One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Possible Improvement in Judicial Process for Domestic Violence Cases on Indian Reservations September 28, 2011

The 19th annual Four Corners Indian Country Conference on September 13-15, 2011 represented an open dialogue and hope for progress related to victims’ assistance on Native American Indian reservations in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

Interpersonal violence is experienced at more elevated levels on reservations than in the general population, and the Department of Justice has reported that Native American women in particular experience violence at an extremely elevated rate – three and a half times more than any other population in the United States. And when we consider the number of sexual assaults and incidences of domestic violence that are unreported [60% according to the DOJ] this number could be much higher. Prosecution is a problem on reservations, as tribes are sovereign nations and determining the jurisdiction for intimate partner violence and sexual assault cases can be complex.

US Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli spoke at the conference on some recent Department of Justice efforts to improve the legal challenges of addressing violence, and in particular domestic violence, on reservations. The pending legislation would do three things:

  1. It would give trial law enforcement more ability to prosecute crimes that happen on reservations regardless of the perpetrator’s membership in the tribe.  Currently, tribal law enforcement officers have difficulty prosecuting non-Native American offenders, even in cases of domestic violence. The legislation would also ensure that tribal law enforcement has the right to enforce protective orders on both members and non-members of Native American tribes.
  2. The new DOJ laws would provide harsher federal punishments to perpetrators of violent crime within reservations. Since the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act, the most severe punishment that can be imposed by native courts is one year in jail or a $5,000 fine, which is a far less significant penalty than most perpetrators receive for convictions outside of the tribal judicial system.
  3. $100 million has also been earmarked by the DOJ for more attorneys, investigators and victim advocates on reservations. Indian Country reported that a DOJ grant that provided more domestic violence personnel resources to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana led to the first domestic violence convictions on the reservation – in only 6 months, 169 domestic assault complaints were filed, and 147 of them have pending court action.

These possible progressive changes to the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault on reservations would also hit close to home as North Carolina is home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

You can contact the Department of Justice to express your support for the pending legislation and budget increases by emailing AskDOJ@usdoj.gov or by calling the Attorney General’s public comment line at (202) 353-1555.

 

Paid Sick Days Provide Essential Resource to Survivors August 23, 2011

Workers’ rights activists across the country have been building support for mandated paid sick days for the past several years at federal, state and local levels. Requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave for employees, typically around seven days per year for full-time workers, makes sense for employees, businesses and the general public.

Paid sick leave is a public health issue – the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), which has done much of the most-cited research on paid sick days, found that employees who came to work while infected with H1N1 in 2009 infected over 7 million patrons, customers and coworkers. Paid sick days would enable these workers to stay home when they fall ill (or when they are needed to take care of sick family members), preventing the spread of disease.

Lower-wage workers are less likely to be provided paid sick days by their employers, even though they experience more obstacles than higher-salaried workers in finding childcare or taking off work and losing valuable wages that may force them to choose between medicine or groceries for the pay period.

Often missing from the discussion about paid sick days is its important value for individuals involved in abusive relationships or who are survivors of sexual assault. Violence prevention advocates often refer to paid leave as “paid safe days.” They can be used by survivors of abuse to seek medical treatment, counseling and shelter without losing pay or fearing retaliation from employers for missing work.

Allotting paid safe days to employees, especially knowing that abusers are often repeatedly physically, emotionally and sexually violent within their intimate relationships, seems like an undeniable resource survivors deserve. But Mike Rosen, a radio personality in Denver, where a referendum on paid sick leave will likely appear on the November ballot, dismissed the importance of paid safe days in a Denver Post editorial. He charged that because more women than men will be forced to take advantage of them, the policy isn’t worth employers’ support: “This is essentially about…female constituents. The paid ‘safe’ days are related to domestic violence issues. Men won’t be taking many of these.”

Although it’s true that men’s violence against women would comprise most need for paid safe days because of its frequency in comparison to violence perpetrated by women, Rosen flippantly misses the mark. We need to provide victims of intimate partner abuse, most of them women, any resources possible to empower them to seek help and simultaneously preserve their incomes, not selfishly dismiss their struggles because they are more frequently victimized than men.

Thankfully, paid leave coalition builders have achieved considerable success despite some detractors, having passed mandated sick days legislation in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and even most recently in the state of Connecticut. They are now targeting the cities of Denver, Philadelphia, Seattle and New York.

Advocates from the NC Justice Center attempted to pass mandated sick days in North Carolina in 2009, but the proposed law was defeated. However, an overwhelming 69% of voters nationwide supported paid sick leave laws in an IWPR study, and coalitions across the country continue to build steam and gain legislative victories. Hopefully the tides continue to turn toward policy that would protect survivors in our state, where more than 66,000 citizens received domestic violence support services in 2009 and 2010.

 

It Takes A Village… August 2, 2011

The concept of domestic violence as a “personal matter” and not a community concern hardly qualifies as novel. With 175 million registered users on Twitter alone and 4 million Tweets every hour, social media has become the way of connecting with others. But as it extends beyond our personal lives, further-reaching opportunities surface in tandem to speak out about injustices that we see and are frustrated by. In doing so, domestic violence is one of those injustices that has moved from the private into the very public consciousness of a larger world.  More of us are using social media to do good. An example of that is the recent case of Rumana Monzur.

Monzur, a Bangladeshi woman who had traveled as a Fulbright scholar to the University of British Colombia in Vancouver. She returned home in May missing her daughter and husband, to write her dissertation. After showing her husband pictures of her with a fellow male student, he attacked her, accusing her of having an extramarital affair.  He gouged out her eyes, leaving her blind and severely traumatized her daughter who stood by.

Domestic violence victims sometimes experience shame around their attacks and often believe if they had acted differently, perhaps their partners wouldn’t hurt them.  This shame  is not unique and pervades many discussions around interpersonal violence, regardless of geographic locations. Victims often worry that if they speak out against their abusers, their character and actions will be questioned.  This can be especially challenging when the abuser has become a part of the family.  No one wants to believe that the person that they have come to accept as a son or daughter in law is actually an abuser.

While Monzur might have suffered from these fears, her family and friends encouraged her to speak out about the attack.   A Facebook page detailing her attack as well as an online donation page for her recovery fueled by her family and friends were created so that her side of the story would be known. She also interviewed with a local Bangladeshi news station and posted the interview on Youtube.

The community of people who rallied around Monzur serves as a terrific example of how using social media can help all of us understand intimate partner violence as a public issue that collectively we have a social responsibility to eliminate.   Across the world activists in every imaginable area use social media to challenge that culture of shame and offer instead, a culture of support for victims.  These kind of public responses also put culpability back on the abuser where it belongs, rather than on the victim.   One woman’s example also encourages other victims of abuse to feel comfortable sharing their testimonies, “I lost my eyes,” says Monzur. “I don’t want anyone to suffer like I am suffering. It is horrible.”

Using social media to build awareness about interpersonal violence in one step that we can take to be active bystanders for survivors.  Social media also affords us the advantage of quiet activism, where we don’t need to be out in front at a rally or defending someone in a bar but behind our computer or smart phone.  We can quietly type away words of support on our Twitter feed,  a blog post (like this one!) or on our Facebook wall to our own network who influence us as we do them.  Any small step can be a great step.

What are some ways that you use social media to help raise awareness around issues that are important to you?  Leave us a comment.

 

How does domestic violence affect children? May 23, 2011

The mass media constantly bombards us with stories such as that of a 4-year old girl found beaten and tortured in Smithfield NC; or Marchella Pierce ; starved and drugged by her own mother? What about all of the children that do not make headline news? What about the children who continue living in a home where  domestic violence exists?  Recent articles published by the Joyful Heart Foundation illustrate the affects that just witnessing inter-personal violence has on children.

According to the Joyful Heart Foundation, children who are chronically exposed to domestic violence can develop many significant long term effects. The scale ranges from academic and behavioral problems in adolescence all the way to having changes in their brain physiology and function. When children live in a hostile environment, they create strategies and behavioral patterns that will allow them to avoid the violence.

Often children will go to extreme measures in order to please the violent parent. One 8-year-old girl wrote about trying to be nice, staying out of trouble, and getting home early so she could stay out of her father’s way.  Other children will attempt to side with the abusive parent in the hope of not being the next target. While even more children resort to creating their own world inside of their head in order to escape reality.

While these children find temporary safety in their routines and patterns, the long term affects of these practices are highly detrimental. These patterns become ingrained as habits. Spacing out in school can lead to poor performance, and being in a state of constant anxiety can lead to serious mental problems such as post traumatic stress disorder. Also, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation, when children are constantly in a state of emotional turmoil, reaching developmental milestones such as differentiation from one’s parents, very difficult and painful.

According to a recent op-ed featured in The New York Times, the annual cost of childhood maltreatment is $103.8 billion. Currently only about $40 million has been invested in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.  This organization has treated over 300,000 children in the time span of just seven years.

Many domestic violence programs offer a limited number of services geared towards children. At the Family Violence Prevention Center, we do not take individual children as clients, but we do have a coping skills group for children as well as community education programming in the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools. Let’s help ensure that National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a strong future, helping to ensure that traumatized children have a place to get help. For more information please visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.

 

N.C. House proposes to maintain DV funding May 18, 2011

   As our state and nation prepare for drastic budget cuts, many citizens are left worrying about how their lives will be affected. However, the victims and survivors of domestic violence may have one less thing to worry about if the NC Senate supports the House proposed budget. The NC House of Representatives has just released their budget which includes no cuts to domestic violence programs funded by the Council for Women.

In the fiscal year 2009 local domestic violence programs responded to over 120,000 crisis calls. In 2010 domestic violence shelters provided 6,000 children with refuge. Domestic violence programs save lives, and with the NC Senate’s support, they can continue to offer effective services to victims in need.

Investing in local domestic violence programs is a smart, forward-thinking choice for North Carolina because not only will it save lives, but it will also save money for years to come. Currently, the annual cost of inter-personal violence for our nation exceeds $5.8 billion (CDC numbers). These costs are associated with the treatment of physical injuries, reproductive health issues, and mental health problems such as post traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.

Maintaining funding will also allow local domestic violence programs to continue educating their communities. An important aspect of community education is raising awareness in young people. Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to continue the cycle of violence in the next generation. However, preliminary research is revealing that community education programs such as Safe Dates are having a positive impact on the youth.

The state senate needs to hear from you how important these services are to our state. Please contact your state senators. The following state senators sit on the appropriations committee and are especially important to be contacted.

Senator Andrew C. Brock, Co-Chair Andrew.Brock@ncleg.net

300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 623
Raleigh, NC 27603

(919) 715-0690

Senator Jim Davis, Co-Chair Jim.Davis@ncleg.net

16 W. Jones Street, Room 2111
Raleigh, NC 27601

(919) 733-5875

Senator Daniel T. Blue  Dan.Blue@ncleg.net

16 W. Jones Street, Room 1117
Raleigh, NC 27601

(919) 733-5752

Senator Malcolm Graham  Malcolm.Graham@ncleg.net

300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 622
Raleigh, NC 27603

(919) 733-5650

Senator Rick Gunn  Rick.Gunn@ncleg.net

300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 312
Raleigh, NC 27603

(919) 301-1446

Click here for Senate representation by county:   http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/members/reports/countyRepresentation.pl?Chamber=Senate

Note 6.29.10: For ’09-10 FVPC received $36,490 in local gov’t funding; $90,326 in private donations; $57,993 in Private Foundation monies; $$42,755 through fundraisers

 

Dating Relationship Turned Deadly April 6, 2011

In 2009, Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Sheriffs arrested Gary Daniels for the murder of his girlfriend, Charney Watts. Although tragic, the incident outlines how dangerous abusive relationships can be, as well as potential warning signs of abuse.

In 2009, cheerleader and track star Charney Watt was shot to death inside her boyfriend’s home in Mecklenburg County, at the age of 18.

Understandably, family and friends of the victim were stunned at the attack, but even more shocking than the attack itself, was the identity of Watt’s alleged killer–her boyfriend Gary Daniels, age 18.  Daniels  is currently on trial for her murder.

But tragically, Watt’s death was not an isolated incident.  According to a 2007 study conducted by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, about 11 percent of teens surveyed said they had been hit, slapped or hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.  And at the time of her death, Charney was already the second teen in three months to die in a domestic violence incident in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County.  But even beyond Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the number of incidents of partner related violence are staggering:

  • Women ages 16-24 experience the highest per capita rates of intimate partner violence –almost 20 out of 1000 women. (DOJ special report: intimate partner violence 5/00)
  • 1 in 5 high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a partner. (http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/286/5/572.abstract)

What is not necessarily included in these statistics are conclusions about frequency of incidents.  Watt had secretly confided in a friend that her relationship with Daniels had become abusive, and that there had been  incidents of violence during the relationship. As with adults, teen victims of partner violence might not report abuse at all, whether out of fears that they will be discredited, judged, or disbelieved, or because of lingering feelings of affection and attachment towards their abusers.  But experts say the partner violence can be particularly hard to detect in adolescents, because teens worry more about the perceptions and judgments of parents and peers, in addition to the possibility of losing their relationship.

There are important warning signs for partner abuse that we can learn from this case, which can apply to domestic violence situations as a whole.  For example:

  • At  Daniels’ trial, a Charlotte police officer testified that just two hours before Watt’s death, he had responded to the scene of an automobile accident in which Watt asked for him to retrieve her phone from Daniels, after it had allegedly been taken from her.  From a DV perspective, this is significant, because  one partner placing limitations on the other’s ability to communicate outside the relationship indicates an uneven balance of  power and control in that relationship. These controlling tactics are often used by abusive partners to limit their partners’ ability to reach out and ask for help, should a situation escalate.  This kind of control might begin subtly (having to explain phone conversations or “report” in contact with friends and acquaintances) , in order to assuage their partner’s jealousy.  And while these requests might seem innocent or “sweet” initially,when one partner is intimidated or made to feel fearful or guilty over the other’s requests/demands, something is not right.
  • Another common “red flag” in this case were the overt threats of physical violence.  Prosecutors have said Daniels had threatened to kill Watt or himself if she ever dared leave him.  This is a common tactic (threats of harm to self or others) used by abusers to coerce compliance from their partners, and can be an indication of elevated lethality in a situation. Even if threats are geared toward the abuser himself/herself,  it can indicate a sign that the abuser no longer believes he or she has anything left to lose.
  • Another important warning sign that we can all watch out for is lack of respect for authority.  During the trial, Officer Norman noted that during his brief encounter with Daniels, the accused was remarkably argumentative and verbally combative towards him.  Disregard for authority may indicate that such abusers are unlikely to consider the potential consequences for their actions, legal or otherwise. This is an important consideration, especially in violent situations, since it can indicate a level of desperation or pattern of poor impulse control/decision-making that can lead to escalating levels of violence and abuse.

Lastly, its important to reiterate that while the above indicators are warning signs, every relationship is unique.

FVPC offers a 24-hour crisis hotline for victims and others to get the information and resources they need to help victims of domestic violence stay safe. If you or someone you know are a victim of domestic violence, or would like more information about DV and how you can help, call our 24-hour hotline at (919) 929-7122, or visit our website at www.fvpcoc.org.

Update 4/6/11: Daniels has been sentenced to life in prison today for the death of Charney Watt.

 

Warning Signs in a Recent Case of Domestic Violence March 30, 2011

Filed under: Cycle of Violence,domestic violence — Elizabeth Johnson @ 10:38 am
Tags: , , ,

On the evening of March 16th, the body of Tina Adovasio was found in the woods of Westchester County, NY. The mother of four had been reported missing by her estranged husband, Eddy Coello, a month after filing for divorce and getting a restraining order against him following several years of domestic violence.

Coello has since been charged with Adovasio’s murder and is being held in protective custody without bail. The couple’s marriage is reported to have been “marked by bouts of domestic violence”, which included a hospital stay for Adovasio following an attack by Coello.  Last month, when filing for a protective order against Coello, Adovasio told cops, “if anything happens to me, look at him.” The last time that Adovasio was seen alive was entering the couple’s former home in order to retrieve some of her belongings.

Coello had a long history of violence. He left his job as a New York City Police Officer while being investigated for beating his former partner, Glory Perez. She describes being “terrorized” by Coello throughout the three years of their relationship When speaking about their relationship, Perez says that at the initial stages of their relationship, Coello was “perfect” but eventually, things turned sour and eventually led to beatings. Perez describes the isolation and fear that she felt in her situation, but eventually, she was able to leave Coello and eventually cut off all ties with him. The isolation that Perez felt is one of the most powerful tools that an abuser has. Perez illustrates this by talking about how she felt unable to leave the relationship because she had nowhere to go and felt alone.

There are many important points in this case that we can hopefully learn from. Since the most dangerous time in an abusive relation ship is when the victim is planning to leave or has recently left, careful safety planning is critical. The abuser no longer has the power and control in the relationship, which can lead to them doing often violent things against their victims.Safety planning can be as broad as  making a list of important items that they need to have with them, should they decide to leave suddenly e.g. a passport, medications, change of clothes.  It can also be very specific.  We might ask the client who else they have told about their concerns with the relationship?  Sometimes it can be helpful to have a boss or co-worker, a neighbor or landlord be aware of the situation so they can assist, if asked.

The situation that Perez describes is a classic example of the cycle of violence in an abusive relationship. Abusers often appear “perfect”, charming or very kind at the beginning of the relationship, but eventually they become jealous and possessive, as Coello appears to have done in his relationship with Perez. The slow escalation of the situation allows the abuser to maintain control over their victim, who may not be able to recognize how dangerous the situation has become.

One of the other important things to consider in this sad case are the unfortunate limitations of the law. The police force did take action against Coello after his abuse towards Perez became public. He was removed from his position as a police officer and eventually his firearms were taken away from him. He was also arrested twice during his relationship with Adovasio after physically attacking her and when Adovasio filed for divorce, she was granted a protective order. However, it is clear from Adovasio’s statements to police that she clearly feared him, so we need to ask, “what more could have been done to protect her?” A short survey done by the website covering the story asked readers if they thought the police do enough to crack down on violence and over 70% of respondents feel that not enough is done in these cases.

We have a 24-hour hotline that victims can call for crisis counseling or if they want help safety planning. By talking with one of our volunteers, victims can identify some of the steps that they can take to stay safe, whether they are leaving their relationship or planning on staying. We can also help victims file protective orders and offer support groups for victims. Our hotline number is 919-929-7122 and a volunteer is available 24 hours a day.

 

 
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