Thursday, April 29, 2010

Big Win for GCFV!

Thanks to everyone who responded to our call to help save the Georgia Commission on Family Violence. Your efforts worked!

The House and the Senate passed a budget that moves funding for the Commission over to the Judicial Council, where it can best be protected. And instead of zeroing out their budget, as originally proposed, the legislature made sure the Commission maintained 90% of its funding - which, in today's climate, is another huge victory.

To learn more about the Commission and the work that they do, visit their website.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Differences in Definition

Is this domestic violence?

A man killed his sister and wounded his mother and another sister in a triple shooting Tuesday afternoon at the home they shared in Southeastern Clarke County, Athens-Clarke police said.

Richard Norred, 28, killed Leigh Pope, 29, and wounded his other sister, Amy Norred, 31, and his mother, Carol Norred, 63, according to police.

Richard Norred then shot himself in the chest. Police found him in a bathroom of the home at 138 Beaver Trail off Red Fox Run, and he was rushed to Athens Regional Medical Center.
Investigators did not know the motive for the shootings, but police said Richard Norred has Asperger syndrome, a type of autism, and was prone to violent outbursts, though none were ever reported to authorities.
According to some definitions, yes. To others, no. Some groups (law enforcement in particular) define domestic violence as a specific violent offense, such as battery, committed against blood relatives, those with whom you share a child, or those with whom you live. The difference between a charge of "battery" and a charge of "battery, family violence" is the perpetrator's relationship to the victim.

For advocacy organizations like ours, the definition is a little more complicated. We view domestic violence as a pattern of behaviors over time used by one partner or family member to exert control over another. The police wouldn't label put-downs and name calling as domestic violence, but we would if it is part of a pattern with the ultimate goal of establishing power over a victim. To us, unless Richard Norred had used violence or verbal abuse in the past to seek to control over a member of his family, this doesn't fit our definition. That doesn't lessen this family's loss or the need for a perpetrator of any form of violence to be held accountable. What it does do is affect the way we approach prevention.

We believe domestic violence, by our definition, is caused by the belief that women are less deserving than men of basic human rights. (If you still don't believe us, read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn). Therefore, to end gender-based violence, we must work to convince people, especially men, that women are full human beings and, therefore, are deserving of the same respect and the same freedom from harm. For example, the organization Men Stopping Violence rarely uses the term "domestic violence" because they feel that it can hide the true nature of most perpetration – namely that most of this violence is committed by men.

To use another definition of domestic violence can be misleading. For instance, if a woman's partner is attempting to rape her and she pushes him to the floor, they have both used violence. This is how men's rights organizations can claim that women use violence against their partners just as often as men - because they do not look at the context. This is also how women get falsely arrested. We work with hundreds of women every year who have been charged with family violence but who are really victims by our definition. If the police ask, "did you push him?" and she replies, "yes", she is often arrested without the chance to tell her full story. By the system, she is now labeled as a batterer.

When it comes right down to it, it doesn't matter much what gets labeled "domestic violence" and what doesn't, so long as we understand the real problem and it's potential solutions. If we really want to make strides as a movement to end violence against women, we need to communicate that violence against women isn't OK, women don't deserve it, and that men should be held accountable if they use violence against a partner.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

GCFV Needs Your Help

Last year, advocacy organizations, legislators, and voters fought hard to keep the Georgia Commission on Family Violence alive. This year, their continued existence is being threatened again. The Commission provides valuable services for the state such as certifying all of the state's batterer's intervention programs. We cannot afford to have the power over certification moved to another state agency without a thorough knowledge of domestic violence and the tactics of control that batterers use.

The Georgia Senate budget recommendation that was just released shows that the Commission is in danger of having its funding zeroed out, which means that the Commission would cease to exist as of July 1 of this year. Their fate now rests in the hands of the 3 Representatives and 3 Senators on the budget conference committee that will work out the differences between the House and Senate budget bills. Please call or email these conferees, as well as the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of House, to ask them to Agree with the House’s FY 2011 Budget Recommendation for the Commission.

The talking points and contact info distributed by the Commission are as follows (note that the talking points are slightly different for the House and the Senate):


Rep. Jerry Keen: Phone: 404.656.5052
Rep. Jan Jones: Phone: 404.656.5072
Rep. Ben Harbin: Phone: 404.463.2247
Speaker of the House David Ralston: Phone: 404.656.5020

House Talking Points: Thank you for working to preserve the Commission on Family Violence, by moving its funding to the Judicial Council. Please stand strong on this position in the conference committee - maintaining this position is vital for victims of domestic violence in Georgia.


Sen. Jack Hill: Phone: (404) 656-5038
Sen. Chip Rogers: Phone: (404) 463-1378
Sen. Tommie Williams: Phone: (404) 656-0089
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle: Phone: (404) 656-5030 FAX: (404) 656-6739

Senate Talking Points: It is crucial that the Senate agree with the House recommendation for the Commission on Family Violence in the FY11 budget -- to move the funding for the Commission to the Judicial Council. The Commission on Family Violence is the only state agency committed to this issue, and has helped to dramatically reduce Georgia's domestic violence homicide rate. If the Senate's recommendation were to prevail, the good work of the Commission would be lost. We urge you to preserve this vital agency by agreeing with the House recommendation for the Commission on Family Violence for FY11.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Emory University Models Campus Prevention

Emory University provides a great example of how dating and domestic violence can be addressed on colleges campuses, both with students and within education so that students leave with a model for addressing violence in their careers. A WRC board member, Dr. Sheryl Heron, co-chairs Emory's Intimate Partner Violence Working Group.

The IPV working group partners with the Center for Women, the Sexual Assault Prevention Office, the Emory Counseling Center, Pastoral Counseling Service and the Emory Police Department, and its members draw from these organizations and more.

“Our goal is to create a collaborative group so that we can support one another on some of the efforts,” [Paula Gomes, co-chair of Emory’s IPV working group] said. She added that the work aims to support each other while responding to a number of existing concerns within Emory students staff and members of the faculty.

An Emory initiative to combat intimate partner violence started by the IPV working group includes offering a protocol for health care professionals to follow up with patients who are suspected to be victims of intimate partner violence cases.

“In [the VCP report], they found that victims went to hospital emergency rooms, and they went to their friends and colleagues and tried to get help, but it wasn’t good enough because they were murdered,” Heron said.

She added that the group wanted to revive a protocol that wold be more updated in the language and content of definitions, which includes what they look for and how to ask questions and make referrals.

Heron said that among other indicators of IPV, chronic abdominal pain, a history of an attempted suicide or chronic headaches points towards an individual’s possibility of having IPV.

“It’s beyond just fixing the medical problem, but asking why,” Heron said. She said that there is still a long way to go, and added that the medical protocol provides yet another tool that health care professionals can access.

This protocol includes requiring health care professionals to routinely check patients for domestic abuse in an effort to decrease the amount of repeat offenses of intimate partner violence.

“The medical protocol goes hand in hand with the fatality reports because the fatality report clearly states that victims have gone to health care professionals prior to their death,” Heron said.

Two years ago, the IPV working group conducted a report on intimate partner violence and presented the findings to University President James W. Wagner.

However, many of their recommendations, such as the creation of a website for victims have not materialized since the report came during the nation’s economic downturn.

“The recommendations included the creation of a website and other resources and a central place where people can respond to intimate partner violence,” Heron said.

She added that the financing issues have not deterred the group from distributing the report or from working with the Center for Women to create a website which would ensure confidentiality and safety for those in need of the services.

Heron said that according to a survey given to the University, many are unaware of a clear definition for intimate partner violence.

“We have to continue educating our campus and our university about what partner violence is about and what it includes,” Heron said.

Despite Georgia’s high ranking this year, Gomes stressed that there are many avenues throughout campus for Emory students, staff and faculty to reach out to when experiencing IPV.

“We do see [IPV] as an issue an Emory, and I know there is a growing issue among students of dating violence and stalking,” Gomes said. “There are resources available for everyone on campus.”
Info comes courtesy of the Emory Wheel.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How to Prosecute a DV Case

A man in Athens was given a 22-year sentence for a 2006 assault on his then-wife. This is remarkable because the DA's office chose to pursue the case, and was able to do so successfully, without the victim's involvement.

Robert Lynn Jones, 45, was convicted after a weeklong trial that ended Friday, with jurors taking three hours to find him guilty of family violence aggravated battery, second-degree criminal damage and a slew of motor vehicle violations for leading police on a multicounty chase.

Judge Steve Jones ordered the defendant to serve the first 16 years of the sentence in prison and the balance on probation.

Robert Jones' conviction was significant, because the district attorney's office went forward with prosecution despite a reluctant victim, according to Assistant District Attorney Leslie Spornberger Jones.

"It's an important case for us because domestic violence is something we are pro-prosecution about," Leslie Jones said. "This was a case where (the victim) said she didn't want to be involved, and we said it's basically with the state now."

That allowed the victim to tell her abuser that the district attorney's office was pursuing charges, not her, so he couldn't retaliate, according to Leslie Jones.

Robert Jones is a classic abuser who controlled every aspect of his wife's life to make it difficult for her to break free, Leslie Jones said.

"He told her how to do her hair and what to wear," she said.

The couple moved frequently, from Alabama where they were married in 2002, to the Carolinas, and Clarke and Madison counties, so that local authorities couldn't investigate reports of abuse.

"Every time he did something to her, he would leave, they would get back together, and they'd move somewhere else," Jones said.

The tipping point came Sept. 4, 2006, when the couple argued in the yard of their Hull Road home. The fight moved indoors, where Robert Jones pummeled his wife's face with his fist.

During the trial, one of the responding officers testified it was one of the worst beatings he'd seen, according to Leslie Jones.

Robert Jones fled his home, but he returned later that day and led officers on a chase through Madison and Jackson counties, then back to Athens where he wrecked his car and ran, police said.

Officers found him two days later, holed up in a motel in Monroe where he threatened drink antifreeze and kill himself.

"That was a key issue in the trial because it described the whole cycle of violence," Leslie Jones said. "He would always get (the victim) back by apologizing, and when that didn't work, he'd threaten suicide."

The victim divorced Robert Jones after the 2006 assault, and has since remarried and lives in another state, she said.
Prosecutors often rely on victim testimony in domestic violence battery cases and many will dismiss if a victim refuses to participate. However, women who have experienced domestic violence have many good reasons to fear cooperating with prosecutors, including fear of her partner's retaliation or not wanting him to go to jail because she relies on his income. This case and others like it prove that it is possible for the state to successfully pursue charges without victim involvement. After all, these cases are Georgia v. Johnson and not A. Johnson v. B. Johnson. It is the state's responsibility to keep its citizen's safe and to hold those who commit crimes accountable for their actions.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Newton County Murder Suicide

The Newton County couple found dead in their home Thursday has been identified as David and Laura Stomackin, Lt. Keith Crum told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The county medical examiner has ruled that their deaths were a murder-suicide, Crum told the AJC. Laura Stomackin, 49, died from gunshot wounds, and David Stomackin, 52, died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds, Crum said.

A Newton County SWAT team found the two dead inside a home Thursday morning, according to the sheriff's office.

Investigators continue to look for a motive, Crum told the AJC. They did not find a suicide note, he said.

Deputies arrived at the home after a 10 a.m. call to 9-1-1 reporting that a husband had threatened his wife with violence, Crum told the AJC. Once at the home in the Fairview Chase subdivision, deputies couldn't make contact with a resident, he said.

At that point, the SWAT team was brought to the scene, Crum said. Deputies forced entry into the home, where they found the couple dead, he said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Stomackin family.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Song That Got Me A Restraining Order

Singer Andrew WK seems to think he's cleansing his soul by releasing a song that he wrote for a high school "crush" that was so threatening it prompted her to get a restraining order.

I was in high school in the 1990s, in a town called Ann Arbor in Michigan. I had a crush on a girl and was deeply and passionately fixated on her. She had a baby face, a 14-tooth smile, large eyes, a crowned forehead, an oversized brow and a tender style. She consumed me with both lust and hatred – lust, because I was truly drawn to her beauty and soft skin, and hatred because she rarely spoke to me, wouldn't look at me much and never gave me a chance to show her my deep affections. I used to call her house just to listen to her say, "Hello?" Then I'd hang up, terrified and shaking with nervous ecstasy.

In our senior year of high school, when I was 17, we were required to make a final project which was presented to the head of the school and graded as our final exam. This was when my crush was at its absolute height. I decided to write a song dedicated to her and submit it as my final project for graduation. The song was My Destiny. I've never recorded another song like it, and now – listening to it after all these years – I can see why.

Here are the lyrics:

Called Up Your Number Fourteen Times
To See If You Were Home
Home Is Where I'll Find You
When I Find You

Do You Feel Lonely When You're Alone
A Sheet To Keep You Warm
Warm – Electric Blanket
An Extra Blanket

You Are My Destiny
I'll Make You Fall In Love With Me
I'll Make Myself Your Fantasy
Weeping Like The Willow Tree

Drove Past Your Doorway Fifteen Times
I Don't Want To Cause You Harm
Harm – That's What You're In For
If You Don't Open Your Door

So I'll Keep Knocking A Million Times
I Will Knock Until My Knuckles Bleed
Bleed – That Blood Will Leave A Stain
On You Forever

You Are My Destiny
And I'll Make You Fall In Love With Me, Me, Me
It's horribly painful – the sound of confusion and trouble, which is what I was in. I had wanted the song to have a big impact, but not the kind I got. Be careful what you wish for...

The day after I submitted the song, the head of my school called me and my parents in for a private meeting. They played the song for my parents as I sat next to them, paralysed and devastated by the humiliation. The head of the school recommended that I go into counselling or see the school psychiatrist (my parents did send me to a child psychologist following later exploits in arson, baseball card forgery and mail fraud: his final diagnosis? "You have a devilish side"). That was bad, but nothing compared to what happened a year later.

It turned out that the assistant to the head of school got a copy of my song on cassette and gave it to the girl I had a crush on. This was probably the worst thing that had ever happened in my life. She heard the song and was completely freaked out. Within three days, every kid in school had a copy. She told her friends, teachers and parents: "This guy at school is stalking me and threatening my life." She played them the song and they called the police.

In the end, I had a juvenile restraining order put on me, which lasted until I was 21. I've never told anyone about it since, except my closest friends and family. Three months ago, I was advised by my personal manager and life coach to finally let people hear it, to resolve the nightmare. So, I am. Now is the first time since the incident that I've let anyone hear the song. And I can hear why.
This reminds us of a story. Not so long ago we were working with a woman whose partner, as part of his personal redemption for the crimes he committed against her, decided to tell everyone he and his wife knew about all of the violence he had inflicted on her in detail. He told them about beatings and rapes and controlling behavior. He says he did it so that their friends and family could hold him accountable for his actions and so those same people could learn that violence can come from those you would never suspect. Sounds good in theory, right? What he didn't do was ask his wife's permission to share the minute details of the trauma she experienced with everyone in her life. Maybe she didn't want her husband's brother to know how many times he raped her. Maybe she didn't want her colleagues at work to know how he monitored her every move. But it was so important to his journey that he shared those details without considering the way that sharing could revictimize her.

We wonder if Andrew WK contacted his former stalking victim to see if she was OK with him releasing this song to resolve his personal nightmare. Also, does this have anything to do with his album coming out?