Monday, June 29, 2009

Farrah Fawcett, Death of an Advocate

Probably best know for an iconic pin-up and her time on Charlie's Angels, Farah Fawcett was well know in the women's community as well as an advocate against domestic violence.

Fawcett starred in "The Burning Bed," a 1984 made-for-TV movie focused on the true story of Francine Hughes and her struggle for survival against an abusive husband. The abuse culminated on March 9, 1977 when Hughes set fire to her husband’s bed while he was sleeping. She took her children, drove to the police station and gave a full confession. At trial, Hughes was found not guilty by reason of insanity. It was the first successful use of "battered woman's syndrome" in a court case.
Farrah’s portrayal in The Burning Bed, brought light to the hidden factors that battered women aren’t only physically abused but emotionally abused as well. It was easy to understand that a woman might kill her husband during an argument, or as self defense during an argument, but the Burning Bed showcased the loss of self-esteem and emotional abuse that victims of domestic violence suffer. For the first time, on screen, it was clearly and accurately portrayed that victims of domestic violence possess scars much deeper than those that are easily hid by cosmetics. The inner scars aren’t easy to hide; they rob a woman of her self-worth and will destroy her if she never escapes.

The Burning Bed also drew light to another topic that wasn’t openly discussed in society: spousal rape. The movie depicts Farrah Fawcett setting her husband on fire after he raped her, a topic that many felt was taboo, or even impossible. Many at the time felt that if you were married, even separated, you could not be raped by your spouse. This misperception was tackled head on in the film.

The role earned her an Emmy nomination. Via
She later became a board member of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Even in her death, Farrah showed her commitment to the cause by donating a portion of her estate to domestic violence work. Rest in peace, Farrah.

Friday, June 26, 2009

White House Appoints DV Advisor

From ABC News:

Vice President Biden announced today that Lynn Rosenthal will be the White House adviser on Violence Against Women, a new position created to work with the president and vice president on domestic violence and sexual assault issues.

Joining Biden for the announcement was Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to the president for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Engagement.

Rosenthal most recently served as the executive director of the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence and has focused on domestic violence issues like housing, state and local coordinated community response, federal policy, and survivor-centered advocacy.

From 2000-2006, she served as the executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and played a key role in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2000 and 2005.

Biden called the work Rosenthal will do in this new position "incredibly consequential” and joked that he had already given her an assignment on her first day.

“And Valerie looked at me and was like, give her a break!” he said to laughter from the assembled audience of advocates against domestic violence.

The vice president said that when he and President Obama discussed who they wanted to take on this role, they said it had to be someone who would "literally, not figuratively" go to bed every night thinking about what can be done to protect women from violence.

Biden said there are 48 million reported cases of violence done by an intimate partner and said that while there's no count on how many are unreported, more women are coming out of the shadows.

"The worst imprisonment in the whole world is to be imprisoned in your own home," the vice president said. "The most vicious of all crimes are domestic crimes."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Augusta Man Kills Wife, Self

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Police said Tuesday they think an Augusta man took his own life at an interstate rest stop after killing his estranged wife last weekend, placing her body in the trunk of her car, then driving to Alabama.

Sheriff's deputies in Conecuh County, south of Montgomery, said they were called to a rest stop off Interstate 65 about 8 a.m. to investigate a possible suicide. They found the body of Scottie Murphy, of Augusta, in the vehicle's front seat and the body of his wife, Jessica Murphy, in the trunk.

Ms. Murphy, 30, an employee of The Augusta Chronicle advertising department, was reported missing Saturday after she did not come to work.

"All her Chronicle co-workers will miss Jessica, who was a loyal and conscientious employee," said President Don Bailey. "She always talked about how the work at the newspaper meant so much to her. I will say her attitude and performance meant just as much to us. Our hearts go out to her family."

Local investigators said they suspect Ms. Murphy was killed Saturday after dropping by the Tubman Street apartment where she had lived with Mr. Murphy. Police are awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of her death.

Richmond County sheriff's Investigator James Kelly said Mr. Murphy appeared to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Police said they don't know why he drove to Alabama.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Murphy's family and friends.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chris Brown Pleads Guilty - No Jail Time

According to CNN, Chris Brown accepted a deal with prosecutors in which he pled guilty to one count of assault with the intent of doing great bodily injury. In exchange for the guilty plea, Brown was sentenced to five years of probation and must serve 180 days in jail or the equivalent - about 1,400 hours - in "labor-oriented service." He must also undergo a year-long domestic-violence counseling class. The judge also issued a "stay away" order, requiring Brown to stay at least 50 yards away from Rihanna at all times - 10 yards if the two are at the same "industry event."

Some women's groups are outraged, while others are angry but not surprised.

"I was very surprised that he will get no jail time. Paris Hilton got jail time for heaven's sake. This man beat Rihanna to a bloody pulp and he's not going to spend a day in jail," said Kim Gandy, President of the National Organization of Women. It really tells you about the way that judges look at violence against women."

"The level of assault wasn't met with the same level of consequence," says Rita Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "It's not that Chris Brown didn't get more serious consequences. Most batterers don't get more serious consequences."

Smith feels it's reactions to first time offenses, like Brown's, that encourage repeat offenses. "The first time they show up in the justice system you don't say, 'This is a really horrible thing you've done and you have to stop it, this is not acceptable behavior.' We don't say it strongly enough."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Landmark Decision: Domestic Violence is a Human Rights Violation

Via Feminist Law Professors:

In a landmark decision, the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously found that a state violated the human rights of the applicant and her mother in failing to protect them against domestic violence. In Opuz v Turkey, the applicant alleged that the state bore responsibility under the European Convention on Human Rights for its failure to take action against her violent husband who repeatedly attacked her and killed her mother.

The European Court had previously found state responsibility in a domestic violence case in Bevacqua v. Bulgaria (2008), grounding its decision in article 8 (right to respect for family life) of the European Convention. In Opuz v Turkey, however, the Court found state responsibility for violations of the right to life (art. 2), the prohibition of torture (art. 3), and — significantly — the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex (art. 14).

Regarding the latter, Court found that “the violence suffered by the applicant and her mother may be regarded as gender-based violence which is a form of discrimination against women.
You can read more about the case and view links to the Court’s judgment and a video of the Court’s hearing here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Local Violence During Custody Exchanges

Many couples with a history of domestic violence continue to parent children together, even after separation. As we've mentioned before on this blog, when the abusive parent must meet with the victim parent to exchange the child(ren) for joint custody or visitation, the time is ripe for continued violence and harassment. Imagine thinking you've left the violence behind you and then learning that you must meet your batterer twice a week to transfer the children.

Just this month, the AJC has published two articles about violence taking place during the exchange of children.

In Gwinnett County, police issued a Levi’s Call alert for a 4-year-old girl allegedly abducted by her father.

Ingrid Reyes called police on Monday to report that her child’s father, 29-year-old Alejandro Humberto Gusman, was supposed to bring their daughter, Ingrid Ghisell Gusman-Reyes, to her at work, but had called and told her he was not bringing the child back and was going to Houston, according to Gwinnett police Cpl. Illana Spellman.

Spellman said that about 11 p.m. Tuesday, the mother called police again “and stated that Mr. Gusman threatened to kill their daughter.”

The alert remained in effect Wednesday afternoon.

Gusman is believed to be driving a gray 1993 Honda Accord, with Texas tag number NCK136.

Ingrid is 3 feet tall, weighs 30 pounds and has straight, shoulder-length brown hair. She was last seen wearing pajama bottoms and a pink Barbie t-shirt.

Spellman asked that anyone with information on the whereabouts of the girl or her father call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS.

In Atlanta, a man opened fire on his ex-wife and her new boyfriend when they arrived at his apartment to drop off their children.
Police have made two arrests in the case of a Sunday afternoon shooting at The Park at Lakewood Apartments.

Demetrius McKinney and Princeton Tolbert were arrested and taken to Fulton County Jail on charges of aggravated assault.

Officer James Polite of the Atlanta Police Department said the incident was a domestic dispute. Pandora McKinney and her boyfriend Princeton Tolbert were dropping off Pandora McKinney’s children with their father, Demetrius McKinney. Words were exchanged and Demetrius McKinney opened fire on Pandora McKinney and Tolbert, who returned fire.

The two injured include Demetrius McKinney, who was shot in the left hand, and bystander Ivan Bonner, who was shot in the right leg.
If you are a survivor of domestic violence who is fearful of continuing communication with a former partner for the exchange of shared children, contact your local domestic violence agency or call the national domestic violence hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) to inquire about supervised exchange.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Korean Court Says Survivor Lost Her Dignity

A Korean court has ruled that the heirs of the late actress Choi Jin-sil must compensate an advertiser since she failed to maintain her dignity as a model when pictures of her after a beating by her then-husband Cho Sung-min were publicized in media. A construction company sued Choi in 2004 for W3 billion (US$1=W1,250) for damages incurred and the modeling fee paid.

The company paid Choi W250 million in March 2004 for modeling for apartment buildings. The contract included a clause that if Choi disgraced the image of the company by damaging her social and moral image through her own fault, she would repay the firm twice the modeling fee. Five months later, pictures of her beaten and of the inside of her house in a chaotic state were released.

This takes victim blaming to a sick and institutionalized new level. In its ruling, the court found that Choi disgraced the image of the company by damaging her image through her own fault. Because the court felt that the abuse was her fault, the late actress's children are being held financially responsible for returning the funds from the contracts and paying the penalties.

h/t to Feministing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Snellville Man Killed in DV Standoff

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

A friend who was on the phone with a Snellville man Wednesday during his four-hour standoff with police doesn’t blame officers for shooting him.

“I have no quarrels with police,” said Sonja Lawson, a friend of 40-year-old Selwyn Myron Heath. “They did everything they could.”

A deputy fatally shot Heath Wednesday afternoon following a four-hour standoff at his house on Skylar’s Mill Way. The deputy, whose name was not released, is on routine administrative leave pending an investigation, according to Gwinnett County sheriff’s spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais.

Snellville police went to the home because Heath’s fiancĂ©e had alleged he beat her up. Heath barricaded himself and his 14-year-old son inside. He let the teen go, however, when SWAT officers arrived.

Lawson said that she tried to persuade Heath to surrender. She said Heath told her he wanted police to kill him and that he was tired of the bad economy. He also told her he didn’t want to go to jail.

When Heath finally emerged, he charged at deputies while carrying two large butcher knives, Bourbonnais said.

Deputies stunned Heath twice with a Taser and shot him with a bean bag round, but Heath was unfazed, Bourbonnais said.

“At that point, they were forced to fire their weapons,” she said.

Violet Smart, who lived next-door to Heath, said deputies should have avoided shooting Heath, since he wasn’t armed with a gun.

“What could he have done to all those police out here?” Smart said.

Police Officers and Sheriff's Deputies often fear domestic volence calls the most because they can be so dangerous. Like this man, many dv offenders are extremely violent and those who are also suicidal can be the most fearsome to their partners and police alike.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Also Not Funny, Supreme Court Edition

When women are in places of power and visibility, its never long before they get threatened with violence, either explicitly or through cartoons or "jokes" meant to put them in their place. (Just visit a feminist blog like Shakesville or Feministing and search "Hillary Clinton" or "Sarah Palin"). It stands to reason, then, that those who feel threatened by the choice of Sonia Sotomayer for the Supreme Court would feel empowered to draw a cartoon like this, currently running in The Oklahoman :

With editorial cartoons like this accepted by their paper, its not surprising that Oklahoma ranks as the 3rd worst state in the nation for women. According to the Oklahoma Women's Network, much of what holds Oklahoma women and girls back is the state’s culture of violence and disrespect for women. Oklahoma ranks #4 in women murdered by men, #1 in child abuse and their domestic violence shelters are full of women escaping violence.

Obviously playing on damaging racial stereotypes, the prevalence of violence against women in their state makes this cartoon even more insidious, especially when one recognizes the multiple oppressions in play for women of color who are victims of violence and how easily these women are dismissed by the systems designed to protect them. Please help us tell the Oklahoman that racism and violence against women aren't funny.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Braves Veteran Reflects Years After Father Killed Mom

This is a truly heartbreaking story from Major League Baseball that shows the impact that family violence can have on children:

While waiting for a friend to pick him up, [Greg] Norton walked upstairs to check on his mother. There he found Helen Norton bruised and motionless. Around her neck rested a tie that her husband, Jerry Norton, used as a murder weapon.

"She was strangled to death with one of his ties," Norton said. "She was on the floor wrapped up at the base of the bed. I unwrapped her and checked her pulse."

Through the eyes of a 16-year-old kid rested a mother, who had been dead long before he entered her bedroom. When the investigators arrived, they found a botched attempt to stage a robbery and quickly deduced that this murder was an act of domestic violence.

Later that evening, Jerry Norton was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. While still grieving the loss of his mother, Greg bailed his father out of jail and then resided with him during parts of the next two years, simply hoping that the man who had taught him baseball and many other life lessons was indeed innocent.

Two summers later, Jerry Norton, a former Minor League outfielder in the Pirates organization, was charged with first-degree murder. Still with heavy evidence pointing toward the fact that a just ruling had been reached, Greg continued to chase and realize the Major League dream while holding out some hope that his father didn't commit this crime.

Through his foundation, Phillies left-handed pitcher Jamie Moyer created Camp Erin, a bereavement camp created for children who have lost a loved one. Jaena helped raised funds for this charity over the course of the past three years and accompanied Braves pitcher Tim Hudson's wife, Kim, to a camp that was held in Hampton, Ga., earlier this year.

Emotionally moved by what they witnessed, both Kim and Jaena returned to tell their husbands about a 7-year-old boy who had watched his mother die at the other end of a gun held by her boyfriend.

Some time this summer, Norton will help create a video that will allow these kids to understand that he overcame some of the same adversity that they are currently facing.

"It's something that I want to get involved with," Norton said. "I just want to help somebody or at least make them feel like there's light at the end of the tunnel. I have a story that shows that things can work out."
Visit the for the full article.