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Enumclaw hiring domestic violence court advocate

Thanks to a number of dedicated Enumclaw groups and members of the city council, victims of domestic violence are getting a much-needed advocate in their corner of the courtroom.

The Enumclaw City Council gave the nod to hiring a Domestic Violence Court Advocate at its Aug. 24 meeting. The council's stamp of approval followed up on the hard work of Enumclaw's Domestic Violence Task Force and the city of Enumclaw's Human Services Advisory Board.

Jennifer Batts, who handles the same duties for Maple Valley, was slated to begin immediately.

A domestic court advocate helps domestic violence victim's negotiate the legal system. That person can also connect victims with community resources and offers emotional support.

There have been volunteers who have filled the position, however in most instances those volunteers are not qualified to navigate the courts.

"We really, really need these services," said Sarah Frerichs, a member of Enumclaw's Domestic Violence Task Force. "This is something that is really needed in our community."

There were 55 cases of domestic violence reported in Enumclaw from January through June.

That number, City Administrator Mark Bauer said, was key in funding the position.

"We felt it was time we stepped up and added it to the court," Bauer said. "The victims needed to be protected."

Bauer also noted many people think domestic violence occurs between dating couples or husbands and wives, but under Washington Law it is anyone living under the same roof – brother-brother, mother-daughter, father-son or any other combination. "It can be a non-dating relationship as well."

The process began when representatives from the Domestic Task Force approached the city's Human Services Advisory Board about a Domestic Violence Court Advocate. On Aug. 5, task force representatives Kimberly Fish, Trip Hart and Frerichs met with Mayor John Wise, city attorney Mike Reynolds and Bauer. The group then met with the Public Safety Committee which brought the request to the city council.

Batts, who is bilingual, was slated to begin on the first court date in September. According to Bauer, the position is a contracted, part-time position designed for one-day a week.

The Domestic Violence Task Force will continue its work. The group will meet between 2 and 4 p.m. today, Wednesday, and Oct. 21 at the Enumclaw Public Library. The task force will also host Jennifer Quiroz of the YWCA Domestic Violance Advocate from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 20 at the library. She will present a fatality review. Both the meeting and the program are open to the public.

To comment on this story, view it online at www.courierherald.com. Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.

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