COLUMBIA — Preventing those who commit domestic violence from manipulating victims was one of several topics discussed at a Monday meeting of the Missouri attorney general's Domestic Violence Task Force. The group also addressed possible legal changes that would create a mandatory holding period for offenders in Missouri.
According to a previous Missourian report, Attorney General Chris Koster created the task force to try to understand "more of what an issue (domestic violence) is and what can be done to prevent it," said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, who is a member of the task force.
"Offenders must be held accountable," said Dan Knight, Boone County prosecuting attorney.
Knight said one of the biggest problems his office faces with domestic violence is victim manipulation. He said it can cause a victim to be unwilling to testify against an abuser in court.
He said he would like to see the state pass a law that would make it a crime for an offender to contact the abused.
"Offenders know what makes their victims tick," Knight said.
He said in a majority of cases, offenders are arrested and put in jail but are able to post bond soon after. Often they end up right back where the violence occurred.
Knight also cited spousal privilege, which prevents the state from compelling someone to testify against a spouse, as a challenge. He said offenders might think twice about abuse if they knew their spouse would have to testify against them.
Colleen Coble, CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said spousal privilege protects women from being put in the potentially dangerous situation of facing an abuser in court.
In another testimonial, Detective Bob Dochler of Columbia's Domestic Violence Enforcement Unit said many people "live in violent situations they aren't ever aware of."
Dochler said the DOVE Unit is a program few cities offer.
When a domestic violence case is reported, it goes from the beat officer to the DOVE Unit, where detectives gather evidence and fill in holes in the case for the prosecutor.
Dochler said that right now fewer than half of interviews with victims are face-to-face, but he would like that to change.
He also said he would like the task force to recommend a statute allowing officers to hold offenders for at least 24 hours. This would give offenders time to cool off or sober up. It also would give a victim a chance to figure out the next step without fear of the abuser returning.
Koster suggested a 12-hour mandatory hold, followed by 48 hours of no contact with the victim. Then the offender would have to return to the police department to confirm that he or she had no contact with the victim and to be served with court papers.
Kelly strongly agreed with Koster's idea.
The task force, which consists of Missouri representatives, will hear more testimony and ideas on combating domestic violence next Monday in Kansas City.