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Family Justice Center Alliance

The San Diego Story

1980 San Diego Domestic Violence Diversion Law Task Force
Mandatory Domestic Violence Reporting Law Passed in California
Feminists in San Diego Built Relationships with System Professionals
Powerful Collaboration Success: The DV Reporting Form

To understand how a coordinated community response can develop, and ultimately lead to the Family Justice Center vision, it is helpful to understand the history of our criminal justice system work to stop domestic violence in San Diego. Indeed, San Diego can provide a road map for other communities still seeking to get everybody on the same sheet of music.

We believe our community can help point the way. The San Diego Story is for every person who wants to end family violence in their community. It is not a fairy tale. It is not a story that paints over the glaring weaknesses which still exist in San Diego or the terrible mistakes we made along the way. But it is a story that needs to be told. The work in San Diego needs to be told because our 30 year history has now produced the San Diego Family Justice Center and the fledgling heartbeat of a national movement toward the creation of such Centers in rural, suburban, and metropolitan communities across the country and around the world. So, what can others learn from the San Diego experience? What mistakes can be avoided? What successes should be considered for replication? What happened in San Diego that laid the groundwork for a “one stop shop” model that moved beyond a “coordinated community response”?

Hopefully, the San Diego Story reminds others of two things in the process of reading this book. First, the journey each community has gone through over the last 20-30 years will play a powerful role in determining whether they are ready to pursue the Family Justice Center vision. San Diego’s story demonstrates that the slow evolution of our collaborative criminal justice system efforts laid the groundwork for finally being able to move in together at the Family Justice Center. Second, the San Diego story should challenge other communities to write their story. Sitting down and writing the history is a powerful reminder of where a community has come from and helps inform where a community should go. It also leaves a record so that activists don’t have to keep “reinventing” the wheel as they pursue new ideas and innovations.

During the early 1960’s and 1970’s, San Diego benefited from the growth of the national battered women’s movement as shelters opened in the City of San Diego. The first shelter opened in San Diego in 1978. It was the collaborative work of community activists from the sexual assault, women’s studies, GLBT, military and criminal justice communities. The Chief of Police was one of its major spokespersons and fundraisers. It was rare and remarkable to bring these communities together but also because its membership, from its inception, was co-ed. Men were key partners in San Diego from the beginning.

The Center for Women’s Studies and Services (now known as the Center for Community Solutions – CCS) was founded in 1969. Their focus was primarily on sexual assault issues but they provided services (an Underground Railroad of homes in the City) in those early years to battered women as well. In 1978, the activists’ collaborative created Battered Women Services (BWS), the first comprehensive program for battered women and their children. The YWCA served as the fiduciary until 1980 when BWS became an integral part of YWCA’s services. In the outlying parts of San Diego County, the Women’s Resource Center was founded in Oceanside and South Bay Community Services was created in the South County.

At the center of the budding battered women’s movement in San Diego was a powerful, driven, and focused African-American woman named Ashley Walker-Hooper. Ashley Walker was a survivor of sexual assault and fiery, determined leader. The shelter, in Ashley’s view, owes its existence to her ex-husband who did all the repairs and maintenance without charge. As an MS patient, it was a huge personal sacrifice for him to make. Indeed, many communities across America also benefited during this same time period from the powerful leadership of women like Ashley Walker and their male supporters.

In 1978, with little public fanfare, Ashley Walker became the first director of Battered Women’s Services. Like virtually every other shelter in America at the time, BWS received only private funding. It survived only because of the generosity of San Diegans who believed the need to help women and children victimized by violence and sexual assault was so great. During the 1970’s, BWS and joined CCS the so-called “underground” which helped to move women across the country in order to protect them from their abusers. The underground was a network of affiliations between newly developing shelters across America and other individual advocates and supporters of the battered women’s movement who were committed to providing safety for victims of domestic violence. In the absence of any meaningful sanctions against offenders, many victims had no choice but to flee their homes and their communities in order to get away from their violent partners.

During the late 1970’s, San Diego also benefited from California’s traditional role as a trend setter in legislation and public policy. Even as San Diego began very slowly to organize around the issue of family violence, Los Angeles and San Francisco and other cities around California were moving forward in developing policies and protocols for dealing with family violence. Even in the absence of state legislation, the City of Los Angeles created their first domestic violence unit in the City Attorney’s Office in 1978. At nearly the same time, advocates from community-based coalitions in Northern and Southern California organized the California Alliance Against Domestic Violence in 1980. The Alliance became the first major statewide advocacy body for battered women in California and began serving as a clearing house for legislative ideas and helped secure authors for proposed bills. But the Alliance primarily focused in Northern California. Another organization, called the Statewide Battered Women’s Coalition formed in Southern California. The Coalition ended up with close relationships to many domestic violence professionals in San Diego. The Coalition’s support would later play an important role in the creation of the Family Justice Center.

It did not take long for the state legislature to respond to the developing battered women’s movement in California. The legislature put small amounts of money into the state’s Office of Criminal Justice Planning to provide for funding for services to victims of domestic violence by the early 1980’s. In 1980, the first major piece of domestic violence legislation was passed. It was known as the Domestic Violence Diversion Law. The new law was modeled after the already operational Drug Diversion Law in California. The notion behind the drug diversion law was that people addicted to alcohol or drugs should not be in the criminal justice system. The diversion program for drug offenders gave them the opportunity to suspend their criminal case, seek counseling, and then receive a complete expungement of their record if they successfully completed a “diversion” program.

1980 San Diego Domestic Violence Diversion Law Task Force (Top)

When the pressure began to build in the California state legislature for a program for domestic violence offenders, diversion was the obvious model. You could (theoretically) treat most of the cases outside of the system and few would contest any charges filed against them because the diversion program would allow them to avoid a criminal conviction. San Diego created its first task force on domestic violence in 1980 in order to set up policies and procedures for implementation of the Domestic Violence Diversion Program. Today, pre-plea domestic violence diversion has been properly rejected by most of the country as an effective way to hold abusers accountable for criminal conduct. But in 1980, it was considered an innovative solution.

Thus, our first San Diego “task force” or “coordinating council” related to domestic violence was born in 1980. It was focused only on the diversion law, but it was still the first time that the San Diego criminal justice system engaged in dialogue about systemic change with representatives of the shelter movement. The task force consisted of representatives from the courts, probation, the police department, a local battered women’s shelter, and the prosecutor’s office. The goal was to set up policies and procedures to implement the new diversion law.

The diversion task force met for six months and the procedures were in place, monitored by the Probation Department, and supported by the San Diego Municipal Court. The task force disbanded in less than two years. Diversion, of course, was an abysmal failure. Batterers faced little accountability and victims continued to be held primarily responsible for deciding on the type of criminal justice intervention which would occur for the criminal offender. While the national pro-arrest trend was gaining strength, there was still little impetus for major change in San Diego’s response to family violence. Perhaps the one benefit out of that first task force was that feminists were invited to the table and treated with respect. It would inform their future decisions on how to change the system.

The California Crime Victims Legal Clinic (CVLC) was founded in 1984. Though most of these agencies were not focused exclusively on domestic violence issues like the YWCA Battered Women’s Services, they were important allies in the small, but growing group of feminist advocates in San Diego who were working on sexual assault and domestic violence issues. While the advocates exercised little or no influence within the criminal or civil justice systems, they were able to speak out to the media on issues of violence against women, to begin discussing issues of relationship violence in schools, and to rally business leaders to take notice of the plight of battered women and their children.

Unfortunately, however, San Diego was similar to most of the state and the country during the fledgling days of the battered women’s movement. The criminal justice system paid little or no attention to the crime of domestic violence. The civil justice system had few, if any, procedures in place to address family violence. And the law enforcement agencies had little or no training in dealing with battered women and their violent partners. There was little training for new police officers in any area let alone in the ignored area of family violence. Nearly twenty years of law enforcement practices had changed little by 1980. If a victim of domestic violence ever did call the police, she would usually decline to press charges once the police arrived at the house. Even if the victim did want to press charges, officers were reluctant to make arrests and few offenders ever went to jail.

Neither the City Attorney (the municipal prosecutor) nor the District Attorney (the county prosecutor), had any specialized focus on domestic violence issues. Indeed, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office referred many of its “domestic dispute” cases to the Dispute Resolution Office where a mediator tried to talk the husband and wife through their problems and refer them to counseling. A criminal case would rarely be filed unless the victim not only wanted to “press charges” but was willing to actually sign the formal criminal complaint that would be filed in court against her partner.

Out at the scene of domestic violence incidents, when the police were called, the approach was no better. Officers would usually ask offenders to take a walk around the block, threaten to make an arrest if they got another call that night, or ask the victim to leave the house. If the violence was serious and visible injuries were present, officers would still ask the victim if she wanted to “press charges.” When she answered “no”, which she generally did, no law enforcement action would be taken. If the victim was bold enough to ask that charges be pressed at the scene, she would receive a call from the City Attorney’s Office or District Attorney’s Office within a few weeks asking if she was willing to “prosecute” her partner. Most victims would say “no” and the case would be closed without any court action taken. If the victim was part of a same-sex household, charges were never filed, it was usually deemed “mutual combat”.

San Diego was not unique. Across the nation, well-documented research has now recorded decades of failed law enforcement responses from 1950-1980. Domestic violence was a private family matter. Decades, indeed centuries, of legal precedents and edicts from major social institutions turned a blind eye to violence in the home. The result was a society beginning to come to grips with an epidemic of family violence with absolutely no infrastructure to address the problem. Worse yet, violence in the American family was normative. It was common place and the criminal justice system was not expected to get deeply involved in the private life of America families.

The child abuse movement, a few years ahead of the domestic violence movement, was beginning to shine a light on physical and child sexual abuse of children. , There was still little public willingness to delve into the dark secrets of violent marriages in America. Deeply held value systems throughout the culture were entrenched and ready to do battle with the feminist advocates now calling for an end to violence against women and accountability for abusers. San Diego, in the early 1980’s, was no more amenable to feminist ideology than any other part of the country. The faith community did not view “marriage problems” as a government responsibility. The health community refused to consider filing a police report as was mandated for child abuse. There were few women in policy making positions within law enforcement agencies, prosecution agencies, or the courts. There were no “system professionals” advocating for change in the criminal justice system.

By 1985, the needs were obvious. Women continued to die in large numbers. In 1985, the City of San Diego had 30 domestic violence related homicides. These killings represented 26% of all murders in the City. Victims were routinely being asked whether they would “press charges” or “prosecute” and they routinely said “No.” As noted earlier, victims were still required to sign the formal criminal complaint if charges were going to be filed. Very few cases were being prosecuted, very few arrests were being made, and virtually no community prevention or intervention initiatives existed. With the exception of the heroic work of the battered women’s shelters, little else was happening to address the profound needs of victims of domestic violence or their children.

Mandatory Domestic Violence Reporting Law Passed in California (Top)

In 1985, however, California took a massive step forward. Led by the fledgling California Alliance Against Domestic Violence, California became one of the first states in the nation to pass a mandatory reporting law for domestic violence cases. California Penal Code section 17000 and related sections were passed and became effective on January 1, 1986. For the first time ever, law enforcement officers in California were now required to write police reports when arriving at the scene of a domestic violence incident. Penal Code section 17000 was not a mandatory arrest law. Though New York and Minnesota and other states were moving forward with mandatory arrest laws, California was focused on simply documenting the existence of all law enforcement responses to family violence. Even that legislative battle was a Herculean struggle. The law ultimately was passed with a 1991 sunset provision. Majority support for passage was only possible if the advocacy movement agreed that such mandatory reporting would only last for five years.

Mandatory domestic violence case reporting in California began to create large numbers of police reports within months of its effective date in San Diego. Training for police officers was sparse, protocols for report writing were non-existent, but the reports were being written. Often, in the early months, the reports were short and sketchy. Officers did not want to spend significant amounts of time writing police reports in cases that would never be prosecuted or cases that might be filed but later dismissed.

City Attorney’s Office Assigns a Full-Time Prosecutor for DV Cases (Top)

During this time, neither the District Attorney nor City Attorney’s Office in San Diego had any full-time prosecutors specializing in domestic violence cases. The City Attorney’s Office, however, had a Deputy City Attorney named Tom Manning handling the domestic violence cases through a “Domestic Violence Committee” within the Office. Casey Gwinn had started as a Deputy City Attorney and was recruited by Tom Manning to assist him with domestic violence cases. Tom was, and is, an excellent prosecutor who helped Casey understand how to handle domestic violence cases in those early months of his time as a Deputy City Attorney. In May, 1986 when Tom Manning left the City Attorney’s Office to become a Deputy District Attorney, with Tom’s encouragement Casey volunteered to handle domestic violence cases on a full-time basis. Chief Deputy City Attorneys Stu Swett and Sue Heath supported this decision and a one person “Domestic Violence Unit” was born!

During the summer of 1986, courageous feminist advocates decided to invest themselves personally in the lives of criminal justice professionals. It was an idea fraught with peril. Feminist advocates across the country were developing hostile relationships with local law enforcement agencies. Class action lawsuits were being filed by surviving victims, and family members of murdered victims, against local law enforcement agencies that refused to protect the rights of battered women. Individual plaintiffs, as noted earlier, filed lawsuits in many communities in an effort to change public policy.

Feminists in San Diego Built Relationships with System Professionals (Top)

In our community, feminist advocates chose a different approach. Ashley Walker (YWCA), Joyce Faidley (CCS), and Judy Rowland (CVLC) decided to build a relationship with someone inside the system. They came to the local prosecutor’s office in June, 1986 and met with a young, inexperienced prosecutor named Casey Gwinn who was assigned to handle family violence cases in the San Diego City Attorney’s Office.

But three feminist advocates invested their lives in Casey Gwinn. And they recruited others to the cause – a victim witness advocate from the District Attorney’s Office (Dee Fuller), a lieutenant from the San Diego Police Department (Leslie Lord), the founding attorney of the local restraining order clinic (Kate Yavenditti), and others were added to their list. Led by Ashley Walker, heroic women with names like Elly Newman, Joyce Faidley, and Judy Rowland worked tirelessly to build bridges with the system professionals they needed to help change the world. Slowly, they brainstormed together in 1986 and by 1988 had a shared strategy with the criminal justice system at its core.

Our approach was straightforward: (1) Effective intervention in domestic violence cases we could prove, with or without victim participation; (2) accompanied by a strong advocacy program and a coordinated community response. It was a leap of faith by local advocates and somewhat of a philosophical compromise to focus on the criminal justice system as core to changing the culture. But they understood the principle that is still true today – If domestic violence is going to be acknowledged as a serious crime in our culture, then we have to treat it as a serious crime. The criminal justice system, after all, reinforces cultural values, norms, and priorities. It defines what we will and won’t accept in our culture. It did not take long to compare how we treated serious crimes in 1986 to domestic violence cases. Nor was it difficult to decide what should happen.

Our reasoning was simple. Bank robbers got prosecuted in 1986. Batterers did not get prosecuted. Why? If someone robs a bank in this country, it is treated as a serious crime. Bank robbers often face years, even decades in jail, for robbing a bank. Because money is important in our culture and it is not OK to take someone else’s money, particularly if you do so with a weapon or the use of violence. No one ever asks the teller in the bank if she wants to press charges. We knew that it was not relevant whether she wanted to press charges because bank robbery is such a serious crime against the community.

Ashley Walker, Joyce Faidley, and Casey Gwinn discussed these issues and came to a consensus – our small band of change agents. We would stop asking victims of domestic violence whether they wanted to “press charges.” We would stop asking victims if they wanted to testify or “prosecute” their abusers. We would treat the domestic violence crimes like bank robbery. We would gather all available evidence. We would subpoena all witnesses and victims and we would move forward with the case even if the victim was unable or unwilling to participate.

There were only a few problems with our plan. The law enforcement culture did not support our approach and investigative procedures in 1986 were abysmal. The investigation did, in fact, revolve around the victim’s statement and her desire to “press charges.” If she was “cooperative” with law enforcement, a deputy sheriff or police officer might write a short police report and send it to the prosecutor’s office for review. But even then, the reports were often very short (one paragraph) and rarely did a case investigation include the gathering of photographs, forensic evidence, or interviews of other percipient witnesses.

So, we started at the beginning. In August, 1986, with the encouragement of advocates, the City Attorney’s Office issued a new policy on the prosecution of domestic violence cases.

The challenge in San Diego’s law enforcement response to domestic violence quickly became how to get complete reports and investigations that would not simply result in documentation of incidents but facilitate effective criminal justice system intervention. It was no small undertaking. We developed a five-prong strategy: 1) Developing a law enforcement protocol that directed police officers step by step through on-scene and follow up investigations; 2) Roll call and line-up trainings for officers, including ten minute training videos that could be played at such training times; 3) Academy training for all new recruits on the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases; 4) Feedback for officers on all cases submitted for prosecution; and 5) Monitoring of officers through surveys completed by domestic violence victims at restraining order clinics across the county. We will focus on law enforcement training and collaboration in Chapter 8.

No sooner did we start proposing these new guidelines to law enforcement than law enforcement started responding unpleasantly. Why should they do all this work if prosecutors and judges were not going to treat the cases seriously? Why should they waste their time on cases that were only mostly misdemeanors anyway? Most of their language was far more colorful in asking their questions, but you get the point.

In August of 1986, in response to law enforcement resistance to change, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office issued a new policy on the prosecution of domestic violence cases. No longer would the City Attorney ask victims whether they wanted to “press charges” or not. No longer would the City Attorney offer a reduced charge to offenders if they wished to plead guilty. The prosecutor’s office would prosecute cases with or without victim participation if the case was provable. The focus would shift from putting responsibility for intervention on the victim to putting responsibility on the prosecutor to treat the crime seriously. It was, after all, the standard for every other serious crime. If we could prove the case, it should go forward.

The approach, later to become known as “evidence-based” prosecution had already begun in isolated communities across the country including Duluth, Minnesota but San Diego led the way among major cities by applying it to misdemeanors and later to felonies, across the board. By 1988, Casey Gwinn had the opportunity to join the faculty of the National College of District Attorneys and begin training prosecutors on how to prove domestic violence cases without victim participation and the trend begin to spread across the country.

By 1990, an early version of the later Family Justice Center idea began to evolve in communities that developed domestic violence response teams (DVRT) which were referred to as coordinated response teams when responding to a domestic violence call to law enforcement for help. DVRT referred to a group that generally includes a victims’ advocate, a law enforcement officer, a deputy district attorney, a probation officer, and a health-care provider. Though only 1-2 professionals might go to the scene of a domestic violence incident, the goal becomes to link the entire team once a case proceeds into the system. In recent years, a few communities have added a child protective services representative to this team.

In San Diego, the foundation was laid to get everyone on the same sheet of music in the law enforcement community and beyond by late 1987. In 1988, we pulled together a small group of advocates, a sympathetic police lieutenant, a few family law attorneys, a DA Victim- Assistance Program Director and began planning creation of the San Diego Domestic Violence Task Force. The idea was a limited duration task force with specified goals for changing policies and procedures. In June 1989, we kicked off the Task Force with a high profile public meeting with media and elected officials. The Task Force met for two years and completed its work in June, 1991.

By 1991, our commitment to developing a coordinated community response had produced incredible new initiatives, policies, trainings, pilot projects, and specialized domestic violence units in the City Attorney’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Police Department, and the Probation Department. Momentum developed from the task force would later produce a specialized Domestic Violence Court, a specialized investigations unit in the Sheriff’s Department, an annual training conference for all system professionals in San Diego County. We made many mistakes during that journey and made many missteps but the refusal to give up and the commitment to stick together no matter what would yield profound dividends in the years that followed.

Powerful Collaboration Success: The DV Reporting Form (Top)

Perhaps, however, one of the most significant developments in those early years of learning to collaborate was development of a specialized reporting form for domestic violence calls. “The San Diego form has been called a ‘revolutionary sheet of paper,’ as its use by police in collecting evidence has resulted in prosecutors winning 90% of their cases and…a 62% decline in domestic homicides.” The genesis of the form still makes the insiders laugh. The Law Enforcement Committee of our County Task Force on Domestic Violence had begun talking about the potential benefits to officers of a reporting form that would guide officers through a thorough on-scene investigation. Casey Gwinn went home one night from work and decided to create one. Three hours later, he had a sixteen page form for officers to complete at the scene of an incident!

A week later Casey Gwinn brought his sixteen page police supplemental (fill in the blanks) reporting form to a Law Enforcement Committee meeting and almost experienced a severe assault at the hands of flabbergasted police officers. They all agreed that no officer would ever fill out the sixteen page form! Two hours later, they had edited it down to eight pages. We were heading in the right direction! Within three months, we had completed a pilot project with officers filling out an eight page supplemental report form approved by the Law Enforcement Committee. The form clearly provided more information than we had ever had before but it was still too long. Thankfully some committed patrol officers took our eight page form, sat down at a word processor, and turned it into a two page form! A few years later a body diagram was added to the form and we had a form which, with some modifications based on state law or policy, could be used in every law enforcement agency in America!

The Task Force also recommended creation of a permanent Domestic Violence Council when it concluded its work in June, 1991. The wrap up of the Task Force was a luncheon event at Mission Bay. Over 300 attended the event. Virtually every major agency had participated in the two year Task Force and they were all represented, except Child Protective Services. The Director had not responded to any invitations for two years and virtually no CPS staff had participated in the Task Force. At the luncheon, in June 1991, the Task Force decided to let a woman named Karen Wise tell her story as the keynote speaker. Her abuser had been arrested by the San Diego Police Department and prosecuted by the San Diego City Attorney’s Office. Her four children had witnessed most of the abuse. One of them was developmentally disabled. Karen had alleged that the abuser, John Wise, had forced the children to have raw chicken skins in their mouth to teach them not to talk back and had locked the children in closets. Wise spent time in jail for domestic violence. But CPS had taken the children away from both of them and filed against Karen for “failure to protect.” Karen told her story at the luncheon that day, with every elected official present. When she told them that Juvenile Court and CPS had terminated her parental rights and given the children to her husband’s parents in Arizona, there was an audible gasp in the room.

Months later, the Director of the Department of Social Services resigned. The Chief of Probation, Cecil Steppe, was appointed in his place and immediately set about to build a relationship between CPS and the domestic violence community. Within two years, under the leadership of a social worker named Betsy Gross, a special project was created to focus on cases where there was a co-occurrence of child abuse and domestic violence and related issues with juvenile delinquency or dependency with the abused or neglected children.

Philanthropists and funders like Joan Kroc (wife of Ray Kroc, the Founder of McDonalds) also played a powerful role. They encouraged members of the domestic violence, child abuse and substance community to work together. As a substantial funder of these programs, in 1990, Joan Kroc made collaboration a part of her granting process. She paid all expenses for twenty community activists in these fields to spend a week at the family program at Hazelton in Center City Minnesota. She also held special fully-funded trainings at her ranch at Santa Ynez Valley to encourage collaboration.

During this same time, Dr. David Chadwick, a pediatrician, at Children’s Hospital, also dedicated major resources by creating the Family Violence Program, under the leadership of a social worker named Sandy Miller. Dr. Chadwick too had a strong vision for focusing on the co-occurrence of child abuse and domestic violence. Sandy Miller developed a close partnership with Deputy City Attorney Casey Gwinn and even housed a portion of her staff in the City Attorney’s Office in the early 1990’s. These key steps helped lay the groundwork for the Family Justice Center and for the close working relationship between the Center for Child Protection, the local child advocacy center now the Chadwick Center), and the domestic violence community.

The Domestic Violence Council was created in the November, 1991. A number of key events occurred in those early years.

In 1992, the Council became part of the Mayor’s Office under the leadership of Mayor Maureen O’Connor

In 1994, the Council was asked to leave the Mayor’s Office by Mayor Susan Golding and soon re-established itself as a private, non-profit organization housed in the San Diego City Attorney’s Office

In 1996, the Council suspended its non-profit status, electing to return to a grassroots approach consistent with its beginning in 1987

Casey Gwinn led the Council until 1999 and hosted the Council out of the City Attorney’s Office. His secretary, Jean Emmons, provided the administrative support to the Council and handled all mailings, meeting notices, and coordination of all committee meetings. The Council did hire an Executive Director, Denise Frey, for some of the early years of its development. Denise worked at the City Attorney’s Office and played a very significant role in helping to organize the committees, the structure, and the advocacy agenda of the Council.

In 1999, Assistant City Attorney Gael Strack became the President and Gael’s tenure for two years played a critical role in the early planning stages of the Family Justice Center. The entire Domestic Violence Council and all member agencies endorsed the vision for a “one stop shop” Center and much of the focus of the Council in 2000, 2001, and 2002 was on the development and opening of the Center. Subsequent Council Presidents, Verna Griffin Tabor and Diane McGrogan, made the Family Justice Center a high priority during their tenures.

The Council was housed in the Family Justice Center and held all meetings at the Family Justice Center until 2007. The Council still continues to assist in coordinating agencies throughout San Diego County today. .

Since 2000, the Domestic Violence Council has continued to operate as a grassroots organization with the Center of Community Solutions acting as its fiscal agent. In 2003, the Council received funds from the Waitt Family Foundation to support a part-time executive coordinator to be housed at the San Diego Family Justice Center. All Council board and executive committee meetings were regularly held at the Center until 2007. San Diego became an excellent example of coordinated community response – the good, the bad and the ugly.

As the Task Force and then the Council gained influence, we were able to promulgate additional initiatives throughout the system. In addition, we were able to successfully advocate for increased resources for our shelters and other non-profit agencies providing services to victims of domestic violence and their children. It was an exciting, positive, and progressive journey but along with the positive impacts and the progressive funding streams, there was a major problem developing in our community over a ten year period. The increase of awareness had led to an increase of resources. The increase of resources had led to an increase of agencies providing programs for victims and their children. The list of places where a victim could go for help now took up both sides of the 8 ¬Ω X 11 paper that officers were required to hand out to victims of domestic violence when responding to a 911 call for assistance.

The San Diego Story is still being written. But this short history, with particular focus on key events in the journey to create a Family Justice Center, help shed light on the foundation that was built in San Diego and the organic process that occurred which made the first Family Justice Center in America possible in 2002.


This story focuses on the evolution of the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence in San Diego. It does not develop the entire history of the battered women’s movement in San Diego. We should also note that "The San Diego Story" in this book was written primarily from the recollections of Ashley Walker, Casey Gwinn, and Gael Strack. Many others in San Diego County have played powerful roles and would clearly highlight other aspects of San Diego’s criminal justice system journey based on their own experience.


McCormick, Tonya. "Convicting Domestic Violence Abusers When the Victim Remains Silent." 13 BYU J. Pub. L. 427, 436 (1998-1999).

Santana, Theresa. "South Bay Court Centralizes Family Matters." Enforcement Quarterly, The Face of Domestic Violence, Aug. – Oct. 1995.

Schecter, Susan. Women and Male Violence: The Visions and Struggles of the Battered Women's Movement . South End Press, July 1, 1999 .

Susan Schecter points out that each of the following groups came together to create the California Alliance: the Northern California Shelter Support Services; the Southern California Coalition on Battered Women; the Central California Coalition on Domestic Violence, California Women of Color Against Domestic Violence; and the Western States Shelter Network. The collaboration necessary to create the Alliance was significant. Turf issues need to be surrendered, egos needed to be parked at the door, and compromises had to be made in order to find common ground based on agreement upon a common mission.

Sproul, Kate. "California’s Response to Domestic Violence." A History of Policy Issues and Legislative Actions to Combat Domestic Violence in California. California Senate Office of Research, June 2003.

Zorza, Joan. "The Criminal Law of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence." 1970-1990, 83. J. Crim. L. & Criminology 46, 49 (1992-1993).

Cite should note the homicide study in San Diego by Lt. Leslie Lord and the fact that 26% of homicides related to DV has been the national average for many years

Other Notes and Resources

Penal Code Section 13700 et seq did become permanent legislation in 1992 and the sunset provision was removed due to the strong public support for on-going law enforcement intervention with domestic violence offenders.

The two page policy from August, 1986 is still available upon request. Please email Mehry Mohseni and mention this article in your request.

See San Diego County Task Force on Domestic Violence, Final Report, June 1991. Report is still available upon request. Please email Mehry Mohseni and mention this article in your request.