Addressing Domestic and Sexual Violence

By Barbara Bry

Domestic and sexual violence are pervasive in our communities. One in five women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and men are also victims of these crimes.[1] In addition, one in five women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.[2] These national statistics are unacceptable, and it is incumbent upon our local government officials to use all resources available to address this problem.

One current example of how our City has failed to protect victims is the recent oversight at the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, which allowed the statute of limitations to expire on a number of domestic violence cases, resulting in the failure to prosecute the alleged perpetrators. This type of failure of the system allows perpetrators to continue to hurt others, and discourages survivors from seeking the justice they deserve.

As a Councilmember, I will advocate for making prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault a priority, and for dealing with these crimes swiftly when they are perpetrated. Here are a few strategies I plan to employ:

Common sense gun reform:

  • Domestic violence has been tied to 1 in 5 homicides in San Diego [3] and the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%.[4]
  • I support local, state, and federal legislation that will audit gun purchases. This audit will be helpful in two ways:
    • It will help identify buyers with violent convictions that occurred after the purchase of a gun. If a person commits a crime after the purchase of a gun, he or she should not still be allowed to keep a gun.
    • The audit will also provide a way to look for irregular buying patterns, which could be straw purchasers – gun buyers who initially buy guns legally and then later sell on the black market.

Educating victims of their rights through technology:

  • Like the City's resource page for domestic violence, I would advocate for the sexual assault resource page to also have a “quick escape” button, and would suggest that both pages have and an “incognito” function in case a victim’s internet use is being monitored by their abuser.
  • I would promote registration with the VINE system (Automated Victim Notification Service), the state program that notifies victims, family members of victims, or witnesses who have testified against an abuser of the custody status of an adult offender who is incarcerated in state prison.
  • Finally, I would promote and seek funding for San Diego’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline- 1(888) DV-LINKS.  

Supporting the efforts of the Family Justice Center (FJC):

  • The FJC model was pioneered here in San Diego and has been successfully implemented in many cities nationwide. The FJC is a collaborative model where victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, human trafficking, and other forms of violence can come to one place to receive legal and social support services.
  • As a Councilmember, I will work collaboratively with the FJC and SDPD to make sure that survivors are connected with the resources available to them.
  • In addition, I plan to work with the FJC to make sure that law enforcement and prosecutors are receiving the best training on working with survivors of trauma. This includes increased training on topics such as identifying the primary aggressor and evidence-based prosecution, all with the goal of reducing recidivism rates for perpetrators.

Pledging to assign staff in my office to focus on family and sexual violence:

  • There would be a point person on staff who will be responsible for assisting constituents who reach out to our office to make sure that they are quickly connected to available services.
  • The liaison will also monitor legislative and policy matters as they relate to family and sexual violence and will maintain open lines of communication between my office and organizations and agencies serving survivors, such as:
    • SDPD
    • San Diego Family Justice Center
    • Legal Aid Society
    • YWCA
    • Center for Community Solutions
    • Project Sarah
    • San Diego Domestic Violence Council (Liaison will regularly attend meetings of this group)
  • My office will conduct a survey and analyze the number of domestic violence incidents that get reported through all different reporting sources each year in San Diego, and compare that number to the number of domestic violence cases that actually get prosecuted by the City Attorney. Chronic domestic violence mostly occurs on the misdemeanor level, which usually is handled by the City Attorney’s office, and that’s why it’s important to pursue those cases because it holds abusers accountable. We shouldn’t be waiting until domestic violence escalates to the felony level of murder or attempted murder, to take action. I would like to collaborate with the San Diego Domestic Violence Council to track and analyze these numbers.

Ensuring our schools and universities are safe learning spaces:

  • I would like to explore programs to bring healthy relationship education to middle and high school students to help prevention violent behaviors at an early age.
    • An example that has worked well in New York City is the Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) program which [5]:
      • Increases student awareness of abusive relationship behaviors
      • Teaches how to develop healthy relationships
      • Increases emotional support and stability
      • Conducts presentations and outreach on identifying teen abuse
      • Has a seven-week summer Peer Leadership Program, which offers students additional education and community-service credit and trains them to be peer leaders
      • We can seek private and grant funding to implement and support a program similar to this.
  • I want to work with our local universities and encourage them to dedicate resources to educating students about sexual assault prevention, bystander intervention, and healthy relationships.
    • It is also necessary for local universities to prioritize resources to provide support to survivors and hold perpetrators accountable.

There is not one simple solution for ending domestic and sexual violence. As a Councilmember, I will seek guidance from experts and will use all of the tools at my disposal to address this critical public safety need in our communities.


[1] http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf

[2] http://www.ncadv.org/learn/statistics

[3] http://www.sandag.org/uploads/publicationid/publicationid_1888_18215.pdf

[4] http://www.thehotline.org/resources/firearms-dv/

[5] http://www.camba.org/programs/educationyouthdevelopment/teenbehavioralinterventions/teenrapp

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