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St. Joseph’s ‘Hospital to Court’ program helps assault victims

Diana Bodeen was conducting a hearing on a case of apparent domestic violence when it became clear the woman in her office was having difficulty.“You could tell she was late-stages pregnancy, but my sheriff’s officer was a paramedic and he acknowledged to me that she didn’t look like she was okay, so I asked her,” she said. “She told me, indeed, she was in labor.”

Bodeen, the domestic violence hearing officer at the Passaic County Superior Court, recommended the victim go to the hospital.

“She told me that the defendant had said to her that he was going to kill her and the baby, so she wanted to stop first and get the restraining order before she had the baby,” she said. “That’s how afraid she was.”

Her experiences brought Bodeen to a realization: When it comes to filing reports on incidents of domestic violence, occurrences of which often go unreported, time is of the essence. That’s why she reached out to St. Joseph’s Healthcare System to establish more immediate ways for victims of domestic abuse to report these incidents.

“For the ones who are in a crisis, I think it is critical that we have this available for them, as they don’t have to leave the safety of the hospital and they can really obtain the full restraining order while they’re here,” said Sister Maryanne Campeotto, vice president, mission, at St. Joseph’s. “Then, when they leave, it is with the protection of the local law enforcement and with the actual paper in their hand that says that they do have the restraining order.”

The health system launched the Hospital to Court program in 2009, which allows patients to seek immediate protections from the court — including restraining orders — from the safety of the hospital as they are receiving treatment.

This summer, St. Joseph’s will expand the programs operations from the court’s hours to 24/7 availability.

According to Quarticha Perkins, program supervisor at the Passaic County Women’s Center, increasing a victim’s ability to report may increase the amount of times these incidents are reported.

“You don’t have to wait and then go into the court in the morning,” Perkins said. “If there’s a holiday, that throws it off because then they have to do it at the police department.

“So it allows that comfort of it all happening right there.”

Perkins also acknowledged that leaving a gap in time between treatment and reporting also gives the potential defendant time to establish contact.

“Usually, what happens after an explosion is that they come in and say they’re sorry and because of the relationship, and even the control, sometimes the victims fall into that,” she said. “It also allows for the educational piece of it: A lot of people don’t know what they can do, so having the courts able to award that restraining order in that moment allows for more security for their safety as well.”

Technology also has played a large role in making this program a success: Bodeen said a judge will be on call outside of the court hours with a designated cell phone, an iPad mini and a hotspot that provides data service to ensure constant availability.

And the ability to hold video conferences has paid dividends as well, by allowing the hearing officer or judge to see the physical evidence of abuse or aid victims who can’t speak.

“We got a phone call for a restraining and the young woman involved had a very serious neck injury and had to have a tracheotomy, so she couldn’t speak,” she said. “Judge (Ernest) Caposela was able to conduct the hearing and she kept writing us notes and showing it up to the camera.

“We could not have been able to help her as soon as we helped her if we did not have the technology.”

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On Twitter: @andrewsnjbiz

Andrew Sheldon

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