By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – For Otsego County Court Judge Brian Burns, the Integrated Domestic Violence Court is about more than just streamlining the court process.
It’s about saving lives.
“Right now I have two attempted murder cases in my courtroom that stem from domestic violence,” he said. “Intimate partner violence is a serious crime.”
Under the current system, victims and perpetrators have to appear in person multiple times in different courts – Family, Criminal, and/or Supreme – which can give inconsistent orders on the cases.
“When you have multiple judges issues orders of protection for family court and criminal court, for example, those orders may be inconsistent and the victim may not be protected,” he said. “Similarly, there’s a risk to the defendant, who may not know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed.”
Worse, said Burns, the current system lengthens the time children are exposed to DV, greatly increasing their risk of abusing drugs and alcohol, developing mental illnesses and committing suicide.
In the IDV court, a victim and perpetrator would go in front of personnel from all three court systems in Cooperstown, as well as District Attorney John Muehl, and one judge, who would work with the courts to issue a single order from the Supreme Court, including jail time or probation.
In addition, a counselor from Opportunities for Otsego’s Violence Intervention Program will be present at all court cases and can assist a victim in finding legal representation, housing and counseling, as well as access to treatments, including neurofeedback with Dr. Adriana Steffens of Mind Matters. “Domestic violence affects the brain no matter what the injury is,” she said. “Neurofeedback can help regulate brainwaves and teach them to function within a normal range.”
“Having this court will increase awareness of all these services,” said Will Rivera, Violence Intervention Program crisis intervention director at OFO. “A local court might not know about the services we offer, so this is a way we can help.”
Burns is also working with Sura Page, who operates the New York Model Domestic Violence Program for Batterers to help abusers take responsibility for their actions.
“It’s not anger management, because abusers are excellent at managing their anger,” she said. “They don’t take it out on their boss or their co-workers, they go home and they beat their wives.”
The IDV court is already in use in Binghamton, Ithaca and Cortland, and Burns hopes to have it in place by the start of 2020.
Public defender Mike Trossett believes this will also reduce recidivism by getting all parties access to the services that can help them break the cycle of violence. “Having access and education, hopefully, will improve their behavior,” he said.
“It’s about public safety,” added Rivera. “We believe this will reduce the escalation of violence.”