Advice : Prosecuting Domestic Violence: ‘Women and Children Fall through the Cracks’

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PATRICIA OCCHIUZZO GIGGANS; Executive director, L.A. Commission on Assaults Against Women Compiled for The Times by Danica Kirka

Marital rape is still one of the best-kept secrets of all. That’s what we get on our hot line. Some don’t necessarily report marital rape when reporting domestic violence. (Prosecutors) need more training, so that they’re better equipped when they’re investigating. It’s hard to prosecute. But if we think of violence against women, more often it does happen in the domestic or acquaintance arena.

Another thing that’s important is more prevention of domestic violence. One of the ways would be to use the “stalking law.” The law is fairly new; what it says is that threatening violence persistently and repeatedly through telephone calls, following someone, harassing notes--scaring somebody--not just when it’s done at random, but when it’s done repeatedly, is a crime. That’s not being used. What we’re told is that (authorities would) be overburdened if they followed up all that.

There are definite concerns (among) undocumented people (about) whether information they’re going to give the D.A. is going to get back to immigration officials and they’ll be kicked out of the country. In terms of domestic violence (against immigrants), it is the husband who controls (the legalization process). So, if she speaks up, what does that do to her possibility of getting citizenship? It’s another aspect of control and abuse that the husband may have over her. (Prosecutors) are not supposed to report to immigration. But it has happened.


I think one of the things that the D.A. has to focus on is violence between teens. We all have to pay attention to this. You start seeing it more in the dating relationship. But adults don’t take those relationships seriously.

I would like to know how we could be of help in terms of what the district attorney would need to get more training for his people. What can the D.A. do about early prevention of domestic violence?