Sustained Outrage

Stats on stalking

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and our good friends over at the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence have a statewide calendar of events posted here. On Monday, WVCADV team leaders Sue Julian and Tonia Thomas presented Gov. Joe Manchin with a purple tie as he designated October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in West Virginia.

Having recently covered a case that involved stalking, I thought I’d post a link to this fact sheet produced by the Stalking Resource Center. Here are a few of the figures that really jump off the page:

3.4 million Americans are stalked each year, 75 percent by someone they know.

One in nine stalking victims was stalked for more than five years.

Stalking is going high-tech. One in four victims said they were stalked via technology like e-mail or instant messaging, while one in 10 said they had been tracked using a GPS system and one in 12 said they had been monitored via a video or digital camera or a listening device.

Three out of four women who were murdered by an intimate partner were also stalked.

STOP Violence Against Women grants announced

On Friday, Gov. Joe Manchin announced the distribution of federal funds from the Office on Violence Against Women, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice. All told, 24 projects in West Virginia received almost $1 million in grant money. The grants are part of the STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) Program, initiated under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and renewed in the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 and Violence Against Women Act of 2005.

“The purpose of these funds is to establish or enhance teams whose core members include victim service providers, law enforcement, and prosecution to improve the criminal justice system’s response to violence against women,” the governor’s news release states. “Grants provide personnel, equipment, enhancement of those teams. Additionally, statewide projects are funded to provide training and educational opportunities for all victim service providers, law enforcement, prosecution, and court personnel across the state.”

The funds are administered locally by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. A complete list of the agencies and the amounts awarded is after the jump.

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One in 20 beatings

domesticviolenceThe Bureau of Justice Statistics just released the results from its 2007 National Crime Victimization Survey. It’s a lot of information, presented in 110 — count’em, 110 — tables.

Looking at the Family Violence section — tables 33 to 35, for those of you scoring at home — I found some pretty alarming statistics.

More than 10 percent of the 4,331,530 assaults in America that year involved victims who were related to their attacker. More than five percent of the time, the victim was a spouse or ex-spouse.

The numbers were virtually identical for simple assault (5.1 percent spouse/ex-spouse combined) as they were for aggravated assault (4.9 percent combined).

Let’s think about that: One out of every 20 times someone smacks someone (my very loose, unscientific and non-legal definition of simple assault) in this country, it’s to hit a romantic partner, either current or former.

One out of every 20 times someone beats the stuffing out of someone (aggravated assault, which often involves a weapon), it’s to seriously injure a romantic partner, either current or former.

Moreover, of the 248,280 rapes and sexual assaults, more than 10 percent involved victims who were spouses (8.3 percent) or exes (2.5 percent).

Remember, studies suggest that victims of domestic violence have more health problems and the violence lasts longer if a couple has children together.

Domestic violence = political suicide, part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how two politicians had been ousted after reports of violent incidents with women surfaced. For Scott Lee Cohen, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Illinois, the mere allegation of domestic violence was enough to make his candidacy politically untenable, and he withdrew from the race days after the news broke.

This week’s blockbuster story, broken Wednesday by the New York Times, is that David A. Paterson, the Democratic governor of New York, apparently intervened in a domestic violence case involving his top aide, David W. Johnson.

Last fall, a woman went to court in the Bronx to testify that she had been violently assaulted by a top aide to Gov. David A. Paterson, and to seek a protective order against the man.

In the ensuing months, she returned to court twice to press her case, complaining that the State Police had been harassing her to drop it. The State Police, which had no jurisdiction in the matter, confirmed that the woman was visited by a member of the governor’s personal security detail.

Then, just before she was due to return to court to seek a final protective order, the woman got a phone call from the governor, according to her lawyer. She failed to appear for her next hearing on Feb. 8, and as a result her case was dismissed.

Two days after the Times’ bombshell, Paterson decided that he would not seek re-election, less than a week after he had formally announced that he was running.

So let’s get this straight: reports that a politician may have used his clout to help a loyal aide and ally who had allegedly assaulted his girlfriend, who had twice taken out domestic violence protective orders against him, were enough to bring a sitting governor’s political future to an abrupt halt.

Just the association with and support for an alleged batterer proved terminal.

Oh, and the New York State Police may be in some hot water, too. Again, from the New York Times:

[New York State Police superintendent Harry J.] Corbitt acknowledged this week that a State Police officer visited the woman in the first hours or days after the episode, at the Bronx apartment shared by Mr. Johnson, the woman and her 13-year-old son. He described the visit as customary in episodes that might attract media attention, an assertion dismissed as false by many inside and outside the State Police. He also said that it was meant merely to offer the woman counseling and tell her she had “options.”

Two days after the woman says Mr. Johnson choked her, ripped off her clothing and prevented her from calling for help, she went to Family Court in the Bronx to seek an order of protection. She complained under oath then, and in a court appearance two days later, that troopers had been pressuring and harassing her not to pursue charges or obtain the order of protection.

She was twice granted temporary orders of protection, but confusion over whether Mr. Johnson had actually been served with the court papers extended the case into February.

The case underscores the importance of diligent service of domestic violence protective orders. The orders themselves do not offer absolute protection from violence, although experts point to statistics that say that they are effective in preventing additional harm. But they do give the victim a firm knowledge that the batterer faces serious consequences if the abusive behavior continues.

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Domestic violence = political suicide

If we ever needed a reminder that domestic violence crosses socioeconomic lines, we need look no further than headlines from around the country last week.

scottleecohen.jpgFirst, Scott Lee Cohen (right), the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Illinois, dropped out of the race on Sunday after information surfaced about several allegedly violent incidents with women in his past.

As the Chicago Tribune reported:

Since Cohen won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, it has become widely known that he was accused of abusing his ex-wife and holding a knife to the throat of an ex-girlfriend — a woman who was herself charged with prostitution. He also admits using steroids in the past.

Cohen was arrested in 2005 on domestic battery charges for allegedly pushing his then-girlfriend, Amanda Eneman, against a wall and holding a knife to her throat. The charges were dropped when she failed to show up for a court date. He has denied the allegations and called that relationship tumultuous.

hirammonserrate.jpgThen on Tuesday night, the New York State Senate voted to remove Sen. Hiram Monserrate (right), a Queens Democrat who was convicted of misdemeanor assault in a 2008 incident with his girlfriend. The vote was 53-8 to expel Monserrate, and imperiled the ability of the slim Democratic majority to pass legislation, the Albany Times-Union reported.

Monserrate last month was found “unfit to serve” by a nine-member Senate panel of inquiry that examined the circumstances surrounding a December 2008 incident involving Monserrate’s girlfriend, whose face was badly cut by a broken glass. A Queens judge acquitted him of several felony charges, but found Monserrate guilty of misdemeanor assault.

The Senate panel, which deemed the incident a “crime of domestic violence,” recommended that the full chamber should consider measures to censure Monserrate, expel him or both.

These political downfalls should send a clear message that society has recognized that domestic violence, no matter who commits it, will not be tolerated.

As I reported in today’s Gazette, the West Virginia Supreme Court established new precedents in an opinion published Monday. The heart of the decision is this: Actual violence is not a prerequisite for getting a domestic violence protective order, or for violating West Virginia’s domestic violence laws.

Here are the two new syllabus points (numbers 5 and 6 of the opinion):

 5. The act of domestic violence defined in West Virginia Code 48-27-202 (5) (2001) as “[h]olding, confining, detaining or abducting another person against that person’s will” does not require proof of some overt physical exertion on the part of the alleged offender in order to justify issuance of a protective order.

6. The act of domestic violence defined in West Virginia Code 48-27-202 (3) (2001) as “[c]reating fear of physical harm by harassment, psychological abuse or threatening acts” provides that fear of physical harm may be established with (1) proof of harassment, (2) proof of psychological abuse, or (3) proof of overt or covert threatening acts.

As I’ve written before, it’s pretty noteworthy when new precedents are set. Here’s hoping that judges, magistrates and law enforcement (and particularly potential violators) all around the state got the Supreme Court’s message.

Upsetting upsets: Football and domestic violence


Many of us have heard the oft-repeated canard that Superbowl Sunday is the worst day of the year in terms of domestic violence. (More people have money riding on the game, and/or have been drinking, and if the wrong team wins, tempers flare and violence ensues, goes the conventional wisdom.) This conclusion hasn’t held up to closer scrutiny, and I don’t think very many people put much stock in it these days.

But what does cause a spike in domestic violence, according to a new academic study titled Family Violence and Football, is an upset in the NFL. Using Las Vegas spreads as an indicator of the expected outcome, economists David Card of the University of California Berkeley and Gordon B. Dahl of the University of California San Diego tracked reported incidents of family violence in areas loyal to a particular team. When the hometown favorite lost unexpectedly, reports of domestic violence went up 8 percent. And particularly wrenching losses, like in a playoff game, made it worse.

Sadly, the inverse does not seem to be true: unexpected wins do not decrease the reports of domestic violence significantly, the study found.

(While the Superbowl Sunday brutality may be a myth, the study notes that domestic violence does go up on holidays: Christmas Day +17 percent, Thanksgiving +22 percent, Memorial Day +30 percent, New Year’s Day +19 percent, New Year’s Eve +32 percent, and July 4th +28 percent.)

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Study links domestic abuse to more health problems

abonomi.jpgA new study by Dr. Amy Bonomi (right), an associate professor at The Ohio State University’s Department of Human Development and Family Science, finds that victims of intimate partner violence have a significantly heightened risk of many medical and psychological problems. The study notes:

Compared with never-abused women, women with a past-year history of IPV had a pronounced increased risk of psychosocial/mental health diagnoses, with an almost 6-fold increased risk of clinically identified substance abuse, a nearly 5-fold increase in family and social problems, more than 3-fold increase in depression, and a more than 2-fold increase in anxiety/neuroses and tobacco use. Also of note was the more than 3-fold increased risk of sexually transmitted disease diagnoses and the 2-fold increased risk of lacerations as well as consistently significantly increased risk of diagnoses within the major categories of musculoskeletal and female reproductive conditions.

I’ve posted a copy of Bonomi’s study here, and you can read additional coverage here, here and here.

“Roughly half of the diagnoses we examined were more common in abused women than in other women,” Bonomi told Scienceblog. “Abuse is associated with much more than cuts and bruises.”

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Shelters for battered women discriminatory, judge rules

As the Associated Press is reporting, Chief Kanawha Circuit Judge Jim Stucky ruled earlier this month that West Virginia’s domestic violence programs discriminate against male victims. They also deny women batterers access to the same treatment programs as their male counterparts, according to Stucky.

You can read the full order here.

Here’s one of Stucky’s conclusions:

The intent of the West Virginia legislature relative to domestic violence is crystal clear. The legislature has found that every person has a right to be safe and secure in his or her home and family and to be free from domestic violence. To secure this right to all West Virginians the legislature has defined domestic violence and those who can be perpetrators or victims of domestic violence in the strictest of gender neutral terms. Every person, regardless of gender, enjoys a statutory right to participation in and receipt of domestic violence services offered by facilities licensed and funded in whole or in part by the state of West Virginia.

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Urban vs. rural domestic violence

purple_ribbon_300.jpgAs our friends at The Rural Blog have pointed out, a new study out of the University of Kentucky highlights how domestic violence protective orders are less effective in rural areas than in urban centers.

The study, by UK professor TK Logan, concludes that while domestic violence occurs at similar rates in both regions, it is a lower priority in rural areas. (This is suggested by the low rates of success in serving protective order petitions; fewer charges, prosecutions and convictions in domestic violence crimes; and the perception by female victims that they have less access to protective orders and enforcement.)

The “good old boys” system, largely missing in cities, plays a significant role in the country, she found. In her interviews with justice system representatives and victim service representatives, “blame and negative attitudes or distrust of women were mentioned more frequently as reasons for partner violence and for obtaining protective orders in the rural areas.” The study continues:

What was missing in many key informant responses was the recognition that partner violence is a systematic and deliberate set of tactics designed to control another person, and that level of control erodes victims’ freedom. Further, key informants indicated that women obtain protective orders for revenge or “to get something” which ignores the importance of maintaining women’s safety through meeting their other tangible needs such as financial, residential, and child custody concerns. (Emphasis added.)

Here, to help kick off National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, are a few more key findings from Dr. Logan’s study:

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