This month, I attended a Model Court Training Session regarding trauma-informed care and domestic violence. There are half-sheetsfor attorneys practicing in juvenile court that can be found in the resources section of this site, as well as in the courtrooms. But following are some of the things you may not know about the Justice Center and its response to trauma-informed care/domestic violence.

  • There is a domestic violence advocate on siteTuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. Her name is Sharonand her phone number is 515-205-4862. Other advocates are available by contacting Children and Families of Iowa Domestic Violence Center at 515-243-6147. 
  • Courtroom 210 has a closed-circuit television. That means that if someone does not feel safe being in the same courtroom as their abuser, one party and his/her attorney can be in the courtroom, and the other party and attorney can be in a conference room; both can participate in the hearing, just from different spaces. This is available regardless of who your judge is (but you do need to ask). 
  • There are Polk County deputies who are available to escort parties and attorneys when necessary. 
  • If you are abused, but don’t feel the need to be in separate rooms, you still do not need to sit next to your abuser, or in his/her line of sight. 

For attorneys:

  • Please ask your client if s/he feels safe when s/he comes to court. It’s better to ask beforeyou come to court, however, because some victims/survivors will say they feel safe, just to avoid issues. And make sure your client knows the options s/he has, because many people are not aware of the options they have. 
  • When the court is scheduling the next hearing, you may want to think about whether you want to schedule that on a day/time when the domestic abuse advocate is in the courthouse, and whether you want to request the closed-circuit courtroom. While the court will do what it can to accommodate you, even with short notice, it’s always better if you can give them a little advance notice. 
  • Become familiar with the “power and control” wheel. I have been in hearings where the abuser was emotionally abusing the survivor while on the stand, testifying. The judge was aware of this, and made note of it in his ruling, but it may have been helpful if the attorney had made a record of it and asked the judge to stop it while it was happening.

We do not want survivors of domestic violence to be re-traumatized every time they go to court. While all of these options are not going to solve the problem entirely, they cango a long way to helping survivors feel supported and a bit safer when they are in the Justice Center.

Domestic Violence and Trauma Informed Care in the Polk County Justice Center