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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Post About Stalking

It seems like, lately, all we've been doing on this blog is arguing with people over whether stalking is funny and flattering or actually dangerous. Yesterday, the Augusta Chronicle printed a great article on stalking that links stalking behaviors to domestic violence and spells out exactly why stalking is cause for concern.

Stalking is intended to create fear through indirect contact, such as correspondence or surveillance, according to Georgia law.

The danger is its link to violence.

"Stalking, if unabated, will always lead to some type of violence," said Georgia Superior Court Judge Daniel Craig said [emphasis ours].

Judge Craig spent 16 years in prosecution, and he said the numbers of the Justice Department survey didn't surprise him. They seemed consistent with what he's seen in the Augusta area.

The Justice Department estimates that 30 percent of victims identify the offender as a current or former spouse or as someone they have dated or are dating. An estimated 9 percent of offenders are relatives of the victims, and 7.4 percent are friends or acquaintances.

One recent incident filed with the Richmond County Sheriff's Department involved stalking and property damage.

The victim stated in the incident report that a man she ended a relationship with has been following her to work and family members' homes. She said she thinks the suspect has also slashed four tires, busted the windshield and keyed her car, but there were no witnesses. She told deputies she thinks the problem is escalating.

Another woman found a GPS unit taped to the bottom of her car, according to a report in August.

"It happens much more frequently than you know," said Yolanda Bollinger of SafeHomes of Augusta, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Stalking is often a component in domestic violence cases, she said.
Stalking is considered by Georgia Law to be so threatening that there is a separate Protective Order that can be issued just for stalking. According to Women', in Georgia someone commits stalking if s/he:
  • Follows you;

  • Places you under surveillance; or

  • Contacts you at a location without your consent for the purpose of harassing or intimidating you. (Contacting includes in person, by phone, text message, mail, broadcast, computer, any electronic device.)
In order to get a Stalking Protective Order, you need to show that you were in reasonable fear for yourself or a member of your immediate family due to this person’s pattern of behavior. It is not necessary for you to be physically injured. Call our hotline at 404-688-9436 for more information about Stalking Protective Orders in metro-Atlanta, or 1-800-799-SAFE for national information. You can also visit the National Stalking Resource Center.

Friday, September 11, 2009

DV Murder in Gwinnett

Yet another DV Murder in Gwinnett.

Elba Mejia-Mesa used her dying breaths to remind her strangler of the repercussions his actions would have on the children left behind, according to police testimony Wednesday.

Gwinnett police Officer P. Medina said Mejia-Mesa's accused murderer and boyfriend, Andres Luis Rodriguez-Nova admitted to the killing in the back of his patrol car moments after police found the woman's body in her Norcross apartment.

Without prodding, "(Rodriguez-Nova) just started talking about how, as he was doing it, she started telling him, 'Think about your children, think about my children,'" Medina testified in Gwinnett Superior Court.

Prosecutors believe Rodriguez-Nova, 40, flew into a rage June 22 last year and strangled Mejia-Mesa, 44, with a phone cord because he suspected she was unfaithful. He's charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and false imprisonment in the trial that opened Wednesday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What Chris Brown Continues to Teach

On the SAFER blog (which, by the way, is a fantastic organization working to make college campuses safer for women), blogger Sarah reflects on Chris Brown's recent appearance on Larry King:

So, Chris Brown took to Larry King Live to talk about his March 2009 assault of Rhianna, and his recent conviction (full video at the link). Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the presence of his lawyer, the clear understanding of the appearance as a PR event, and the overall [crappiness] of his last apology, Brown’s performance on King’s show was not impressive. To put it bluntly, as Tracy Clark-Flory does at Broadsheet:

Half a year after brutalizing his then-girlfriend — by hitting, choking, biting and threatening to kill her — Chris Brown is still following the script of domestic abusers everywhere. He loves her, he really does, it was totally unlike him and he promises to never ever do it again.

Despite his lawyer’s claims that Brown has done “a lot of introspection,” the guy really just doesn’t know what to say. There’s a lot of “I’m shocked and disappointed in myself,” (and frankly it’s not all that passionate) and not much else. In fact, when King asks Brown the question, “Why do you think you were violent?” Brown bungles the answer entirely, starting off by rambling about how “relationships in general” are complicated and “being young” before backsliding and saying that of course there’s no excuse for domestic violence. But one thing he said—something that of course is being used as an excuse here—struck me as being somewhat important.

In the mess that follows King’s questioning Brown’s violence, Brown says, “nobody taught us how to love each other.” In this context, that statement comes off as a cheap way out. But taken on its own…I dunno. I can’t help but feel that there’s something almost profound about it. Because really, it’s true.

Let’s make something clear—I’m not trying to turn the guy into a philosopher or validate his words as an excuse for beating [up] his girlfriend. But if you separate the words from the situation, there is a truth there for me: domestic violence, the sexual assault of a partner; these are crimes that occur for a lot of reasons and to boil them down to an easy explanation would be inappropriate and probably do a lot of harm. But isn’t there at least one component that speaks to “not having been taught to love one another”? Plain and simple, we don’t teach respect. We don’t teach consent. We don’t teach boys that despite what they may spend their lives seeing on television, they are not entitled to use a woman’s body however they see fit. For a large majority of young folks, we don’t teach them to value themselves, and we don’t teach them to value the next person as much as themselves. We don’t necessarily grow up thinking much about the humanity of the person at the desk next to us, or the girl in the back of the car who just said she didn’t want to make out anymore. I’m really not the type to wax philosophical about what “love is,” (I’m actually a little embarrassed by and uninterested in that project) but if I was going to make grand claims about what it means to have real empathy for someone, I would say that part of it is knowing deep down that to harm them or to ignore their desires would be to actively deny that the person is worthy of being treated right, or to deny their very humanity. And that’s not something we really practice or preach as a community.

When we talk so much about "objectifying" women, that's exactly what we mean. When we talking about men feeling like they own women, this is what we mean. We mean that some men, because of what they've been taught, will continue to deny women their equality and their autonomy and, by doing so, ultimately, their humanity. I don't think you can spell it out much better.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

DV Murder in Athens

A woman in Athens is now dead after her former partner set her and her apartment on fire.

Police charged 49-year-old Phillip Scruggs with murder Monday, two days after an Athens woman died from severe burns she suffered when he allegedly doused her with kerosene and set her on fire.

Elisa Denise "Lisa" Davenport, 42, died Saturday afternoon - 12 days after Scruggs attacked her as she tried to break off an abusive relationship, police and relatives said.

She suffered burns to 60 percent of her body and never regained consciousness during her stay at the Doctors Hospital of Augusta's Joseph M. Still Burn Center.

Athens-Clarke police took out warrants Monday morning charging Scruggs with malice and felony murder.

"That was essentially a very senseless act, and I'm still having problems trying to figure out what could make someone so angry they could do something like that," said Athens-Clarke police Capt. Clarence Holeman, commanding officer of Centralized Criminal Investigations.
If Captain Holeman read this blog, he would be able make more sense of the horrible tragedy. He would know that Scruggs didn't act out of uncontrolled anger, but out of a sense of entitlement.
Scruggs nearly killed Lisa Davenport once before, but after he was released from prison, he managed to work his way back into her life, and the abuse continued, her brother said.

The assault that killed his sister also endangered other people, since the fire spread to neighboring homes in Building 180 where residents were sleeping, Eric Davenport pointed out.
Scruggs had attempted this murder once before but wasn't held sufficiently accountable for his crime. For some people, prison means nothing and a Temporary Protective Order is just a piece of paper. He was still convinced that he had a right to use violence to control his partner, and that he could take her life if she attempted to leave him. After he was released from prison, she may have been very afraid not to take him back. Once she got up the courage to leave, he was willing to brave prison again rather than allow her to go on without him. It's not about anger, it's not about jealously, it's about control.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Murder-Suicide in LaGrange

Another Murder-Suicide in Georgia, this time in LaGrange:

Two people were found dead Sunday in an apparent murder-suicide at Cameron Crossing apartments off Mooty Bridge Road.

Troup County Deputy Coroner Burt Winston said Darryl Jones, 45, of Cameron Crossing shot Regena Jones, 46, of Pine Lake Road in West Point, then shot himself about 6 a.m.

LaGrange police determined the two died of single gunshot wounds to the head from a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. They were declared dead at 8:05 a.m.

Police Sgt. Mark Cavender said the victims were divorced. The two had been separated between one and two years.

American Medical Response and the LaGrange Fire Department were called to the apartment complex formerly named Meadow Terrace, where they found the two bodies and called police.

Officials said they do not know the motive for the killings.

Maybe we're biased, but we could make an educated guess at a motive. Men don't typically murder their partners without a history of abusive behaviors. It may not have been physical, and she may never have called the police, but there is almost always a history of domestic violence in some form.

We have many women who come to our office for protective orders because their partners continue harassing them after they've ended the relationship. We live in a culture that minimizes the effects of stalking, so maybe she was convinced that he wouldn't really do anything to hurt her, or maybe those to whom she did report the behaviors didn't take it seriously. Either way, the couple was divorced, and maybe it was finally sinking in to him that she wasn't going to take him back. Domestic violence, including stalking a current or former intimate partner, is about control. A motive can be as simple as wanting one final assertion of his power.