Domestic violence victims at the greatest risk of lethal assault will continue to have an outlet for help, thanks to Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell and $152,450 in federal grant money.
This is the second year Jefferson County has received increased funds from the national Victim of Crimes Act (VOCA) after years of receiving approximately $50,000 annually. Previous funds paid for one victim advocate position and support services. O’Connell pushed for last year’s three-fold increase and hired two new positions with the additional funds, including one victim advocate whose sole focus is victims at a high risk of lethality.
“This second straight award of increased funding demonstrates the expertise and support we provide to victims of domestic violence,” said Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell. “The continuation of these additional federal dollars cements my office’s commitment to domestic violence victims at the greatest risk of deadly abuse,” said Jefferson County Mike O’Connell.
The victim advocates work out of the Domestic Violence Intake Center (DVIC) at the Hall of Justice. Opened in April 2001, the DVIC was the result of local criminal justice and community partners’ commitment to supporting victims seeking legal action. Founding partners included the Jefferson County Attorney’s office, the office of the Circuit Court Clerk (OCCC), LMPD, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, the Center for Women and Families and the National Council for Jewish Women, among others.
In 2009, O’Connell’s first full year in office, the DVIC was relocated to an expanded space of approximately 2,500 square feet. Prior to expansion, only victims seeking both an emergency protective order (EPO) and criminal complaint received services in the DVIC. After expansion, EPO clerks from the OCCC moved all functions permanently to the DVIC.
Now, all domestic violence victims seeking any type of offered legal service are directly assisted in the DVIC. The Jefferson County Attorney’s office provides victim advocates to meet with all victims 96 hours each week, from 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. each week day and 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on weekends. Combining all services in one centralized location has resulted in significant increases in clients obtaining needed advocacy services.
O’Connell operates two specialty units for criminal prosecution: domestic violence and DUI. Since 2014, the DV unit has prosecuted nearly 12,000 domestic violence and sexual assault cases, earning a 90.7 percent conviction rate. Nearly 40 members of O’Connell’s staff are involved with domestic violence cases on a daily basis.
The Center for Women and Families honored O’Connell with its Public Service Award last October. O’Connell joined a list of notable recipients of the award, including Jerry Abramson, David Armstrong, Judi Patton, Anne Northrup and John Yarmuth, that was first given in 1991.