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New domestic violence report ‘very troubling’

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas

By Dan McKay

SANTA FE – New Mexico's anti-domestic violence programs are fragmented and uncoordinated, putting victims at risk, according to a report presented to state lawmakers Tuesday.

Seventeen types of agencies or groups are involved – across all levels of government – and there's no evidence that a statewide Domestic Violence Leadership Commission has met in years, despite its establishment in state law, the report says.

The findings are outlined in a 55-page report compiled by nonpartisan evaluators working for the Legislative Finance Committee.

Emily Martin of the state Children, Youth and Families Department – which oversees about $12 million in programs that address domestic violence – said the report underscores how complex the problem is.

No government agency can handle it alone, she said, but her department is committed to improving coordination, holding offenders more accountable and providing consistent services to victims.

“There's no easy answer or fix to this issue,” Martin told lawmakers who attended Tuesday's meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee at the Capitol.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat and former domestic violence prosecutor, said it's often difficult to get offenders to realize they've broken the law because they may have grown up in violence-filled households themselves.

He called the LFC report “eye-opening. It's very troubling.”

Among the findings of the report:

• There's “little evidence” that a 52-week intervention program that some offenders are required to attend is effective.

• State law doesn't require domestic violence offenders' compliance with court orders to be monitored. “Misdemeanor domestic violence offenders are not always held accountable under New Mexico's current community monitoring system,” the report says.

• At least 17 types of agencies or groups are involved in responding to domestic violence, making it difficult to coordinate their work. This includes law enforcement, CYFD, courts, social service providers and schools.

• About 33 percent of women in New Mexico will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in their lifetimes, or about 8 percentage points higher than a national average for “intimate partner” violence. There are about 10,000 domestic violence arrests a year in New Mexico, but there are almost certainly tens of thousands of more domestic violence incidents that don't result in arrest, the report says.

• The state should consider approving a pilot project that would seek to establish a comprehensive, interagency procedure to respond to domestic violence and ensure offenders are monitored afterward.

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