The following was submitted by the office of the Middlesex District Attorney:
Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Kontz was honored Tuesday by REACH Beyond Domestic Violence for her work prosecuting cases of domestic violence and helping victims, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone informed the public.
Kontz, of Somerville, will receive the Voice for Justice Virginia Bigwood Award tonight during the annual meeting of REACH in Waltham. Kontz, who has been with the MDAO for 14 years, has served as the Chief of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit since it was created in 2007, and is responsible for the management and direction of the Middlesex District Attorney's Office Domestic Violence Prosecution and Prevention Program. The Domestic Violence Unit established a direct partnership with service agencies and consistency in the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases, providing more comprehensive service to domestic violence victims throughout the county. The Unit serves as the prosecution arm of the Program, which is devoted to prevention, education and awareness to stop domestic violence from occurring and working to break down the barriers against disclosure.
REACH is a 30-year-old non-profit organization that provides safety and support to survivors of abuse while engaging communities to promote healthy relationships and prevent domestic violence.
“Suzanne’s passionate dedication and commitment to combating domestic violence is an inspiration to all,” District Attorney Gerry Leone said. “Suzanne handles the very complicated dynamics involved in cases of domestic violence with great compassion while serving as an extremely effective prosecutor. We are thrilled that REACH has honored her with this well-deserved award.”
As the DV Unit Chief, Kontz is actively engaged with local police departments and other first responders, traveling to their communities to offer numerous trainings on how to better identify and investigate domestic violence crimes. She also works with DV Roundtables and other community organizations across the county to better prevent instances of domestic violence and support victims. Kontz is a graduate of Boston University’s School of Law.
District Attorney Leone has placed a priority on prosecuting and investigating cases of domestic violence. In addition to creating the Domestic Violence Unit, DA Leone has developed several initiatives including a College Training where 200 members of law enforcement, health care, and administration from every college and university within Middlesex County and the surrounding areas are trained in the areas of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking and Cyber Crimes. In 2010, Leone created a domestic violence and animal abuse prevention initiative that is aimed at training law enforcement and first responders about the correlation between domestic abuse and animal abuse.
In addition to initiatives, DA Leone sponsors regional Domestic Violence Roundtable programs. The Roundtables work to bring together community partners who serve victims of domestic violence. Seven programs will be held this year throughout Middlesex County. DA Leone also sponsors an annual Domestic Violence Consortium where members of law enforcement, schools, and victim services agencies are brought together to encourage collaboration on issues surrounding domestic violence.
To better assist victims in Middlesex County, DA Leone has designated specific Domestic Violence Assistant District Attorneys in each district court who are trained and focused on the prosecution of those crimes. DA Leone has also launched a comprehensive effort to train and better coordinate with local police departments - helping them to better identify and investigate cases of domestic violence. In addition to on-site trainings, members of the Middlesex DA’s Domestic Violence Unit have also provided departments with:
- Roll call training video
- Risk Factor cards to help better identify high risk instances of domestic violence
- Dispatcher checklists and trainings to help better respond to DV victim calls
- A comprehensive domestic violence resource and training package
- Regular legal updates to keep the departments up to date on new domestic violence laws and caselaw
Each local police department has also committed to establishing a DV point of contact to serve as a liaison to the DV Unit.
Leone has also established a Domestic Violence Board in which each region in Middlesex County is represented by a police officer and a victim service provider. The purpose of the board is to ensure that the District Attorney’s Office is addressing the needs of domestic violence victims consistently and appropriately for the particular area of the county in which they reside.
Additionally, Leone’s office has partnered with organizations to form community-based DV rapid response programs in order to better assist victims in situations that have a high-risk of lethality. There are currently five teams already in place, with two more in the planning stages.
Lastly, Leone has implemented the national domestic violence prevention program “Cut-It-Out” in Middlesex County, an MDAO outreach effort to hairdressers who are often among the first people to notice or become aware that their clients are the victims of domestic violence. The MDAO’s Cut-It-Out program was modeled after the national program of the Salons Against Domestic Abuse Fund, which is dedicated to mobilizing salon professionals and others to recognize signs of abuse and to fight the epidemic of domestic violence in communities across the United States. The MDAO recently held a Cut-It-Out event on June 6 at the Nashoba Valley Technical School in Westford.
These programs are part of Leone’s continuing commitment to preventing domestic violence though education and training, and enforcing the laws through investigation and prosecution of domestic violence abuse.
Middlesex County is the largest county in Massachusetts and one of the largest counties in the country with 54 towns and cities and 26 colleges in urban, suburban, and rural areas, comprising over one quarter of the population of Massachusetts. The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has offices throughout the county, including communities such as Ayer, Cambridge, Concord, Framingham, Lowell, Malden, Marlborough, Natick, Newton, Somerville, Waltham and Woburn.