Our Opinion: Practical steps to address domestic violence

“Although domestic violence may be personal, it is not private.”

That chilling observation from Attorney General Chris Koster begins the report of a task force he convened to study the crime of domestic violence and issue recommendations.

Domestic violence is among the most insidious types of crime. Prevention, protection and punishment all come into play when dealing with an assailant who attacks the body, mind and soul of a victim.

Koster’s 32-page report, complete with 12 recommendations, is a result of discussion, debate and meetings held throughout the state by the task force created last year.

The recommendations deal with enhanced training, improved reporting and strengthened collaboration and cooperation.

Among the participants were state lawmakers, prosecutors and other law enforcement officials, professionals who deal with domestic and sexual violence, and victims of domestic violence.

One of those professionals who is encouraged by the report is Jim Clardy, executive director of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Service (RACS).

“In discussions with our victims’ advocates, I believe the report’s recommendations will strengthen our work,” Clardy said. “Reporting and notification are important because the sooner we can reach survivors, the more we can help.”

Colleen Coble, chief executive officer of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and a task force member, characterized the recommendations as “very pragmatic.”

The recommendations, she said: eliminate conflicts in existing law; standardize definitions (including multiple definitions of domestic violence); provide judges with more authority to extend and to customize orders of protection; and protect teens in violent dating situations.

“These are common-sense, practical recommendations,” she said. “This is what we know works and the outcome is Missouri’s laws will be stronger.”

We commend the attorney general and task force members for their commitment of time, energy and expertise. We also applaud people — particularly victims of domestic violence — who testified at task force meetings.

We encourage adoption of the sensible steps recommended in the report.

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