Is there somebody in the courthouse to assist a domestic violence victim?
Yes. The Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Program is located on the first floor of Municipal Court. The program consists of four domestic violence victim advocates and two child abuse victim advocates. The victim advocates’ office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday for appointments, telephone calls and drop-in consultations. The Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Office is a secured area accessible only to victims, witnesses and their children. Defendants are not allowed access to the area under any circumstances.
Victim Advocates are trained in domestic violence victim assistance. Their role is to provide support to victims of domestic violence who appear in Municipal Court. Victim Advocates notify victims of court appearances, provide victims with information about the court process, offer encouragement and support to a victim during the court process, provide protection to the victim while in court, arrange for police escorts to victims’ cars when needed, serve as a liaison with the Domestic Violence Prosecutor and the court and provide victims with information about community resources available to them.
Victims are encouraged to meet with the victim advocates prior to scheduled court date to discuss the pending criminal case. The victim advocate interviews the victim to find out the details of the domestic violence incident, details about past incidents of domestic violence, the criminal history of the defendant, the relationship between the parties, etc. The information is included on a victim impact sheet for the prosecutor’s use. Personal information on the victim and statements made by a victim that are included on an intake sheet are confidential; the information is not available to a defendant or defense counsel.
Victim advocates from three area domestic violence agencies also are available to help victims plan for safety and obtain domestic violence program services. Their services are available to all victims regardless of gender.
How does a victim contact the Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Office?
To contact a victim advocate, call (816) 513-3927, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Any messages left on the general voice mail will be returned within 24 hours. All messages are confidential.
Is childcare provided to victims who appear for court?
The Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Program offers child care for victims appearing in Domestic Violence Court. The child care center also is available to child victims of abuse. The child care center is housed within the Victim Assistants’ Office. The area is secured and is accessible only to staff, victims and victim’s witnesses. A chilcare provider is available during the hours of 8:30 - 11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. There is no charge for the services.
What does a victim do if the defendant contacts him/her while a case is pending and threatens the victim if he/she appears in court?
Section 50-173 makes it unlawful for a defendant to contact a victim or witness for the purpose of threatening or coercing, or otherwise discouraging a witness to testify on behalf of the City. If contacted, a victim should report the incident to the police. If the victim has a No Contact Order (NCO) or an ex parte order of protection, the victim should also notify the Prosecutor’s Office of the incident.
How do I know if a defendant is being released from jail?
The Missouri Victim Automated Notification System provides information about offenders in the custody of a city jail (including the Municipal Correctional Institute), county jail facility and the Missouri Department of Corrections’ facility. For information on MoVANS contact the Office for Victims of Crime toll-free at (866) 334-6682. The service is free.
The National Victim Notification Network provides 24-hour information about the custody status of offenders through its Victim Information and Notification Everyday service. This service allows victims to register to be notified when an offender’s custody status changes. This service provides information for the city jail, county jail and Missouri Department of Corrections’ Facility. For information about VINE go to www.vinelink.com. The service is free.