a different way how?

Alexander Portillo: In a healthy way.

Leonard Sipes: It’s a tough question, it’s really is a tough question. If you were brought up to believe that by a slap or by physical intimidation solves the problem, how do you get the person to look beyond that in teaching him or her the skills that they won’t rely upon physical violence or intimidation?

Alexander Portillo: Okay, well what we do is make them realize that that’s not healthy, that there are different options that can be taken for you to have a healthy way to handle your relationship.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Okay, and what are some of those healthy ways?

Alexander Portillo: The healthy way is taking a time-out and thinking about things what we call is a red flag. And what that red flag is anything that gets you upset-able to recognize before you become violent.

Leonard Sipes: Walk away from the situation.

Alexander Portillo: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Get out of the house and go for a walk around the block.

Alexander Portillo: Yes, and maybe take deep breaths. What we recommend is to walk away for an hour and then come back and possibly call to make sure that the person wants to talk.

Leonard Sipes: Right, but I mean, that’s tough to do. It’s tough to retrain a person in terms of doing it that way when they’ve done it a different way throughout their lives.

Alexander Portillo: Right. I mean, we’re not saying that everyone is receptive, but what we try to do is just put the information out there to educate them-it’s up to them if they want to be receptive of that information.

Leonard Sipes: Do you think it works? Do you think there are people who take a look at their own lives and say ‘I don’t want to continue using physical violence because all it’s doing is destroying my marriage, all it’s doing is upsetting the kids.’ Do they come to that realization?

Alexander Portillo: Yeah a lot of them do. At first a lot of them are very resistant to the process because it’s just their belief system, this is how they’ve been their whole lives. But during the process we’ve seen that there is change in not everyone, but a lot of people do change. They change the way they see everything and how not to use violence in their relationship.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And one of the things that we were talking about before we began the program was the sense of dealing with victims.

Alexander Portillo: Yes. I mean, we are very much involved also with the victims. I’m a victim advocate. We have to keep in contact with the victim to make sure that they are safe.

Leonard Sipes: And we work with them a lot in terms of making sure that they are safe, correct?

Alexander Portillo: Yes. We provide them with information and we have a victim services coordinator for the agency which helps a lot.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Alexander, thanks for being with us at our microphones today.

Alexander Portillo: Thank you.

[Audio Ends]

Information about crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders.


Domestic Violence Unit #3

This Radio Program is available at

[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi, and welcome to the radio version of D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. At our microphones today is Yanira Sanabriad, she is with the Domestic Violence Unit of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And Yanira, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Yanira Sanabriad: Thank you, Mr. Sipes.

Leonard Sipes: Now you deal with domestic violence, correct?

Yanira Sanabriad: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And how long have you been with Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency?

Yanira Sanabriad: For three years.

Leonard Sipes: For three years. And you got involved in domestic violence because you were placed there, because you wanted to go there?

Yanira Sanabriad: Actually when I came to the agency, I was placed general supervision.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: And later on someone wanted to transfer form the domestic violence intervention program into the general supervision, so we swapped. And that’s how I ended up in the unit.

Leonard Sipes: So this is something you wanted to do, right?

Yanira Sanabriad: Yes. Actually my major is psychology and I wanted to put my training to good use.

Leonard Sipes: I did a show a little while ago on the Domestic Violence Unit and I said that as a police officer I was shocked because I never saw my parents hit each other. They would go behind closed doors and argue, but I never saw them hit each other. And when I was a young police officer, actually I was a cadet with the Maryland State Police, and we were doing a ride-along and we went to this home where a man was beating up his wife with a frying pan. And I was just appalled, it’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. So domestic violence really struck me as being an everyday part of the criminal justice system more prevalent than you would think-then the average person would think, correct?

Yanira Sanabriad: Correct, and I think it happens as we are speaking or there is a domestic violence happening now. The only that the issue-it’s not known until it’s brought to the court system.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: And it’s unfortunately for the victims that they live this type of life-suffering at hands of batterers.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: When they come to the system it is hard for them to recognize that they have a problem with their behavior.

Leonard Sipes: Because a lot of males think that they have a perfect right to hit females. Now I’m not discounting the fact that there are women who do battering, but the vast majority of the batterers are male.

Yanira Sanabriad: That is correct. Statistics show that there are more females hurt than males.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: And not to diminish that females do batter.

Leonard Sipes: Because they do.

Yanira Sanabriad: They do. But as men, they keep their pride and they will not call the police and report the abuse. But I think it statistically shows that females are the ones that suffer more in regards of this issue. It’s very unfortunately because we are seeing that the family-the kids and the females suffer a lot.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s a very important point because the overwhelming majority of the offenders that we have are parents and their kids are in that background or there and they see the battering take place, and psychologically that’s difficult.

Yanira Sanabriad: That is correct. And unfortunately, some men will use that power and control as we call it, to utilize the children as a means to stay and beat the woman in the house. It is unfortunately once they come to the system, the family gets separated and they try to manipulate to return to the relationship.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: But again to manifest the same behavior. And they’re doing a lot of harm to the child. I can relate a story that I have.

Leonard Sipes: Please.

Yanira Sanabriad: I was 15 at that age when I saw someone doing domestic violence.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: And it’s been probably 16 years and at that time I told the parents not to fight in front of the children and they kept fighting and that’s what they did.

Leonard Sipes: Now was this part of you job as community supervision-this is before-this is when you were younger?

Yanira Sanabriad: No, this is a younger age.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, fine.

Yanira Sanabriad: It’s to relate the impact of domestic violence in children and in the family.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: The latest notice that I have on this family is that the children basically-they’re still together, they say, ‘we are going to save the marriage for the sake of the children.’

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: It ended up that the children have not finished high school.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: So to say-it’s a great impact that domestic violence has in the family. And sometimes the culture, especially there’s some cultures that will blame the children if they commit the same mistake as the parents.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: So I think domestic violence is an issue that people have to be conscientious about it and be educated. Right now we provide treatment to the offender population here in the District. We have a Spanish program for the Latino community in the District.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Yanira Sanabriad: So that is another realm of people that we serve.

Leonard Sipes: And I think you’re correct in terms of the impact on the kids because one of the things that always amazes me is the long-lasting impact, not just on the female or male victim-and again, the overwhelming majority of the times they are female victims, but it’s the kids. Often times what we call domestic violence, we’re not just talking about being slapped once, and we’re also talking about emotional intimidation, I guess almost being imprisoned within your own home.

Yanira Sanabriad: Right.

Leonard Sipes: But the kids see this on a day in day out basis and it has a profoundly negative impact on them and their potential to grow up as healthy complete human beings.

Yanira Sanabriad: It certainly does. We can see that the child will start to develop the same pattern as the parents once they-they date probably the same type of men that the mother was in the relationship, so it has a great impact in the life of that child. So I think there is more work to educate the community about the domestic violence and what it is.

Leonard Sipes: And hopefully we’re doing that just now talking about the complete picture when we say domestic violence, it is far more comprehensive and far more difficult than most people think.

Yanira Sanabriad: Right, it’s the physical abuse, but also there is the psychological abuse, the verbal abuse that it entails, so it is a very complex issue and some people diminish the impact on the child but this is a family affair, as we can say.

Leonard Sipes: Yanira, thank you for being with us today.

Yanira Sanabriad: Thank you, Mr. Sipes.

[Audio Ends]

Information about crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders.