A lack of understanding and responsiveness regarding interpersonal crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking is apparent within the court system. Offenders are not being held accountable, and adjudication is highly diminished due in large part to misinformation among key members of the court’s decision-making process, including members of the public that comprise juries and grand juries — and even judges themselves. It is often the case that judgments are made because these individuals do not understand the complexities and nuances of these interpersonal crimes. Research indicates that courts are very positively influenced by expert testimony on interpersonal violence. However, the process of courts becoming more informed, responsive, and victim-focused in this way is complicated by both a lack of accessibility to information concerning interpersonal crimes, and a need for specific skills training of professionals in the victim advocacy field.

In effort to address these challenges, Noël Busch- Armendariz and the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA) have provided expert witness trainings for the Texas court systems for the past ten years. The 2014 Full Court Press 2.0 project sought to increase responsiveness to crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking through educational instruction, and the Criminal Justice Division Full Court Press Training projects continued to build the capacity of expert witnesses to improve the knowledge of their court systems regarding these interpersonal crimes.

The 2016 Full Court Press 4.0 Advanced Training project aims to further improve the Texas court system by providing advanced training that will deepen participants’ knowledge of how to be an ethical expert witness, build cultural competency for underserved populations, and increase ability to engage in multi-disciplinary case coordination and legal advocacy that will emphasize victim restoration and offender accountability. A four day training held in Austin, Texas, will focus on teaching participants pragmatic, effective, and valuable ways to improve the effectiveness of the court system and enhance the responsiveness of the criminal justice system to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The goal will be that these participants will carry the increased knowledge and improved curriculum to their communities to educate their local courts jurisdictions and build local expertise.

Through increasing the awareness and education of professionals that make up our court systems, responsiveness to crimes of interpersonal violence, and ultimately victims, will be increased. This project will bolster improvement in the Texas court system, and impact the level of justice served for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking crimes.