Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stalker Kills Marietta Woman

The AJC reports that a 32-year-old Marietta woman was fatally shot Tuesday outside the supermarket where she worked, killed by a man who had been stalking her for months, police said.

Police arrested the suspect, Armando Soto, 46, early Wednesday in Mississippi. He has been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault and is being held in the Pascagoula, Miss., jail.

At 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, police say, Soto confronted Angelica Robledo De La Rosa and her companion outside the Brito Supermarket on South Cobb Drive in Smyrna. Soto shot De La Rosa several times as she got out of a vehicle, police said.

Soto then crashed his white van into another vehicle before fleeing, police said.

Investigators soon learned Soto had repeatedly tried to "pursue a relationship with the victim, however she continually denied his requests," police spokesman Officer Joe Hernandez said. "A series of disturbing [stalking] incidents" followed, Hernandez said, but they were not reported to police.

A lookout was sent to law enforcement agencies Tuesday. Police in Gautier, Miss., pulled over Soto in his white van early Wednesday.

De La Rosa, who worked in the grocery store as a cashier, died of her wounds Tuesday night at WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
Tragedies like these underscore very clearly why we take stalking seriously. It's not a compliment and it's not a way to wear a woman down until she finally says yes to a date. Stalking is a crime, it is threatening and scary, and it should never be treated as a joke. We're just sorry that it takes the death of an innocent woman to prove that.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Domestic Violence Bombing

Expecting to see a post about war? Nope. From the Augusta Chronicle, we hear about a literal domestic violence attempted bombing in Georgia:

Authorities say Robert Holt, 25, wanted to get back at his old girlfriend by throwing a Molotov cocktail through the window of her home.

He not only got arrested; he hit the wrong house.

Mr. Holt was being held Tuesday without bond, charged with throwing the firebomb through the window of a Dell Drive house Sunday night. He was taken into custody soon after by Thomson police.

Authorities said Mr. Holt had been arrested on a variety of charges in recent months but is now facing arson in the first degree, four counts of aggravated assault and possession of an explosive device, according to police records. Each charge is a felony.

No one was injured when the device was thrown through the front window of a residence in the 500 block of Dell Drive about 9 p.m., police said.

Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John W. Oxendine said in a statement that Mr. Holt mistook the home for one where he thought his estranged girlfriend was living.

Firefighters with the Thomson Fire Department responded to a fire call at the home where damage was reported.

Mr. Holt is being held without bond in the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we repeat: domestic violence is not just a private, family matter. It spills out of homes and into our streets. Innocent bystanders, friends, and family members are killed daily across the country because we are still too accepting of the violence that we expect to stay behind closed doors. The family living in this home is very lucky that no one was killed. They could easily have been victims of domestic violence homicides too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Murder-Suicide in Powder Springs

From the AJC:
A 66-year-old Powder Springs man shot and killed his 48-year-old wife, then turned the gun on himself, Cobb County police believe.

Police responding to a 911 call Monday morning found William "Archie" Nix and Brenda Nix dead in their home on Friendship Church Road. A family member made the call about 9 a.m.

Detectives continue to investigate, and anyone with information is asked to call 770-499-3945.
As always, our thoughts and prayers and with the victim's family.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Murder-Suicide in Atlanta

A man in southeast Atlanta has killed his partner, then himself:
Mark Gilbeau, an investigator with the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office, told the AJC that Richard Mosely, 66, apparently shot Caroline Holliday, 51, before turning the gun on himself.

Mosely and Holliday, who were roommates in the home on Thomasville Court, both died at the scene following the 7:45 p.m. shooting, Gilbeau said.

Atlanta police investigators have not released a motive for the shooting.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim's family.

Speaker Richardson's Domestic Violence History

We're a few weeks behind on this one, but a domestic violence scandal is rocking Georgia politics, though very few people are labeling it as such. From Fox 5 news:

ATLANTA (MyFOX ATLANTA) - It was a political bombshell that rocked the state Capitol. This month, House Speaker Glenn Richardson announced that he had tried to take his own life. Richardson blamed the suicide attempt on depression resulting from his divorce. On Monday, Richardson's ex-wife told her side of the story.

Susan Richardson said she wanted Georgia voters to know why she divorced her husband and what led up to his surprising announcement. Richardson said she could no longer keep her ex-husband's secrets.
In the interview (linked in full above), Susan Richardson describes a relationship based on power and control. In a responding opinion piece, Shelley Serdahaley, Executive Director of our partner organization Men Stopping Violence, filters Mrs. Richardson' interview through a DV lens.

Susan Richardson recently spoke with the press to challenge the statement by her ex-husband, Georgia House Speaker Glen Richardson, that his suicide attempt had been prompted by his depression over their divorce.

"It's not about our marriage ending. He's lost control of me. He doesn't like that," said Richardson.

"He called me from his hospital room, the next day, and said, 'Now, are you going to take me back?'”

The behaviors she described are the kinds of actions that must be acknowledged as abuse if we are truly serious about ending violence against women.

In the Diane Sawyer interview, Rhianna helped us understand how a beautiful and powerful young woman could be the victim of domestic violence. In much the same way, Susan Richardson helps us understand the many ways abusers exert power and control over their partners, without actually striking them.

Ms. Richardson stated that her ex-husband told her he would beat her. He threatened her with the loss of custody of her children. He left 49 text messages on her phone, including threats that he would have the state patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation hunt her down when she left town.

Physical threats, threatening the loss of children, and stalking are all calculated to instill fear in the victim. They are tactics used by an abuser to control his victim’s behavior, to get his own way. Other tactics include physical intimidation, withholding money, infidelity, put-downs, and making it difficult for her to spend time with friends or family.

While no one should take major depression lightly, threats of suicide are a classic tactic that abusive men use to manipulate their partners and ex-partners into submitting to their demands.

When the murders occur, it is time for us to mourn. When we witness abuse, it is time to act. As the leaders of the Republican Party figure out what to do with this “situation”, I hope that they recognize that one thing they need to do is take a stand. Stand for women’s safety and say that all forms of abuse are wrong.
Update 12/29/09: Another elected official in Georgia, this time a Savannah area alderman-elect, is arrested for domestic violence.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Importance of Prevention

A writer on Law Blog discovers what those of us in this field have known all along, that sometimes women do every single thing they're "supposed" to do and they still experience further violence. What the writer gets wrong, however, is this sentence:

Sometimes, there is no way to prevent the real dangers of domestic violence.
The sentiment is spot on, but the writer is still making society's tired old mistake, that prevention is something for which a victim of violence must take responsibility.

She must leave the relationship to prevent future violence. Well, as we hope we've made very clear on this blog, immediately after leaving is one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship.

She must take out a protective order for her safety. Well, to a man who has been to jail and for whom threats of imprisonment are not threatening at all, a protective order is just a piece of paper.

She must leave the relationship, get a divorce, stay in a safehouse, leave the state, change her name, protect her address, etc. etc. etc.

As an attorney, the Law Blog writer does wonder if he did everything he could to ensure her safety. To him, that means he wonders if he helped her gain all of the possible legal protections available. See "she must take out a protective order" above.

He sums up with this:

Did the system fail? Could this brutal second attack have been prevented? Was there something else I could have done? I don't know. However, I have a few suggestions for those who have been the victims of domestic violence and who still maintain contact with the perpetrator because of child custody issues.

More advice for women. I hope our regular readers see where we're going with this. Not once does the writer wonder what could have been done to prevent the batterer from learning to batter.

Sometimes, there is no way to prevent the real dangers of domestic violence.
Sometimes, it is too late to prevent the real dangers of domestic violence for the woman/women on whom one batterer preys. But it is never too late to teach our sons not to batter. That's the best and only real way to prevent the real dangers of domestic violence.

Update: Shakesville posted today on a public transit sign, meant to reduce sexual harassment on trains and buses, that reads:
Sexual Harassment is a crime in the subway, too--a crowded train is no excuse for an improper touch. Don't stand for it or be ashamed, or be afraid to speak up. Report it to an MTA employee or police officer.

Note the advice. Sexual harassment is a crime . . . report it. Not sexual harassment is a crime . . . don't do it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Man Kills Partner, Son in Decatur County

A Decatur County man shot and killed his longtime live-in girlfriend and their son before killing himself on Saturday night, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s deputies discovered the tragedy at the home of James Lewis “Bubba” Reynolds III, 42, of 202 County Line Road, in northern Decatur County.

Reynolds’ sister, Tammy Cook, went to check on him and found his body along with those of his girlfriend, 31-year-old Tonia Swords, and their son, 7-year-old Kahm Reynolds, Sheriff Wiley Griffin said.

The Sheriff’s Office was investigating Reynolds after allegations he had sexually molested two young females, Sheriff Griffin said.

Because of that ongoing investigation, Sheriff’s deputies had removed Swords and her family from Reynolds’ home and placed her in a safe residence outside of Decatur County, Griffin said. In addition, the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services had implemented a safe plan designed to protect Swords’ children, the sheriff said.

Swords’ other two children did not go back to the home and are being taken care of by relatives, Griffin said.

On Monday, after Swords was moved out, Reynolds had been ordered to have no further contact with her.

“For some reason, unbeknownst to me or to this office, Tonia and her child got back to [Reynolds’] residence and all indications were that he killed them,” Griffin said.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Swords family.

Friday, December 4, 2009

UGA Suspends Player for Domestic Violence

The Georgia Bulldogs indefinitely suspended freshman defensive end Montez Robinson today after he was arrested Thursday on battery charges.

“I’m certainly disappointed in the situation with Montez (Robinson),” said head coach Mark Richt. “We have expectations and standards for our student-athletes and his actions are not in line with those. We are suspending him indefinitely from all team activities.”

Robinson faces battery and criminal damage charges for two separate events involving a female University of Georgia student.

Robinson, 19, was held in the Clarke County Jail this morning on charges of simple battery and second-degree criminal damage, a felony. He was released on $2,000 bond later in the afternoon.

Robinson is charged with battery for allegedly assaulting the female student on Oct. 20 and criminal damage for allegedly breaking taillights on her car early Monday morning.

This post could easily have been given the "double standards" tag that posts on domestic violence perpetrated by athletes often get. Instead, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt chose to take these arrests seriously and condemn domestic violence as outside the standards of character he expects from his team. Thanks, Coach Richt, for standing with our cause and setting that example for your peers, your team, and your fans.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

DV Stabbing in Norcross

Via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

DULUTH — A love triangle turned deadly Tuesday night when a jealous man fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend’s new beau in a Duluth bakery, police said.

Authorities said Son Hoang, 28, of Norcross, was upset that his ex was having coffee with another man and confronted the pair about 11:15 p.m. The incident happened at Cafe Mozart Bakery, located in a shopping center at 2131 Pleasant Hill Road near Venture Drive.

Police said Hoang engaged the victim, Vu Quang Lu, 24, of Lawrenceville, in an argument that quickly escalated to fisticuffs.

“During the fight, (Hoang) produced a knife and stabbed the victim several times,” said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli.

The entirety of the altercation took place within the bakery, where officers found Lu bleeding upon arrival. He was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center where he later died, Schiralli said.

Investigators initiated a manhunt for Hoang based on information provided by his ex-girlfriend, whom police have not identified. But Hoang surrendered to police at a Norcross precinct about 90 minutes later, Schiralli said.

Hoang was arrested without incident, interviewed and booked into the Gwinnett County Jail on murder charges. He remains jailed without bond, Schiralli said.

The bakery was open to the public Wednesday morning and bore no signs of an altercation or police involvement. An employee said workers who witnessed the stabbing were not available for comment.

“I can’t really say anything about that,” the employee said, declining further comment.

Our thoughts are with the victim's family.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Popular Songs Contain "Unhealthy Relationship Ingredients"

In Boston, an innovative new program is encouraging teens to examine the messages the get about relationships from the media, particularly popular music. From Access Atlanta:

The "Sound Relationships Nutrition Label" was developed by 14 teens after they attended a seven-week commission-sponsored institute on healthy relationship promotion and teen dating violence prevention. During the seven-week program, teens were also taught to evaluate music based on themes of power, control, equality and gender roles.

The teens then developed their list after analyzing songs from Billboard's "Hot 100" chart.

Mario's "Break Up" featuring Gucci Man and Sean Garrett and Jamie Foxx's "Blame It" featuring T-Pain topped the list for the most unhealthy relationship songs of 2009. Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and Pitbull's "Hotel Room Service" were also listed.

Among the teen panel's top 10 songs with healthy themes: "Miss Independent" by Ne-Yo and "Meet Me Halfway" by the Black Eyed Peas.

Shaquilla Terry, 15, of Boston, a teen panel member, said it was important for listeners to go beyond the songs' beats and listen to the lyrics.

The commission says its program aims to teach teens how to evaluate popular media, and help parents talk to teens about healthy relationships. Commission officials also said the label invites consumers to become song lyric nutritionists by helping them identify positive and negative messages about relationships in songs.

"We aren't telling people what they should or should not be listening to," Barbara Ferrer, the commission's executive director, said in a statement. "We are giving them a tool that will help them make an informed choice about what they put in their bodies."

In addition to the label, the commission also plans to released a lesson plan for teachers.

Jack Perricone, chair of the songwriting department at the Berklee College of Music, said pop songs generally allow listeners to get away from the bad news of the day. But he said pop music, by its very nature, is very repetitive, and sometimes if songs have negative messages, those repetitive messages can get inside teens' heads.

"Some (artists) play up the bad boy image and put out negative images as a way to be commercially successful," said Perricone, who was not affiliated with the commission. "But then they have to deal with the moral implications."
Leave your list of healthy and unhealthy relationship songs in comments.

Monday, November 30, 2009

For Reporters: How to Write About DV

Reporters covering DV arrests and homicides should take a leaf from Joe Johnson's book. His piece "Horrific End To Marriage Continues Deadly 2009 Trend" in the Athens Banner-Herald is an example of great DV reporting. Follow the link to read it, then come back and we'll tell you why.


First, Joe did a very good job of painting a picture of the batterer. Most readers want to assume that someone capable of domestic violence is easy to pick out in a crowd. They expect batterers to look scary or act strange. They never expect batterers to look like their siblings, friends, bosses, neighbors, or fellow church members. This story reminds people how important it is to believe women when they disclose abuse because, though it might not be obvious, all kinds of people are capable of violence.

Second, Joe did an amazing job of showing that domestic violence is increasing and talking to experts to explain that trend. Many women feel like they’re suffering alone, and communities want to believe that domestic violence homicides are rare. If they are rare, we are somewhat absolved of the responsibility of preventing domestic violence and supporting survivors. The article makes clear how important support services are and how equally important it is to support our family and loved ones if they admit to us that their relationship is abusive.

Last, Joe reminded readers who are experiencing domestic violence that the violence usually escalates over time, and provides them with a name, description, and phone number for a local agency that can help them.

It's that simple.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Patrick Stewart Speaks on the Legacy of DV

As a child, Patrick Stewart regularly saw his father hit his mother. In the Guardian, he describes how the horrors of his childhood remained with him in his adult life. We recommend that you follow the link, so you can read his comments in their entirety.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

British Schools Teach DV Prevention

Jezebel has a great article on a plan in British schools to teach all kids about dating violence prevention:

British schools are planning classes to teach kids ages five to fifteen about preventing domestic violence — but some parents' groups aren't happy.

The classes were inspired by research that shows one in four teenage girls are hurt by a partner, and a third of girls in relationships are victims of unwanted sexual activity. Despite these statistics, only half of girls receive any sort of education about domestic violence. To remedy this, beginning in 2011 schools will teach students about healthy relationships and the unacceptability of abuse.

An unnamed contributor to the plan says that the classes would be separate from sex education:

It's nothing to do with teaching them how to put a condom on. It's about teaching boys not to be violent and girls that being a sex object isn't the only way to be validated.
Schools minister Vernon Coaker says the classes will be "age appropriate." Rather than being taught about romantic relationships, younger children might learn not to bully or call names. Christine Barter, a researcher in the area of teen violence, says what's especially scary is that teenage girls keep this violence to themselves. Classes starting at a young age might encourage them to seek help when they need it — and might teach them that violence is unacceptable and should be reported. But not all parents are behind the measure.

Margaret Morrissey, of the group Parents Outloud, says, "This political correctness is turning our children into confused mini-adults from the age of five to nine." Nick Seaton, of the Campaign for Real Education, concurs:

Youngsters should naturally know not to do these sort of things and must be called to account if they do. But teachers have enough to do in teaching English, maths and science to a reasonable level without addressing issues that parents should be dealing with.
Teaching young girls to report abuse and rape — and teaching boys not to commit these acts — is hardly mere "political correctness." But Seaton's criticism echoes an age-old debate about education that goes beyond "English, maths and science" — what should schools teach, and what is the province of parents? In this case, it's unfortunately untrue that "youngsters naturally know" not to abuse each other. And since violence is still so widespread, it doesn't appear that parents "naturally know" how to deal with it either. Parent-child relationships are complicated by a lot of emotions and expectations — parents may feel, for instance, that their son would never hurt a girl, or that their daughter would never stay in an abusive relationship. Teachers may be able to take a more dispassionate approach, especially since they will undergo special training before teaching the new classes. Ideally, all parents would teach their kids never to commit domestic violence, and to speak out immediately if they suffer it. But teenagers aren't getting this message, and school may be a good place to fix that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

DV Murder Suspect Arrested in Decatur

A man suspected of stabbing his wife to death Thursday morning in Athens was captured at his mother’s house in Decatur, reportedly after a standoff that involved the DeKalb County police SWAT team.

William Darwin Joseph Studstill, 30, stabbed 33-year-old Stephanie Ann Studstill several times with a butcher knife sometime in the early morning, then drove to his mother's house in Decatur, where he called 911 about 7 a.m. to report he had just "killed his whole family" in Athens, according to police.

Athens-Clarke police entered the couple's home in Clarke Gardens Apartment on Carriage Court off Barnett Shoals Road and found only one victim, Stephanie Studstill. The couple didn't have children and no relatives lived with them, police said, and the only other family member in the area was the victim's sister.

It's worth noting that, in this article about the stabbing, the Athens police spokesperson feels the need to point out that the victim "refused to press charges" for an earlier domestic violence arrest when it is, in fact, law enforcement's job to press charges in order to keep the victim safe. When using evidence-based prosecution, victims aren't even required to testify to get a conviction. How can we question why victims choose not to call the police when even the police place the burden of safety and accountability on the woman.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Church Involvement in Ending DV

The Rev. Steven Saul, pastor of Trinity Anglican Church in Douglas County, Georgia, is setting an example for his peers. From the Times-Georgian:

“I want to have the churches become proactive in helping victims who suffer from domestic violence,” he says.

This has led Saul on a mission to make the local religious community aware of the domestic violence problem and to help them recognize signs when it is happening. He also wants to see pastors take an active role in speaking out against violence from the pulpit.

Saul cited the 2008 Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Report, an annual report by the
Georgia Commission on Family Violence, to emphasize the need for church involvement.

The report shows that 25 percent of domestic violence victims and 17 percent of the perpetrators are actively involved with a church, temple or synagogue.

“What this says to me is that there’s an absolute place for the church to serve in an advocate or support role for people suffering abuse,” he said. “I want to encourage them to speak about the issues from the pulpit and avoid hiding what is public.”
What Reverend Saul says is true. There is absolutely a need for church involvement in the movement to end violence against women. Church leaders should believe and support women who disclose abuse at home and, equally if not more importantly, churches should condemn the actions of batterers from the pulpit, in the pews, in the fellowship hall, and through the words and actions of their members.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Floyd County DV Homicide

Two shootings in Floyd County on Tuesday rocked the local community, left one man dead, one injured and a third man charged with murder. A statement issued by the Floyd County Police Department reads:

On November 17, 2009 at approximately 4:45 pm, Robert Timothy Spriggs, Jr. went to the residence of John Gregory Davis at 4565 Old Dalton Road. An altercation ensued in the front yard, and Spriggs, age 26, shot Davis, age 46, several times, fatally wounding him. Davis was pronounced dead at the scene.

Spriggs fled the scene in the victim’s vehicle and traveled to 127 East Clinton Drive, in attempt to locate his ex-girlfriend, the daughter of the victim. Spriggs forcefully entered the residence and shot the homeowner, Scott Sulsberger, age 32, seriously injuring him. The accused then fled on foot into a wooded area near the second scene.
According to the Rome News-Tribune, Floyd County Chief Deputy Tom Caldwell confirmed that Spriggs turned himself in to Floyd County police investigator Jeff Jones after Sheriff Tim Burkhalter talked to the fleeing man.

An obviously distraught Burkhalter was reeling Tuesday night from the long-distance negotiation where he talked to Spriggs via cell phone as the young man fled through the woods near the Hidden Valley subdivision off Burnett Ferry Road.

Spriggs was being pursued by local law enforcement in the wake of the two shootings.

Burkhalter is an old family friend of Spriggs and said he’s never in all of his 26 years of law enforcement had something hit so close to home.

“My primary concern was seeing this come to an end without him hurting himself or hurting a law enforcement officer,” said Burkhalter.

He said he has known Spriggs his whole life and described him as "a good kid who has never been in trouble.”

Spriggs is an Armuchee High graduate who served four years in the Air Force, which included deployment to Iraq. He later played football with the Shorter College Hawks.

Burkhalter said he knew Spriggs was “upset over an issue with his ex-girlfriend” after talking with him a couple of days ago.

The sheriff said Spriggs was troubled about a temporary protective order that had been issued against him.

On Tuesday, Burkhalter was in Savannah for a professional conference. When he got out of his sessions in late afternoon, he saw that he had several missed calls from Spriggs but no messages. Then he got a call from a family member who was concerned Spriggs might harm himself.

Just minutes later, the sheriff was notified of the shootings, Spriggs’ suspected involvement and the manhunt under way for him.
Rarely do we get such a clear look into the progression of a murder. Spriggs had a history of domestic violence if a protective order was issued against him. He felt out of control because his victim was taking steps to get free. At that point, many batterers will threaten harm to themselves to compel their victims to return out of guilt or fear, or as a final act to prove that they are in control of their lives. Threats of suicide by the batterer are also one of the greatest red flags for lethal danger to victim, because if he is gone he can't face consequences for his actions. As an ex-Army Ranger, he also had access to firearms and knew how to use them. Instead of, or possibly in addition to, taking his own life, it was clear that he meant to take hers.

What is also worth pointing out is that the sheriff thought Spriggs was a good kid who had never been in trouble, even though he was aware of the protective order in place. The girlfriends of good kids don't protective orders to keep them safe. As a sheriff, he should also have recognized that the girlfriend was in severe danger. After all, nationally, about 50% of protective orders are violated, and it was clear that Spriggs went to her father's house and her sister's house looking for his former partner. Later reports also indicate that police were called to the Davis household days before to photograph injuries inflicted by Spriggs to Mr. Davis and his daughter. Knowing that the sheriff feared that Spriggs was suicidal this quote - “My primary concern was seeing this come to an end without him hurting himself or hurting a law enforcement officer.” - not once mentioning worry for the victim is more than appalling.

Our thoughts are with the Davis family.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Man Murders Wife in Rockdale County

Via the Rockdale Citizen

A Rockdale County man was charged Thursday in the death of his estranged wife, whose body was found in her rental house in the Indian Ridge subdivision. Investigators believe the man attempted to cover up his wife’s death by making it appear that there had been a burglary.

Hakim Muhammad, 42, of 4713 Cedar Lake Drive, was charged with murder and concealing a death. He was arrested early Wednesday at his wife’s house at 825 Cochise Trail and originally charged with burglary, according to the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office.

However, investigators were suspicious of his story and search warrants were executed at both residences because Muhammad and his wife were together at the Cedar Lake Drive house just prior to the murder at Cochise Trail.

Shupe said there was enough evidence gathered from those search warrants for investigators to charge Muhammad with his wife’s murder.

Shupe added the official cause of death was undetermined until an autopsy report is completed, but she said investigators believe Shelia Renee Muhammad may have died from strangulation.

The couple, who had two sons, ages 10 and 14 years old, were estranged. Shelia Muhammad had recently rented the Cochise Trail home and was in the process of moving in, Shupe said.

“It is believed that the murder had been planned days prior,” Shupe said. “The suspect had removed the victim’s wedding band and had it in his pocket at the time of his arrest — a further attempt to make it look like a burglary.”
What we know is that domestic violence is about power and control. We hear often that the perpetrator just snapped, but police believe that this murder was planned out in advance. Often batterers just can't handle the fact that their victims have moved on, as this woman so clearly had. He had to find one last way of exerting control over her.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Murder-Suicide in Athens

According to the Athens Banner-Herald, a man murdered the mother of his children Thursday afternoon then shot and killed himself when the sheriff tried to stop the car he was in.
Michael Dwight Wise, 25, waited in the parking lot of the Shoppes of South Athens for Kendra Borders to return from lunch, and shot her after she parked her truck, according to police.

Immediately after he killed Borders, Wise drove home and told his brother that he just shot someone at the shopping center. He said he was going to kill himself and ran into the woods with a handgun, according to police.

The brother called 911 at 2:01 p.m., and officers found Borders in the driver's seat of her Ford Explorer, dead from a single gunshot wound, police said.

Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith was in his car on Elberton Road when a black Mustang drove by, and he noticed the passenger had ducked down in the seat, according to Smith.

Smith followed the car onto Veribest Road, activated his car's emergency lights and siren and saw "all of a sudden one of the Mustang's windows blew out," he said.

The car, driven by Wise's cousin, stopped on Veribest Road, and the sheriff found Wise was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Smith said.

A dozen people have died in domestic murders this year, including three of the aggressors who then committed suicide:

► On Jan. 28, police said John David Latimer shot and killed his two sisters and his brother in their trailer at Hallmark Mobile Home Park in Eastern Clarke County. Latimer, 52, pleaded not guilty to 13 felonies in the deaths of Janice Carol Patterson, 57; Sara Kathleen Tatum, 61; and Thomas Garland Latimer, 50.

► On April 25, University of Georgia marketing professor George Zinkhan III shot and killed his wife, Marie Bruce, 47; Thomas Tanner, 40; and Ben Teague, 63, who tried to intervene, outside the Town & Gown Theatre on Grady Avenue. Zinkhan then committed suicide after digging a shallow grave for himself.

► On Aug. 18, Lisa Davenport was set on fire by boyfriend Phillip Scruggs in her apartment at Bethel Midtown Village, according to police. She died 11 days later and police charged Scruggs with murder.

► On Oct. 9, a young boy found the bodies of his parents in their home on Chardonay Street. Police said Harry Marable apparently shot his wife, Phyllis, then himself.
Our thoughts, as always, are with the victim's family.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Catoosa County DV Murder

Catoosa County in Northwest Georgia had their first murder of the year on Halloween night. It involved domestic violence.

A woman was killed and a man was wounded Saturday night on East State Line Road in Catoosa County.

According to sheriff Phil Summers:

Deputies went to the residence about 8:11 p.m. in response to a report of shots fired. They found a white male who had been shot in the arm and a white female lying on the living room floor who had been shot in the chest.

The suspect, Terry L. Hagan, was the estranged husband of the female victim, who has been identified in news reports as Lisa Hagan.

Terry Hagan is alleged to have gone to the incident location and confronted the male victim in the front yard with a .22-caliber revolver, shooting him in the arm. Hagan then allegedly entered the residence and shot Lisa Hagan in the chest.

He is being held in the Catoosa County Detention Facility charged with murder and aggravated assault.

This is the first homicide in Catoosa County this year.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Savannah Man Murders Wife

A 69-year-old Savannah man was charged with murder Saturday.
At 10 a.m., 66-year-old Mary Ellen Johnson was gravely injured by a gunshot at her home on 30 Ben Kell Road. The residence doubles as an established day care facility, with a sign in the front yard that reads "Legacy Childcare & Learning Center."

Johnson was rushed to Memorial University Medical Center in critical condition. Saturday afternoon, doctors declared her dead.

"We're so shocked. You never heard any kind of commotion or anything," Blake said. "They had a business with the children. Everybody looked up to them."

By the time police arrived Saturday morning, they said, Johnson's husband, 69-year-old Robert M. Johnson, had escaped. He was apprehended 2 miles away at a BP gas station near the intersection of White Bluff Road and Rendant Avenue.

A timeline pieced together by investigators suggested the couple of 40 years had been arguing off and on Saturday morning, when Robert Johnson allegedly grabbed a gun and fired at least one round at his wife, according to Savannah-Chatham police spokeswoman Veda Lamar Nichols.

He was charged with murder and booked into the Chatham County jail to await a court hearing this week.

Mary Ellen Johnson's death was the 25th homicide reported to metro police this year. The first homicide of the month also involved a married couple. On Oct. 12, 63-year-old Walter Marchel was found stabbed to death in Clearview Homes. Police arrested Marchel's wife, Judy Davis Marchel, as a suspect.

October was Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Another DV Homicide in Macon

A 45-year-old man has been charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend who was found dead at their Newberg Avenue home early Friday morning.

Alphonzo McNear was being held without bond at the Bibb County jail Friday, according to jail records.

An autopsy revealed 53-year-old Sandra Joann Stell was strangled, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said.

McNear called police at about 4 a.m. When officers arrived at 896 Newberg Ave., they found Stell dead with bruises on her face, neck and body, according to a Macon police report.

The officers talked with McNear, who said he and Stell drank an alcoholic beverage at about 8 p.m.
A little later, Stell played with her kitten.

At some point, McNear fell asleep.

When he awoke, he found Stell lying on their bedroom floor at the foot of the bed, according to the report.

He tried to wake her up. He called 911 when she didn’t respond, according to the report.

McNear was arrested Friday after the autopsy was complete, police Sgt. Zac Self said.

Stell’s death marks the 13th homicide in Macon in 2009.

Five homicides have been reported in Bibb County this year, Jones said.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chicken or the Egg

Via Yahoo - A new study by the Parents Television Council has counted over 400 acts of violence against women and female teenagers on prime-time ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox shows from February until May of this year. When the group conducted the same study five years ago, they counted less than 200 acts of violence against women. The PTC clocked an increase of over 120 percent for beatings, murder, threats and rape of adult women, as well as an over 400 percent increase against teenage girls.
The media watchdog said it was particularly disturbed by the use of violence against women in comedies and said it hoped TV networks and advertisers would stand up against the trend.

"I hope the industry will look at our data and be as shocked as I was," PTC president Tim Winter told reporters.

The report suggested that violent acts against women and teen girls was increasing at rates that far exceed the two percent increase in overall violence that the study found existed on TV between 2004-2009.

The PTC compared prime-time programing on networks ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox in February and May 2004 and the same months in 2009. It said every network except ABC showed a dramatic increase in stories that included beatings, violent threats, shooting, rape, stabbing and torture.

The PTC findings reflect a sharp rise in the number of crime series on TV, such as the popular CBS franchise "CSI" which is one of America's most-watched drama series.

But the report singled out Fox, saying the network allowed violence against women to be trivialized through punch lines in its satirical animated comedies "Family Guy" and "American Dad." It cited one May 2009 episode of "Family Guy" in which a character gets divorced under a fictional 18th century procedure -- by shooting his wife dead.
Our question is, which came first? Is violence against women so tolerated that it makes its way into our entertainment, or does its saturating presence in our media desensitize us to violence in reality? Or is it simply an echo chamber, where each feeds the other and makes the problem more and more extreme?

68-Year-Old Woman Murdered in Atlanta

A 68-year-old Atlanta woman is dead after her husband shot her in the head Tuesday afternoon, police said.

Wheelchair-bound Rochelle Phillips died on the scene, authorities said.

The man then shot Phillips' son in the back of the neck when the younger man confronted the man, Atlanta police homicide Det. Lt. Keith Meadows said.

"The stepson came home and saw the stepfather holding the handgun in his hand, and tried to wrestle the gun away," Meadows said.

The husband is in custody after he confessed to police what he did, Meadows said.
Phillips' son is in critical condition at a nearby hospital, police said.
Elderly survivors of domestic violence have a host of additional barriers to leaving and/or getting safe. To learn more, visit the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Macon Man Murders Wife

Another Georgia man has murdered his wife:

A Macon woman who was shot in the head Friday during a domestic dispute died Sunday night, police said.

Cynthia Rhodes, 35, was pronounced dead at 8:05 p.m. at The Medical Center of Central Georgia, Macon Police spokesman Sgt. Zac Self said. She had been in a coma since the shooting, which took place Friday night at a residence on May Place in the Unionville neighborhood.

Police charged Rhodes’ husband, 43-year-old Bernard Rhodes, with murder Sunday night. Bernard Rhodes was already being held at the Bibb County Jail on a charge of aggravated assault in connection to the shooting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The Department of Justice has released Attorney General Eric Holder's remarks from a DV Awareness Month event. Some excerpts:

But just listening to, and learning from, these women is not enough. We also need to take action, both in our personal and professional lives, to help others in our community who find themselves in this situation. We owe it to them. We owe it to ourselves.

Last year, there were over a half million non-fatal violent victimizations committed against women age 12 or older by an intimate partner. And more than 2,000 women and men were killed by intimate partners last year. These are not mere statistics we are talking about – we are talking about individual human beings: friends, colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, relatives. We should be appalled that this type of violence is visited upon them in this day and age. And we must do everything in our power to stop it.

While women are by no means the only victims of domestic violence, the facts are clear – women are most often murdered by people they know. In 2007, 64 percent of female homicide victims were murdered by a family member or intimate partner. By comparison, 16 percent of male homicide victims were murdered by a family member or intimate partner. Disturbingly, intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45.

The numbers are similarly staggering when it comes to children’s experiences of domestic violence. According to a survey released two weeks ago by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1 in 4 children are exposed to some form of family violence in their lifetime.

These numbers are shocking and unacceptable.

We know that the most vulnerable in our society often bear the greatest burden in times of economic hardship. That’s why the Recovery Act included $225 million in grants through the Office of Violence against Women to expand efforts to combat violence against women and to invest in the lives of those who have been victimized and remain vulnerable. These vital funds will be used to support programs like SHAWL House and to help women like Gabby.

But we also know that money is not enough. This is why today’s dialogue must also lead to action. The kind of real, concrete action that impacts the lives of those most at risk and that otherwise might be broken.

We know that violence in the home doesn’t just impact individuals and families. It devastates entire communities because it is a precursor to so many other forms of violence. When children witness or experience violence in the home, it affects how children feel, how they act, and how they learn. Without intervention, children are at higher risk for school failure, substance abuse, repeat victimization, and perhaps most tragically, perpetrating violence later in their own lives.

We know that we must be open to new ideas and approaches. We must learn from each other what has worked – and what has not. We must acknowledge the great cultural diversity in our country and rise to the challenge of providing services that are truly culturally and linguistically relevant. We must dare to think differently and we must value innovation.

As a father of three children, I recognize that change has to come from within families as well. We all need to be role models and mentors for our children so that they have the best chance of living in violence-free communities and families.

None of us can solve this crisis alone. But by working together, by using every tool at our disposal and by refusing to ever back down or give up, we can make a real difference in our homes, our communities and in our nation.
Click here for the full text.

Proof That Stalking Isn't Funny

A woman is suing Toyota over a terrifying "prank" that left her believing that she was being stalked (note that we put our quotes around the work 'prank' whereas ABC puts their quotes around the word 'terrifying').

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Amber Duick claims she had difficulty eating, sleeping and going to work during March and April of last year after she received e-mails for five days from a fictitious man called Sebastian Bowler, from England, who said he was on the run from the law, knew her and where she lived, and was coming to her home to hide from the police. There was even a fictitious MySpace page reportedly created for Bowler.

Although Bowler did not have Duick's current address, he sent her links to his My Space
page as well as links to video clips of him causing trouble all over the country on his way to her former house in Los Angeles, according to the lawsuit.

The alleged harassment lasted five days, according to the suit, and frightened Duick so much she contacted neighbors, friends and family, and the occupant of her former home about the man she feared was coming to visit. Her attorney declined to comment as to whether or not she called the police. She even made her longtime boyfriend sleep with a club and mace next to the bed for protection.

"As a result of the e-mails, [Duick] found it extremely difficult to work, and her job performance suffered," the complaint said. "[She] was unable to perform her job duties at standard levels." It turns out the prank was actually part of a marketing effort executed by the Los Angeles division of global marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which created the campaign to promote the Toyota Matrix, a new model launched in 2008.

The campaign was designed by the firm Saatchi & Saatchi to target men under 35 who "hate advertising". Instead, they could be convinced to buy a car by setting their friends up to believe a complete stranger was terrorizing their way across the country, intending to find them at home.

The prank campaign, Saatchi creative director Alex Flint told the magazine, should gain the appreciation from "even the most cynical, anti-advertising guy."
If I were a man under the age of 35, I would be pretty ticked that the advertising industry assumes that I and all of my peers enjoy laughing at people being stalked.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Man Murders Estranged Wife's Boyfriend

Women's Resource Center makes a point of saying that domestic violence affects everyone, and friends and families members of victims are often caught in the cross hairs.

After forcing entry into his mother-in-law’s Bowdon home Friday, Duane Clough allegedly assaulted his mother-in-law and his wife, and killed a man who was in the residence.

Clough, 43, of Graham, Ala., and his wife, Michelle Clough, 33, had reportedly separated several months ago after 15 years of marriage.

The male victim, Christopher Watkins, 34, of Buchanan, was believed to have been Michelle Clough’s boyfriend.

Police responded to a 911 call for help around 6:50 a.m. from Michelle Clough’s mother, Mary Thomas, 62, after Duane Clough kicked in the door of her home and severely beat her.

Thomas was able to make the emergency phone call while Duane Clough had moved on to attack the others in the home, according to police reports. However, the call was cut short when Duane Clough attacked Thomas again, this time with a knife.

“There were no weapons seen when he entered the residence. He apparently used weapons of opportunity,” Sheriff’s Office Capt. Shane Taylor said.

Though investigators said they could not divulge details about the case, Taylor did confirm that one of the primary weapons used was a kitchen knife.

After Duane Clough had already killed Watkins, assaulted Michelle Clough and assaulted Thomas a second time, Thomas reportedly pretended to be unconscious or dead until her son-in-law left her home, according to Carroll County Sheriff Terry Langley.

“It appears that he assaulted each of the victims with the intent to cause serious harm or death,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t seem that he showed hardly any restraint.”
Also of note is the fact that Duane Clough was suicidal and Michelle Clough had attempted to end the relationship.
Though Duane Clough’s criminal history is not yet known, according to a Randolph County incident report, he had attempted suicide between one and two months ago. During the attempted suicide, he shot himself and was airlifted to Columbus, Ala., where he received medical treatment, the report said.

While he was in the hospital, Michelle Clough moved back into their Graham, Ala. home. Duane Clough then returned to the house after being released from the hospital less than two weeks ago.

Michelle Clough reportedly left the Alabama residence to stay with her mother in Bowdon two days ago, according to Taylor.

Duane Clough was charged with murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated battery and burglary.
Threats of suicide are a major indicator of lethal danger and immediately after leaving is one of the most dangerous times for a victim of domestic violence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Call to Action: Media Accountability

We received this letter today from Jewish Women International:

Every 1.4 minutes another woman in the U.S. is injured or murdered by her intimate partner. This year our efforts around Domestic Violence Awareness Month are focused on the media – asking news outlets to tell the whole story when reporting incidents of domestic violence.

Reporting these crimes with accurate language is critical to the public’s understanding of domestic violence as a specific type of crime. Seventy-four percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; yet, the phrase ‘domestic violence’ is rarely found in coverage of these incidents. Reporting an assault or murder as one episode in a pattern of abuse – not an isolated act of violence – is as relevant as where, when, how and to whom it happened.

Journalists’ inaccurate accounts – reports that blame the victims, or excuse abusers –reinforce myths and misunderstandings about domestic violence. All media coverage of intimate partner violence must:
  • Acknowledge that domestic violence is not a private matter
  • Use accurate language – words like abuse; assault; rape
  • Convey that domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that often escalates when a victim is trying to leave, or has left, the relationship
  • Identify the act as a domestic violence crime and place the murder in the larger context of domestic violence murders locally and nationally
Please join our call for responsible reporting: Send a letter to an editor asking newspapers to thoroughly report crimes of domestic violence.

Together we can change attitudes about violence against women and put a stop to domestic abuse in our community.
Click here to join JWI in asking the media to use the real facts and the right words in reports on domestic violence.

If you'd like to do more on a local level to respond to media reports on domestic violence, contact the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Practical Implications of a Rape Culture

Melissa from Shakesville, whom we often site for her great breakdowns of basic feminist ideals, has hit one out of the park with her practical analysis of rape culture, which is more broadly known as "a complex set of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women". As always, the Shakesville community uses language that some readers may find offensive, so use caution if you click through to the full post or any of the following links. This is a long one, folks.

"Rape culture is encouraging male sexual aggression. Rape culture is regarding violence as sexy and sexuality as violent. Rape culture is treating rape as a compliment, as the unbridled passion stirred in a healthy man by a beautiful woman, making irresistible the urge to rip open her bodice or slam her against a wall, or a wrought-iron fence, or a car hood, or pull her by her hair, or shove her onto a bed, or any one of a million other images of fight-[sex] in movies and television shows and on the covers of romance novels that convey that violent urges are inextricably linked with (straight) sexuality.

Rape culture is treating straight sexuality as the norm. Rape culture is lumping queer sexuality into nonconsensual sexual practices like pedophilia and bestiality. Rape culture is privileging heterosexuality because ubiquitous imagery of two adults of the same-sex engaging in egalitarian partnerships without gender-based dominance and submission undermines (erroneous) biological rationales for the rape culture's existence.

Rape culture is rape being used as a weapon, a tool of war and genocide and oppression. Rape culture is rape being used as a corrective to "cure" queer women. Rape culture is a militarized culture and "the natural product of all wars, everywhere, at all times, in all forms."

Rape culture is 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is encouraging men to use the language of rape to establish dominance over one another ("I'll make you my b---h"). Rape culture is making rape a ubiquitous part of male-exclusive bonding. Rape culture is ignoring the cavernous need for men's prison reform in part because the threat of being raped in prison is considered an acceptable deterrent to committing crime, and the threat only works if actual men are actually being raped.

Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women's daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you're alone, if you're with a stranger, if you're in a group, if you're in a group of strangers, if it's dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you're carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you're wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who's around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who's at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn't follow all the rules it's your fault.

Rape culture is victim-blaming. Rape culture is a judge blaming a child for her own rape. Rape culture is a minister blaming his child victims. Rape culture is accusing a child of enjoying being held hostage, raped, and tortured. Rape culture is spending enormous amounts of time finding any reason at all that a victim can be blamed for his or her own rape.

Rape culture is judges banning the use of the word rape in the courtroom. Rape culture is the media using euphemisms for sexual assault. Rape culture is stories about rape being featured in the Odd News.

Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to take self-defense as though that is the only solution required to preventing rape. Rape culture is admonishing women to "learn common sense" or "be more responsible" or "be aware of barroom risks" or "avoid these places" or "don't dress this way," and failing to admonish men to not rape.

Rape culture is "nothing" being the most frequent answer to a question about what people have been formally taught about rape.

Rape culture is boys under 10 years old knowing how to rape.

Rape culture is the idea that only certain people rape—and only certain people get raped. Rape culture is ignoring that the thing about rapists is that they rape people. They rape people who are strong and people who are weak, people who are smart and people who are dumb, people who fight back and people who submit just to get it over with, people who are sluts and people who are prudes, people who are rich and people who are poor, people who are tall and people who are short, people who are fat and people who are thin, people who are blind and people who are sighted, people who are deaf and people who can hear, people of every race and shape and size and ability and circumstance.

Rape culture is the narrative that sex workers can't be raped. Rape culture is the assertion that wives can't be raped. Rape culture is the contention that only nice girls can be raped.

Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing that the victim of every rapist shares in common is bad luck. Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that the only thing a person can do to avoid being raped is never be in the same room as a rapist. Rape culture is avoiding talking about what an absurdly unreasonable expectation that is, since rapists don't announce themselves or wear signs or glow purple.

Rape culture is people meant to protect you raping you instead—like parents, teachers, doctors, ministers, cops, soldiers, self-defense instructors.

Rape culture is a serial rapist being appointed to a federal panel that makes decisions regarding women's health.

Rape culture is a ruling that says women cannot withdraw consent once sex commences.

Rape culture is a collective understanding about classifications of rapists: The "normal" rapist (whose crime is most likely to be dismissed with a "boys will be boys" sort of jocular apologia) is the man who forces himself on attractive women, women his age in fine health and form, whose crime is disturbingly understandable to his male defenders. The "real sickos" are the men who go after children, old ladies, the disabled, accident victims languishing in comas—the sort of people who can't fight back, whose rape is difficult to imagine as titillating, unlike the rape of "pretty girls," so easily cast in a fight-[sex]fantasy of squealing and squirming and eventual relenting to the "flattery" of being raped.

Rape culture is the insistence on trying to distinguish between different kinds of rape via the use of terms like "gray rape" or "date rape."

Rape culture is pervasive narratives about rape that exist despite evidence to the contrary. Rape culture is pervasive imagery of stranger rape, even though women are three times more likely to be raped by someone they know than a stranger, and nine times more likely to be raped in their home, the home of someone they know, or anywhere else than being raped on the street, making what is commonly referred to as "date rape" by far the most prevalent type of rape. Rape culture is pervasive insistence that false reports are common, although they are less common (1.6%) than false reports of auto theft (2.6%). Rape culture is pervasive claims that women make rape accusations willy-nilly, when 61% of rapes remain unreported.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that there is a "typical" way to behave after being raped, instead of the acknowledgment that responses to rape are as varied as its victims, that, immediately following a rape, some women go into shock; some are lucid; some are angry; some are ashamed; some are stoic; some are erratic; some want to report it; some don't; some will act out; some will crawl inside themselves; some will have healthy sex lives; some never will again.

Rape culture is the pervasive narrative that a rape victim who reports his or her rape is readily believed and well-supported, instead of acknowledging that reporting a rape is a huge personal investment, a difficult process that can be embarrassing, shameful, hurtful, frustrating, and too often unfulfilling. Rape culture is ignoring that there is very little incentive to report a rape; it's a terrible experience with a small likelihood of seeing justice served.

Rape culture is hospitals that won't do rape kits, disbelieving law enforcement, unmotivated prosecutors, hostile judges, victim-blaming juries, and paltry sentencing.

Rape culture is the fact that higher incidents of rape tend to correlate with lower conviction rates.

Rape culture is silence around rape in the national discourse, and in rape victims' homes. Rape culture is treating surviving rape as something of which to be ashamed. Rape culture is families torn apart because of rape allegations that are disbelieved or ignored or sunk to the bottom of a deep, dark sea in an iron vault of secrecy and silence.

Rape culture is the objectification of women, which is part of a dehumanizing process that renders consent irrelevant. Rape culture is treating women's bodies like public property. Rape culture is street harassment and groping on public transportation and equating raped women's bodies to a man walking around with valuables hanging out of his pockets. Rape culture is most men being so far removed from the threat of rape that invoking property theft is evidently the closest thing many of them can imagine to being forcibly subjected to a sexual assault.

Rape culture is treating 13-year-old girls like trophies for men regarded as great artists.

Rape culture is ignoring the way in which professional environments that treat sexual access to female subordinates as entitlements of successful men can be coercive and compromise enthusiastic consent.

Rape culture is a convicted rapist getting a standing ovation at Cannes, a cameo in a hit movie, and a career resurgence in which he can joke about how he hates seeing people get hurt.

Rape culture is when running dogfights is said to elicit more outrage than raping a woman would.

Rape culture is blurred lines between persistence and coercion. Rape culture is treating diminished capacity to consent as the natural path to sexual activity.

Rape culture is pretending that non-physical sexual assaults, like peeping tomming, is totally unrelated to brutal and physical sexual assaults, rather than viewing them on a continuum of sexual assault.

Rape culture is diminishing the gravity of any sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, or culture of actual or potential coercion in any way.

Rape culture is using the word "rape" to describe something that has been done to you other than a forced or coerced sex act. Rape culture is saying things like "That ATM raped me with a huge fee" or "The IRS raped me on my taxes."

Rape culture is rape being used as entertainment, in movies and television shows and books and in video games.

Rape culture is television shows and movies leaving rape out of situations where it would be a present and significant threat in real life.

Rape culture is Amazon offering to locate "rape" products for you.

Rape culture is rape jokes. Rape culture is rape jokes on t-shirts, rape jokes in college newspapers, rape jokes in soldiers' home videos, rape jokes on the radio, rape jokes on news broadcasts, rape jokes in magazines, rape jokes in viral videos, rape jokes in promotions for children's movies, rape jokes on Page Six (and again!), rape jokes on the funny pages, rape jokes on TV shows, rape jokes on the campaign trail, rape jokes on Halloween, rape jokes in online content by famous people, rape jokes in online content by non-famous people, rape jokes in headlines, rape jokes onstage at clubs, rape jokes in politics, rape jokes in one-woman shows, rape jokes in print campaigns, rape jokes in movies, rape jokes in cartoons, rape jokes in nightclubs, rape jokes on MTV, rape jokes on late-night chat shows, rape jokes in tattoos, rape jokes in stand-up comedy, rape jokes on websites, rape jokes at awards shows, rape jokes in online contests, rape jokes in movie trailers, rape jokes on the sides of buses, rape jokes on cultural institutions

Rape culture is people objecting to the detritus of the rape culture being called oversensitive, rather than people who perpetuate the rape culture being regarded as not sensitive enough.

Rape culture is the myriad ways in which rape is tacitly and overtly abetted and encouraged having saturated every corner of our culture so thoroughly that people can't easily wrap their heads around what the rape culture actually is.

That's hardly everything. It's merely the tip of an unfathomable iceberg."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Another DV Murder in Athens String

Police have identified the couple who died in a murder suicide Friday as Harry and Phyllis Marable.

The couple, who lived at 130 Chardonay St. with their son, died sometime Friday afternoon of gunshot wounds.

Their son — who is 9 or 10 years old, according to police — discovered his parents' bodies around 6 p.m. in a bedroom of their home, which is in north Clarke County between Nowhere Road and Freeman Drive. The boy did not see his parents death, said Capt. Clarence Holeman, commanding officer of Centralized Criminal Investigations for the Athens-Clarke Police Department.

Police are certain that the deaths were a murder suicide, and an autopsy today turned up nothing unexpected, Holeman said.

Friday was a holiday for students in the Clarke County School District, so the child was home, but not in the room when his parents died.

“We know he was home, but he had gone out into the neighborhood,” Holeman said.

Police have responded to domestic calls involving the couple in the past, Holeman said. While he would not say whether the husband or wife was the shooter, the called the violence “definitely domestic.”

A spate of domestic violence murders in Athens-Clarke County this year have left at least 10 people dead, including two of the aggressors.

“Every homicide that we’ve had this year was domestic-violence related,” Holeman said.

On April 25, University of Georgia marketing professor George Zinkhan III shot and killed his wife, Marie Bruce, 47; Thomas Tanner, 40; and Ben Teague, 63, who tried to intervene, outside the Town and Gown Theatre on Grady Avenue.

Zinkhan, 57, committed suicide after digging a shallow grave for himself.

Four months earlier, on Jan. 28, police said John David Latimer shot and killed his two sisters and his brother in their trailer at Hallmark Mobile Home Park in Eastern Clarke County.

Latimer, 52, pleaded not guilty to 13 felonies in the deaths of Janice Carol Patterson, 57; Sara Kathleen Tatum, 61; and Thomas Garland Latimer, 50.

On Aug. 18, Lisa Davenport was set on fire by boyfriend Phillip Scruggs, according to police. She said Scruggs was the one who burned her, lost consciousness and died 11 days later at and Augusta hospital.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Missing Georgia Woman Found Murdered

The body of Jilani Platt, a 26-year-old pregnant woman who went missing early Saturday, was found Monday.

Her husband — already in jail on a weapons charge — was charged with murder, police said.

Platt’s body was found just after noon Monday about 300 feet north of Cargo Drive in a retention pond next to Schatulga Road, said Columbus Police Lt. Lynn Joiner. Platt, who was nine weeks pregnant, was reported missing around noon Saturday, about 12 hours after her husband, Zyderrious Platt, said he last saw her, reports state.

Zyderrious Platt, 31, was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, police said the arrest was unrelated to his missing wife.

Police announced just after 5 p.m. Monday that he was also charged with murder.

Jilani Platt had gone to eat at T.G.I. Friday’s with a friend around 10 p.m. Friday, reports state. Zyderrious Platt told officers he and his wife had been texting each other, arguing about the rent that evening.

She returned home around midnight, and they continued arguing, reports said. Zyderrious Platt then left to take a drive and when he returned around 12:30 a.m., Jilani Platt wasn’t there, reports state.

Jilani Platt’s cell phone and keys were missing as well, though her car was still in the parking lot, reports state. She was reported missing when she failed to pick up her nephew at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Police began searching for her in the area of her Crystal Drive home, where Zyderrious Platt was arrested at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Reports state that he had a 9 mm Luger and was convicted in 2005 on an aggravated battery charge.

Joiner said family members and neighbors were interviewed, and police determined her disappearance may have been suspicious. The friend who had dinner with Jilani Platt Friday night told police that Jilani always told her mother where she was going and that Zyderrious Platt was very controlling and that he had threatened to kill her in the past, reports state.

The search in the Crystal Drive area was halted Sunday night, though investigators continued to search Monday morning. After her body was found, Zyderrious Platt was charged with murder.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Carrollton Murder Suicide

Carrollton police believe a man shot and killed his wife before taking his own life Thursday afternoon at the couple’s home.

Police, responding to an emergency call around 2:47 p.m., discovered the bodies of Cleodus Bryant, 70, and his wife Frances Bryant, 76, at their 201 River Drive residence. A relative reportedly stopped by the residence and made the 911 call.

Coroner Sam Eady pronounced both the man and woman dead at the scene and confirmed that they died of gunshot wounds.

“From the preliminary investigation it looks like he shot her and then turned the gun on himself,” Patrol Capt. Jamison Sailors said. “At this point, we don’t know why this happened.”

Stop Making DV Jokes!

We could do much to change the way our public views domestic violence by providing training to those at newspapers and news websites who write headlines for articles. The lesson: stop minimizing violence against women and trying to turn it into a joke!

Headline: Man poisoned wife in "ill thought-out" act of love

Actual Article: A man who tried to poison his estranged wife so he could rekindle her love by nursing her back to health gets no jail time.

Headline: Man accused of plotting mayhem to win woman's love
Actual Article: Man tries to hire his roommate to kidnap a woman, slash her face repeatedly with a utility knife and torch her Toyota.

Headline: Boyfriend of the year material
Actual Article: A woman reports a former boyfriend's stalking behavior, including threats to post videos of their intimate moments on Youtube and Myspace, tried to interference with a job opportunity, and comments that, in the past, he "has killed someone."

Headline: Husband goes nuts over nuts
Actual Article: A man beats his wife in front of their children.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Call to Action: SAFE Act

From Senator Patty Murray's website:

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) introduced legislation with Senators Sherrod Brown and Chris Dodd to ensure that victims of domestic violence have the financial means to escape abusive relationships. The Security and Financial Empowerment Act (SAFE Act) would make a number of changes in federal law to ensure that victims of domestic violence have the ability to leave their abusers, support themselves and their families while they seek help, and are not discriminated against or penalized simply for being abused.

Murray’s reintroduction of the SAFE Act comes as Congress debates health insurance reform. Murray has long insisted that we reform the insurance industry to end the practice of considering domestic abuse to be a pre-existing condition. Her efforts to reform the system in the HELP Committee were voted down by Republicans in 2006, but the health care reform bill that passed the Committee in late July does include language that would end the practice.

“For too long domestic violence victims have been victimized twice – first by their abusers and then again by financial and insurance constraints that punish them for their abusers’ crimes. The SAFE Act will help domestic violence victims break the financial chains that bind them to their abusers,” Senator Murray said. “As we work to reform our health care system to eliminate discriminatory practices against victims of domestic violence, we also need to look at the larger financial system and ensure that no victim ever has to choose between personal safety and economic security.”

Senator Murray has spent years in the Senate fighting for awareness of and protection for victims of domestic violence

Senator Murray first introduced legislation that would provide financial protections to victims of abuse in 2001. She reintroduced similar bills in 2003. 2005, and 2007.

Murray also introduced an amendment in 2006 that would have prohibited insurance companies from discriminating against victims of domestic violence, but this was defeated in committee. This amendment was introduced at a hearing of the HELP Committee considering the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act.

Background on SAFE Act:

While the devastating physical and emotional effects of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are well documented, little attention has been paid to the severe economic consequences of these types of abuse – estimated to cost U.S. employers between $3 billion and $13 billion annually.

Currently, victims of domestic violence are not expressly allowed by federal law to take leave from work for the purpose of dealing with domestic violence, nor do they have the right to unemployment compensation if they lose their jobs due to circumstances resulting from abuse. Victims who seek help to leave their abuser are often discriminated against by employers and insurers.

These restrictions often force victims to choose between their safety and their financial security. Abusers frequently exploit their victims’ economic dependence to keep them trapped in violent relationships.

To address these issues, Senator Murray is re-introducing the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act. This legislation promotes financial security for victims of abuse in several ways:

  • Allows a victim to take time off from work, without penalty from their employers, to make necessary court appearances, seek legal assistance, and get help with safety planning. For families attempting to escape a violent environment, attending to such necessities is often a matter of life and death.

  • Ensures that victims can retain the financial independence necessary to leave their abusers without having to rely on welfare by requiring that states provide unemployment benefits to victims who are terminated from employment due to circumstances stemming from domestic violence.

  • Prohibits employers or insurance providers from basing hiring or coverage decisions on a victim’s history of abuse.

  • Addresses the punitive elements of the welfare system that can penalize victims who are fleeing dangerous situations, also called the Family Violence Option.
Contact your Senators and tell them to support the SAFE Act!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Monroe County Murder Suicide

Two bodies from an apparent murder-suicide found Wednesday in north Monroe County were identified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation late Thursday afternoon, officials from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said.

According to GBI fingerprint analysis, the bodies were identified as Tim George Maza, 55, and Christina Mae Reeves, 42.

They were found in their mobile home in High Falls by a neighbor. Allison Willis, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said they were a common-law couple who had previous domestic issues.

Preliminary results of the investigation suggest that Reeves died from a gunshot wound to the head while Maza died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. There was no suicide note found at the crime scene, Willis said.

Based on the decomposition of the bodies, the shootings could have taken place last weekend, she said.

Willis said there was an open domestic violence case involving the couple that was being investigated.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Murder-Suicide in Monroe County

The Monroe County Sheriff's Department is reporting another murder-suicide in Georgia.

Two bodies from an apparent murder-suicide found Wednesday in north Monroe County were identified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation late this afternoon, officials from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said.

According to fingerprint analysis by the GBI, the bodies were identified as Tim Maza, 55, and Christina Mae Reeves, 42. Allison Willis, spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said they were a common-law couple who had previous domestic issues.

Preliminary results of the investigation suggest that Reeves died from a gunshot wound to the head while Maza died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. There was no suicide note found at the crime scene, Willis said.
We applaud for being the only news source recognizing a pattern of abuse and drawing attention to the open domestic violence case involving the couple. Our thoughts and prayers, as always, are with the family.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No Health Insurance for DV Victims

It sounds too ludicrous to be true, but according to a press release issued by the Service Employees International Union, it is legal in DC and eight other states for insurance companies to refuse service to women if they have ever experienced domestic violence. In 1994, an informal survey conducted by the Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that 8 of the 16 largest insurers in the country used domestic violence as a factor when deciding whether to extend coverage and how much to charge if coverage was extended. DV is labeled by these companies to be a preexisting condition.

Regardless of your opinion on healthcare reform, we hope you share our view that this is unconscionable. Insurance companies are further victimizing a group of women who need healthcare the most due to injuries that are not their fault. Women in violent relationships frequently sustain injuries and experience illnesses that require medical attention. According to the US Department of Health, domestic violence is one of the most powerful predictors of increased health care utilization.

Many sources have commented on this issue, and the most common defense of the insurance company is to blame the victim. Commenters argue that people who scuba dive or bungee jump regularly have higher rates or are denied coverage because they put themselves in high risk situations. Therefore, they argue, women who put themselves in the high risk situation of being battered should also share the burden for their increased medical costs. The women should bear that burden, not their batterers.

Amanda at Pandagon reminds us that this policy has additional consequences.

Obviously, the major one is that the fear of losing insurance coverage might drive victims to avoid reaching out for help, and it may even mean that they don’t get treatment for their injuries after an abusive incident. And of course, the less a woman reaches out for help, the less likely she is to get out of the situation. In addition, one form of control that abusers use over their victims is financial dependence, and impoverishing a woman by denying her health care coverage will only make her more dependent on the abuser. I wouldn’t even be remotely surprised to find out if abusers often use health insurance as leverage over their victims, especially since a much higher percentage of women than men are covered through a spouse’s employer-provided insurance.

The report I link is heavy on screening recommendations, which is already a point of tension between people who look at these issues from a public health perspective and individual providers. After all, it’s both true that screening for domestic violence at the doctor’s office would help lower the overall incidence of it and that having those individual conversations is a miserable event for everyone involved. But obviously, providers can be convinced to set aside their reservations and do the screening if there’s an overall benefit to their patients. The problem, though, is if you include screening questions about domestic violence, you’re helping put your patient in danger of losing her insurance coverage or being accused of defrauding the insurance company if it comes out that she has been victimized, but declined to admit that in the screening process. More than anyone, doctors are sensitive to the importance of not provoking insurance companies to deny coverage, and I doubt they’ll eagerly sign up for further screening programs that could create financial problems for their patients.
Even though Georgia is not one of the states who allows domestic violence to be categorized as a preexisting condition, our own Senator Johnny Isakson voted against a proposed 2006 amendment to the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act that would have required insurers to stop ignoring state laws that make it illegal for them to deny coverage to domestic violence survivors, ostensibly reopening Georgia to the practice.

To encourage Congress to pass a healthcare reform bill that includes protections for domestic violence survivors, sign the petition here.