Thursday, February 25, 2010

Harry Reid Links Domestic Violence and Joblessness

From the Christian Science Monitor: Senate majority leader Harry Reid stated during a procedural vote Monday night that the Senate’s jobs bill could do more than help people get back to work. It could bring down the rate of domestic violence.

“I met with some people while I was home dealing with domestic abuse. It has gotten out of hand,” Senator Reid reportedly said on the Senate floor. “Why? Men don’t
have jobs…. Men, when they’re out of work, tend to become abusive.

Even though women are losing jobs as well, “women aren't abusive, most of the time,” Reid added. "Men, when they're out of work, tend
to become abusive.”
While men's rights groups are calling for an apology, DV advocacy groups are clarifying, hoping those who heard Senator Reid's comments won't mistakenly think that joblessness causes domestic violence. Though it isn't a causal relationship, joblessness and family violence are linked.

While the study refrains from drawing comprehensive conclusions about all men, unemployment is definitely a significant risk factor – along with poverty and a low level of educational attainment – an extensive 2004 report by the National Institute of Justice found. The report found that the rate of violence against women increases as male unemployment increases. When
a woman's male partner is employed, the rate of violence is 4.7 percent. It’s 7.5 percent when the male experiences one period of unemployment. It’s 12.3
percent when the male experiences two or more periods of unemployment.

Women who lose their jobs are also more at risk for abuse. A lack of money is a common reason why a female victim may refuse to leave an abusive partner, according to the National Coalition Against
Domestic Violence.

And James Fox, criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston, says that when men lose their jobs, they lose self esteem and money – but also emotional support.

“Females are more
likely to have friends outside work, whereas men tend to have friendships on the job,” says Professor Fox. “Men rarely have friends outside work connections, and when
they lose their job, they lose all the people that were around them. They feel abandoned.”

The Boston Globe reported in December 2008 that “domestic violence programs report that victims experience an increase in abuse in part because out-of-work
abusers have more opportunity to batter.”

Another reason why joblessness could contribute to a rise in domestic violence is the batterer's lost sense of control. If he has lost his job and is worried about his finances, he may be feeling out of control in many areas of his life. For some men, that loss of control is very threatening, and they may seek to exert more control where they can. This is often over their family or their romantic partner. Those controlling behaviors often lead to physical and emotional violence. Never forget - domestic violence isn't about a loss of temper, it isn't about revenge, and it isn't about poverty. Domestic violence is all about power and control

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Murder-Suicide in Walton County

Another Georgia couple is dead in an apparent murder-suicide.

The incident happened Friday night in the 3600 block of Pointer Road. The sheriff's office received a 911 call from the home about a domestic disturbance.

When deputies arrived, they found Ralph Dillion, 58, and Shirley Snyder, 39, dead of gunshot wounds in the master bedroom. A handgun was found nearby.

"It appears to us it was a murder-suicide," Chief Deputy Bruce Wright told the AJC. "I don't want to speculate further yet."

Snyder's two children lived in the home, but they were not there at the time of the killings. The children have been taken in by relatives, Wright said.
Our thoughts and prayers, as always, are with the children and Snyder family.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bad News from Britain

Two studies from Britain last week revealed some bad news for those of us hoping we'd put an end to blaming women for the violence used against them.

From the BBC: A majority of women believe some rape victims should take responsibility for what happened, a survey suggests.

Almost three quarters of the women who believed this said if a victim got into bed with the assailant before an attack they should accept some responsibility.

One-third blamed victims who had dressed provocatively or gone back to the attacker's house for a drink.

The survey of more than 1,000 people in London marked the 10th anniversary of the Haven service for rape victims.

More than half of those of both sexes questioned said there were some circumstances when a rape victim should accept responsibility for an attack.

The study found that women were less forgiving of the victim than men.

Of the women who believed some victims should take responsibility, 71% thought a person should accept responsibility when getting into bed with someone, compared with 57% of men.

Elizabeth Harrison from Haven said there was never an excuse for forcing a woman to do something she did not want to.

"Clearly, women are in a position where they need to take responsibility for themselves - but whatever you wear and whatever you do does not give somebody else the right to rape you.
Most of us don't want to face the possibility that we will be raped, or that our sister or mother or daughter will be raped, so we want to assume that rape victims did something wrong that allowed them to get raped: they wore a short skirt, they got drunk, they walked alone in the dark. If we admit that women are raped in their own homes, in cars, in family members' homes or in nursing homes while wearing sweat pants or long dresses or hospital gowns while sober or after being drugged then we have to admit that sexual assault can happen to us. And even women who supposedly did something wrong don't deserve to be raped.

This message is anti-male as well. The underlying message is that men cannot be trusted. All men are just rapists under the surface, and all it takes is a drunk girl in a short skirt to bring it out.

There are thousands of women who are raped across the world every day. Some are raped as a tactic of war. Some are raped by husbands who think they own their wife's (or wives') body. Some are raped by family members, by doctors, by johns, by friends. And a small percentage are raped by strangers. These are very different women with very different experiences. The one thing they share in common is that they were vulnerable in the presence of a rapist.

But because we are so quick to make excuses for rapists instead of facing our fear of being raped, it is a surprise that our children do the same?

Also from the BBC: A study of schoolchildren in Scotland has found that most of those questioned thought violence towards women was acceptable if there was a reason behind it.
The majority of the pupils said it was justified if the woman had an affair, or if she was late in making the tea.

The study by a researcher from Edinburgh Napier University also suggested that girls expect to curtail ambitions once they are married.

The research involved 89 primary seven children at five Glasgow primaries.

The 11 and 12-year-olds were questioned in depth about their attitudes and aspirations towards gender roles and behaviour.

They were asked to consider whether or not a man was justified in punching his partner when he found out she had had an affair.

Nearly all of the children thought that the woman deserved to be hit.

In another scenario, about 80% of the children said a man had cause to slap his partner because she did not have the dinner ready on time.

Researcher Nancy Lombard described the findings as "worrying" because the youngsters had naturalised and normalised violent behaviour.

She said: "The children didn't agree with violence, but gave reasons to try to justify it if the woman had done something 'wrong'. [emphasis ours]

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vanderbilt Recruit Killed in Murder-Suicide

A star football player from Cobb County with a bright future ahead of him was killed in a DV murder-suicide by his mother's ex-boyfriend.

Clifton Steger was no stranger to the Bennett family. He was at McEachern High two weeks ago when 18-year-old football star Rajaan Bennett signed his letter of intent to play at Vanderbilt.

"[Steger] was introduced as a friend to the family," said McEachern Athletics Director Jimmy Dorsey. But sometime last week Rajaan's mother, Narjaketha Bennett, broke up with Steger, a 39-year-old carpenter who'd lived much of his life in Detroit.

"He was out for revenge," said Dorsey, who told the AJC he had talked with Powder Springs Police and Rajaan's family earlier Thursday. Steger allegedly broke into the Bennett's home on Woodcrest Drive just southwest of downtown Powder Springs.

Rajaan's younger sister Narcharlette, a middle schooler, quietly called 911 around 2:30 a.m. to report Steger's intrusion, Dorsey said. Four minutes later police arrived and "as they approached and knocked on the door, they heard several gunshots," Powder Springs Police Maj. Charles Spann told the AJC.

Inside police found the bodies of Rajaan, captain of the 2009 McEachern football team and an all-state running back with a 3.8 GPA, and Steger, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, said Powder Springs Police spokesman Matt Boyd.

Rajaan's uncle, Taiwan Hunter, 32, was also shot; he is listed in critical condition at Atlanta Medical Center. Rajaan's mother and his two siblings, Narcharlette and Desybon, were unharmed.

Students held a vigil for Rajaan Thursday night. About 150 students gathered in huge ring around posters, candles and chalk messages on the concrete that paid tribute to their classmate.

McEachern has set up a fund to help the family pay for funeral expenses. To donate, send checks made out to the McEachern Endowment Fund with “Rajaan Bennett Memorial” written in the bottom left corner. McEachern High School’s address is 2400 New Macland Road, Powder Springs, GA 30127. For more information, please call 770-222-3710.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Safety of Custody Exchanges Questioned

The AJC ran a fantastic follow-up article on their Monday story, which we posted about here. The article reiterates many of the points we made about the dangers of custody exchanges when the fathers have a history of domestic violence. Go read the whole thing!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stockbridge Man Murders Fiance

The day before she was killed, second-grade teacher Kinaya Byrd was asked by her father if she was afraid of her fiance.

"They had had a couple of altercations," Byrd's father, Richard Byrd, told the AJC. "She said, ‘Everything's cool. Nothing's wrong.'"

Police say the fiance, Dana McFarlane, stabbed her to death Friday afternoon during an argument in her Stockbridge home. McFarlane, 35, of Snellville turned himself in and is being held in the Henry County Jail on a murder charge.

"I had a deep feeling he might hurt her someday," Richard Byrd said of his only child, who taught at River's Edge Elementary School in Clayton County. "He was with her all the time and I get worried about people like that who have nothing else going on."

Byrd, 34, graduated from Spelman College and taught nursery school before getting hired at River's Edge two years ago, her father said. She was following in the footsteps of her late mother, Donella Byrd, who was principal at Miles Elementary School in Atlanta. There was no doubt Kinaya would become an educator herself.

"It was always what she wanted to do," Richard Byrd said.

Byrd and McFarlane dated for more than two years and got engaged, but they had not set a wedding date, Byrd's father said.

Richard Byrd said a neighbor heard the quarrel and tried to stop McFarlane.

"He called 911 before she was killed," Richard Byrd said. "By the time the police got there, she was dead."

A "Celebration of Life" service for Kinaya Schenese Byrd will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at St. Paul A.M.E. Church, 1540 Pryor Road Southwest in Atlanta. The wake will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Murray Brothers Cascade Chapel, 1199 Utoy Springs Road Southwest in Atlanta.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Kinaya Byrd's family and her students.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Women Stabbed to Death During Custody Exchange

The man accused of stabbing his wife to death during a custody swap in a Walmart parking lot, then stabbing himself, has been released from the hospital and taken to jail on murder charges.

Phillip Chad Dunn, 28, of Lawrenceville was released from Gwinnett Medical Center on Sunday night. He is being held in the Gwinnett County Jail on charges of malice murder and felony murder.

The couple's daughters, ages 6 and 8, were present during the attack around 4 p.m. Sunday.

Suwanee Police responded to a call about an argument between a man and a woman in a Walmart parking lot. When police arrived, they found both had been stabbed, Capt. Cass Mooney, a Suwanee police spokesman, told the AJC.

Shelley Dyan Dunn, 27, of Buford, was pronounced dead at Gwinnett Medical Center.

“The meeting was a custody exchange between the husband and wife,” Mooney said. “At some point, the husband pulled out a knife, stabbing the wife and then himself.”

It is unclear if the girls witnessed the stabbing, Mooney said.
After reporting this story, the AJC immediately posted on their parenting blog, wondering why on earth these parents were meeting in a parking lot, as if meeting at one of their homes would somehow have made a stabbing less likely. The reality is that lots of custody exchanges happen in public places like fast food restaurants, stores like Walmart, even the local police station. If the parents have gone through a bad divorce they may not welcome their ex to their home and shouting matches are less likely to occur in public. Or the couple may have a history of domestic violence.

According to the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic Violence, abusive parents are more likely than non-abusive parents to seek sole custody of children and abusive fathers win joint custody and unsupervised visitation at the same rate as non-abusive fathers. While non-abusive fathers may simply want to be with their children, abusive fathers are motivated by a desire to continue controlling and harassing their children's mother. If they are granted visitation or custody, they are guaranteed to see their victim regularly when they swap the children. In these cases, it is not safe for mom to allow dad to come to her home, or to go to his, because of the risk of further violence. Highly populated areas were once thought to provide some safety during exchanges but, as this tragic incident illustrates, safety is not assured.

If you are a woman who fears for her safety during the exchange of children for custody or visitation, please contact your attorney or your local domestic violence agency (1-800-799-SAFE) to discuss your options for supervised visitation or safe exchange. If you live in the Atlanta area, contact Nia's Place.

Update: Dunn had been arrested just two weeks before for choking his wife, but she was still under custody order to meet him to exchange the children.

Update: Another follow-up article detailing the couple's recent domestic violence history.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Murder Suicide in Gwinett

From the AJC: The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner has identified the couple shot and killed Tuesday in a murder-suicide outside a Lawrenceville theater.

Lawrenceville Police said Jose Fernandez, 41, murdered his wife Elyse Fernandez, 40, then turned the gun on himself.

The shooting occurred around 7 p.m. at the Town Center Cinemas on 700 Gwinnett Drive.

We will continue to update you if we learn more. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fernandez family.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Perpetrator Killed, Two Wounded at DV Call

Via the AJC:
One man was killed and two other people wounded -- including a DeKalb County police officer -- in a domestic dispute at a Stone Mountain apartment complex.

The apparent shooter was shot and killed by police at the Stone Mountain Colony apartment complex, police spokesman Officer Jason Gagnon said.

Police responded around 7:15 p.m. to a domestic incident in the apartment complex just east of North Hairston Road near Stone Mountain Village.

When police arrived, "The gunman came out of the apartment firing several rounds at our officers," Gagnon said. "Officers shot back at the suspect, and he was killed at the scene."

SWAT was called immediately -- officers were already in the area patrolling for a serial rapist and were able to respond quickly to the call, Gagnon said.

A female victim, shot by the suspect before police arrived, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition, police said.

The police officer was shot in the leg and was taken to Grady, where he was listed in stable but serious condition, Gagnon said.
DV calls are some of the most dangerous to which law enforcement officers respond. That should give you some indication of what women who experience abuse are dealing with. Law enforcement officers have weapons and have been trained in self defense. If they fear coming into contact with batterers, is it any surprise that victims are afraid to make choices that may escalate the violence? Keep this in mind the next time you are tempted to question a woman experiencing domestic violence when she makes choices that you don't agree with or understand. You never know what you might do when faced with that kind of fear.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bill Would Protect Pets From Domestic Violence

A bill up for consideration in the Georgia Legislature this year would add pets as protected parties under domestic violence protective orders.

Animal rights advocates and domestic violence prevention groups have united behind the bill. They say it will help prevent situations like the vicious beating of a pet dachshund that occurred in Gwinnett County last week. Dainley Green, accused of beating his family's pet dachshund in front of his children, was charged in the case.

The dog was still bleeding and had bloodshot eyes from being strangled when deputies arrived at the Lawrenceville home. Authorities were tipped off to the abuse when Green's wife filed for a temporary protective order.

"If you think about it in a domestic violence way, people are so attached to their pets now," said state Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), who sponsored HB 429. "One way to really hurt the person you're trying to control is to go after the pet."

The bill, which made it out of a House committee last year but missed the deadline for crossover to the Senate, would let judges order an alleged abuser to refrain from harming family pets. It also would allow the judge to direct the care, custody or control of a pet. The law would not apply to livestock, working animals, laboratory animals or sport animals.

Cooper said the bill went back to the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, where she will ask for it to be resurrected this year.

Batterers often use pets to control family members, domestic abuse experts say. According to a national survey of family violence shelters conducted by university researchers in 1997, 71 percent of victims reported that their abusers threatened, injured or killed the family pets.

Nicole Lesser, director of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said securing protection for pets is a big issue in the field of domestic violence.

"I don't think you'll hear any opposition to that in the domestic violence world," Lesser said. "I've had many clients say, ‘If I can't take my dog, I can't leave.'"

The Ahimsa House is a Decatur-based nonprofit organization that takes in the pets of domestic violence victims, providing shelter for them in a network of foster homes and boarding facilities. The organization's president, Maya Gupta, said it has received 709 crisis calls and sheltered about 150 animals since 2007. A majority of the pets they see have injuries or illness resulting from neglect, Gupta said.

"It's such an under-recognized thing that people don't realize," Gupta said.

In issuing a protective order, courts can order a person to refrain from domestic violence, authorize a dangerous person to be evicted from a home or force them to provide housing elsewhere for a partner, and set up child and spousal support payments. Cooper's bill would allow pets to be included.

Eleven states have already passed similar pet-protection laws, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Chesta Drake, a retired school counselor who volunteers for the Humane Society, and others involved with the organization will be at the Capitol next week urging passage of Cooper's bill. She said what happened to the Green family's pet dachshund shows just how timely the legislation is.

"So many times animals are used just like this to threaten or control or horrify the family," Drake said.

We'll have more updates for you on ways you can take action to help pass this bill.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Victim's Child Kidnapped By Gunpoint

It's a parent's worst nightmare and one that the women we serve suffer all too regularly.

Richmond County Investigators are searching for a man whom they say kidnapped his 6-year-old son at gunpoint from the child's home Monday night.

Maurice Leon Holland, 27, of Pearl Avenue, is wanted on charges of kidnapping, terroristic threats and acts and gun charges, according to Richmond County Sgt. Blaise Dresser.

About 5 p.m. last night, witnesses said Holland forced his way into his child's mother's home at gunpoint, a sheriff's report said.

The mother, Latasha White, wasn't home at the time so Holland took the child and fled the home. Sgt. Dresser said they located the boy last night at an apartment in Olmstead Homes off Broad Street and he was returned to his mother. White had previously filed charges against Holland for terroistic threats and acts, Sgt. Dresser said.

"She claims to have been getting terrorized by this man since she broke up with him," he said.

Many batterers know that the quickest way to frighten their partners is to threaten their children. The fear that he will take her children is one of the top reasons women stay in violent relationships and preventing that from happening is often a woman's primary concern once she leaves. Men often use their children as a means to continue to have contact with former partners, and men who have a history of domestic violence are more likely to receive joint custody because they are significantly more likely to ask for it. We need to protect future generations of children from learning abusive behavior from abusive parents by taking domestic violence seriously when making custody decisions. Judges - don't order custody or unsupervised visitation for parents who have a history of abusing a spouse or partner. Moms - don't let anyone make you feel guilty for keeping your children away from a parent who will teach them that violence is acceptable.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cordele Man Muders Girlfriend

From 13WMAZ:
A Cordele man is charged with murdering his girlfriend this weekend.

A Cordele Police Department news release says 37-year-old Derek Armstrong turned himself in Sunday afternoon.

He's accused of shooting 27-year-old Tasha Grant in the head.

Grant was found dead in her North C Street apartment Saturday afternoon.

The department says Armstrong and Grant shared the apartment.

Armstrong is being held in the Crisp County Jail.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Grant family.