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Audit Finds L.A.'s Domestic Violence Programs 'Inconsistent' Across Neighborhoods

Whitney Ashton |
October 1, 2015 | 6:59 p.m. PDT

Contributor

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti hugs a domestic violence survivor identified as Destiny at a news conference outside of City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 1. (Whitney Ashton/Annenberg Media)
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti hugs a domestic violence survivor identified as Destiny at a news conference outside of City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 1. (Whitney Ashton/Annenberg Media)
An audit released Thursday by Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin revealed that the city’s domestic violence programs are “underfunded, disjointed and inconsistent” across the city’s neighborhoods. 

In response, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an Executive Directive ordering city departments to designate a domestic violence prevention liaison for each department/office. 

“Simply put, domestic violence has to end,” Garcetti said at a Thursday morning news conference held outside of City Hall. 

Garcetti and the City Council have already increased funding and moved to expand victims’ advocate teams to all of the city’s police divisions. 

The controller’s audit, released to coincide with the first day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, analyzed domestic violence services funded by the city over the past five years. Galperin called the services “disjointed and inconsistent,” citing the fact that responsibility for combating domestic violence in L.A. is divided among five entities.

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It revealed that the city’s DART, or Domestic Abuse Response Teams, program operated in only 10 of the LAPD's 21 divisions for years. DART teams consist of victim advocates from community-based organizations. These advocates accompany police officers responding to domestic violence incidents and are on-scene to assist victims, connect them with social and legal services and help them navigate the criminal justice system. DART team members, however, accompanied police to only one call out of every 30, according to data provided by the mayor’s office and the Los Angeles Police Department. 

“Our data about domestic violence has been inaccurate,” Galperin said. 

The LAPD “unfortunately miscategorized domestic violence reports in the official statistics by 27 percent,” Galperin said. The reports were classified as generic assaults rather than domestic violence assaults. 

Officers in the city of Los Angeles respond to an average of 48,000 domestic violence calls each year—which averages to 131 calls per day. Fourteen people were killed in domestic-violence related incidents in 2014, the highest number in six years. 

And, the city’s spending on domestic violence services is meager compared with other major metropolitan cities. L.A. will spend $1.04 per capita on domestic violences services in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. San Francisco spends $4.84 and New York spends $12.75. 

When it comes to per capita spending on domestic violence services, LA spends significantly less than other major metropolitan cities. (Whitney Ashton / Annenberg Media)
When it comes to per capita spending on domestic violence services, LA spends significantly less than other major metropolitan cities. (Whitney Ashton / Annenberg Media)
“We want to make sure that nobody who is suffering from domestic violence continues to put up with it. There is no reason to do so. And, there’s no excuse for committing the crime that is domestic violence,” Galperin said. 

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A woman identified as Destiny shared her experience as a domestic violence survivor, while wiping away tears. She said she called six different shelters before finding refuge at Jenesse Center, Inc., a shelter that provides services to domestic violence victims. Jenesse provided the single mother with clothing, counseling, educational resources and more. Since escaping her abuser, Destiny has graduated from college and is now employed, living her “dream.” 

“I got my voice back,” she said. “To be somewhere and to be heard, after being told that you’re stupid, you’re nothing and you’re worthless - and you have people that love you and want you to know that you’re loved.”

Jenesse’s Chief Operations Officer Adrienne Lamar-Snider said that the recognition that extends to domestic violence victims and survivors must continue beyond the month of October. 

“This needs to be a year-long commitment, year in and year out, that we do to support those families that are impacted by domestic violence,” Lamar-Snider said. 

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Another local resource, the Family Justice Center in Van Nuys, has been recognized as a best practice model by the U.S. Department of Justice. It says the public-private partnership is “the most effective way to keep victims safe and prosecute their offenders.” It is the only facility of its kind in L.A. County.

Pamela Bakewell, a newly appointed commissioner on the city’s Commission on the Status of Women, pointed out that domestic violence does not discriminate and can quickly escalate. 

“It is what leads to murder. We have to take it really seriously,” Bakewell said. 

Destiny knows this reality all too well. 

“I thank God that I’m here because it could have been my face on the news and someone else would be raising my children.” 

Anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. 

Reach Contributor Whitney Ashton here or follow her on Twitter here.



 

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