University of Minnesota Human Rights Center Upper Midwest International Human Rights



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University of Minnesota Human Rights Center

Upper Midwest International Human Rights

Fellowship Program, 2006


Follow-up Report Guidelines

Name of Fellow: Jenni Vainik

Host Organization: Hennepin County, Domestic Abuse Service Center (DASC)

Location of Host Organization: Minneapolis, MN


Brief History of Organization:

DASC opened in 1995. Since that time, DASC has received national and international awards for the comprehensive services it offers to victims of domestic violence. The services available at DASC include court writers who draft Orders for Protection and Harassment/Restraining Orders, victim advocates who can accompany victims to court and offer other advice, a child custody worker, an economic assistance worker, a probation officer, a prosecutor and representatives from community service organizations including Casa de Esperanza, the Division of Indian Work, Outfront Minnesota and the House of Peace, among others.


Responsibilities of Fellow:

As a fellow, I met with clients at DASC on a regular basis. My job was to talk to them and assess their needs. Usually, this included helping them obtain an Order for Protection or a Harassment/Restraining Order (OFP and HRO, respectively). In such cases, I helped clients fill out the necessary paperwork, making sure to illicit facts that would help the client meet the statutory requirements for issuance of the Order.


After submitting the paperwork to the judge, it was my responsibility to check to see whether the judge actually signed the order. In cases involving Orders for Protection, I then accompanied my clients to court. At this time, I made sure the client understood the court proceedings. Furthermore, I advocated for my clients and when appropriate, asked the judge to address their specific needs. In some cases, this included addressing the need to remove firearms from the respondent in order to comply with federal law. In other cases, I brought up issues of paternity and temporary child custody.
Many other cases I worked on were much more complex, involving numerous other factors besides the issuance of an OFP or HRO. In such cases, I performed a variety of tasks. In many cases, the civil work I performed during the OFP hearing intersected with criminal charges. In such instances, I took pictures of the victim’s injuries, notified the prosecutor and paralegal of possible criminal charges, and talked to the probation officer to obtain a warrant for arrest of the abuser. In other cases, the victim was in need of economic assistance and shelter. To help these victims, I arranged for them to meet with our economic assistance worker or called various shelters in the area to find a place for them to stay. In instances where the victim did not leave her home, I would assist her in changing her locks and obtaining an emergency 911 cell phone. Lastly, many of my clients were dealing with divorce or child custody issues. If child protection was involved, I notified the child protection worker in our office to obtain up to date information the victim needed. Furthermore, I accompanied victims to the Self Help Center at the Family Justice Center to file for child support, child custody and marriage dissolution services.
Your Accomplishments:

-At DASC, my knowledge of available services for domestic abuse victims increased exponentially. By working through victims’ problems with them, I learned of the many services available and was able to refer my clients to appropriate locations.

-My understanding of the legal criteria for “domestic abuse” was greatly clarified. I now know the provisions of the domestic abuse statute and what a victim must be able to “prove” in order to obtain an OFP or HRO or press criminal charges against an abuser.
-My familiarity with the process of criminal prosecution at the County Attorney’s Office improved. I now understand and can explain the process both victims and the accused go through from a 911 call to sentencing. Furthermore, I understand “Gone on Arrival” practices (GOA). GOA cases frequently occur in the context of domestic abuse, when a suspect flees the scene before the police arrive. In such cases, I am now aware of how charges may be brought against a GOA suspect.
Your Challenges:

-My greatest challenge was serving as an advocate in cases where there was suspected child abuse/neglect on the part of the mother due to drug or alcohol abuse. In one such case, I advocated for a woman who was the respondent to an Order for Protection and subsequently filed her own OFP against her husband. Hence, there were two “reciprocal” Orders for Protection.

I found this case to be particularly challenging in regards to the children involved. While I zealously advocated for my client, I confronted internal ethical questions about which parent should be given temporary custody of the children. On the one hand, there were credible allegations of abuse against the father. On the other, there were also credible allegations of drug dependency on behalf of the mother. While her drug dependency may have been a product of her husband’s abuse, it also detrimentally affected her ability to care for her children.

In the end, it was my job to advocate for the mother’s best interests, which included her strong desire to obtain temporary custody of her children. However, internally, I struggled to find an appropriate solution to the complex issues at hand. Ultimately, the judge decided the issue in the father’s favor. I then confronted the challenge of working with the mother to explain the ramifications of the loss of her full custody rights for a temporary period (one year). This was especially heightened when one of her children became ill and she couldn’t get information from the hospital due to her lack of custody rights.

Other projects/works started or completed:

I also worked on a “Gone on Arrival Best Practices” study. Working directly with the prosecutor in our office, I helped research how local police forces and suburban prosecutors respond to “GOA” suspects. As explained above, GOA suspects are persons who are accused of committing domestic assault but are “gone on arrival” when the police arrive at the scene of the crime. To complete this project, I interviewed numerous police sergeants and suburban prosecutors over the phone. I asked them questions about how they obtain knowledge of GOA suspects, how they investigate GOA crimes, how they apprehend GOA suspects, and how GOA suspects are ultimately prosecuted.



Directory: humanrts
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humanrts -> Materials: Flipchart with stand and markers, or chalkboard with chalk
humanrts -> Human Rights Education: An Elementary School Level Case Study By Megumi Yamasaki Ph. D. Thesis Completed June 2002 University of Minnesota Education Policy & Administration/Comparative & International Development Education Chapter 1
humanrts -> Materials: Flipchart with stand and markers, or chalkboard with chalk
humanrts -> Materials: Flipchart and flipchart stand/chalkboard, markers
humanrts -> Human Rights Education: An Elementary School Level Case Study By Megumi Yamasaki Ph. D. Thesis Completed June 2002 University of Minnesota Education Policy & Administration/Comparative & International Development Education Chapter 1

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