Sunday, November 30, 2008

Teens Killed at Greenbriar Mall

Today, from CBS46 in Atlanta:

ATLANTA -- Gunfire rang out in the holiday shopping season at an Atlanta area mall Saturday afternoon and sent two people to the hospital.

The shooting happened inside Greenbriar Mall in southwest Atlanta where shoppers ran for cover fearing for their safety.

Police said three or four shots were fired and when the gunfire ended, two people were injured with wounds to their legs.

The unidentified victims are described as a black male and female in their late teens.

They were taken by ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital.

“I think that's very tragic. It's a tragic circumstance and hopefully they'll find out who it was that did it and bring that person to justice,” said shopper D'Andre Green.

Police said the victims knew the gunman and believe it's a domestic incident and at the time of the accident there were about six or seven officers on the premises.

According to the general manager there were additional officers posted, including bike units, because of the holiday shopping. He say this shooting happened despite security presence.

“It's very hard to defend against those kinds of random acts of violence,” said Mike Weinberger.
Stories like these, which seem so common, remind us that domestic violence is not just a family matter, but instead spills out into the greater community in some very dangerous ways. In fact, at our candlelight vigil in October, we read the names of 7 innocent bystanders - family members, friends or strangers - who were killed in the previous year in the state of Georgia during domestic violence homicides. This number does not include the 5 children of victims and/or perpetrators who were also killed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Newnan Mother Warns about DV

From 11Alive News in Atlanta:

NEWNAN, Ga. -- It's too late for Michela Duplechain, but she's speaking out to warn others about the deadly toll of domestic violence. Last Sunday she lost her only son and her husband in a murder-suicide.

"I wouldn't have married a demon," she said. "I wouldn't have put my son in harms way if I thought that I was marrying someone that wanted to hurt us so bad, wanted to kill us and would do this to us."

Michela met 44-year-old Reginald Hines last March when he walked into the Coweta County barbershop she runs. They fell in love, but she says it wasn't long before he began physically and verbally abusing her.

She took out a court restraining order in September, but he begged forgiveness and she took him back. They married on October 7. She thought she could change him.

"No matter how much you love them, you can't change them and I realize that now," she said. "I hate that it had to come to this point where I lost my husband and my only child."

Her 14-year-old son, Anthony Olbert, Jr. called his new step-father "pop", but she says he was aware of the violence. He sent her a cell phone message on her birthday last month encouraging her and saying he'd always be there for her. Now he's gone.

Sunday afternoon she was moving some furniture out of her home to take to a relative, furniture she says they really didn't need. But then her husband drove up, pulled out a gun and began shooting.

She thinks he feared she was about to move out on him, but isn't really sure what triggered the sudden outburst of violence. When it ended, her son, Tony, was dead and her husband had shot and killed himself. He had also fired at her, but missed.

"When the bullets were coming at me," she told 11Alive News, "when I was running down the street and none of them hit me, I feel that this is my purpose. God put me right here to share my story to save somebody's life, maybe before the holidays."

Michela's cousin called us saying she wanted to go public with her story to warn others. "Look for the warning signs," Michela told us, "Do not stay, do not think in your mind that you deserve this...turn to God, look for the signs, listen to the advice of your loved ones who haven't done you any harm...and leave."

Michela's family has set up a fund in memory of her son. It's the Anthony Olbert, Jr. Memorial Fund at any Bank of America branch.

If you feel you are in an abusive situation like this, you may seek help from the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Their hotline number is 1-800-33HAVEN.
You can also reach Women's Resource Center on our hotline at (404) 688-9436. Read about our services on our website.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Women With Disabilities At More DV Risk

Study shows that women with disabilities are more likely to experience intimate partner violence.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study shows that women with a disability are far more likely to experience a physical assault by a spouse or other intimate partner than those without a disability.

Intimate partner violence is "an understudied issue in much need of attention," Dr. Brian Armor, who led the study, told Reuters Health. "We need to ensure that prevention initiatives designed to reduce intimate partner violence explicitly include the needs of adults with disabilities (e.g. ensuring shelters are accessible).

To estimate disability prevalence and differences in intimate partner abuse among women with and without a disability, Armor and his colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, analyzed data from the CDC's 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System -- a large annual telephone survey of Americans designed to monitor the prevalence of key health behaviors.

They found that women with a disability were significantly more likely than women without a disability to report experiencing some from of intimate partner violence in their lifetime (37.3 percent versus 20.6 percent).

Women with a disability were more likely to report ever being threatened with violence (28.5 percent vs 15.4 percent) and hit, slapped, pushed, kicked or physically hurt (30.6 percent vs. 15.7 percent) by an intimate partner.

Women with a disability were also much more apt to report a history of unwanted sex by an intimate partner (19.7 percent vs 8.2 percent).

"Future work is needed to get at why" this is so, said Armor, who reported the findings today at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in San Diego.

"Perhaps, women with disabilities are vulnerable to intimate partner violence because their disability might limit mobility and prevent escape; shelters might not be available or accessible to women with disabilities; the disability might adversely affect communication and thus the ability to alert others or the perpetrator might control or restrict the victim's ability to alert others to the problem."

Fear is another possibility, Armor said. "That is, a catch-22, stemming from reliance on the perpetrator for caregiving needs that might go unmet or lead to some form of undesirable placement if they tell authorities."

He concluded, "Since intimate partner violence is a public help problem, we need to ensure that prevention strategies for people with disabilities are widely adopted."
If you or a woman you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call our hotline at (404) 688-9436 to speak with an advocate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Supreme Court Considers Gun Ban for Abusers

The Supreme Court heard arguments last week on a federal gun ban making it illegal for those convicted of domestic violence to own firearms.

The Lautenberg Amendment, enacted in 1996, prohibits abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing firearms. In April 2007, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a wife beater's conviction for illegal gun possession by narrowly interpreting the Lautenberg Amendment as only barring gun possession by abusers convicted of laws specifically barring domestic violence, rather than all persons convicted of domestic violence under general battery laws. Most states do not have laws specifically barring violence against spouses or family members, but instead charge abusers under general battery laws. [Source Market Watch]
From the Feminist Majority Foundation:

Both the Brady Center to prevent Gun Violence and Legal Momentum, a New York women's advocacy group, support the current federal ban. According to Women's eNews, Legal Momentum found that when domestic violence abusers are in possession of a gun, they are 12 times more likely to kill their victims. The Brady Center noted the ban also prevents deaths of police officers who respond to domestic violence cases.
If the Supreme Court affirms the 4th Circuit ruling, the names of thousands of dangerous, convicted abusers could be purged from the Brady background check system, enabling them to possess firearms.

"The Supreme Court should follow the will of Congress and protect domestic violence victims and law enforcement officers who risk their lives stopping abusers by affirming that convicted domestic violence abusers cannot have guns," said Brady Center President Paul Helmke. "We should not make it easier for dangerous abusers to get firearms."

The brief submitted by the Brady Center and law enforcement highlights the great danger that armed abusers pose to family members of these abusers as well as law enforcement officers summoned to address such violence. On average, more than three people are killed by intimate partners every day in this country. Intimate partner homicides account for up to one-half of all homicides of females. Every year between 1,000 and 1,600 women die at the hands of their male partners, and 14 percent of all police officer deaths occur during a response to domestic violence calls.

The groups that joined the Brady Center brief are the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs, National Sheriffs' Association, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, Police Executive Research Forum, National Black Police Association, National Latino Peace Officers Association, Legal Community Against Violence, and School Safety Advocacy Council.

We will provide updates when a decision is made in the case.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Domestic Violence - A Veteran's Issue

On Veteran's Day, as we honor those who have served our country, we also honor military families who have made a great sacrifice in loaning us a loved one, often for years of active duty at a time. The sacrifice does not end for either when the loved one comes home, and we have a duty as a country to take care of our veterans and their families as they respond to the long-term physical and emotional effects of serving in a war.

Recently, Science Daily released a report linking the increasing number of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to an increase in family violence risk.

Research in the VA shows that male veterans with PTSD are two to three times more likely than veterans without PTSD to engage in intimate partner violence and more likely to be involved in the legal system.

"Community violence prevention agencies and services need to be included in a veteran's treatment plan to address the battering behaviors," says Hovmand.

"Veterans need to have multiple providers coordinating the care that is available to them, with each provider working on one treatment goal. Coordinated community response efforts such as this bring together law enforcement, the courts, social service agencies, community activists and advocates for women to address the problem of domestic violence. These efforts increase victim safety and offender accountability by encouraging interorganizational exchanges and communication.

"Veterans Day is an excellent reminder that we need to coordinate the services offered by the VA and in the community to ensure that our veterans and their families get the services they need when they need it," Matthieu and Hovmand say.
In October, a group of demonstrators stood outside Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, NC, staging a nonviolent protest against the violence they feel is perpetuated by our community’s military culture. The Fayetteville Observer reported:

Retired Col. Ann Wright served 29 years in the Army. The Hawaii resident said she came here out of concern for the four female service members slain in North Carolina this year. All were allegedly murdered by their husbands or boyfriends, also service personnel. Three were stationed at Fort Bragg.

“It’s military killing other military,” Wright said. “The military has to address this.”

Bragg leaders say they are doing the best they can. Pointing to a variety of preventive programs available on post, spokesman Tom McCollum said they are proactive in dealing with domestic and sexual abuse.

Soldiers are repeatedly briefed about the counseling services available at Womack Army Medical Center, at Army Community Services, and with Army chaplains. “We are sometimes baffled,” McCollum said. “Why would someone do that and especially with all the help that is available? A divorce is so much easier.”

The murders have attracted national media attention and caused many outsiders to wonder what is going on in our community. Why are so many spouses being slain here? Domestic violence is not exclusive to a military community, of course. Some studies say a third of all women have been abused — physically or sexually.

The recent spate of murders underscores the fact that domestic violence remains a significant problem here. Whatever preventive action is being taken at Fort Bragg, it isn’t enough.

It’s an old argument. We train men, and now women, to wage war, then we are baffled when they do that to each other.

It is driven in times of war by a national culture that can extol violence, conflating it with patriotism. And don’t overlook the general population raised on a steady diet of malevolence disguised as entertainment.

In a way, it’s surprising that there aren’t more bodies piling up at military bases all over this nation. We are certain, nevertheless, that the demonstrators were on to something that we as a community need to address. This may become an epidemic that threatens us all.

It is a problem we, as a community, military and civilian, can’t ignore. It is also a problem that we have not, so far, effectively solved.

The Army has made a good-faith effort to provide programs and services to prevent domestic violence and save lives. But it’s not enough. The effort must be redoubled, the violence studied more carefully, and the intervention waged even more aggressively.
On this Veteran's Day, it is our challenge as an advocacy organization, and yours as a community, to help our military families learn choices other than violence and to make sure that military wives and partners are believed, are not silenced, and are able to access the services and support that they deserve.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

VAWA Joe Becomes Our New VP

As a non-partisan, 501c3 organization, Women's Resource Center does not endorse candidates, so rather than appearing to advocate a certain ticket, we refrained from posting about Joe Biden until after the race was over. Now, however, we can say how excited we are to have someone so dedicated to the violence against women movement in such a powerful position in our country.

Joe Biden, of course, is the author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. VAWA legally protects women from domestic abuse and gender-based violence, and Biden has proclaimed it the "most important legislative accomplishment" of his Senate career.

In a piece in The New Republic, Fred Strebeigh writes about the history of the legislation.

In the spring of 1990, a new staffer in the offices of the Senate Judiciary Committee received a surprise project from her boss. Joe Biden wanted her to figure out what Congress should do to reduce violent crimes against women. Victoria Nourse, the staffer, was then just six years out of law school and unaware of Biden's past efforts along similar lines. In 1981, as he recalls in his 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep, Biden had pushed for a provision opposing laws that treat rape within marriage as a lesser crime than other rapes. Biden's effort led to a rebuff by Senator Jeremiah Denton of Alabama, who replied, "D*** it, when you get married, you kind of expect you're going to get a little sex."

The late '80s, Biden noticed, showed a rise in violent crimes against young women. Then, in December 1989, a man walked into a university classroom in Montreal with a hunting rifle, divided the students by sex, yelled that the women were all "a bunch of feminists," and killed 14 of them. Biden's aide Ron Klain handed the Senator an article in the Los Angeles Times by a friend who had clerked with Klain the year before at the Supreme Court, Lisa Heinzerling (now professor of law at Georgetown). Heinzerling connected that murder of "feminists" to a gap in U.S. law. Federal law tracking hate crimes targeted only, she wrote, a "victim's race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation." Thus, she argued, "if a woman is beaten, raped or killed because she is a woman, this is not considered a crime of hate"--a legal loophole "welcome to no one but the misogynist."

Biden posed a challenge to Nourse: figure out what Congress should do, and start by looking at the marital-rape issue he had tried to tackle a decade earlier. In the legal reading room of the Library of Congress, Nourse found a twist that shocked them both. Some states had extended the marital-rape exemption to become a date-rape exemption that downgraded a rape charge if a woman was a man's "voluntary social companion." One state that had done so was Delaware, where Joe and Jill Biden were raising a young daughter.

...When Nourse reported this to Biden, she saw a "look of horror on his face."

Looking for a solution, Nourse drafted a proposal for the "Civil Rights for Women" section of what would become VAWA. (The bill's other two parts, "Safe Streets for Women" and "Safe Homes for Women," proposed funding and legal support to assist law enforcement and protect women from domestic abuse.) The goals of the civil rights section were grand: make women "free from crimes of violence motivated by the victim's gender."

...As he listened to a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (where his son Beau was still a senior) talk about efforts to help victims of acquaintance rape, Biden became energized. After hearing the woman say that some male students had harassed her with "nightly phone threats," Biden launched into what Goldfarb believed was an unplanned but revealing narrative. He told of trying to convince his wife Jill, who drove to night school for her graduate degree classes, to park in a place that was safer but illegal. In response, he said he got "almost a punch in the nose." Trying to work out why, he spoke of his wife's "frustration and anger" that she should need to take precautions no man would take. He linked her anger to her sense of "lost control."

Goldfarb felt she was hearing a man grasp a fundamental understanding about "the lack of control that is experienced not only by women who are themselves victims, but by all the women who have to constrain their daily activities to avoid becoming a victim." Biden was expressing, she thought, the "basic insight of the civil rights provision--that violence against women deprives women of equality."

Biden, too, portrayed himself as a man surprised by new knowledge. In Delaware, he found that victims of rape were beginning to "literally stop me in the street" to tell their stories and give thanks for VAWA. More than half, he said, spoke of a "need to regain control," which Biden evidently understood. The loss of safety, home, and control that he had felt himself when he lost his first wife and daughter was something that these women had also been forced to grapple with in the wake of their rapes.

Though the civil rights portion of the law was eventually overturned, the remaining funding and protections have been invaluable to advocates doing this work. The following video was prepared by the Obama/Biden campaign to illustrate the impact:

A partner organization of WRC, Men Stopping Violence, honored Joe Biden a few years ago as a True Ally at their annual celebration event. In recognition of his election as Vice President, MSV recirculated his acceptance speech:

Fred Strebeigh concluded his article by saying:

Joe Biden may have lost in a titanic struggle to expand the civil rights of women. But, along the way, he showed himself ready to follow the lead of female attorneys and judges. As Victoria Nourse told me in a recent e-mail from her desk at Emory Law School, where she is now a professor: "[I]n a day and age when Senators were still fondling interns in the Senate elevator, he not only protected me, he listened to me, my legal advice, and by extension, all the women who talked to me."

No one can pretend that getting Biden as vice president lifts women's spirits as high as they may go with the election of the first woman president. But no one will doubt that, on that wet day on the slippery Supreme Court steps, beneath his senatorial umbrella, Joe Biden was there--trying to stand tall for the rights of women.

Update: RH Reality Check has more information on the work Senator Biden is doing related to an International Violence Against Women Act.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Atlanta Homeless Shelters Overloaded

From the AJC:

It was dinnertime inside the Gateway Homeless Services Center and the lobby was crowded with women and children dining on baked fish, rice and beans.

There were 166 people on the list to stay there on this cold October evening in downtown Atlanta.

...In recent months, Gateway has had at least 200 women and children seeking shelter. Center employees put cots on the lobby floor and ask the women and children to make do.

Across metro Atlanta, homeless advocates say they’ve seen an uptick in the number of women and children seeking shelter as the economy has faltered. Although they have no statistics to back up their conclusions, they point to the Gateway lobby as
evidence. Most area counties will conduct a census of their homeless in January.

The Rev. James Milner said the number of people seeking help seems “infinite.” Milner runs Community Concerns Inc., an organization that has an apartment complex in DeKalb County where homeless women get job training, clothes for work and other services.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad, particularly with women and children,” he said. “We’re seeing too many grandmothers [without a home].”

Homeless advocates say they’re trying to help, but their coffers are low, and they’re getting little additional financial help.

Ellen Gerstein, executive director of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, said a staffer was in tears in her office one day last week, frustrated by the inability to help the rising number of women and children in need of shelter, food and health care.

Stories like these are common for us. Children under 9 are the fastest growing homeless population in our city, and many of these children are homeless with their mothers because of violence faced at home. Though we don't call our safehouse a homeless shelter in the traditional sense, women and children stay there because they have no other options for housing at the time. For many families, it is literally a choice between violence at home or no home at all.

For others, homelessness comes after a period of trying to make it on their own with limited resources and supports.

In an interview, [Mayor Franklin] said single women with children typically suffer first when the economy falters.

“They feel it first,” she said. “So we’ve seen in this increase of women and children, many of the women … work for low wages until a child gets sick or they get sick and they lose their job. They don’t have the flexibility of sick time. They don’t have the flexibility of vacation time to support their families.”

Franklin said she and mayors from cities such as Boston and Denver who have worked on homelessness issues believed things were getting better. That was until early 2008, when the mayor noticed an economic downturn in the city.

“All of us thought we understood the problem and thought we were making progress and all of a sudden we see this increase [of homeless women and children],” Franklin said. “We’ve seen the cracks in the economy. Now, it’s like an avalanche, and children often suffer the worst.”

Homelessness due to family violence is also a problem in rural areas in Georgia and in other states, but many of these families migrate to Atlanta because they hope to find more opportunities here.

“They hear it’s the home of Martin Luther King, and it’s the city too busy to hate,” Milner said. “They think there’s an advocacy movement that will take care of them.”

Teresa Miles is one of those newcomers. Miles, 47, moved here from a Baltimore suburb three months ago, hoping to keep her two teenage sons away from increasing gang violence there. Unable to find housekeeping work and without a support network in Atlanta, Miles and her children sleep in the Gateway lobby.

DeKalb County resident Tasha Bell, 36, a mother of two girls, moved into a transitional housing facility near Doraville in May after getting evicted a month earlier. She was laid off from her job a year ago and couldn’t find another job where the hours allowed Bell to pick up her daughter, who’s about to turn 3, from day care.

Bell said what troubles her most about her current situation is not being able to buy things for her 14-year-old daughter, who’s in her first year of high school.

“That makes me feel very sad, like I’ve failed,” she said.

Women and children are one-third of Georgia’s homeless population, according to the United Way Regional Commission on Homelessness. Children under 9 are the fastest-growing group of homeless, they say.

In recent years, Atlanta has often ranked among the meanest cities to the homeless, partly due to its law aimed at curbing panhandling.

At the time of this post, there are 2 beds (at two separate shelters, meaning no room for women to bring children) open in domestic violence shelters in the five-county metro area.