Serving Victims of Domestic Violence

Laurie S. Kohn, associate professor of clinical law and director of the Family Justice Litigation Clinic, is serving for the second time on the D.C. Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board (DVFRB), following her confirmation in May by the D.C. City Council.

The board seeks to use the tragic accounts of homicide victims’ lives and experiences to improve the response to domestic violence and better serve and protect potential future victims.

“Though our national response to domestic violence has become much more aggressive over the last few decades, and though greater avenues for legal intervention exist, domestic violence fatalities have remained essentially consistent for many years,” says Professor Kohn. “The board has the potential to arrest this trend.”

In her new role, Professor Kohn works with other DVFRB members to conduct “social autopsies” on victims. In each case, members analyze the backgrounds of both the perpetrator and the victim, taking into account their education and their interactions with the legal system, neglect system, medical system, and social support system. By looking at the victims’ lives, they hope to identify gaps in the network of support that the city provides and create proposals to fill those gaps.

Professor Kohn previously served on the board in 2003 after its establishment by Mayor Anthony Williams and rotated off in 2006 after completing her term. “When I was approached this year to join the newly revived board, I was thrilled to join the process again and move its mission forward,” she says.