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Domestic Violence Specialty Court launching in Kent County

Judge Amanda Sterkenburg, She’s one of two judges overseeing cases in the program
District 62B Court for City of Kentwood.
Judge Amanda Sterkenburg, She’s one of two judges overseeing cases in the program

The new specialty court has been created to deal with the rising numbers of domestic violence cases

In response to what they call “the alarming increase in the number and severity of domestic violence cases in recent years,” Kent County leaders have created a Domestic Violence Specialty Court.

“Rather than just being a punishment if you will, this court model really does seek to identify the root cause of violent behavior and treat the root cause to really provide the opportunity for behavior change.”

Cheri Williams is the executive director of the Domestic Violence Action Network which coordinates the many community groups involved in the program. The idea is to better support victims while holding offenders accountable in a different way than traditional courts. Judge Amanda Sterkenburg is one of two judges dedicated to overseeing the cases.

“We will be utilizing a 52-week batterers intervention program which empirical evidence shows is the most effective program for long-term change for defendants.”

It includes more frequent meetings with case workers and more face-to-face time with judges, counseling, and screening for additional help that may be needed.

Kent County Commission Chair Stan Stek says the innovative approach of specialty courts is worth the investment of county grant money.

”While these courts take more time, and energy and money to get going, in the long run, the community, the victims and even the perpetrators are far better served.”

Court staff will refer eligible offenders to the specialty court program by the end of the month with a limit of 50 cases at a time and the most severe cases getting priority.

More information is available at www.stopkentviolence.org

Kent County DVAN invites all interested community members to attend the monthly DVAN Community meetings held the 4th Thursday of every month at the YWCA in downtown Grand Rapids.

For more information about the Kent County Domestic Violence Specialty Court and the broader DVAN collaborative, please contact Kelise Kathu/ DVAN Program Coordinator at lnfo@kentdvan.org

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