Friday, May 28, 2010

Man Who Killed Girlfriend Still At Large

From the Effingham Herald:

Authorities are looking for a person of interest in the homicide of a Rincon woman.

Rincon Police officers were called to a home on Rahn Street on Friday morning after friends had not heard from a woman who lived there for two days. Inside, they found the body of a woman. She has been identified as Linda Shaffer, 60.

“We had a friend who had been calling the last couple of days and she hadn’t been answering the phone,” Rincon Police Chief Mike Bohannon said. “Preliminary investigation indicates it’s a homicide. We have a person of interest identified.”

The Rincon Police Department and the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office are looking for Chris Todd Lawery, 45, of Guyton, who is believed to have been the woman’s boyfriend. Lowery may be driving a gray 2004 Pontiac Grand Am with Georgia tag DP1CT0. He also may be armed and dangerous.

Authorities have not released how the woman was killed and were in the process of notifying the next of kin.

Bohannon said Lawery may have a history of mental illness.

“If you see this individual, notify your local law enforcement. Do not try to approach this person,” Bohannon said. “He’s a person of interest at this time. But due to the violence here, we don’t know his mindset.”
Anyone with information on Lawery’s whereabouts can call the Rincon Police Department at 826-5200 or the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office at 754-3449. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Shaffer family.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GA Man Killed Wife, Set Fire to Home

From SavannahNow: a Bryan County, GA man is accused of killing his wife, firing a round of shots into a neighbor's home, setting his home on fire, and then killing himself.

"Just after 1 a.m., deputies got a call to a house on Smith Road - the complaint was somebody had shot through the house several times," said Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith. "It was true. They went to the house behind it, located at 20500 Ga. Hwy 144, and heard smoke alarms going off. ... The fire department entered the house, found two bodies in the bedroom on the bed."

Both had gunshot wounds to the head and were pronounced dead at the scene.

According to Smith, further investigation showed Jeffery Minor apparently fired two shots into the head of his wife, Gail, while she was sleeping.

An extreme series of events followed, Smith said. Minor went outside and fired 10 shots from an assault rifle through the house next door; went back into his house, ransacked it, set it on fire in a couple of places; returned to the bedroom; fired a shot from the same handgun he had used on his wife into his own head; and fell across her body.
These actions may sound bizarre, but never underestimate the danger of an abuser to his community. They may initially limit their violence to family, but it can quickly escalate to situations that put many others in danger. Even if he hadn't fired into the neighbor's home, the fire he set to destroy the evidence of his crime could easily have spread throughout the neighborhood. This is why we emphasize that domestic violence is not just a problem for the family immediately involved. If you know someone who is being abused, offer your support for her sake and for the safety of your own family.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Minor family.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Atlanta Man Fatally Shoots Wife

From WSB:

A woman was found facedown in her bed with a fatal gunshot wound to the head, Atlanta police said.

Officers were called to an apartment complex in the 1900 block of Delowe Drive Tuesday.

When they entered unit D-16, police said they discovered the victim, Demetra Wright.

Evidence tied the victim’s husband, Orlando Smith, to the crime scene, investigator said.

Smith was taken to the homicide office for questioning and then to the Fulton County Jail. He has been charged in the death of his wife.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wright family.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Army Wives" Includes Domestic Violence Plot

Army Wives is a Lifetime original series that follows the lives of four army wives, one army husband, and their families. Sunday's episode tackled a highly charged subject: domestic violence in the military.

Domestic violence happens so much in the military that the Department of Defense has made it an item of specific concern. The majority of victims of domestic violence in military families are the civilian wives of active duty personnel. It can be very difficult for the victims in these cases to get help because of the separate legal systems which govern the actions of soldiers. has a breakdown of the basics of military law, the Depart of Defense Family Advocacy Program, confidentiality, removal of guns, and finding help. They also have information on obtaining a military protective (restraining) order.

If the abuser is a military member, domestic violence situations are handled on two separate tracks: the military justice system, and the Family Advocacy system.

It's important to realize that these are two separate systems, not connected. Family advocacy is an identification, intervention, and treatment program -- not a punishment system. It's entirely possible that the Family Advocacy Committee will return a finding of "substantiated abuse," but there will be insufficient legally admissible evidence to allow punishment under the provisions of military justice.

Regulations require military and DOD officials to report any suspicion of family violence to Family Advocacy, no matter how small. This includes commanders, first sergeants, supervisors, medical personnel, teachers, and military police. If child abuse is involved, regulations require that local child protection agencies be notified, and participate in the process.

After an investigation, the case is presented to a multidisciplinary case review committee with representatives from the Family Advocacy Program, law enforcement, staff judge advocate, medical staff and chaplain. The committee decides whether the evidence indicates abuse occurred, and arrives at one of the following findings:

Substantiated. A case that has been investigated and the preponderance of available information indicates that abuse has occurred. This means that the information that supports the occurrence of abuse is of greater weight or more convincing than the information that indicates that abuse did not occur.

Suspected. A case determination is pending further investigation. Duration for a case to be "suspected" and under investigation should not exceed 12 weeks.

Unsubstantiated. An alleged case that has been investigated and the available information is insufficient to support the claim that child abuse and/or neglect or spouse abuse did occur. The family needs no family advocacy services.

Based on the committee's recommendations, the commander decides what action to take regarding the abuser., The commander determines whether to order the individual into treatment, and/or to seek to impose disciplinary procedures under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The commander may also seek to obtain the discharge of the service member from the military.

Victims often hesitate to report abuse because they fear the impact it will have on their spouse's career. A recent DOD study found that service members reported for abuse are 23 percent more likely to be separated from the service than nonabusers and somewhat more likely to have other than honorable discharges. The majority who remain in the military are more likely to be promoted more slowly than nonabusers.

Many military spouses don't know that federal law gives financial protection to the spouse if the member is discharged for an offense which "involves abuse of the then-current spouse or a dependent child." It doesn't matter if the discharge is a punitive discharge imposed by a court-martial, or an administrative discharge initiated by the commander.
If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse at the hands of a member of the military, please visit to learn about your rights and where you can go for help.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Griffin Man Kills Wife and Stepdaughter

A Griffin, GA man killed his wife and 19-year-old stepdaughter last night, one week after being served with divorce papers.

Friends and loved ones of a slain Griffin mother and daughter mourned their loss Monday night, as police continued to search for the husband and stepfather believed to have killed them.

The double shooting Monday afternoon marked the third and fourth murders this month in Griffin, where last year there was only one homicide, police said.

While police hunting Monday night for 49-year-old Kenneth Baker considered him to be armed and dangerous, those who knew Lynnale Baker, 38, and her 19-year-old daughter ShaeLinda Sanders said they were well-loved.
Monday afternoon, police say they received a call reporting the shootings.

Just after 1 p.m. Monday, Kenneth Baker phoned in what he had done to a family member.

"He told a relative he had killed his wife and stepdaughter," Griffin police chief Frank Strickland told the AJC.

Officers arrived at the home in the 100 block of Waterford Way and found Lynnale Baker and Sanders both shot to death at their home.

Strickland said Lynnale Baker had served her husband with divorce papers just a week ago. Shaelinda was about to graduate later this month from Griffin High School.

But Pattillo said domestic trouble had been brewing much longer.

"Ms. Lynnale was going to leave him last year, and he promised he would change," Patillo said.
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a plan when ending a violent relationship. There are many good reasons why women stay in abusive relationships, and fear that the violence will escalate if she tries to leave is high on that list. In fact, the most dangerous times in a violent relationship are pregnancy and when the relationship is ending. It is vitally important that women have a safe place to stay when they leave and have someone with whom to explore all of their rights and options. If you would like to plan to leave an abusive relationship, please call us at 404-370-7670. Outside metro Atlanta you can call 1-800-33-HAVEN. Outside Georgia, call 1-800-799-SAFE.

As always, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims' family.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Men Who Batter Think You Do, Too!

Men who engage in domestic violence consistently overestimate how common such behavior is, and the more they overestimate, the more they engage in abusing their partner.

“Men who engage in violent behavior justify it in their mind by thinking it is more common and saying, ‘Most guys slap their women around so it is okay to engage in it.’ Or it could be that misperceptions about violence cause the behavior.”

Neighbors says these men overestimated by two to three times the actual rates of seven behaviors ranging from throwing something at a partner to rape. Details of the study will be published in the journal Violence Against Women.

“Another way of looking at this would be wearing a red shirt. If you think everyone is wearing a red shirt then it is okay for you to wear one too. Or if you wear a red shirt you might overestimate the number of other people who are wearing red shirts,” he explains.

The work is the first to document overestimation of intimate partner violence by batterers and is consistent with findings about a variety of other harmful behaviors such as substance use, gambling, and eating disorders. This line of research looks at social norms, or what is considered to be appropriate and inappropriate behavior in society.

“Social norms theory suggests that people act in a way that they believe is consistent with what the average person does,” adds Denise Walker, research professor of social work and co-director of the Innovative Programs Research Group.

The research looked at 124 men who were enrolled in a larger treatment intervention study for domestic violence. The men, all of whom had participated in violence against a partner in the previous 90 days, were asked to estimate the percentage of men who had ever engaged in seven forms of abuse.

These included throwing something at a partner that could hurt; pushing, grabbing, or shoving a partner; slapping or hitting; choking; beating up a partner; threatening a partner with a gun; and forcing a partner have sex when they did not want to.

Data on the percentage of men who actually engaged in these abusive behaviors were drawn from the National Violence Against Women Survey, funded by the National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In every case the men vastly overestimated the actual instances of abuse. For example, the participants on average thought 27.6 percent of men had thrown something with the intent of hurting a partner while the actual number is 11.9 percent. Similarly, they believed 23.6 percent of men had forced their partner to have sex involuntary compared to 7.9 percent in reality.

“With sexual assault the more a man thought it was prevalent the more likely he was to engage in such behavior. If we can correct misperceptions about the prevalence of intimate partner violence, we have a chance to change men’s behavior. If you give them factual information it is harder for them to justify their behavior,” Neighbors says
That is the major role that men can play in the movement to end violence against women: making sure that other men know that domestic violence is not OK. Men have influence over one another in a way that women don't. We need men to speak to their friends, relatives, colleagues, fellow church members, etc. and let them know that there will be a social stigma surrounding battering. If men hold other men socially and politically accountable for battering, there will be a lot less battering. We've known that for years.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Yeardley Love and Dating Violence

Recognize the name George Huguely? He is the former boyfriend charged with killing UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love. We wouldn't be surprised if you recognize her name but not his. Reporting on domestic violence often concentrates on the victim, why she stayed, what she could have done to stay safe, and often erases the culpability of the perpetrator entirely. Even Newsweek, who ran a story on the case this week, felt the need to title their story "Turns Out, Yeardley Love Couldn't Have Gotten a Restraining Order If She Wanted To".

Despite that, the article has good information about dating violence. Dating violence is the common term for domestic violence (or family violence, or intimate partner violence) that is used when the couple is not married, has not lived together, or do not have children together. The title of the article draws attention to a major difference in the way that the law addresses domestic violence vs. dating violence. In many states, victims of dating violence cannot apply for a restraining order.

The tragedy has also brought new light to dating violence on college campuses, where as many as one in four female students experience sexual assault. But perhaps the most disturbing new revelation is the fact that, despite Huguely's violent past, Love couldn't have filed for a restraining order against him even if she wanted to. Virginia is one of eight states that excludes people in dating relationships—in other words, unmarried couples or partners—from getting protective restraining orders, and for the past three years, the state has failed an annual assessment of domestic-violence-protection laws. Presented by Break the Cycle, a national nonprofit that works to end domestic violence, the State Law Report Card assesses how easy, or difficult, it is for teens seeking legal protection from abuse.
In Georgia, Love could have applied for what our state calls at Stalking Protective Order. She would have been required to document repeated acts that caused her to fear for her own safety or the safety of a member of her immediate family, and that caused her emotional distress. It would have been up to the judge to determine if these things qualify:

[Huguely] had been Tasered by a female police officer in 2008, after threatening her in a drunken rage. He had to be separated from Love at a party, and allegedly attacked a sleeping teammate, leaving his face bruised, after hearing that the player had kissed Love. He'd been charged with underage alcohol possession, reckless driving, and in 2008, police were summoned by the 22-year-old's father after the two got into a heated argument aboard a fishing boat and Huguely tried to swim the quarter mile to shore.
It is pretty clear to everyone reading that summary that Huguely was a guy who had trouble with violence and anger. He had been arrested and he had had friends physically separate him from Love at a party, illustrating for him that his behavior had gone to far. However, he was never kicked out of school, or even off the lacrosse team, for his violent behavior. The University has been hammered over that very issue, but claim that they had no way of knowing of Huguely's violent past because police aren't required to notify universities of the arrest of their students. Until we get to a place where we are taking violence against women seriously, until we are notifying those who can hold perpetrators accountable when it happens, until we are holding violent abusers accountable in meaningful ways, tragedies like this will continue to happen. That's not happening now. What is happening now is that people are completely missing the point:

All we know about Love’s death is that she was likely killed by someone close to her. So why are UVA police responding to the murder by warning students against crimes committed by strangers?

The e-mail, from University of Virginia Police Chief Mike Gibson:

While Charlottesville remains a relatively safe environment, crimes do occur in our community. The best defense is to be prepared and to take responsibility for your own safety and for that of your friends and fellow students. A few key reminders:

Trust your instincts about a person or situation. If you feel uncomfortable, immediately report your concerns to police by calling 911.

If you are on the Grounds and need help, pick up one of the blue-light telephones. You will be immediately connected to University Police. Be aware of your surroundings. Do not let a cell phone conversation or listening
to music distract you when crossing the street or in any type of situation that calls for your full attention.

Avoid isolated areas and walking alone at night. Use SafeRide (434-242-1122), walk with friends, or take a late-night weekend bus.

Keep your doors and windows locked.

Never allow strangers to follow you into a locked building and gain entry by “tailgating” you once you swipe the card reader in a residence hall. Also, never prop open card-reader doors.

If you see any of the following, immediately call the police at 911: a prowler, someone peeping into a residence, an individual watching, photographing or filming an area, or any other suspicious behavior.

Work with your neighbors and fellow community members to ensure a safe

UVA police have instructed students how to avoid and/or respond to the following: An attack on the grounds of the university. Getting hit by a car. A late-night street attack. An attack by an unknown intruder. An attack through the window. An attack by a prowler. An attack by a peeping Tom. An attack by a suspicious filmmaker.

Police believe that Love was killed by a more likely suspect—a man she knew. In general, women, and particularly young women, are more likely to be killed by someone they know than by a stranger. So why hasn’t UVA included any information here about domestic violence?

UVA student Madeleine Conger, forwarded Gibson’s e-mail. “I find it appalling . . . that no mention is made of how to tell if you are in an abusive relationship, how to avoid escalating aggressive confrontation, resources for people in abusive situations, or tips for friends of those who are,” says Conger. “Not even the number of the amazing women’s center we have here.”
She adds: “I just don’t understand why we can’t speak honestly about violence. . . . Locking your doors isn’t going to keep your boyfriend from hitting you.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

Double Murder and Suicide in Suwanee

Suwanee police said Wednesday that the fatal shootings of three people at an apartment on McGinnis Ferry Road were a double murder and suicide.

Officers responding to a shots fired call just before 8:30 p.m. Tuesday found two women and a man dead in a unit at the Amli at McGinnis Ferry complex, according to Suwanee police Capt. Clyde Byers.

Byers told the AJC that Suwanee police investigators, assisted by the Duluth police crime scene unit, had determined that Michael Kenneth Turner, 40 of Lawrenceville, forced his way into the apartment of his estranged girlfriend, 24-year-old Tiffany Hulsey, and her roommate, 36-year-old Deanna Griffin.

"We believe that he shot both of the females and then turned the gun on himself," Byers said.
Police suspect that the killer was upset at being asked to pay child support.

An investigation is in preliminary stages, but evidence suggests that Kenneth Michael Turner may have spouted threats to co-workers at Wal-Mart in Suwanee hours before the killings, said Suwanee police spokesman Capt. Clyde Byers.

Byers said Turner worked part-time, possibly in a janitorial-type capacity. A Wal-Mart representative said Thursday that company policy prohibited her from verifying employment over the phone.

“I understood he was disgruntled about child support payments (but) it sounds like it may have been multiple things,” Byers said. “My guys are trying to look into those things.”

Investigators believe Turner fatally shot his estranged girlfriend and mother of their 8-month-old child, Tiffany Hulsey, 24, after kicking in the door of her AMLI at McGinnis Ferry apartment Tuesday night.

Turner also killed a Dacula woman police believe was staying at the apartment, Deanna Griffin, 36, before turning the gun on himself, police said.

Hulsey’s 5-year-old daughter and Griffin’s 7-year-old daughter witnessed the slayings, police said. All three children are in the custody of relatives.
No mention is made in the article of domestic violence, though most men who are asked to pay child support don't go on a killing rampage. One of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship is after that relationship has ended. Men who are used to holding all of the power and control in a relationship begin to feel very threatened when that power is taken away. Many women we know never pursue child support, even though many really need it, because they fear their former partner's reaction to that request. They know that he could view child support payments as a further loss of power and seek to restore some of that power through tactics to invoke fear, such as stalking, violence, or homicide. Unfortunately, many women rely on child support to provide for their families and have no other choice than to remain connected to a man of whom they are desperately afraid.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hulsey and Griffin families.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Stupid Criminals" and Bad Reporting

Remember how we are constantly admonishing the world to take stalking seriously? (1,2,3,4,5) Apparently this reporter for the LaGrange Ledger-Enquirer missed the memo.

The man had made some threats to the woman, and she had distanced herself from him.

That distance grew close as she and two of the children walked on the sidewalk toward the apartments. At some point, the suspect jumped from his hiding spot, Brown said.

They fought, falling to the ground where the man lost control of the gun. The woman grabbed it and ran back to her car with the suspect on her heels, police said.

“And that’s when she pulled the gun up and shot him,” Brown said.

Officers found the suspect on the ground behind the car with gunshot wounds in a leg and an arm. The woman was nearby in the parking lot. Everyone else was inside, the detective said.

The man was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta for treatment, and will face charges including aggravated assault, stalking, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, criminal damage to property, criminal trespass and third-degree cruelty to children, reports state.

Police don’t anticipate any charges being filed against the woman.
Sounds menacing enough, right? A man was hiding in the bushes with a gun waiting for his former partner to come back to her home with her children. How can you not take that seriously? Oh wait, did we forget to include the article's intro?

You might not call it the most well thought out plan: Hiding in some bushes in the pouring rain around 5:30 a.m., packing heat, waiting for your ex.

But even under those circumstances, to enter discussions about stupid criminals, the suspect would have to get shot by his own gun.

Enter David Jackson, 39, whom LaGrange, Ga., police say was waiting near the sidewalk by the Old Airport Road apartment early Tuesday. It was pouring rain when a 27-year-old woman, her sister and three children pulled into the parking lot, Detective Brian Brown said.
There is a reason that this man was charged with six crimes, including a felony. He could have killed this woman, her sister, and/or her children. Media members, please stop treating stalking as a joke.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Coweta Man Shoots, Kills Partner

A Coweta County woman was found murdered earlier in the week in her apartment. Today, police arrested a suspect, the woman's former partner.

Darrell Eugene Tyre, 51 -- the man authorities believe fatally shot 50-year-old Teresa Hood in her Coweta apartment on Tuesday -- was taken into police custody in Indianola, Miss., Saturday morning, according to Major James Yarbrough of the Coweta County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities caught up with Tyre when the 1988 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck he left the area in earlier in the week broke down, according to Yarbrough. Tyre was taken into custody without incident.

Tyre had a gun with him that will now be turned over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for ballistics testing to see if it matches the gun used in Hood's slaying, according to the major.

Yarbrough says the Coweta County Sheriff's Office will begin making arrangements Monday to transport Tyre to the Coweta County Jail.

"By the end of the week he should be in Coweta County -- if not before," said Yarbrough.

At that point, investigators will begin questioning the suspect about the homicide.

Tyre was living with Hood at apartment 1218 in Spring Lake Apartments -- formerly Lakeside Apartments, off Highway 34 East. He became the primary suspect in the investigation after authorities conducted interviews with neighbors, Hood's family members and coworkers, according to the major.

Hood was found dead in her apartment by maintenance staff Wednesday afternoon. She suffered a single gunshot wound to the head. Her body was taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for autopsy.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Hood family.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Flovilla, GA Man Shoots Girlfriend, Kills Self

From the Jackson Progress-Argus:

According to the Butts County Sheriff’s Office, Paul Steven Bryan of Giles Ferry Road, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after shooting his girlfriend, Tamara Hobgood, of Robert’s Point Road, last Saturday around 2 a.m.

BCSO Lt. Tim Filbeck said Hobgood called E-911 and said she had been shot. Filbeck said Bryan allegedly became angry when Hobgood said she was going to leave his residence and shot her in the back with a 9mm handgun. Filbeck said Bryan then allegedly turned the gun on himself.

Both Bryan and Hobgood were taken to a Macon hospital. Bryan died two hours later.

Sheriff Gene Pope said Hobgood was in a coma for two days and underwent a spinal operation on Tuesday.

Filbeck said the shootings remain under investigation.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Hobgood for a speedy physical and emotional recovery.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Commerce Man Kills Sons, Self

Two days ago, a Georgia man killed his young son and stepson before taking his own life.

Relatives of 36-year-old Keith Jermaine Gresham found the Commerce man dead Monday afternoon inside a car parked on a remote dirt road between Commerce and Jefferson, according to Chief Deputy David Cochran of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

The two boys, Keionte Gresham, 4, and Keion Gresham, 7, were found shot to death outside the vehicle.

Keith Gresham was Keion's natural father, according to Cochran.

Cochran told the AJC on Tuesday that Keith Gresham had been involved in an ongoing domestic dispute with the children's mother, who had custody of the boys.

She let the boys spend the weekend with Gresham, but he failed to return them.

On Monday morning, relatives got phone calls and text messages from Gresham, who threatened to harm himself, Cochran said. They went looking for Gresham and the boys, and found them dead on Old Woods Bridge Road.

OnlineAthens has more details:

Prosecutors were attempting to revoke his probation because he had been charged with aggravated stalking in Oglethorpe County and misdemeanor marijuana possession in Jackson County.

Gresham and the boys' mother, Catrina Doster, had been separated for at least a year.

A Jackson County judge granted Doster a 12-month restraining order against Gresham in 2008 and a second 12-month restraining order in October 2009 requiring him to stay 500 yards away from her and her children, according to documents filed in the Jackson County court clerk's office.

However, she allowed Gresham to visit with the children this weekend in advance of his probation revocation hearing, Cochran said.

But when he didn't return the children, Doster, who lives outside of Jackson County, filed an interference with custody complaint with the Commerce Police Department on Monday morning.
Some women want their children to continue a relationship with their father even after they have separated, while others fear harm or an expensive custody battle if the try to keep the kids away. Unfortunately, this case is indicative of a horrifying trend:

In the nine months between June 2009 and April 2010, 75 children have been killed by fathers involved in volatile custody battles with their former partners, according to the Center for Judicial Excellence, a court advocacy organization which has been tracking news articles of such deaths around the U.S. Based in San Rafael, California, the Center focuses on strengthening court integrity as well as improving public accountability of the judiciary.

Some recent examples from the dockets of Family Courts around the country:

» Teigan Peters Brown (3 years old), shot to death by his father during a court-ordered visit. (Arizona June 2009)
» Bekm Bacon (8 months), killed by father, who then killed himself during overnight visitation. (Idaho Feb 2010)
» Janiyah Nicole Hale (1 year), father is charged with her death during an overnight visitation. He is a registered sex offender. (Alabama July 2009)
Office judges do not give women a choice, and many don't take a history of domestic violence into consideration when awarding visitation or custody to violent man.

Experts say abusers use the court system to exercise control over their former partner’s lives, manipulating the players and risking the safety and well being of the children’s lives the courts are sworn to protect.

“Family courts are trained to look for cooperative behavior,” says Rob (Roberta) Valente, general counsel for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which is based in Washington D.C. “When someone raises an abuse allegation, the court sees it as uncooperative behavior. The result, advocates say, is that the abuser is able to manipulate the court, while a child’s safety and well-being is placed at risk. Many judges are likely to view abuse complaints as a tactic to win custody battles. What the courts have failed to take into account but research has clearly shown time and time again, is that most of the cases that make it to trial in family court are high-risk abuse cases.

Compounding the problem is that judges, attorneys and custody evaluators have little or no training in detecting signs of abuse.

Just 20 per cent of the almost one million divorces and separations registered every year in the U.S. actually land in court. Most are settled in the pre-trial phase, according to Prof. Janet Johnston of San Jose State University, in research studies written for the journal, The Family Court Review.

But of the few who make it to a judge, over 75 percent of these cases are victims of some form of domestic or sexual abuse, according to a 1995 paper by Prof. Peter Jaffe of the University of Western Ontario, who studies children and violence in U.S. and Canadian court systems.

Today’s family courts have also been affected by the rise of the Fathers Rights movement. During the 1950s, family courts almost exclusively awarded custody to mothers. But complaints by fathers that their rights were ignored in custody battles led to a shift in the 1970s to awarding shared custody, on the grounds that it was in the best interest of the child to maintain a relationship with both parents.

Nevertheless, only a small percentage of high-conflict cases require judges to act as conciliators between parties locked in otherwise endless litigation. The majority involve mothers and children that are suffering from serious sexual or domestic abuse.

The National Father Resource Center disputes this, claiming that its member organizations report that 80 percent of mothers’ abuse allegations are false. Although Canadian research from the University of Toronto studying false allegations in U.S. and Canadian custody cases has found that between one and two percent of mothers make false allegations, the fathers’ rights argument has had a powerful impact. As shown by the Tagle case, courts don’t want to hear the mothers’ allegations.

“Historically, allegations of abuse and incest are [met] with a great deal of suspicion, and there is a tremendous resistance to hearing these types of allegations,” said Eileen King, director of Justice for Children, a national non-profit that works to protect children involved in contested custody cases.
Even OnlineAthens felt the need to sneak this comment into their article:
Watson described her cousin as a devoted father who saw his children as often as he could.

"Keith has always been a good dad," she said. "Nobody could separate him from his children. Even when he and Catrina split up, he still went to see his kids."

You know what makes a man a good dad? Not beating up mom! Even after the couple separate, the father's attitudes toward women and violence continue to shape the children's worldview. Unless he is willing to attend counseling or an intervention program to address his abusive past, judges should seriously consider whether allowing the father to parent is really in the children's best interests.

For more information, read the whole article from The Crime Report.