New program aims to help domestic violence victims



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A new program in Orange and Osceola counties is meant to attack a growing problem with domestic violence. A new position was created to help the victims fight back in court.

Eleven people were arrested in Orange County overnight Monday on domestic violence charges.

The new position is one way State Attorney Jeff Ashton's office is working to stem the tide of domestic violence before more people are killed.

Experts say domestic violence is about control and power, and too often it leads to tragedy.

In October 2012, three women were killed after an angry man targeted his girlfriend at a Casselberry hair salon.

A month before that, a man went on a shooting spree at two International Drive hotels, killing his girlfriend and her friend.

Each of those incidents began with an injunction in civil court.

"Injunctions are a great tool, as long as law-abiding citizens obey them," said Circuit Judge Marc Lubet.

Now, in an effort to make sure the criminal justice system knows about civil matters, the State Attorney's Office has hired an attorney to sit through hearings, talk to victims and help push for prosecution that leads to jail time.

"There is a huge disconnect between criminal and civil, and there's also an abuse of the process," said attorney Irene Pons.

Circuit Judge Roger McDonald explained that disconnect.

"Prosecutors can prosecute, even when the petitioner doesn't want it, but this is civil court and the rules are different," said McDonald.

Veteran domestic-violence attorneys applaud the new way to battle a growing problem.

"It's something our system needs and will help with frivolous cases and will help victims involved in these cases," said Pons.

The attorney hired to sit in on the cases started doing so last week.