Monday, July 25, 2011

Chatham County Man Charged in Wife's Stabbing Death

As reported by, a Chatham County man has been accused in his wife's murder.
...Police say [Kenneth Sanders] stabbed her to death in front of her three daughters, ages 4, 7 and 9.

Kenneth Sanders has been charged with murder, aggravated assault, possession of a knife in committing a crime and cruelty to children. He’s being held in the mental health wing of the Chatham County jail.

The girls are staying with their grandparents, Nancy Sanders’ mother and father, in Savannah.

LaVonya Oliver, the couple’s 20-year-old neighbor, called police after Nancy’s 7-year-old daughter rang her doorbell covered in blood.

“She said, ‘Can you help me because my daddy is stabbing my mommy,” Oliver said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sanders family.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lawrenceville Man a Suspect in Wife's Death

A missing Gwinnett County woman's body has been found and her husband is a suspect in her death, though no charges have been filed. The victim's sister suggests to The Gwinnett Daily Post that domestic violence had been present in their relationship.

When 44-year-old Nique (short for Dominique, and pronounced “Nikki”) [Leili] turned up beneath leaves and sticks, a few feet from residential Oak Village Lane, Elk’s sisterhood trio was fractured. Continuing silence on the part of Matt, who has retained an attorney and stopped cooperating with police, has piqued suspicions among Elk and other family, she said.
Police this week called Matt, 43, a suspect, but have filed no charges. Nique’s death is being probed as a homicide, though a cause of death was not apparent at the scene or after an autopsy. Further tests are pending.

“I’m letting police do their job,” said Elk, the family’s de facto spokeswoman. “I certainly have my opinions. We certainly want (Matt) investigated very strenuously.”

So far, the husband has remained silent. The criminal defense attorney, Lyle Porter, Matt retained before his wife’s body was discovered could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Elk said Matt equipped her sister’s car with LoJack tracking gear, downloaded a tracking application to her cellphone and equipped the home with multiple security cameras as a means to keep tabs on his wife, she said.

“He just monitored everything, and everybody,” Elk said. “He behaved like he was paranoid.”

Elk said she never witnessed the couple being violent toward each other, but she had become privy to a domestic 911 call on June 28 when Nique told dispatchers her husband was barring her from leaving the home.

Responding officers spoke to both sides individually and advised them of family violence laws. Neither wanted to leave, Smith said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Leili family.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Men Who Buy Sex View Women

Newsweek has an absolute must-read article on men who buy sex. It paints a haunting picture that illustrates the clear link between a view of women as objects and men's use of violence, which reinforces everything we have ever posted.

An excerpt:
Overall, the attitudes and habits of sex buyers reveal them as men who dehumanize and commodify women, view them with anger and contempt, lack empathy for their suffering, and relish their own ability to inflict pain and degradation.

Farley found that sex buyers were more likely to view sex as divorced from personal relationships than nonbuyers, and they enjoyed the absence of emotional involvement with prostitutes, whom they saw as commodities. “Prostitution treats women as objects and not ... humans,” said one john interviewed for the study.

In their interviews, the sex buyers often voiced aggression toward women, and were nearly eight times as likely as nonbuyers to say they would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Asked why he bought sex, one man said he liked “to beat women up.” Sex buyers in the study committed more crimes of every kind than nonbuyers, and all the crimes associated with violence against women were committed by the johns.

Prostitution has always been risky for women; the average age of death is 34, and the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that prostitutes suffer a “workplace homicide rate” 51 times higher than that of the next most dangerous occupation, working in a liquor store.
Please, please read the whole thing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nicki Minaj and Fighting Back

Last week, singer Nicki Minaj was involved in an incident of domestic violence during which, according to the police report, her companion hit her with a suitcase. Minaj chose not to press charges and then denied the account to the media. Taking to Twitter, she said (paraphrasing due to the adult language in the original tweet) people are stupid to believe that a man would hit her and not leave on a stretcher.

We hear a lot of women say that. Some think that domestic violence victims are weak. Others just think that their own self-esteem (or temper) is too high to "put up with" violence used against them. Zerlina Maxwell at TheLoop21 addresses this somewhat (clicking this link takes you to Minaj's original tweet, which contains adult language):
Being the victim of violence doesn’t make you weak. It makes the perpetrator of that violence look weak. Furthermore, Minaj’s insistence that she would have retaliated against the man if she had really been hit is wholly unacceptable.

We need to have a mature conversation around gender violence. It’s not appropriate for anyone to be hit or leave in a stretcher. The automatic response from Minaj should not be one that coincides with her stage image, she is a human being after all. Even if she didn’t want to admit to being hit, a more empowering response could have been “I was not the victim of domestic abuse but if you find yourself in that situation call the police or tell a friend. Get Help!”
Of course, these kinds of comments are dangerous for more reasons than just that violence should not be met with more violence. I talked to a woman literally as I was typing this post who was struggling to admit that her partner was abusive, that it was really all that bad, despite the fact that he has choked her in front of their child and is threatening to kill her. She said that it's hard to believe that it is real because she isn't the "meek" kind of woman that she thought "usually ended up in these situations". We are stereotyping domestic violence victims so much that they now cannot recognize themselves enough to seek help!

There's another reason why this reaction isn't helpful. WRC offers two free classes every month that the local judicial districts call "anger management". Women are mandated by the courts to attend these classes because they have been arrested for family violence. Some of the women in the class genuinely have anger management issues, but most are victims of domestic violence who were arrested for fighting back. Our classes are 1/3 DV support group, 1/3 anger management, and 1/3 instructions for how to avoid future arrests and how to get this one expunged from your record.

In the class, we often show a video about the Framingham 8, a group of 8 women in Framingham, Massachusetts who were imprisoned for killing a spouse or partner after years of domestic violence. Several of those women have since won their freedom by using Battered Women's Syndrome as a defense. We had a woman in class recently, who you will recall was there because she had been arrested for fighting back, who was assaulted again by her partner a few days after the class. She called to tell us that she thinks that video might have saved her life. Instead of fighting back and possibly escalating the violence, getting arrested again, or killing her partner, she just took the abuse. For her, that was her best-case scenario.

It's not a pretty picture, but here we are. How disheartening is it that we are asked to teach classes for victims that instruct them not to fight back or they might go to jail? The unfortunate truth is that many victims of domestic violence do go to jail for fighting back, or for killing their partners, and the effects of that often last longer than the effects of the physical violence. Once you are arrested, it is harder to find a job. While you are in jail, your children might be taken from you (and sometimes even given to your batterer). You are labeled the "aggressor" by the legal system, a label which follows you throughout your interactions with the courts as you later try to press charges or file a protective order. That label also prevents you from receiving services from the court victim advocates and even some domestic violence programs (though certainly not ours). To help women have the best chance of rebuilding their lives after domestic violence, while they are in it, we are encouraged to tell them just to take it.

How can we get to the hard work of ending domestic violence when we have to tell 80ish women per month just to take it?

We are thankful to be able to offer these classes, for free, because instead victims who are arrested would have to pay a more traditional anger management program to treat them like a criminal. We are lucky to have this means of introducing our agency to women who might otherwise never attend a DV support group or hear about our services. We are also disgusted that so many women who don't belong there end up in these classes at all, and we work hard for the day when our community no longer punishes women for the crimes committed against them.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sandy Springs Murder-Suicide

According to the AJC, a Sandy Springs man is suspected of killing his wife and then killing himself.

Irene Mickens arrived at the Sandy Springs apartment Tuesday night to tend to her daughter, who, according to her soon-to-be ex-husband, was seriously ill.

The five-year-old was not sick, it turns out. Jamal Mickens had taken the girl, along with the couple's 7-year-old son, to his sister's home in McDonough earlier that day before returning home to meet his wife.

Sometime between 6 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, the recent Emory University graduate shot his estranged spouse in the head before turning the gun on himself, Sandy Springs police spokesman Steve Rose said.

"He lured her there," said Donna Penn, a friend of Mickens' who was on the phone with her minutes before she arrived at the Hammond Drive apartment were the couple lived, though not together.

Their bodies were found by police called to scene by Irene Mickens' father, concerned for his daughter's safety. Officers found a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun next to 40-year-old Jamal Mickens' dead body.

There are a couple of interesting things about this story. First, the AJC is determined to sprinkle class markers throughout their article on this homicide-suicide, which took place in a wealthier section of North Fulton County. Jamal Mickens has a Master's Degree from Emory University. There is a photo of the police towing a BMW from the scene. Though we don't know why the AJC felt it necessary to include this information, it does remind us that domestic violence is not an issue limited by class, and that educated people in nice neighborhoods are also vulnerable to violence in the home.

In addition, because WRC offers supervised visitation and exchange services at Nia's Place, we pay particular attention to instances where men take the lives of their former partners during visitation or custody exchanges. Just because a woman has decided to end the relationship with her batterer, that does not mean that she will be safe. In fact, women who have children with their batterer, especially if they were married or if their partner legitimized the children in court, are forever tied to him. Judges are very gung-ho about giving rights to any fathers who want them, whether it is good for the children or not. In fact, men who batter are more likely to have visitation or joint custody, because they are more likely to ask for it since it guarantees their continued access to the child(ren)'s mother.

If you are a woman who is afraid of experiencing violence when meeting your child(ren)'s father to exchange the children, call one of our legal advocates at (404) 370-7670 to get more information on how to request supervised visitation or exchange and what resources are available in your area.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mickens family.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Follow-up

Since our last post, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the famous and influential French economist who was accused of sexual assault and attempted rape by a New York hotel maid, was released from house arrest after prosecutors decided that the woman's past would make prosecution of Strauss-Kahn difficult.
According to a letter filed by prosecutors in court on Friday, the housekeeper from Guinea lied about her actions right after the alleged attack, as well as on her tax returns and in an application for asylum.
So women who lie on their tax returns can't be raped?

Certainly an accuser's credibility will be in question in a crime with no witnesses, but rape cases in particular often take on the feel of a well-organized character assassination against victims. The New York Post ran a front-page story alleging the victim in this case was a "hooker". Others have called her a liar, criminal, or gold-digger. Still others have said she shouldn't be believed because she is just a hotel maid.

A poster at the Crunk Feminist Collective lays it out well:
So what’s the takeaway from this? What are we to understand about violence against women in the US?

It seems that in cases of violence against women, the burden of proof falls squarely on the shoulders of the woman who brings the case to court. And then we wonder why only 16% of rapes are reported. As noted in that same report, when survivors of sexual assault DO disclose what happened to them, they often face skepticism, blame, and further humiliation from professionals, families, and friends, amounting to what many survivors consider a “second victimization.”

Here’s why I think this:

First, as the DSK case demonstrates, in order for these cases to be taken seriously, the accusers must not have any credibility issues.

Next, people who are poor, immigrant, women, differently-abled, LGBTQ, etc. will never be able to conform to the standards of credibility – because their very identities mark them as “outsiders” or “deviants” – from the jump.

So, then, if decide to brave the inevitable challenges and try avail themselves of our criminal “justice” their “character” is attacked, cases are dismissed, an/or forgotten.

Listen up, fellow crunk feminists, it’s a legal-socio-political set-up!

Dramatics aside, this belies not just a problem in this case, but also in the way that we think about violence against women. Fundamentally, it is problem in the way that we deploy a system of justice that is, at it’s core, sexist. For this reason, it is clearly not set up to deal with the problem of violence against women. In fact, seems to consistently diminish the ability of women to find justice in cases of sexual assault.
Those accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. Can't we extend the same courtesy toward victims? Instead of smearing them in the media and attacking their characters, can't we assume that it is possible for any woman to be raped. Trust us, there isn't much to gain from falsely accusing someone, especially someone famous and well-connected, of rape. This case illustrates that pretty well. Instead, can we assume that a possible victim has a good reason to make the report, and allow the courts to do their job in trying the case? Is it so impossible to believe that women who lie on their taxes, women who have friends in jail, women who have prostituted themselves, women who drink a lot or have lots of sex, or women who otherwise don't look like "perfect" victims can still be raped? In fact, those women are probably more vulnerable to sexual assault because they are less likely to be believed by law enforcement and judges. If only 6% of rapists ever see a day in jail, leaving 94% available to rape again, we would be better served taking women's claims seriously and making it a less traumatizing process to prosecute those who use violence against women. We may never know if DSK is actually guilty of this crime, because it may never make it to trial. For women everywhere who have experienced sexual assault, how is that justice?

Monday, July 11, 2011

DV SWAT Stand-off in Gwinett

A Gwinett County man committed suicide after a 6-hour SWAT stand-off in Gwinett County.

The incident began with an argument between the man and his wife around midnight, Gwinnett police Cpl. Edwin Ritter said. He said the man threatened to harm himself.

“He told her that he was going to commit suicide. She threatened to leave. He said, ‘No, you’re not going to leave.’ He went and got a long gun,” Ritter told Channel 2’s Amanda Cook.

Ritter said the wife managed to escape with the couple’s teenage daughter and call 911.

When police arrived, they said, the man refused to come out, and they had to take precautions because he’s armed.

“We don't know the power of this gun," Ritter said.

The SWAT team was brought in and neighbors on either side of the house were evacuated. They were speaking to the man over the phone, but he refused to surrender. SWAT officers threw tear gas in the home and sent in a robot. Ritter said authorities would stay at the home as long as necessary.

“We want to make sure that this is going to be a peaceful resolution,” he said.

But, police said, SWAT stormed in after the robot showed the man lying very still. Around 6:30 a.m., they said he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Ritter's wife and daughter. We are very thankful that they were able to get out alive.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Murder-Suicide in Canton

The AJC is reporting and a Canton man murdered his girlfriend and son before turning the gun on himself.

Police responded to an apartment in the 3100 block of Ridge Road early Friday and found the bodies of Christopher E. Conley, 30; his 25-year-old girlfriend Minnie Carr; and their 4-year-old son, Casey Noah Conley, Det. Candy Worthy said.

The preliminary investigation indicates that all three suffered gunshot wounds, and the bodies are being sent to the GBI Crime Lab in Atlanta for autopsies, Worthy said. A carbine rifle, which appears to be the weapon used in the deaths, was in the room next to the bodies and will be tested, she said.

"It appears from the initial walk through that it was the male who shot them," Canton police Lt. German Rivas said.
He also said police had been called to the couple’s apartment once in the past. Last year, Conley, intoxicated, locked himself in the bathroom and threatened to commit suicide.

“He threatened to cut his throat, but when police arrived, he had passed out,” Rivas said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Carr and Conley families.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Columbus Man Kills Ex-Girlfriend and Another Man

A Columbus man faces murder charges after opening fire inside an Internet cafe Wednesday, killing his ex-girlfriend and another man, police said.

Police say Eric Vann Huguley, 26, stepped inside Joycom Internet Sweepstakes, 4105 Buena Vista Road, around 7:10 p.m. and began firing. Two people — 31-year-old Rebecca Shanna Wyatt and 25-year-old Fredrick Lamar Brown — were struck multiple times.

Emergency responders found Wyatt, a cafe employee, on the floor of the business’ office and Brown on the lobby floor. Both were taken to The Medical Center, where Coroner Bill Thrower pronounced Wyatt dead, reports state.

“The second victim died during the night, so he’ll be charged with two murders,” Lt. John McMichael said of Huguley.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wyatt and Brown families.

Update 7/8: Huguley has confessed to the shooting, saying that he came to her job to find her after Wyatt stopped taking his phone calls. He was angry because she had begun a new relationship with Brown, the second victim.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Murder-Suicide in Appling County

According to the Baxley News Banner:

At approximately 12:10 p.m. on June 30 Appling Dispatch received a call from an employer asking that the Appling Sheriff’s Office check a residence at 2148 Oliff Thornton Road in Southeast Appling County to check on an employee that had not showed up for work, which was unusual for her. When the deputy arrived at the scene, the back door of the residence was open and when he went inside he saw two bodies that were apparently DOA.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called to assist in the investigation. The Appling County Coroner pronounced both subjects dead at the scene.

One has been identified as Calvin Willis Wright, age 60. The other has been identified as Maxine Wright, age 56. The Wrights were husband and wife. Preliminary investigation indicates that Mr. Wright shot Mrs. Wright and then shot himself.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wright family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

DV Homicide in LaGrange

A LaGrange man is charged with shooting to death his child's mother, from whom he had recently separated.

Lagrange Police responded to the intersection of Ragland street and Colquitt Street in reference to a car accident on Sunday morning around 10. Upon arrival, police say the female driver was found dead in the driver's seat, but police say it wasn't the accident that killed her.

Police say 37-year-old Tonya Bray was shot in the head before her car crashed.

She was transported to the West Georgia Medical Center where she was pronounced dead shortly after.

During the initial hour of investigation, police say Bray's long-time boyfriend 37-year-old Jeffery Jones turned himself in, in connection with the shooting. Police say he told them he chased Bray's car southbound on Ragland street and fired several shots into her car before her car veered off the roadway.

Police say the couple had just recently separated. They believe the shooting was the result of a domestic dispute.

Police say Jones is charged with murder and is being held in the Troup County jail.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bray family.

Friday, July 1, 2011

DV and Custody Evaluations

The Huffington Post has an article that looks at the differing beliefs about domestic violence held by custody evaluators based on whether the individual evaluator has ever had DV training. Really, this could describe anyone:
The custody evaluators whose views tended towards viewing aggression as situational violence reported less training in domestic violence. This group generally viewed domestic violence as stress induced, normative and mutual. As a result, these evaluators minimized spouse abuse as relevant to child custody decisions. They also thought that false allegations of violence were common. In terms of custody and parenting plans, they prioritized coparenting and father-child relationships.

On the other hand, custody evaluators who characterized domestic violence as intimate terrorism took a different view of custody. They were more likely to report extensive training in domestic violence. These evaluators viewed spouse abuse as a significant factor in determining child custody. They thought that false allegations of abuse were rare. This group of evaluators distinguished between types of violence and expressed strong views that custody and parenting plans should be different for each of these types of violence. In the case of intimate terrorism, they prioritized victim safety over ongoing contact with fathers.
The summary really is this: people who know a lot about domestic violence take it more seriously. People who don't really know much about it think DV isn't much of a problem.

This is especially scary when it comes to the courts. These evaluators make decisions about custody that can put both child and adult victims at risk. Many abusers use custody exchanges (the meeting of the two parents to physically pass the children back and forth) as a guaranteed opportunity to continue harassing or abusing their former partner. Abuser parents can also bring the children back late, insist on rearrangements to the schedule, refuse to bring the children back at all, etc. as a way to continue exerting control over their former partner's life. If the parent with a history of using violence has unsupervised access to the children, they also have additional opportunities to harm their former partner by threatening to harm or actually harming the children. In addition, men who batter pass on their beliefs about women to their children and model abusive and disrespectful behavior for their children that the kids often pick up.

If custody evaluators and others with the power to make custody decisions for a family do not take domestic violence seriously, they won't understand any of these things. If they do not consider the effects and dynamics of domestic violence when making custody decisions, they are opening that family to a continuation of the behavior instead of communicating to the batterer that his controlling tactics should end. Custody evaluators have a unique opportunity to make families safer by ordering supervised exchanges, supervised visits, or no custody or visitation, but most don't do so. Keep that in mind when you hear men's groups lamenting how judges are keeping good fathers away from their children. It actually takes quite a lot for an evaluator or judge to get to that point. More often, women and children who have experienced domestic violence cannot truly end their relationship with a batterer until the children are grown.