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Russians Ask County for Help Handling Domestic Violence

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Victim advocates from Ventura County and local law enforcement are collaborating with their Russian counterparts to combat domestic violence there.

In June, Pat Mages of the Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and Oxnard Police Det. Alex Rangel will travel to Russia. Their aim is to help Russian police and crisis center workers form their own versions of a domestic violence response team, mirroring the partnership that exists among Oxnard police, the coalition and the district attorney’s office.

“The Russian government says that there are 14,000 women killed by their husbands and other relatives each year,” said Marina Pisklakova, president of the Emerald Institute for International Assistance. She and Tom Parker, chairman and chief executive of the institute, applied for two State Department grants totaling $1.25 million to fund the program. Pisklakova, who is Russian and divides her time between Moscow and the Los Angeles area, opened the first crisis center for women in Russia in 1992.

Parker says Ventura County was chosen for the grants because of its success in dealing with domestic violence.

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“I’ve been in L.A. for 12 years, and was familiar with the coalition, and law enforcement and the D.A.,” he said. “Because of their proximity and success, it was natural that we would look to them as a partner.”

In April, representatives from Russia visited the United States. They took a course on domestic violence at Cal Lutheran University and learned about the history of domestic violence legislation.

Collaborators at Cal Lutheran also will help the institute publish a report and a training manual to help replicate the program throughout Russia.

When Oxnard police get a domestic violence call, they contact coalition staffers or volunteers, who are available around the clock to meet them in the field.

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“We try to find out [the victim’s] needs right there,” Mages said. “Whether it’s a referral or if they need help finding shelter. We also assist with getting a protective order.

“The police are usually the first on scene, and they’re there to investigate. We do crisis intervention and the two work well together. The goal is to see that [the victim] and the family get out of the cycle of violence.”

Pisklakova said that the partnerships in Russia will cater to the cultural needs of the country, but will keep certain aspects of the program intact.

“The ultimate goal is to make crisis centers able to respond to domestic violence immediately,” she said.

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Initial response is important, Pisklakova said, because there are not enough shelters and centers to serve all the battered women in Russia. For instance, in Moscow, a city of about 12 million people, there are only three shelters and only two more in the rest of the nation, according to Pisklakova.

“Domestic violence is many times the seed for future crimes of violence,” Parker said. “Russian police over the last several years have come to recognize this and are absolutely hungry for this kind of training.”

Mages, who is excited to be a part of the international effort, said she was surprised by the Russian officials she met.

“I was really impressed with their knowledge and their willingness to work on the project,” Mages said. “They seem to be really committed.”

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