Q&A: The DIR: A Tool for Survivors
Milinda Reed, Esq., Director, Domestic Violence Services, Unity House of Troy, Inc.
Q Why is the Domestic Incident Report (DIR) an important tool for victims?
A Filing a DIR can be an important step in holding abusers accountable. The DIR is a valuable tool for reporting and documenting abuse and communicating that the victim wants the abuser’s behavior to stop. It is often empowering for victims to send a message to the abuser that they will not tolerate abusive acts.
Q How can a DIR support victim safety?
A A DIR triggers an investigation that can result in arrest, prosecution and the issuance of a criminal Order of Protection (O/P). Even if the domestic incident is not criminal, it may still demonstrate a pattern of behavior that can support a family offense petition and the issuance of a family court O/P. Either/both of these responses can be part of a comprehensive safety plan.
Q When should victims file a DIR?
A Many victims fear that filing a DIR may escalate the abuser’s violence, jeopardize custody of their children or trigger other negative consequences. These fears are valid. Advocates should encourage and assist victims in weighing the benefits of filing a DIR against the concerns. Victims who know all of their options are always in the best position to decide if filing a DIR is best for their particular circumstances. Whatever the decision, a comprehensive safety plan should always be put in place.
Q What other barriers do victims face in filing a DIR?
A Victims are often fearful, apprehensive, suspicious and afraid of reporting abuse to the police, filing a DIR and becoming involved with a systems response. These fears and concerns are often rooted in past mistreatment or inaction by police agencies, misunderstanding of how the police will respond when called, whether the allegations will be believed, and what results the police and criminal justice system can actually produce in achieving safety.
Q How can advocates build a more positive culture between law enforcement and victim safety?
A Bridging the gap between police and victims requires ongoing training and meaningful participation between advocates and law enforcement; not just basic training but intensive, collaborative interaction between first responder police officers and first responder advocates. Breaking down the barriers takes work and commitment. Each field’s training and orientation is rooted in different underlying philosophies and beliefs about what safety means. While they both support the goals of victim safety and offender accountability, the paths to achieve these goals can be different. In some situations, there is disagreement regarding whether or not filing a DIR, and any resulting prosecution, will actually improve victim safety or create accountability. Understanding each systems’ perspective and respecting multiple approaches to safety and accountability is the key to removing barriers and effectuating more responsive systems overall.
Q What should victims look for on a DIR?
A When reporting about a frightening experience in an emotionally vulnerable state, anyone can forget important details. The DIR is an official record that may be used at a Family or criminal court proceeding, so It must be accurate, thorough and carefully reviewed, and a request should be made to immediately correct any inaccuracies or errors. If this request is denied, victims can refuse to sign the DIR until they believe it is accurate. A request to amend can be made during and even after completion of the DIR.