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Court Watch Montgomery Works To Protect Victims Of Domestic Violence

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An organization working to improve the effectiveness of protective orders against victims of domestic violence in Montgomery County has just released a report with a series of recommendations (pdf).

Over the past year, 25 volunteers with Court Watch Montgomery sat through several hundred hearings in circuit court involving domestic violence cases.

"We wanted to see what the process looked like from a victim's point of view," says Judy Whiton, one of the co-founders of the group. "We wanted to be assured that they felt safe in the courtroom."

Whiton says the volunteers heard some awful things, like how a pregnant victim was beaten by an offender. Whiton says fear is the common denominator for most of the victims.

Laurie Duker, the other co-founder, says it's important to get domestic violence victims to go to court in the first place to seek protective orders, as well as return. Her organization has issued a list of recommendations that promote this.

"We ask judges to tell offenders that it's a crime to violate an order and if they violate them they can go to jail," Duker says. "We ask judges to hold offenders for 15 minutes, so a victim can walk safely without to her car or the bus."

These recommendations are discretionary, but Duker says they are optimistic because there are "a lot of good judges in Montgomery County," but adds: "There's a saying, 'You can't push a robe.'"

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