Today, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announced the formation of the “Crimes of Violence Against Women and Children” Unit.

This team will review and screen criminal cases where women, children and domestic partners are victims. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that nearly 20% of all women experience some form of violence from an intimate partner in their life. Roughly 1 in 10 women report being stalked by a current or former intimate partner. Nearly half of all female homicide victims are killed by a current or former intimate partner.

This unit will be led by veteran Assistant Prosecutor Stacey DeGraffenreid.  It will include other assistant prosecutors from all divisions in our office as well as a victim advocate and investigator.  These cases will be handled specifically by one attorney for “vertical prosecution,” where cases maintain one assigned prosecutor and one assigned victim advocate. Prosecutors from this unit will also be available 24/7 for law enforcement consultation during the investigative phase of the case.

Experience has shown that vertical prosecution can often help victims avoid the re-traumatization that can occur when having to deal with new people or share their experiences multiple times.  It can also help foster both trust and communication between victims and their prosecutor.  Early contact with law enforcement and first responders has also been shown to be essential to these emotionally charged cases, as victims can frequently become uncooperative or unavailable for prosecution due to pressures from family or the abusers themselves.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters commented, “I have fought for victims of crime my entire career. My experience as a litigator, seeing firsthand the emotional trauma of victims navigating the court process, led me to start the first Victim Advocacy program in Hamilton County. I was an early supporter of Marsy’s Law and the Victim’s Bill of Rights, which was passed overwhelmingly by Ohio voters in 2017.

We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has shattered the traditional safety nets that identify and help women, children and domestic partners who are in danger. Closed schools mean that schoolteachers are no longer seeing and reporting signs of abuse of their students. Work from home policies mean co-workers are no longer able to encourage abuse victims to get help. Stay at home orders lead to abused women and children being forced to be with their abuser 24/7.  Victims may feel like there is no way out.  As your Hamilton County Prosecutor, I want to make it clear that there is hope.

The time is right to launch this new unit.  If you or someone you know is in danger, text or call 9-1-1. If you know or suspect a child is in danger or is being abused, you can call 241-KIDS.  Resources to get help are available to victims in abusive situations via our great community partners.  You can text or call Women Helping Women (513-381-5610) or call the YWCA (513-872-9259). We intend our new unit to be another powerful tool to break the cycles of violence that trap so many of our friends and loved ones.”