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Batterer Intervention Program Summit examines how to do more for domestic violence survivors

by KDOC News — last modified Jul 14, 2017 03:33 PM
KDOC staff take part in the 2017 Batterer Intervention Program Summit Wednesday in Topeka
Batterer Intervention Program Summit examines how to do more for domestic violence survivors

At left, BIP Summit guest speaker Jill Ainsworth talks with an attendee Thursday.

When Jill Ainsworth decided to leave her abusive ex-husband, she did so for their infant son’s safety. In the end, she would spend more than $80,000 over the next seven years fighting and losing in court to ensure her son’s safety during unsupervised visits with her ex-husband.

To help her son and others in the same situation, Ainsworth enrolled in law school and began researching how to change Kansas’ child custody laws in cases of domestic abuse.

“A parent should not have to go to law school to learn how to protect their child,” Ainsworth told the more than 120 attendees at the 2017 Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) Summit held Wednesday at the Kansas History Museum in Topeka.

The free summit titled “Domestic Violence and Children: Enhancing Safety Through Effective BIP Response” brought together BIP providers, victim advocates, correctional and supervision staff and child exchange and visitation center staff from around the state. Ainsworth was among several speakers who spoke about how to ensure that all involved in the criminal, civil and family court systems work to hold themselves accountable to enhancing the safety of the victim.

In 2016, Ainsworth, now a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, successfully lobbied as part of a state child custody task force to allow a court to order a parent to receive domestic violence offender assessments and follow through on the program recommendations. In 2017, the task force also successfully amended the factors considered in custody determinations to include a clearly defined domestic abuse definition that recognizes a range of behaviors perpetrated by a domestic violence offender.

Dorthy Stucky Halley, director of the victim services division of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, credited passage of the legislative changes to the “powerful personal experiences” of survivors like Ainsworth who worked in collaboration with other child custody task force members. The task force was made up of survivors, legislators, representatives from the attorney general’s office, the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Kansas Legal Services and the Kansas Office of Judicial Administration.

Stucky Halley said now the work will focus on how to efficiently and cost effectively gather information and documentation from various agencies and organizations to make effective decisions in custody cases where BIP programming is needed.

“We still have a long ways to go,” she said.

In keeping with the theme of cooperation and collaboration, Guest speaker Rebecca Thomforde Hauser, associate director for the domestic violence programs with the New York-based Center for Court Innovation, said ensuring victim safety means shifting how those involved in the system work together. This includes identifying strategies for enhancing collaboration between batterer programs and civil courts, she said.

Audrey Cress, Kansas Department of Corrections’ director of the Office of Victim Services, said the summit, made possible through a grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas Foundation, was open to advocates and providers beyond those directly involved in BIP to help facilitate cooperation.

“Our goal is to bring people together from multiple disciplines to share information and develop relationships that will enhance policies and practices that fully empower victims of domestic violence,” Cress said.


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