Report: Louisiana Faces “Many Challenges” in Addressing Domestic Violence

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A report from Louisiana Auditor Michael Waguespack highlights Louisiana’s “multiple challenges” in addressing domestic violence. The audit was conducted because in 2017, Louisiana had the second-highest rate of female homicide in the nation, and the fifth-highest in 2018. In fact, 60% of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partner.

The issue of domestic violence was only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated domestic violence, as abuse victims were often trapped in homes with their abusers during stressful times caused by self-isolation, quarantine measures, and job loss,” says the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Challenge #1: Lack of Domestic Violence Shelter Beds

Many Louisiana parishes – including all of central Louisiana – do not have domestic violene shelters, in spite of the fact that across Louisiana there are a total of 2,659 unmet shelter requests each year. In fact, there are only 16 domestic violence shelters statewide, with a total of onlly 386 shelter beds. One of the issues with opening more shelters is funding; only 10 percent of domestic violence funding in Louisiana comes fro the state. The other 90 percent comes from federal grants – which are inconsistent and usually have strict limits on how the money can be spent.

Challenge #2: Laws Intended to Protect Victims Are Inconsistently Enforced

According to the Louisiana Supreme Court, not all sheriff’s offices are submitting proof of service of protective orders to the Louisiana Protective Order Registry, as required by state law. In addition, protective orders are not always served to abusers – for a variety of reasons. Further exacerbating the issue, not all sherriff’s offices have policies and procedures in place for abusers to relinquish their firearms as required by law.

Challenge #3: Domestic Violence Law Enforcement Training Is Inconsistent

While law enforcement officers are required to undergo domestic violence training, judges and district attorneys are not. In addition, the report found that the Louisiana Commission of Law Enforcement has not completed its legally required domestic violence awareness training program.

Challenge #4: Intervention Programs for Perpetrators are Inconsistent and Have No Oversight

While domestic violence shelters are overseen by the Department of Children and Family Services to ensure that they are safe for victims and their children, the same cannot be said for programs meant to prevent future abuse. There is no state-level entity in Louisiana responsible for overseeing or monitoring these programs, and there are no state-mandated standards to ensure accountability.

Challenge #5: Louisiana Public Schools Are Not Meeting State Mandated Education Requirements

While state law requires all Louisiana public schools to provide education on dating violence, many are not meeting those requirements. As a result, Louisiana’s young people are not learning how to report instances of dating or domestic violence. The report recommends schools strengthen their awareness efforts in order to better identify and prevent domestic violence incidents.

To read the full report, click here.

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