Published: April, 2010| Ken Bergsma, Edited by Stephanie Avalon

Through a collaborative Grants to Encourage Arrest project with the Washington State Office of Crime Victims Advocacy Skagit County is addressing sexual assault and stalking within the context of domestic violence. Research had shown both stalking and intimate partner sexual assault to be indicators of increased risk to domestic violence victims.

In addition to the increased risk, it was clear that these elements of domestic violence were often not addressed comprehensively by advocates, identified by law enforcement, or charged regularly as crimes by prosecutors.

In order to accomplish this goal, Skagit Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services partnered with the Skagit County Prosecutor's Office and the Mount Vernon Police Department to identify possible strategies and solutions. Skagit Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services and the Mount Vernon Police Department sponsored two trainings for officers, prosecutors, and social services providers to better identify and respond to cases involving intimate partner sexual assault and stalking.

After these trainings, the Mount Vernon Police Department began work on a county-wide law enforcement stalking protocol to establish clear definitions and practices in the police response to the crime of stalking. The Stalking Resource Center provided guidance and support in the initial development. The draft protocol was then widely distributed for review and editing prior to being adopted by various law enforcement departments throughout Skagit County. This protocol created consistency in identifying and investigating stalking as a distinct crime separate from, or in addition to, physical domestic violence assaults. Consistent law enforcement responses also helped the prosecutor’s office in charging stalking crimes, which can be difficult as stalking often involves numerous jurisdictions.

The model stalking protocol is just one example of the outcomes of this collaboration to better address intimate partner sexual assault and stalking.

For more information please contact: KenB@mountvernonwa.gov