The Days After

Emotions aren't a part of Janet Perrodin's job. They can't be. She knows that most of the people she tries to help don't like her. She's fine with that. It doesn't stop her from doing her job.

Perrodin is an assistant district attorney. One of her duties is prosecuting the nearly 60 to 70 misdemeanor domestic cases that cross her desk every month.

The district has a no-drop policy for domestic battery. Sometimes that creates tension between her and a victim who may want to pretend as if nothing happened.

"They probably end up hating my guts," Perrodin said. "I'm used to it. I feel that deep down what I'm doing is for their benefit. I live with it. It doesn't bother me that much because all we want to do is get that defendant into counseling so the violence will be stopped."

Sometimes she wonders how effective her efforts are. Sometimes the courthouse seems like a revolving door with the same people walking in, walking out, walking back in again. More than sometimes it seems like the problem is never-ending.

"You have to be optimistic about what you do. You have to," she said.

But it's hard to remain optimistic, especially when a victim decides to return to an abuser. For her, like many others outside the situation, it seems like the logical, objective decision is to just leave.

But Perrodin knows for the victim, it's rarely a black-and-white issue. Somewhere in the gray is fear and even love for the batterer. Some victims just want to forget the abuse ever occurred.

"It's frustrating because she continues to go back, but I feel that nothing we do will change the fact she's going to go back. That's what's frustrating. I try to be objective and explain that their safety is an issue, or discuss how it's affecting their children if children are involved. Deep down, I know it's not an objective situation. I can't expect a victim to be rational. It's an emotional situation. ... I know that I'm not going to convince them to leave."

But she's hopeful that her job is making a difference.

"When we don't see these offenders again, we can assume, but we never know," she said.

And then there's the thought that doing her job could endanger a victim of those offenders who think the victim is the one in control of the decision to prosecute.

"It may make it worse for her. That's the complex part. We make it clear that the victim isn't in charge of prosecution," she said.

One way the district attorney's office is driving that fact home is by holding victims who don't show up for court in contempt of court. Perrodin said the move is used in limited cases, particularly those in which the offender and victim live in the same household.

"I had a victim tell me, 'This is really going to help.' She was taken into custody and had to pay a contempt fee. She said, 'When this gets out, it will really help.' She understood."

It also prevents no-shows, she said.

Ideally, Perrodin would like to be able to prosecute a case without a victim, but she doesn't see that as feasible in most cases.

"In most cases, you only have the victim. That's the evidence. I know that can't happen," she said.

Her wish is for experts to develop effective counseling for batterers and chart its success rate.

"I'm not criticizing counseling," Perrodin said. "I just wonder how well it addresses the problem."

She'd also like to see options other than counseling, but doesn't necessarily think jail is the answer.

"We're limited with what we have to work with - anger management counseling and domestic violence education counseling."

She admitted it's hard to be optimistic.

Then a smile slowly spread across her face.

"It can also be rewarding when a victim comes back and says her life is better," she said.

Does that happen often?

She gave an exasperated laugh and shook her head no.