Nation's War against Domestic Violence Shows Improvement Resources Available to Combat Abuse

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Five years after the O.J. Simpson case awakened a nation to domestic violence, local police and prosecutors have been given extensive training and new tools to combat abuse. And the federal government has pitched in with more than $1 billion.

The sudden acceleration is welcome news for women's groups that labored for three decades to make the war against domestic abuse a national priority. The turning point, many say, was media and public attention from the Simpson case.

"There was a widespread belief that if your husband beat you up, you would call police and they would take him away. Suddenly people realized that's not always how it happens," said Kim Gandy of the National Organization for Women.

The latest statistics from the Justice Department show that 20 percent of domestic violence calls result in arrests, but there are no national figures on how many of those arrested are prosecuted or convicted. In fact, federal data on domestic violence are notoriously incomplete.

Those on the local front say police and prosecutors more aggressively are pushing cases to court and are more eager to receive training.

"There are many more police officers at trainings who are ready to learn, who want to do something different," said Anne O'Dell, a former San Diego detective who trains officers to handle domestic cases.

On June 12, 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman were murdered. Evidence quickly emerged that suggested O.J. Simpson had beaten his ex-wife, and police and prosecutors charged that he killed them. He was acquitted.

Within months, Congress approved a $1.62 billion Violence Against Women Act, dedicating more money to the cause than ever before while creating new federal laws. Advocates say it may have passed without the Simpson case, but probably would have been pared down.

The law is up for renewal this year, and already there are proposals to toughen the current laws and authorize more money. Republicans, who often seek to cut other social spending, mostly have been supportive.

The 1994 law made several changes. …