DA’s office lands $500K grant to prevent domestic violence

  • Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Gazette
Monday, November 29, 2021

NORTHAMPTON — The Northwestern district attorney’s office, in partnership with the city of Northampton, has received a three-year, $500,000 federal grant to help prevent domestic violence in Hampshire and Franklin counties, as well as Athol.

“We are thrilled to receive these funds which will allow us to continue this important work,” said Mary Kociela, the director of the DA’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Projects.

Awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, the grant will fund the DA’s Domestic Violence High-Risk Team, a project begun in 2010 to “identify and contain the most serious domestic violence offenders as we do everything we can to keep their partners safe,” Kociela said.

The grant will fund training programs for police, prosecutors and community advocacy programs across the Northwestern region that will explore topics including trauma-responsive interviewing, barriers for survivors in underserved communities, and cases of stalking or near-fatal choking. Northampton has been receiving the funds on behalf of the DA’s office for 20 years with the mission to identify a potential homicide before it happens.

Kociela said the training also will focus on identifying high-risk factors in offenders, such as the “connection between animal cruelty and domestic violence.”

Since the high-risk team was created in 2010, Kociela said, there has been a significant decline in domestic violence homicides in the region and only two such incidents in Hampshire and Franklin counties since 2012.

Kociela explained that although even just “one domestic violence homicide is too many,” it’s an improvement from earlier decades. Between 1987 and 1993 there were a total of 11 domestic violence homicides in the region, and since 1984 there have been 24.

“You can really see the difference,” Kociela said. “We’re just doing anything we can … to increase protection for victims.”

Providing training to different groups across the region allows them all to “come together to identify potentially lethal offenders,” Kociela said. “The coordination of our office, police, the courts and community advocacy programs makes all the difference in our ability to hold offenders accountable and protect victims.”

“Our team members join forces to achieve those goals because we know we can’t solve this problem with law enforcement and the legal system alone,” Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan said in a statement.