This post is by guest author Matt Dale, Director of the Montana Office of Consumer Protection & Victim Services, as part of the MLSA Advocacy Blog’s focus on domestic violence issues this October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. MLSA thanks Matt for this contribution.This October we remember those who have died at the hands of their partners, victims of intimate partner homicide (IPH). Since 2000, at least 64 IPH events have occurred in Montana, resulting in the deaths of 98 men, women and children. All would agree that these numbers are unacceptably high.In response, the 2003 legislature created Montana’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission, basing it in the Attorney General’s Office. The Commission is made up of 18 individuals covering all aspects of those who work with domestic violence victims – prosecution, victim advocacy, law enforcement, judiciary, etc. Members volunteer their service and review two IPH events each year.During the review process, the Commission evaluates the services involved:
- What agencies had contact with the victim?
- What agencies had contact with the offender?
- Were the agencies involved communicating with each other?
- What agencies could have provided services but were never contacted by the victim?
The goal of a fatality review is not to identify an individual or agency as responsible for the deaths. The Commission’s purpose is to find out where the safety net failed in each case, to look for trends in the failure of the social service system and to work toward improving the procedures we use to protect domestic violence victims. Since 2005 the Commission has published a Report to the Legislature every two years summarizing its work and recommendations. These can be viewed online at http://www.doj.mt.gov/victims/domesticviolence.aspMontana’s domestic violence fatality review process has led to changes in state law, new policies in courts and law enforcement agencies, improved communication between local, state, federal and tribal professionals that work with DV victims and perpetrators, and helped educate Montanan’s re: domestic violence and its lethal implications. The Commission has received state and national attention for its work in Indian Country as well.For more information on the Commission, contact Matthew Dale, Office of Consumer Protection & Victim Services, 406-444-1907 or [email protected].