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Domestic Violence Impact Panel will meet one evening a month | Guest letter
By RAE IWAMOTO, Federal Way Municipal Court administrator
“This was a life-changing experience.”
Could sitting in a courtroom for two hours one evening be a life-changing experience? It could be if the event was a Domestic Violence Victims Panel. Other comments express the tremendous impact these panels have had on the attendees:
• “I learned that domestic violence is a lot worse than it seems and that an argument can turn into murder.”
“The stories that the speakers told us affect me and made me think about what I have done and makes me want to change and learn different ways to control my anger.”
• “…very touched that you guys have the courage and strength to re-live your worse memories time and time again so that maybe we can learn to change ourselves.”
The Coordinated Community Response Against Domestic Violence (CCRADV), a non-profit organization based in Federal Way, has recently increased its presence in this city by presenting the Domestic Violence Impact Panel at the Federal Way Municipal Court.
Michael Morgan, the presiding judge of the Federal Way Municipal Court, agreed to allow the CCRADV to utilize court facilities for the panel after he was asked by CCRADV President Barbara Blywise. Morgan saw an opportunity to provide valuable services to address domestic violence in our community.
Around seven years ago, a committee of professionals and community members formed to develop standards for the first domestic violence impact panel in Pierce County. Panels are generally comprised of speakers who are surviving family members, former victims of domestic violence, recovering perpetrators and others who grew up with domestic violence. Most panels show a short video on the topic. A domestic violence treatment provider usually closes the session with a talk about the effects of domestic violence.
The panel is designed to have an impact on its attendees, but not designed to replace any formal treatment.
The CCRADV, whose mission is to serve victims of domestic violence and their children through education and financial assistance, uses the funds collected as admission fees to assist victims. In 2008, a little more than $39,000 was given away to victims in King and Pierce counties to assist with utilities, rent and relocation expenses — an additional benefit of the Domestic Violence Impact Panel.
But the primary benefit is expressed in a comment of another attendee: “I really feel for these people and am not ashamed to admit that I’ve shed real tears for their pain. I didn’t want to be here but I’m glad I came…I wish I would have attended a program years ago.”