Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm Moving to Athens

Because Athens takes domestic violence seriously.

Depression, jealousy, substance abuse, unemployment and even pregnancy can be warning signs that a troubled relationship is headed toward murder.

Domestic violence experts call these clues "lethality factors," and after a particularly deadly 2009, Athens-Clarke police plan to revamp their reporting system to document those risk factors in the future.

"We're working on putting lethality factors in reports so when they get to the investigators, they can determine where they need to go with them," said Lt. David Leedahl of the Athens-Clarke Police Department's Centralized Criminal Investigations division.

"The higher the lethality factors are, the higher the risk is" that a victim might be seriously harmed or killed, Leedahl said.

Police will track lethality factors to help prioritize cases, and prosecutors will look at those circumstances to fast-track the most dangerous abusers through court, and judges will consider them when deciding whether to set bail, Athens-Clarke Solicitor General C.R. Chisholm said.

"On the standard report, officers don't have a list of lethality factors, so this is going to make it easier for them to check things off," Chisholm said.

Looking for and documenting lethality factors is just one way authorities are trying to prevent another year like 2009, when a record 10 people were killed in Clarke County because of domestic violence.

Two weeks ago, police tripled the number of investigators assigned to work domestic violence cases, from two to six.

That means the average monthly caseload for a domestic violence investigator should drop from 45 cases to about 20, according to Leedahl.

"That's a more manageable number," he said. "It will allow investigators to get more in-depth in their cases and lead to more prosecutions."

The Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council funded the new investigator positions, under the Violence Against Women Act, partly because the grant application cited the huge spike in domestic violence murders, according to Leedahl.

"We certainly don't want to see a repeat of last year," he said.

Chisholm's office also received a CJCC grant that will soon let him hire a prosecutor dedicated to handling domestic violence cases in State Court, just as the district attorney has for Superior Court cases.

"We want someone who will be handling cases from the arraignment on," Chisholm said. "We want prosecutors meeting not just with victims and witnesses, but going to the (crime) scene and being more active with their communications between victims, detectives and domestic violence services so that we can reduce, if not eliminate, the possibility of information slipping through the cracks."

Hiring more detectives and prosecutors will help better protect domestic violence victims, but just adding lethality factors to police reports could have a dramatic impact, said Joan Prittie, executive director of Project Safe, a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence,

"Lethality factors are useful because they focus on aspects of domestic violence that are really significant in the potential for danger," Prittie said.

When she trains police officers and others about domestic violence, Prittie uses an example to show how lethality factors can predict violence:

An Athens woman broke up with her abusive boyfriend, but he found out where she moved and pestered her with notes, flowers and promises to treat her better. One night he banged on the woman's door and refused to leave, threatening to get a relative's gun and kill himself.

The woman called the police, who charged the man with criminal trespass, because he hadn't threatened or hurt the woman or committed any other crimes.

"If you looked at what happened in the traditional way, it doesn't seem that frightening," Prittie said.

"If someone who knew about lethality factors had talked to (the victim), they would have learned she was pregnant, he had a substance abuse problem, the abuse escalated prior to her leaving, and he was unemployed," she said.

Abusers like to feel they are in control, but they might feel it slipping away when they don't have a job or the victim gets pregnant and changes her priorities to focus on her child, Prittie explained.

"Sure enough, in this case, the guy came back and shot her, but amazingly she survived," she said. "If the police had been using lethality factors, then this case of criminal trespass rises to the stack of all they have to investigate. And the magistrate, instead of just saying this is just a criminal trespass case says, 'OK, we need to set a high bond or get a no-contact order,' and the prosecutor can put this offender on the fast-track."
These are the 14 most general recognized lethality factors, indications that an abusive relationship might end with serious violence or death:

The abuser:

  • Choked the victim
  • Sexually assaulted the victim
  • Has gotten more violent
  • Made death threats
  • Has access to firearms
  • Abuses drugs or alcohol
  • Lives with the victim or knows where to find him/her
  • Tries to control the victim and has jealous tendencies
  • Suffers from depression or has suicidal thoughts
  • Harasses the victim through stalking and other means
  • Doesn't have a job
The victim:
  • Left the abuser or is trying to
  • Has a strong feeling of terror
  • Is pregnant

Friday, January 22, 2010

As Technology Advances, So Does Battery

From the Baldwin Bulletin Online comes an interesting story that agencies like ours know a lot about:

Cell phones.

Love ’em or hate ’em, they are a big part of today’s world. Some people claim that cell phones improve their quality of life, making things easier and more convenient. At the Solicitor General’s Office, however, cell phones are making things difficult and more complicated.

The Solicitor General’s Office dealt with more than 100 cell-phone-related complaints in 2009. Many complaints dealt with threatening or harassing text messages, also known as textual harassment. Other cases, meanwhile, centered around hurtful photographs, videos and “forwards,” according to Solicitor Maxine Blackwell.

“A lot of people wouldn’t believe the sorts of things that victims show us on their cell phones. It’s just awful. It certainly has caused my view of the world to become warped,” said Blackwell. “Five years ago, we never saw any cases involving cell phones in this office. Now, it’s through the roof. It’s a problem that grows with each passing month.”
Our desire to be reachable 24/7 also means that batterers or stalkers can have 24-hour reach. We've seen plenty of men who start texting when their former partners refuse to pick up the phone, sometimes hundreds of times an hour. Lots of batterers insist that they be able to look through their partner's phones to see who she has called, who has called her, and whose number she may be storing. Men may take their partner's phone to keep her from receiving calls when she's looking for a job and he doesn't want her to work. Women often testify that their partners smashed their phones when they were trying to seek help, leaving those women who do not have a home phone without a way to contact police. Men may also threaten or carry out a threat to forward explicit personal photos of their partners taken on their phone as a way to shame them or damage their reputation.

But cell phones also have their advantages. The AJC recently reported the story of an ingenious woman who led her abusive boyfriend right to police. Because she called the police station on the way in, a S.W.A.T. team was waiting. Having abusive text messages saved on your phone will certainly help get a criminal warrant or protective order because they are proof of threats or harassment that you can show a judge. And having a phone number that you can take with you as you move from your home to a safehouse or from the safehouse to an apartment means that you can always stay connected to job prospects, family, or your children's school.

Unfortunately, as technology advances so does our abuse of it, and until we as a society are clear that violence against women is unacceptable, batterers will continue to get better and more clever at what they do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Effects of Stalking: A First-Hand Account

We say over and over on this blog that stalking is not funny. People who stalk do real damage to their victims. No one can say this better than ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews, who has become to stalking what Rihanna has become to dating violence.

In some ways, the news is anti-climactic: Michael David Barrett, an insurance executive of Illinois, pled guilty yesterday to the interstate stalking of ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews.

More specifically, Barrett admitted to buying information about Andrews over the internet; traveling to follow Andrews; staying in three hotel rooms next to hers (the hotels told him which room was hers); twice filming videos of Andrews while she was naked through the door's peephole; posting those videos online; and trying to sell the videos to TMZ.

It's just another chapter in the long, long story of the objectification of Erin Andrews.

But what stands out about yesterday's hearing is that for once, it gave the 31-year-old sportscaster the chance to speak for herself -- and what it is like for her to pursue a job she loves while navigating fierce misogyny and harassment. What follows is a collection of her statements at the hearing, gathered primarily from Sports Illustrated and ABC News.

Listen to her words:
She lamented that the videos remain online and can never be scrubbed from the Internet. She spoke candidly to the judge and reporters after the hearing about being "a little paranoid" when she checks into a hotel. She said she sometimes imagines she sees Barrett and has nightmares.

"I live in hotels because of my job, and every time I check in, I look around, constantly thinking he is there," she said.

"I have nightmares. I walk in crowds and I see him in my peripheral vision. When I'm alone in my house, I have fears he's going to come in and hurt me... My career has been ripped apart, something I've worked very hard for. I am subjected to crude comments, suggestions that I have partnered in this crime. I walk into stadiums, and fans say obscene things to me."

Andrews said she didn't consider leaving her job at ESPN. "I do what I love," she said after the hearing. "It was time for college football to begin."

"I didn't do anything wrong. If I can make a difference for more women, that's what I want to do."

"I want him to stay in jail as long as possible. "He's a threat to women everywhere. I feel like it was my duty to come here and tell this judge what he has done to me, because I don't want another family to be ripped apart by this. I don't want somebody else's career to be ruined by this."

Does this sound like someone who just couldn't take a joke?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Can We Leave Chris Brown Alone?

No. That's the answer to the question asked at because, as much as we'd like to forget about him, people are still trying to make excuses for him and let him off the hook.

But this isn’t about him hitting her. He said he was sorry. He said it on TV, he said it online, he said it on the radio with songs like Crawl and Changed Man. He apologized to his fans, to his family and, most of all, to Rihanna. He let Larry King rake him over the coals. Both were seen together at Diddy’s house just days after the incident, yet, even after all of this, the media continued to berate only Brown. Both artists had scheduled tour dates they had to rearrange, both had new albums they’d been working on, both had fans that suffered.

So why does it seem like our culture can’t see through the publicity stunt that Rihanna used to sell her albums? She told Diane Swayer, “If I didn’t have little girls looking up to me, I’d have stayed with him.” Uh, really? She can say that, but we can’t let Chris Brown perform on GMA?

Lest we forget that a few weeks ago, when asked what she wanted for Thanksgiving, Rihanna said “Food and Sex.” Her new album seems to be following along the lines of Disturbia, with songs like Russian Roulette that have dark lyrics about death, love and sex. In another interview she said that her next boyfriend “better be well endowed, because size matters.”

Am I the only one who heard that? Are we missing something here?

Lately, it seems like we’re punishing the wrong person. [emphasis ours]

Now we come to the crux of the argument. Why isn't Rihanna being punished for being punched in the face?

Let's take a moment for that to sink in. Because that's really the question this poster and so many others making the same argument are asking. And to them, it doesn't sound ridiculous.

What they are also asking is why isn't Rihanna acting like we think a "victim" should.

  • She should have put her career on hold. ["Both artists had scheduled tour dates they had to rearrange, both had new albums they’d been working on"]

  • She definitely shouldn't talk truthfully about her experiences or set an example for other women. ["She can say that, but we can’t let Chris Brown perform on GMA?"]

  • She certainly can't ever date again. ["In another interview she said that her next boyfriend 'better be well endowed, because size matters.' ... Are we missing something here?"]

  • I get to tell her how to live her life, what she should do and who she should see, but I see absolutely no irony in the fact that I'm treating this woman like a batterer would. This includes thinking that she should be punished for violence inflicted upon her.

We applaud Rihanna for getting on with her life and are glad she has the resources to do so. She can get a new place to live. She can go on with her career without worrying about him showing up at work. She can hire a lawyer who will get a judge to listen to her. She can hire a therapist to help her heal emotionally. But instead, she's supposed to hide in her shame even though she committed no crime, while Chris Brown can go to a few anger management classes and expect his fans to rally for the resurgence of his career.

That's the part that sounds ridiculous to us.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How It Should Be Done

Recently we posted about the baffling (to us) phenomenon of targeting all prevention of violence against women toward women instead those who are the primary perpetrators of that violence (men). Several groups in New Zealand agree with us, and have come up with a wonderfully logical response to sexual assault prevention:

Rape educators want to train New Zealand's bar staff to intervene when they see "predatory males" plying women with drinks during the Rugby World Cup.

Rape Prevention Education (formerly Rape Crisis) has teamed up with the police, Accident Compensation Corporation and the hospitality industry to train 130 bar staff in Auckland and Wellington in a pilot programme this year.

Director Kim McGregor said she hoped the other agencies would help to extend the programme nationally in the lead-up to the World Cup, which kicks off in September 2011.

"We need to do much more on prevention and social attitudes, for example around the [Cup]," she said.

"For us it's an opportunity. We have two years to prepare for it."

The programme targets bars because three-quarters of sexual offenders and half of all "date rape" victims were drinking or taking drugs before offences occurred.

A fifth of sexual violence happens in or around licensed premises.

Bars already have "host responsibilities" under the Sale of Liquor Act, which imposes fines of up to $10,000 on managers who allow anyone to become intoxicated on their premises or supply liquor to anyone who is already drunk.

Dr McGregor said staff also needed to be aware of the sexual risks for heavy drinkers.

"We are teaching bar staff how to keep patrons safe - identifying predatory males, and being aware of the consent laws," she said.

"They don't understand that it's rape if you have sex with someone who is so stupefied by alcohol or drugs that they can't give consent.

"For some bar staff there's an attitude that if a woman goes home with a guy drunk, she deserves all she gets. But they can stop giving people drinks when they're drunk, and they can be offering free water in between drinks and putting [out] nibbles and snacks."

Programme co-ordinator Kylie Tippett said the workshops trained bar staff to watch out for "red flags" such as patrons being sexually harassed, being plied with double or triple drinks or drugs without their knowledge, simply getting drunk very quickly, or leaving the bar with no way to get to their next destination safely.

She said security staff could approach offenders and say, "We have noticed your inappropriate sexual behaviour towards women or men this evening. We don't tolerate harassment on these premises - either stop or you'll be asked to leave."

Or: "We notice that you are buying large quantities of alcohol for another person. It's our policy that we check that the person is not intoxicated and is aware of what they're drinking."

She said one of the biggest problems raised in the workshops was what to do with people leaving the bar drunk and unable to get home safely.

"They may tell people where the nearest taxi stand is, or some bars know taxi companies and use those, and some felt quite comfortable calling police and said they had a great response in those situations," she said.

She plans to talk to taxi companies and other agencies about a possible voucher scheme for people at risk who did not have any money for a taxi.

"There would need to be all sorts of training required. We'd have to check that they were not being misused."

Some bars wanted posters stating policies such as: "We do not tolerate sexual harassment or aggression. If you are concerned with any patrons, do come to us and we'll deal with it."

"We've been asked to develop some posters," Ms Tippett said.

Hospitality Association operations manager Scott Necklen said the pilot programmes were successful and the industry would support further workshops. "We are supportive of initiatives that give hospitality staff practical strategies to ensure patrons' safety and ensure patrons have a happy and enjoyable night out."
This is the way prevention should look.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thomas County Man Murders Wife

A Thomas County Georgia man is in jail for the murder of his wife.

Investigators say Buck McMullen and his wife, Tuwanna McMullen were arguing at their home on Rebecca Street when she was shot in the head.

The call came in around 12:30 from Buck McMullen himself saying he had just shot his wife, 43-year-old Tuwanna McMullen.

"Actually one of our investigators got the call on his cell phone," said Investigator Pascal Autry with the Thomas County Sheriff's Office.

The call came in on his cell phone. Deputies quickly arrived at 32 Rebecca Street and say Buck McMullen came to the door with a gun in his hands.

"He let the officers know his wife was inside in the living room," said Autry.

They found the woman dead on a couch with a single gunshot wound to the head.

"He did not elaborate on why he did do it. We believe alcohol was involved," said Investigator Autry.

Our hearts are with the victim's family.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

DV Murder in DeKalb

Maureen Allaben, the spunky set decorator for “The Mo’Nique Show” and a local food stylist, was killed Sunday by her husband, who drove for two days with her body in the bed of his pickup truck before turning himself in, authorities said Wednesday.

After killing his wife, Dennis Allaben drove from the couple’s home in Tucker to Virginia and told his relatives there on Monday about the murder, acting DeKalb County Police Chief William O’Brien said. Allaben then fled his relatives’ home, returned to the Atlanta area and early Tuesday morning walked into Clayton County Police Headquarters.

“He just showed up at [Clayton County] police headquarters and said he’d killed his wife,” O’Brien said.

Police then recovered 43-year-old Maureen Allaben’s body, which had been wrapped up, from her husband’s blue Ford pickup. Dennis Allaben, 46, who tested underground storage tanks, is now in custody at the DeKalb jail and charged with murder.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Allaben children and the rest of their family.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Domestic Violence = Athens Newsmaker of the Year

The Athens Banner-Herald traditionally recognizes a single person as the Top Newsmaker of the Year. But this year, when every murder in the city in 2009 was a domestic violence homicide, they chose to recognize as 2009 Top Newsmakers the emergency dispatchers who handle traumatic scenes, an advocate who works to stop domestic violence, and the victims of domestic violence themselves - each a person who was more than a statistic.

Read their series here:

Dispatchers calmly deal with the worst

Giving victims a voice

To honor and remember

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Murder-Suicide in Southwest Atlanta

Two people are dead after a domestic violence murder-suicide Sunday night in southwest Atlanta.
The incident began about 9:30 p.m. Sunday when a man apparently shot and killed his girlfriend at her apartment on Glenn Street near McDaniel Street.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office identified the woman as 40-year-old Monica Williams.

The man, identified as Stacy Teliaforro, 35, also of Atlanta, later killed himself.
We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available. As always, our thoughts and prayers are with the Williams family.

Monday, January 4, 2010

DV Does Wonders for Ratings

To give credit where credit is due, we stole this post title from Feministing, where Jessica responds to actor Charlie Sheen's Christmas domestic violence arrest (see if you can spot the bad dv reporting in the People Magazine coverage):

Apparently, getting arrested for abusing your spouse will do amazing things for an actor's career. From the New York Post:

Sheen's comedy series, "Two and a Half Men" is back in the No. 1 spot.

Monday night's episode, the first time the show has aired since Sheen was jailed for allegedly putting a knife to his wife's throat, drew 11.1 million viewers to watch a rerun of the hit CBS comedy. That was enough to make it the most-watched program of the evening, according to preliminary ratings.
Incredible. As Broadsheet recently pointed out, Sheen has a long history of violence against women yet continues to do incredibly well career-wise. In fact, with his $825k per episode salary - he may be the highest paid actor in television right now.

It appears that when it comes to television, violence against women still doesn't matter.
We applauded radio stations for dropping Chris Brown's music and sponsors for scrapping his endorsement deals after his arrest for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna. It would be nice to see Hanes, CBS, and especially fans hold Charlie Sheen equally accountable.

Update 01/07/10: Hanesbrands is, in fact, dropping their advertising campaign with Charlie Sheen.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Latinas Less Likely to Report Stalkers

CBS Atlanta interviewed our partner agency Caminar Latino to discuss the murder of Angelica Robledo De La Rosa by her stalker. The interview focused on reasons why Latinas are less likely to report stalkers to the police.

Last week's killing of Angelica De La Rosa has sent shockwaves throughout the Latin community in Cobb County. A Hispanic group who that works to educate women about domestic violence said Friday that Latinas are less likely to report violence or problems to police.

Tuesday, a friend of De La Rosa dropped her off at work. Police said that's when Armando Soto, 46, shot and killed De La Rosa. The shooting happened on South Cobb Drive in front of the Brito Supermarket, the place where De La Rosa worked as a cashier.

“We have learned throughout the course of our investigation that De La Rosa and the armed male was a stalking situation,” Officer Joseph Hernandez said. “Investigators uncovered the male attempted to pursue a relationship with the victim; however, she continually denied his requests. A series of disturbing incidents, over an extended period of time, were initiated by the male towards the victim, however they were never reported to authorities."

The executive director for Caminar Latino, Jessica Nunan, sat down with CBS Atlanta News and told victims of stalking that there is help.

“Half of all Latinas don’t report incidences of violence,” Nunan said. “Unfortunately with the anti-immigration laws going on here in Georgia we see a lot of women not feeling safe enough to call police because they are worried they might lose their children if they are deported. Even though the Violence Against Women act protects her regardless of her status there is still that fear of being on the radar,” Nunan said.

Illegal or not, De La Rosa did not report her alleged stalker to police investigators, who said they worked together in the past.

De La Rosa was married with a teenage daughter. All of her family live Mexico, but her extended family in Georgia told CBS Atlanta News De La Rosa never told them she was
having any problems.

Soto was arrested in Gautier, Miss., during a traffic stop and is currently awaiting extradition back to Georgia. He is charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.

Visit for more information on assistance for Latina victims of domestic violence and/or stalking.