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Domestic Violence Seminar Learns From Hollywood

May 26, 2009 — Territorial officials spent part of Tuesday morning in a way that was a little unusual for them: analyzing a scene from the Oscar-winning film “Sling Blade.”
It was all part of a training seminar given by the V.I. Department of Justice and the Law Enforcement Planning Commission that focused on prosecuting domestic and sexual violence.
In the scene, a character played by country music star Dwight Yoakam tries to explain a recent violent outburst to his girlfriend and her son, saying he didn’t mean to do it, but he had been drinking and his girlfriend had angered him.
Ronald B. Adrine, a domestic violence expert who serves as a municipal court judge in Cleveland, Ohio, asked the police officers, assistant attorneys general, and family advocates at the Marriott Frenchmen’s Reef Hotel to ask themselves a series of questions: Was the character violent? How? And what constitutes domestic violence?
Adrine, who has served on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Domestic Violence Task Force and the National Battered Women’s Justice Project Advisory Board, came to St. Thomas this week to share his expertise. He is just one of the six speakers addressing the seminar over the next four days. The goal is to help them get a better understanding of the intricacies of domestic and sexual crimes, and therefore be better equipped to prosecute such cases.
“Those of you who are here…you are on the front line of the issue of domestic violence,” Virgin Islands Attorney General Vincent Frazer told the crowd.
He said the issue is very important, citing a possible domestic violence incident that resulted in a suicide that happened in St. Croix yesterday.
“If we can try to stem the tide of domestic violence in our community, we can have a serious impact on crime in our community,” he said.
Seminars aside, another way officials are trying to improve the way domestic and sexual crimes are handled in the territories is by developing a more unified approach to these crimes.
“We are trying to bring uniformity to the way these incidents are handled,” said Dr. Iris Kern. Kern serves as a special advocate to the police commissioner and attorney general in matters of domestic and sexual assault. As an example, Kern cited the fact that St. Croix has different restraining order procedures than St. Thomas.
Kern said she has been working hard to bring these specific issues to the forefront, and government officials are more receptive now than ever before.
“The governor is taking it very seriously, and so is the attorney general.” She said she’s also had great encouragement from the police commissioner.
Over the next few days, conference attendees will learn about subjects like strangulation, domestic violence and children, and how to cross-examine the defendant in a domestic violence case.
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