Youth Domestic Violence Court


Launched in late 2003, Brooklyn’s Youthful Offender Domestic Violence Court was the first court to address exclusively misdemeanor domestic violence cases among teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19. Despite statistics showing that women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of domestic violence and sexual assault nationwide, overwhelmed court systems have not been able to respond effectively to the problem. Defendants usually receive no targeted services aimed at preventing further abuse, and victims receive little in the way of services and counseling. In contrast, at the Youthful Offender Domestic Violence Court a dedicated judge and court room staff are equipped to address the unique needs that teen complainants bring to court. And by linking victims to a specialized services and offering a free 12-week program to teen batterers, the court attempts to engage teenagers and provide services designed to halt the violence. 

How It Works

Key features of the Youthful Offender Domestic Violence Court model include:

Victim Advocacy: One of the Court’s central missions is to enhance collaboration among criminal justice agencies and community-based groups that offer social services and assistance to adolescent domestic violence victims. The Court also has a dedicated teen victim advocate— employed through the counseling services unit of the District Attorney's Office—who is able to devote the time and energy, and has the unique social work skills, to engage teen victims and offer referrals to additional services. The victim advocate is responsible for reaching out to victims to explain the criminal justice process and provide counseling, safety planning, and links to services. 

Accountability: Adolescent perpetrators of relationship violence are mandated as part of a plea to attend a free 12-week program—provided through a partnership with STEPS to End Family Violence—designed to intensively re-educate juvenile batterers and prevent them from continuing the cycle of violence into adulthood. A STEPS group facilitator is in court to provide immediate on-site interviews for program eligibility. A court-employed resource coordinator monitors defendants’ compliance with all programming. Perpetrators appear in court once a month for monitoring purposes, and sanctions for noncompliance include community service and extended time in the program.

Specialized Attention: Informed judicial decision making based on a knowledge of adolescent development and relationship violence among teens is a crucial aspect of the Court. A single Criminal Court judge presides over all teen dating violence cases in the jurisdiction, which ensures consistency. A dedicated and informed District Attorney is also assigned to the Court; previously, teen domestic violence cases were farmed out to non-specialized Assistant District Attorneys who lacked the programs and resources to deal with the unique needs of this defendant population.

Evaluation: The Court has a research and evaluation plan that tracks the number and types of cases heard, dispositions, the number of defendants ordered into the adolescent batterers’ program, the percentage of victims meeting with the teen victim advocate, and overall compliance rates. The goal is to gather comprehensive previously unknown information about adolescent victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, and to track case outcomes under the Youthful Offender Domestic Violence Court model. The court regularly reviews and analyzes these statistics and modifies the program accordingly.


Partners include the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Steps to End Family Violence, Safe Horizon, Brooklyn Legal Aid, Brooklyn Defenders, 1B Defense Bar, the police, adolescent mental health and substance abuse service providers and others.

Featured Research


Combatting Domestic Violence in Indian Country: Are Specialized Domestic Violence Courts Part of the Solution?

Combatting Domestic Violence in Indian Country: Are Specialized Domestic Violence Courts Part of the Solution?

By Kathryn Ford

Domestic violence is one of the most pressing problems facing Native American and Alaska Native communities. Although the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act recognizes the authority of tribes to prosecute non-Native offenders, more tools are needed. This paper explores whether specialized domestic violence courts, which focus on enhancing victim safety and promoting offender accountability, can be part of a multi-faceted approach for tribal justice systems to address domestic violence.



"They’re Not Talking About Me”: Race, Cultural Responsivity, and Domestic Violence

"They’re Not Talking About Me”: Race, Cultural Responsivity, and Domestic Violence

In this New Thinking podcast, Dr. Oliver Williams brings questions of race, faith, and incarceration into a conversation on domestic violence. Drawing on his work with both victims and perpetrators from African American, Latina, and other immigrant and diasporic communities, Dr. Williams examines the import of cultural responsivity in the justice system’s response to domestic violence. 

This product was supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K042 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, or recommendations expressed in this podcast are those of the speaker(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.


To Help Teens Experiencing Dating Violence, Meet Young People Where They're At

To Help Teens Experiencing Dating Violence, Meet Young People Where They're At

Some people mistakenly think that when teenagers experience intimate partner violence, it's less serious than when adults experience it, explains Andrew Sta. Ana,  supervising attorney of Day One, which seeks to end teen dating violence. "There's this idea, 'Oh, teen DV. That must mean domestic violence or intimate-partner violence 'lite'... I think that what's important to recognize about teen dating violence, particularly as it affects young women, is that [the age group of 18 to 24 has] the highest rates of dating violence" among any group, Sta. Ana says in this New Thinking podcast.

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