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10. Rural Domestic Abuse And Child Victimization Program

The Iowa Attorney Generals office, with funding from a two-year grant from the U.S. Justice Department, Office of Violence Against Women, has organized a multi-agency, statewide initiative to support the creation of local multi-disciplinary family violence response teams to respond to the inter-linked problems of domestic abuse and child abuse.

In the 25 years since domestic violence was first addressed as a major social problem, children have largely remained invisible. Until recently, most people believed that children-- unless they were hit by a parent -- escaped unscathed from domestic violence. However, numerous studies have now found significant problems among children who have witnessed domestic violence, compared to children who have not. These problems may include a greater likelihood of aggressive and antisocial behavior, traumatic stress reflected in higher levels of depression and anxiety and slower development of cognitive skills.

The primary focus of these teams is to increase awareness of the problems created by the intersection of domestic abuse and child abuse. The project goals are to increase safety for women and children by improving criminal justice practices that hold the offender accountable for the violence, to improve communication between public and private agencies who respond to family violence, and to create additional early intervention and prevention responses.

The state-level team supports the work of the local teams and reflects the membership of the rural teams with members from these professions: prosecuting attorney, law enforcement officer, domestic violence intervention program, child abuse investigator, public health worker and community prevention specialist.

Six communities were chosen to implement local teams in 2003 and seven more communities were chosen in 2004. The sites chosen for 2003 are Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Decorah, Mason City, Spencer/Spirit Lake, and Fort Dodge. The sites chosen for 2004 are Clarion, West Union, Iowa City, Davenport, Oskaloosa, Ottumwa, and Ames.

In addition to the work with the local Family Violence Response Teams, the Attorney General's office is involved in several related special projects:

  • A series of regional workshops for law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
  • A project to develop a protocol for law enforcement agency response to children at the scene of a domestic violence incident.
  • Training Safety and Accountability Audit teams for Iowa.
  • Prevent Child Abuse Iowa is offering several $2500 prevention mini-grants to communities to encourage and support partnerships between Child Abuse Prevention Councils and Domestic Violence Intervention Programs.