July-August 2013

Right on target

Jackie Borcherding

Assistant District Attorney in Williamson County

How the newly created Domestic Assault Response Team (DART) in Williamson County hit the bullseye with its first free conference on domestic violence

Preventing and prosecuting domestic violence is the mission of the Williamson County Domestic Assault Response Team (DART). DART is a collaborative team of prosecutors, victims’ assistance personnel, law enforcement, and health professionals that formed in August 2012 under the leadership of District Attorney Jana Duty and County Attorney Dee Hobbs, to reduce the incidence of domestic violence and improve the effectiveness of advocacy for victims. DART aims to be to domestic violence what MADD has been to driving while intoxicated: an effective means of education, public awareness, and prevention of crime in our community.

    Because we believe that collaboration and education are necessary to end the cycle of violence, the DART team conceived the idea to host a free, three-day conference for those who are committed to thorough investigations and just prosecution of domestic violence cases. Within nine months of that initial idea, we hosted our first conference in mid-May, with over 200 registrants, including judges, other elected officials, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, nurses, doctors, probation officers, mental health professionals, social workers, and community leaders. That’s 100 more attendees than expected!

    We wanted to host our first conference for free, so we simply asked who wanted to partner with DART to end the cycle of violence; we received an overwhelmingly favorable response from our local community. Our facilities and food were donated, due to the generosity of Commissioner Lisa Birkman in securing the Williamson County Jester Annex Building in Round Rock for no cost, as well as charitable donations from our nine sponsors: the Williamson County Sheriff’s Association, Round Rock Officer’s Association, Cedar Park Police Association, Taco Cabana, Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A, the Center for Cognitive Education, Panda Express, and Schlotzksy’s.

    Our 21 speakers graciously donated their time and talent to talk on myriad important topics related to the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases. For example, Michelle Garcia and Rebecca Dreke from the Stalking Resource Center in Washington D.C. presented on investigating stalking cases and applying Texas stalking laws. Then, Rev. Dr. Chrys Parker, author of I Always Sit with My Back to the Wall, shared her 40 years’ experience of working with victims with post-traumatic stress disorder from sexual and physical violence. Round Rock Police Department Detective John Combs spoke on family violence forensic investigative techniques. Jan Langbein, director of the Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas, spoke on what child abuse professionals need to know about domestic violence.

    We believe our first conference is only the beginning of what DART seeks to achieve in educating the community and eradicating domestic violence in Williamson County. Lastly, a special thanks to all of the people who have committed to partnering with DART to promote education and collaboration to end the cycle of violence in our community.