Domestic violence advocates in Lexington focus on resources, help

Domestic violence advocates in Lexington focus on resources, help
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 10:04 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - One-third of homicides in Lexington this year have been domestic violence related. That’s 12 of the 36.

We heard from prosecutors, a family court judge and victim advocates on Thursday night. They all do very different jobs, but they’re coming together in agreement that the way domestic violence situations are handled, whether they make it to the courtroom or not, needs to change.

“All the while, the batterer doesn’t have the same level of accountability that we place on victims. Which doesn’t seem right at all,” said Darlene Thomas, director of Greenhouse 17.

Thomas has been a victim advocate for years. Her organization houses and protects survivors of domestic violence and their children. But Thomas says this way of doing things is all wrong.

“For batterer accountability, they’re the ones who need to be housed, they’re the ones who need to be monitored, they’re the ones who need to be forced into long-term treatment, not short-term treatment, while they work to support their families,” Thomas said.

Thomas isn’t alone in her belief that those who commit acts of domestic violence need more accountability.

“What I’ve seen as a family court judge is, the way people started resolving their problems, or they feel like the best way to solve their problems, is through domestic violence and then gun violence. The way they end arguments is not, ‘let’s see what we agree on and what we disagree on and end it like that,’ they take out a gun,” said Judge Carl Devine with Fayette Family Court.

Devine joins Thomas and criminal prosecutor Aubrey McGuire speaking in front of several UK Law students. McGuire says in many cases, those charged in homicides also have previous domestic violence charges on their record, and many are lengthy. But the majority of domestic violence cases can only be considered misdemeanors in Kentucky. So, abusers are back on the streets and at home, quickly.

“We’re becoming numb to it. We need to get back as a community saying we aren’t going to accept this. There has to be accountability. There has to be responsibility in this system, the court system included must do a better job,” Devine said.

In Kentucky, domestic violence cases are typically only moved to assault 2, therefore considered a felony charge if a knife or gun is used against the victim, or if the victim is strangled.

Judge Devine said recently, they’ve been seeing more than 100 emergency protective order requests per week.