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Santa Clara County, CA June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

Family Violence: Stop the Cycle

By Karyn Sinunu

Candidate for District Attorney; County of Santa Clara

This information is provided by the candidate
Today's family violence breeds tomorrow's victims and offenders; we must address the violent family dynamic head on, firmly and compassionately.
Child abuse and domestic violence have been misunderstood as separate crimes, but they are not. A child living in a home marked by domestic violence suffers abuse by witnessing the battering of the parent. Even if the child suffers no physical harm, the psychological damage is devastating. The parent who witnesses the physical abuse of his or her child suffers similarly.

Family violence is the crime, and it has never-ending consequences. We can do much to stop the cycle: early intervention is the key. And the District Attorney has the discretion and responsibility to seek justice and promote healthy families.

First: keep the victims safe.

We now have excellent collaboration between police, shelters, victim-witness services and the probation department to help victims of all ages find shelter and safety. In the our office we have full time victim-witness personnel on staff to assist victims and their children.

In 1995, I persuaded the 13 police chiefs and Sheriff to adopt uniform investigation practices that ensure thorough investigation of early child abuse, to prevent cases from falling through the cracks. As a result, our efforts to intervene early in an abused child's life are greatly improved.

Second: reform the batterers, when possible.

That process begins with filing criminal charges and securing a conviction, without which we have no authority to effect change. Our high conviction rate speaks well of our ability to bring offenders into the system. All defendants who receive a grant of probation and jail term are required by law to attend an appropriate training course. Santa Clara County has excellent treatment programs for battering spouses and parents who are willing and able to benefit from them. Repeat offenders will likely end up in prison.

Santa Clara County was one of the first, anywhere in the world, to establish vertical prosecution domestic violence courts to enable judges to follow defendants from arraignment to conviction to completion of their treatment programs. Holding offenders to account is absolutely essential to their rehabilitation.

I also strengthened domestic violence prosecutions by adding homicide trial attorneys to the Domestic Violence team to prosecute the murder cases. The track record of convictions ever since has set the standard that other counties strive to match.

Keeping victims safe is our immediate concern. To prevent future violence, we will vigorously and compassionately use our prosecutorial discretion to reach appropriate conclusions in all our cases.

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