As Boone County continues the trajectory of unprecedented growth, the [Boone] County Commissioners and other county leaders are working to better educate the public about the existing resources as well as looking at how the county can expand upon those resources once the construction of the justice center has been completed.
Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood and his fellow prosecutors are one of the many [county] and community partners working with the commissioners as well as with the county’s mental health organizations.
Eastwood emphasized that as the county’s population continues to grow, it is important that the community is aware of the existing resources and understands its roles and obligations when it comes to the subject of domestic violence. Eastwood also feels it’s important that the community understands his office’s role in the handling of such situations and in helping survivors of domestic violence.
The First Steps in Prosecuting an Abuser
When asked what the most important first step is that someone who is involved in a domestic violence situation can take, Eastwood stated, “It is always important to get documentation on everything, and independent documentation is best. As a judge evaluates a no-contact order or a protective order request, that independent documentation goes a long way. As a prosecutor, that independent documentation goes a long way in deciding what charges to file.”
Eastwood continued, “The biggest hurdle we have as prosecutors is people actually reporting it, and when they do, the second biggest hurdle is having them continue to cooperate in the prosecution of the [accused] individual. My goals — regarding domestic violence — [are] to make sure the violence stops and that the victim is safe.”
According to Eastwood, once someone has reported [the abuse] to law enforcement, the agency has two options, depending on whether or not they have probable cause to arrest the individual.
“If they have probable cause, they [the police] could arrest the perpetrator immediately or they can send [the case] to our office for review. Once it is in our office, we put it into our system, and we have a dedicated domestic violence prosecutor who does nothing else but [domestic] violence cases. That person will then review the case and determine whether or not there is probable cause and if a crime was committed. Assuming yes to both, we will file the case and issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. The next thing our office will do is reach out to the victim and connect them with the appropriate services that are available in Boone County.”
Eastwood continued, “We also discuss getting a no-contact order, the benefits of doing such and if there are any witnesses to the incident. We talk with the victim about what they would like to see happen, and our victim advocate will be available to talk with them and walk them through the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is not perfect, and we have to make sure that everyone’s rights are being safeguarded. What we always try to communicate is: give us as many tools as possible so that we can do our best job.”
Advocating for the Survivors of Domestic Abuse
In his 20-plus-year career, Eastwood shared some other hurdles that he has experienced when working with survivors of domestic violence.
“Victims of domestic violence feel trapped in the relationship, and they can’t just get out of that [relationship] even if they do report it,” Eastwood said. “There is an emotional dependency, and usually they also don’t see a way out of [the relationship] financially. We have to continue to develop resources so that we can provide options for the victims so that they’re not financially dependent on their abuser.”
Eastwood openly acknowledged that the criminal justice system takes time and is often frustrating to those who are trying to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives, which is why the prosecutor’s partnerships with the county’s mental health organizations and other related organizations are invaluable.
“The criminal justice system is there to attempt to hold someone accountable,” Eastwood stated. “And in doing that, we hope it gives the victims some sense of peace, but they’re never going to get that sense of peace from the [system] alone.”
Along with working with law enforcement, the victims need the resources that are available through Mental Health America of Boone County, InWell and Aspire.
Eastwood added, “These types of wraparound services offer the start — we hope — of where a person can become whole again. I just wish we had even more resources. With the tremendous growth that we’re seeing in our county, we are going to need more resources and more counseling services.”
What Can the Community Do?
It is Eastwood’s hope that someone with knowledge of a domestic abuse situation doesn’t keep silent but reaches out to law enforcement for guidance.
“Family and friends have got to support the victims and keep telling them to do the right thing for themselves and their children,” Eastwood emphasized. “And that is easy for me to say, but a lot of the time, the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do. Where children are involved, they often develop mental health issues and grow up to be victims themselves or abusers. You have to think about the broader picture, and that’s hard to do when you’re in crisis. The only thing we can do as a society is to make ourselves available to that person and help them when they are ready to do the right things.”
As long as humans walk the planet, there will be crimes committed against humanity. Eastwood stressed that inaction cannot be an option, especially where domestic violence is concerned. “It is my hope that when a victim meets with us, they will see on our faces and hear in our voices how much we care,” Eastwood expressed. “We, as a prosecutor’s office, get let down by the criminal justice system, but we keep fighting to do what’s right for the community and to do what’s right for individuals.”
Eastwood concluded, “There are consequences and repercussions for inaction that affect more than just the victim. They impact everyone involved, including the family, friends, neighbors and the community as a whole. With the growth that our county is experiencing, we have to start doing a better job of taking care of each other if we want our community to be healthy. If you see something, say something.”
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