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Local candidates discuss growing domestic violence issue in Spokane

Ahead of the November election, candidates took part in a forum Thursday night to explain their approach to helping victims and holding abusers accountable.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous that law enforcement respond to. For the victims that come forward, reporting the abuse and going through the legal system can be traumatizing.

"We need to believe victims, that's not to say that there isn't a burden of proof that has to be established," said Spokane District Court Judge Aimee Maruer, who is seeking reelection. "But, at the end of the day, our job is to make sure that justice is done and also that our communities are safe."

On Thursday night, judges, prosecutors and sheriff candidates were invited to speak at a forum put on by several groups that provide help to sexual assault and domestic violence survivors.

Eric Dooyema is running for Spokane District Court Judge and says the courts need to maintain a strong relationship with law enforcement so that victims are protected outside of the courtroom.

"It's been a little bit easier for us now to follow up with the gun surrenders and it ever has been in the past and that's always been something I've been worried about," Dooyema said. "We sign the order, we tell folks to surrender weapons and then you don't know what happens next."

Andrew Biviano is also running for district court judge. He talked about how he's already helped survivors as a private attorney.

"The biggest service I provide is that I can both help them learn what the law is and how to go about it, but also how to present their case," Biviano said. "They come to me with a story and it's very long and complex and there's all sorts of things that have happened and they are traumatized and they are not sure how to put it forward in a way that will get through to the judge."

Candidates agreed that more can be done to help survivors, especially minority populations.

"Spokane is getting more and more diverse. We need to accommodate the refugees coming through to Spokane," said District Court Judge candidate Jenny Zappone. "We need to accommodate our diverse population because they are victims as well and they are entering a system where they have no idea what is going on."

Undocumented immigrants can be less likely to report abuse. Spokane County Sheriff candidate John Nowels was asked how he would support them if elected sheriff.

"They are victims of crimes," Nowels said. "Their immigration status shouldn't even come up in the investigation frankly and I know why it does. There's a significant amount of fear by people who may be undocumented and in this country, they are worried that because they are a victim that they may be further victimized and deported."

Nowels went on to say that undocumented immigrants who are victims of a crime can receive what's called a U Visa.

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