Thursday, March 31, 2011

2010 Georgia Fatality Review

The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Georgia Commission on Family Violence just released the 2010 Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review.

The goal of the Fatality Review Project is to reduce domestic violence-related fatalities using information learned about past fatalities. The annual reports, though diverse in design, contain researched findings regarding carefully selected fatalities that meet review criteria. Whether you are a front line responder, part of the justice system, advocate or family or friend of someone impacted by domestic violence, the reports seek to provide information that might be used to prevent a domestic violence homicide.

In its 7th year, there are a few major gaps identified by the Project:

  • Georgia’s DV victim services programs turned away 2,6362 victims (including children) who requested shelter in 2010, because of a lack of accommodations.

  • Only 19% of victims in fatalities reviewed since 2004 were connected with DV emergency shelter programs.

  • Law enforcement bears much of the burden of intervention in DV cases, yet their incident-based response is sometimes a poor fit for the pattern-based abuse that defines much DV. An estimated 55% to 85% of 911 calls relayed to Georgia law enforcement are DV related.3 In 2009, domestic incidents accounted for 24% of the 49 firearm-related line-of-duty deaths for U.S. officers. Still, specialized training in DV is a rarity in many jurisdictions in Georgia. Escalated hazards plus the lack of specialized training and support compromise first responders’ capacity to make victim safety a first priority.

  • Calling law enforcement may result in criminal charges, lost family income, escalated violence, and possibly no relief of the victim’s suffering.

  • While prosecutors understandably prefer clear-cut cases in which the survivor definitively leaves the relationship and agrees to testify fully against the abuser, many DV cases are intrinsically legally problematic. Some DV victims’ sense of self may be damaged from years of abuse, their self-efficacy compromised, their internal and external resources and support networks exhausted, their loyalties confused, and they may not want their relationship to end. Other victims may not be confused at all: they may have come to a clear-eyed and entirely rational understanding that their abuser will kill them if they take steps to leave, separate, or testify against him. Indeed, our research has shown consistently that women in Georgia are most likely to be killed when taking steps to separate from their abusive partner. Survivors in these circumstances may frustrate the system by appearing confused, belligerent, cowed, or uncooperative with prosecutors and others genuinely concerned with protecting victims. Our legal response best serves a certain, resourceful, and ideal victim, anxious to terminate her relationship with the abuser. This sort of victim rarely exists.

  • Most DV victims work outside of the home, and a considerable amount of DV occurs in and around the workplace, but few employers have DV policies, are trained to spot signs and symptoms, or can safely refer victims to help.

  • Teens receive little if any information on safe dating or DV resources at school; even if they are alert to DV or stalking, they cannot apply for protective orders without assistance from an adult.

We encourage you to view the entire document. There are specific sections focusing on teen dating violence and faith community responses to family violence, and there are even tip sheets in the back that you can use or tear out and pass along.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Possible DV Homicide in College Park

A 21-year-old College Park woman was found shot to death Sunday morning. We have little information at this time, but police are looking for the father of the victim, Sade Danmola's, infant child.

Anyone with information on 31-year-old Eric Robius Austin is asked to call Detective Brian Eden at 404-761-3131.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Danmola family.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

We Have to Learn

Imagine that, we get to talk about Chris Brown again. It's almost as if he hasn't learned a thing.

In case you haven't heard, Chris Brown was on Good Morning American yesterday and they had the unmitigated gall to ask him questions about what he did to Rihanna. Why can't they just forgive him and move on already? /sarcasm

Instead of reacting like someone who decided to learn from his mistakes and take his court-ordered anger management classes to heart, he has a violent outburst, smashes a window, and storms out of the interview. He did this immediately after saying, about his assault on Rihanna, "It's not really a big deal to me now, as far as that situation. I think I'm past that in my life."

ABC news reports that he proceeded to perform as promised after the interview, but once back-stage he stormed into his dressing room and started screaming and tearing the room apart. This doesn't sound like someone who has moved past his use of violence.

People can change. Batterers can change. We have seen it, but they have to want it. They have to have a compelling reason to change their behavior. Some men resolve to make changes in themselves because they face imprisonment, others because they don't want to lose their wife or partner, and many do so for the good of their children. But, unfortunately, the percentage of men who want to make those changes, and are thus successful in doing so, is small, and Chris Brown doesn't appear to be one of them. He probably will never be until we give him a good reason. People didn't stop buying his albums or going to his concerts. Television outlets still grant him interviews. Until we are willing to hold him and other celebrities like them accountable for their violence in a way that forces them to pay attention - like in their wallets - they almost literally have nothing to lose when they beat a woman again. And believe us, they will.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Valdosta Man Charged with Wife's Death

Murder charges were filed Monday against a Lowndes County man in the strangling death of his wife.
The case began last week when the Pendletons’ adult children reported their mother missing. She had been missing for several days when the missing person’s report was filed on Wednesday, March 16.

William Pendleton and his Camaro had been missing since Wednesday when one of his grown children told him she planned to report Lynn Renee Pendleton missing, according to authorities. He reportedly said he would meet his daughter at the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, but he never arrived.

Late Thursday night, authorities searched the Pendletons’ 5662 Scruggs Circle residence. Outside, investigators reportedly discovered what appeared to be paving like a recently installed patio in the back yard, according to sources.

The body was reportedly discovered beneath the paving in a two-and-a-half-foot hole.

With help from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Scene Unit, the body was recovered from the ground at approximately 2 a.m. Friday. Authorities were not certain how long she had been buried at the site. Preliminary autopsy reports listed her cause of death as strangulation, according to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Pendleton family.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What We're Willing to Overlook

John Rosemond is a parenting advice columnist for the Columbia Tribune. A few weeks ago, he responded to a mother concerned that her daughter's boyfriend constantly puts her down. His advice was so off the mark that even one of his colleagues at the Tribune called him out.

For those of you who missed the column, (and don't want to follow the link), the basic story is that the mother of a 19-year-old girl wrote in asking for advice regarding her daughter's boyfriend, who although devoid of icky habits like smoking and partying, never misses the chance to put her down, dismiss her accomplishments or mock her. Dr. Rosemond's suggestion to the mother was to overlook this one "annoying habit" and do everything she can to keep him around. After all, he states, " The likelihood of her finding another boy her age who has a coherent plan for the future ... is slim."

So in a nutshell, parents, let's not worry about how our children's boyfriends or girlfriends TREAT them, as long as they don't smoke, plan on getting a job and haven't ever been in prison. Is this for real? Is he actually excusing this young man for being a jerk because he aspires to be something other than a Wilco groupie? I think America's young people might want to set the bar a tad higher.

The disturbing part of this whole thing is that Rosemond is supposed to be an informed professional. He's a psychologist as well as a father himself and has been writing books, giving lectures and fielding inquiries for many years. Yet, he failed to take this opportunity to help this mother and this girl (as well as his readers) to realize this is a case of emotional abuse.

Just because a teen isn't experiencing or using physical violence, that doesn't mean their relationship isn't a problem. Put-downs and other tactics that one person in a relationship uses to hurt the other are also abusive. Most often, emotionally abusive tactics are used to make the victim feel bad about herself, convincing her that no one else will want her. Once the abuser feels certain that she won't leave him, physical abuse often follows. Even if there is never physical abuse, emotional abuse should be taken seriously, because everyone deserves to feel valued and respected in a relationship. If you fear that your teen is experiencing or perpetrating emotional abuse, don't overlook it. It can be stopped and our kids deserve better.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Leesburg GA Man Admits to Murdering Wife

A Leesburg, GA man admitted to murdering his wife on Monday.

[Police] Chief Charles Moore says Anthony Scott shot his wife Cathy Scott four times.

Police were called to a shooting at a home near the corner Old Smithville Road and River Road around 7 o'clock Monday night.

"According to some of the neighbors, they were out in the yard and they heard a lady scream and heard a gunshot. That's when someone called 911 and said they heard gunshots in the area," said Leesburg Police Chief Charles Moore.

Arriving officers found Cathy Scott lying on the carport suffering from gunshot wounds to her head, chest, and stomach. Her husband, Anthony, was sitting in a chair on the same carport where she laid dying.

"It's rare. I can't remember the last time Leesburg had something like this," Moore said.

Cathy Scott was alive when paramedics arrived. They rushed her to Phoebe Putney Hospital where she later died. Investigators say Anthony Scott told them he also stabbed her with a screw driver.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Scott family.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Action Alert

We received the following action alert from the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

We are in the final stretch of the budget process in the Georgia Legislature, so this is likely our LAST CHANCE to advocate on the funding issue. We need you to make calls to key legislators to ensure funding for domestic violence programs!

Unfortunately, the House Subcommittee on Human Services DID NOT restore any of the $3.7 million in state funding for domestic violence programs in their FY 2012 budget recommendation. However, there is still one last chance to get these funds restored in the FY 2012 budget as long as the Senate Subcommittee on Human Services includes it in their budget recommendation.

The Senate Subcommittee will be making its final budget recommendations within the coming days, so it is essential that these Senators hear from as many advocates and allies as possible.

Please take the time this week and early next week to call each of the Senate Subcommittee members and urge them to restore all $3.7 million in unrestricted state funds which are not being used for TANF MOE to Georgia's domestic violence programs in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget.
This is incredibly important. Women's Resource Center is large enough that we can find other funding sources to support our clients not covered by TANF (for example, DV survivors who don't have children), but other smaller shelters in the state cannot. Also, WRC as well as these smaller organizations rely on state funds for general operating, and TANF funds may not be able to be used for overhead. Visit GCADV's action alert via this link for a suggested script and a list of Senators to call.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Building a Story

This week, we've had an incredibly unfortunate lesson in the way our society views violence against women. On Monday, March 7th, both the Houston Chronicle and the New York Times published articles about a horrific tragedy. An 11-year-old girl was gang raped in late November in Cleveland, TX by a group of 17 or 18 men and boys, some of whom took video of the assaults and distributed the videos to others. The two articles agree on the facts, but are incredibly different in the stories that they tell.

The Houston Chronicle tells the story of a terrified little girl who has been placed in a safe house for her protection and a family who misses her desperately. It also tells the story of a community who, rather than rallying behind the victim, has placed that 11-year-old victim and her family in fear of retribution for seeking justice against her attackers.

The New York Times tells the story of a community who is devastated by horrible allegations made by an unsupervised girl who dressed above her age and the young men whose lives will never be the same.

Do we see the difference?

This is a 11-year-old girl who has been traumatized. We have determined in this country that children are not capable of consenting to any sexual act and therefore all sexual acts involving those children are, by their very nature, rape. Never mind the fact that it is unfathomable that an 11-year-old child would consent to sex with 19 boys and men ranging from middle school-aged to late-twenties. Yet the Times overloaded their story with quotes from community members concerned with how the alleged rapists will have to live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives. In that story, the victim has all but disappeared.

It is tragic that so many members of the community have centered their concern on the alleged rapists, showing little or no empathy for the victim. The Chronicle told that story, just as the Times did, but they were able to highlight the tragedy of such a response, without causing the piece to come off as a long diatribe of victim-blame. Language is import. How a story is framed is important. Rarely do we have this kind of opportunity to see how important these things can be.

The New York Times failed with this story. They concentrated on blaming the victim, blaming the victim's mother, and lamenting how good, upstanding boys could be "drawn into" something like this. It almost seems like a story meant to make us empathize with gang rapists, rather than with rape victims. And yet, isn't that how we are invited to view violence against women anyway? We ask why she stays. We ask why she never called the police, or filed a restraining order. We wonder what she did to provoke him. And, just like the Times, we barely take a minute to acknowledge the fact that a woman was beaten and traumatized and that a man (or men) made the choice to conflict that violent trauma.

In writing about the tragedy, Uptown Notes challenges us to rethink the way we talk to boys about what it means to be a man.

Anytime one thinks about adolescents or children, the role of peer group looms large. As an adolescent I knew which friends had access to “adult materials” and also which friends or family were having (or so I thought) sex so they could tell me what I wanted to know. It was in this private context that I was taught about “running trains.” For those not familiar, that’s a colloquial reference to multiple men having sex with a single woman in succession. I was taught that if you found a real freak, everybody could participate. When I heard Snoop’s album and they sang, “It ain’t no fun, if the homies can’t have none” that was my reference and the image that came to mind. I was casually socialized into thinking that there was no gang rape, instead there were only gang bangs. Whether it’s Kid Cudi saying “me first” on I Poke Her Face or Wale ending his verse referencing “a train” on No Hands, our boys continue to learn gang rape is just a casual part of partying and growing up.

Some scholars estimate that between 10 to 33 percent of sexual assaults are multiple assailant (gang rape). Psychologically most common to these occurrences is an emphasis on power, displaying heterosexuality to other men, and drifting – where people commit crime that they may not agree with following others in a group. In short, gang rape is a group problem that makes clear we have to collectively change how we think about what it means to be a man and the role of power in our lives. At the core of the heinous act is often an attempt to validate one’s masculinity to others. Non-participation could mean being pushed out of the group or being “outed” (read: labeled as gay and this ‘not a real man’). If we don’t teach our boys to think differently about what it means to be a man, we will continue to be plagued by this issue.

This however is not simply an issue of peers. I can recall uncles saying, “you ain’t no real man till you’ve had some” or have seen parents questioning if children “have sugar in the tank” in attempts to legislate what it means to be “a real man.” When you couple these types of messages with misinformed sexual commentary, it creates a dangerous brew. As we are teaching boys about their journey into manhood, we often start with the ideas of power and control. I can’t recall how many times I’ve been in households where a 10 year old is referred to as “the man of the house” and told to “protect his mother and sisters” (I’m not even going into family structure here, just bear with me). This gives boys the idea, from an early age, that manhood is about power over women and about protect of girls and women from dangers. What if we pushed our boys to think about power sharing with girls and women? What if we restructured journeys into manhood to emphasize that best qualities of adults are neither masculine or feminine, they transcend both? What if we actually began to listen to our kids and talk to our kids about what we want our communities to look like? What if we envisioned spaces that were safe for girls and boys and women and men?

That's exactly what we've said all along. Men will never stop battering, or using any form of violence against women, until others that they respect tell them that such violence is unacceptable. If parents start young, teachers reinforce, and peers hold their friends accountable, then there is hope. But if we keep teaching boys the same lessons we have always taught about becoming a man, that real manhood involves having power over women, nothing is ever going to change.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Problem with Charlie Sheen

In case you haven't noticed, Charlie Sheen has been in the news and he is America's new sweetheart. Thousands of people follow him on Twitter and watch his webcast to see what outlandish thing he'll say next. Television programs are scrambling to book him as a guest to see their ratings soar. "Winning!" is our country's newest catch phrase. But what we as a nation seem to have forgotten in all of our voyeuristic pleasure are the women at whose expense Sheen is having his fun.

Sady Doyle at Global Comment writes about what she calls Sheen's three faces. The first is Sheen the comedian, whom we can't help but follow. Second is Sheen the tragedy, a man who has lost his job, his family, his health, and his self-control. But third, the reason for so much loss, is why WRC is paying attention.

And then, there is the third, most troubling Sheen: The violent misogynist and abuser, who preys on the most vulnerable women he can find, and gets away with it. Choire Sicha of The Awl refers to him as a “very ill and somewhat frightening monster.” David Carr, in The New York Times, points out that the reports of domestic abuse during his Two and a Half Men tenure were ignored; it was all right to shoot ex-fiancĂ©e Kelly Preston, but dissing Chuck Lorre was a firing offense. Anna Holmes, in an excellent article for the NYT, points out that the women Sheen has terrorized — sex workers, starlets and non-celebrities who lack Sheen’s power within Hollywood — are the sort of women most likely to be blamed for the violence against them, and therefore the least likely to pose a problem for Sheen.

Yes, Sheen has three faces, but most of us are willing to ignore two of them. We don't want to recognize that Sheen is a sick, sad man. Why? Doyle argues it is because he is acting like we expect men to act.

Americans have a soft spot for hyper-masculine characters, especially in comedy. Think of Barney on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, who insists on wearing a suit at all times, compulsively seduces and discards “bimbos,” and has penned a “Playbook” of lies for tricking women into sex. Think of Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, who loves woodworking, red meat and capitalism, and frequently rails against the “b**ches” he’s divorced and the evils of big government (or any government; in his ideal America, there would be one government employee, and his only job would be “deciding who to nuke”). Or think of “Charlie” on Two and a Half Men, an alcoholic and womanizer who, in the words of his Wikipedia page, “lives a life of carefree debauchery.”
But if this sort of behavior is confined to our TV sets, where it is managed by writers, it’s fun. We know that we’re meant to laugh, and that the actors are only reading ridiculous lines. Barney is played by Neal Patrick Harris, a gay man, which adds yet another layer of distance. In real life, however, it’s significantly less cuddly. You simply cannot have “traditional” white masculinity without an equally “traditional” denigration of women and less privileged people. In real life, Ron Swanson['s] . . . violent hatred of “b**ches” he’s married would be disturbing. In real life, Barney’s lack of respect for the women he sleeps with — along with the fact that almost every single one of his sexual encounters is based upon deceiving the woman — would render him creepy, even dangerous. In real life, Charlie… well.

But it’s why we can laugh at Sheen, or even have compassion for him without acknowledging the harm he does to others. His statements have more in common with Chuck Norris Facts than with popular ideas about addiction or misogyny. Ron Swanson promises to turn his disciples “from men into gladiators, and from gladiators into Swansons;” it’s not far removed from being on a drug called “Charlie Sheen.” When Barney is sad, he says, “I stop being sad and be awesome instead.” Sheen insists that he’s too awesome to feel sorrow for any of his losses: “Aren’t there moments where a guy, like, crashes, like, in the corner, like, ‘Oh my God, it’s all my mom’s fault’? Shut up. Shut up! Stop! Move forward.”

And we listen, and we laugh, because this sort of hyperbolic, self-aggrandizing macho is familiar. Charlie Sheen the tragedy, Charlie Sheen the criminal, Charlie Sheen the misogynist: They’re all easily subsumed into Charlie Sheen the Exceedingly Masculine. And, since the dark undertones and tragic consequences of this behavior are minimized by fiction, it’s easy to pretend they don’t exist in life. Sheen himself is apparently profiting from his downward spiral; his Twitter feed is sponsored by Ad.ly, which gives him significant money for product placements. If he’s doing this on purpose, it’s working; if not, who cares? The laughs keep coming.

Let's just hope we don't keep laughing until he kills someone, or himself.

Father, Son Deaths Called Murder Suicide

The deaths of a Murray County, Georgia man and his son have been ruled a murder-suicide. The Dalton Daily-Citizen reports:

Murray County Sheriff Howard Ensley said investigators found a hose connected to the exhaust pipe that was run into the interior of the 1984 Corvette where he discovered the bodies of David Wayne Graham, 39, and his son, Easton Blayde Graham, 3, early Tuesday morning.
The article makes no mention of the child's mother. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Graham family.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mel Gibson Update

Mel Gibson is expected to appear in court on Friday and plead no contest to simple battery. He will probably avoid jail time altogether.

Of course he will.

The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that, of total calls to the police for family violence in our state, only 40% are prosecuted, and half of those are dismissed or pled down. That means that less than 20% of men in Georgia who batter their partners will ever see a day in jail. Since most women never call the police, it is probably significantly less than 20%. When did all batterers start getting the star treatment?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

More About Reproductive Coercion

Last month, what may be the first national survey to determine the extent of a form of abuse called “reproductive coercion” was released by the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Family Violence Prevention Fund. The survey found that 25% of callers to the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported that they had experienced this form of domestic and dating violence.

Reproductive coercion is defined as threats or acts of violence against a partner’s reproductive health or reproductive decision-making. It includes forced sex, a male partner pressuring a woman to become pregnant against her will and interference with the use of birth control. The women who reported this form of abuse said that their male partners either would not allow them to use birth control or sabotaged their birth control method (such as poking holes in condoms or flushing pills down the toilet). Some of the women said they had to hide their birth control.

“Birth control sabotage is a serious form of control that leads to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,“ said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. “While there is a cultural assumption that some women use pregnancy as a way to trap their partner in a relationship, this survey shows that men who are abusive will sabotage their partner’s birth control and pressure them to become pregnant as a way to trap or control their partner.” (In the words of one caller, “keep me in his life forever…”)

More than 3,000 callers participated in the survey by answering all or some of four questions between August 16 and September 26, 2010. Callers’ ages ranged from 13 to over 55, with nearly 40% age 25 to 35. More than half of the callers were Caucasian, and nearly one quarter were African-American, and 17% were Hispanic. Callers who were in immediate danger were not asked to participate in the study.

For those who did participate in the study, patterns included pressure to become pregnant early in the relationship or before the victim felt ready and, in some cases, pressure to become pregnant followed by pressure to have an abortion.
Women's Resource Center regularly hears from women who are experiencing this form of abuse and are now living with the consequences. These effects often include having a number of children that impedes her economic mobility. We are glad that to have studies that support the anecdotal evidence we can provide as we attempt to design responses that deal with reproductive coercion.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Possible Teen Dating Violence Murder

We're a little late on this one, but the Augusta Chronicle has reported what may be another teen dating violence murder, this one involving two 14-year-olds.

[Lacy Aaron] Schmidt initially told police that he found Alana [Callahan]'s body while chasing away an intruder. He later confessed to shooting her but said it was an accident.

The Harlem Middle School eighth-grader was shot from behind as she sat at a computer in the dining room, according to police. She was dragged outside, across the backyard and into the woods.

Authorities said Alana was shot with the same type of 9 mm semiautomatic pistol owned by her father.

That gun was missing after the shooting. Deputies found it beneath a sink at Schmidt's home, a prosecutor said.

Betty Jo Calahan, Alana's mother, has said that Schmidt and her daughter were friends and that he often visited her.

"He went over there every night, just about, and ate supper," said Schmidt's sister and guardian, Dianna Chitty, as she pleaded with the judge to grant bond.
We will keep you posted as the story develops. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Callahan family.