Domestic violence experts say the risks often go up when a victim tries to leave a relationship, but Dane County employs a special team of prosecutors and domestic violence case workers to make sure suspects face justice, and their victims get relief.
Marlys Howe is the director of the domestic violence unit in the Dane county DA's office. Special prosecutors handle the cases, Howe handles their victims. Howe says "What I see every day is can I get her to a safe place, is she gonna be ok tonight, that's what we work for every day." Howe helps the people involved in roughly 3,000 domestic violence cases every year, or about a tenth of cases statewide.
Paul Guequierre of the Office of Justice Assistance says "this grant will help the Dane County District Attorney's office prosecute these crimes, find ways to help people and ultimately help victims of domestic violence." Dane County's unit is one of five counties across the state getting a grant worth $145,000.
Howe says domestic violence differs from other criminal cases because the people involved share more than the crime. Howe says "it's not someone who walks into a grocery store, holds a gun to someone's head. That victim can say ok, I can deal with this. This is someone who has loved this person, has a relationship..."
Just this weekend police arrested Walter Fudge. He's suspected of murdering his former girlfriend. The federal grant through Wisconsin's office of justice assistance funds two prosecutor positions in Dane County for cases like this one. That's critical to Howe who says the office suffered when it lost another major grant for the unit a few years ago. "The problem with state budget cuts and grant loss, it's getting harder and harder to be domestic violence specific," Howe says.
But it's critical because Howe says they work with victims, tracking cases others cannot. "We're monitoring that and seeing repeat offenders. We can start to see that lethality is getting higher and higher for a victim, and we're gonna work at that level with that victim and hope we don't end up with a homicide."
Dane County has received this federal grant for almost ten years. Walter Fudge is expected in court Wednesday afternoon.