Workshop to Address Domestic and Sexual Violence to be held in Sterling

Sterling’s Help for Abused Partners is sponsoring a full-day workshop for faith leaders, advocates and community members to address how to better support victims of domestic and sexual violence in our community. The program, which will be facilitated by national speakers from the Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence will focus on strengthening partnerships between community providers and faith communities

Abuse can affect anyone regardless of age, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, first language, or faith. One in three women and one in seven men have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence or stalking at the hands of an intimate partner.

What does faith have to do with domestic violence or sexual assault? A study of older adults found that “respondents, especially minorities, often indicated that their ‘first stop’ would be a member of the clergy if they were to discuss their [abuse] with anyone.” However, faith leaders do not always feel prepared to respond. To make matters worse, sometimes abusers use faith as a weapon against a victim. Faith leaders are uniquely placed to reach out to victims and help direct them to services and safety, as long as they have the right knowledge and skills to do so.

Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence has been awarded funding by the Office on Violence Against Women to provide these trainings throughout the United States. For more information about Safe Havens’ work, please visit their website at www.interfaithpartners.org/rural.

The training is free and lunch will be provided. Continuing education units (CEUs) for licensed clinical social workers and licensed clinical professional counselors are available.

For more information to register contact Help For Abused Partners at 970.522.2307.

WHEN: 8-5, Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WHERE:  Trinity Lutheran Church, 732 Clark St., Sterling, Colorado

COST: Free

This project was supported by Grant No. 2014-TA-AX-K018, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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Elonis Ruling by U.S. Supreme Court Fails Victims

DENVER, CO–Yesterday, in a concerning turn of events, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Anthony Douglas Elonis in a case that will have a profound impact on victims and survivors of online abuse and cyberstalking. Using a pseudonym, Elonis posted self-styled rap lyrics threatening his ex-wife, his co-workers, law enforcement agents and a kindergarten class. He claimed he was merely exercising his First Amendment rights and did not intend to follow through with his threats.

Elonis was convicted of cyberstalking and appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court. In his original trial, the court told the jury Elonis should be held guilty if a reasonable person would have known such actions would be interpreted as a threat. He claimed that standard was too low, and the prosecutor should have to prove he actually intended his statements to be a ‘true threat’.

In a 7-2 ruling that is a blow to victims, advocates, prosecutors and law enforcement around the country, the Supreme Court sided with Elonis. However, the ruling did not define the threshold required for conviction, leaving the lower courts to thresh out the issue. The fall-out has yet to be seen, but this ruling has the potential to jeopardize stalking laws nationwide.

“Once again our system has shown that it does not understand nor recognize how creative and manipulative abusers can be, nor has it shown that victims can trust our system to provide full protections. Most everyone else held the stalker accountable for his harmful actions, but in this instance the courts failed the victim,” says Ruth Glenn, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Stalking is a serious crime that can have profound physical, psychological and financial impacts on victims. It is also a key indicator of lethality. A ten-city study of intimate partner homicide found that 76% of women killed by intimate partners and 85% of women who survived such murder attempts were stalked by their murders. As a society, we must have a zero-tolerance policy toward all forms of abuse.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) has worked since 1978 to make every home a safe home. The NCADV works to raise awareness about domestic violence; to educate and create programming and technical assistance, to assist the public in addressing the issue, and to support those impacted by domestic violence. Visit us at www.ncadv.org.

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Volunteer Advocate Training

S.H.A.R.E., Inc. Volunteer Training will begin June 6, 2015

Volunteer Training will be conducted on Saturdays, beginning on June 6, 2015.

24 hours of interactive training and shadowing will qualify you as a confidential domestic violence advocate in the State of Colorado.

Free of charge.

Must attend all sessions and be available for evening and/or weekend crisis call duty or other volunteer responsibilities.

LGBTQ advocates welcome.

Bilingual skills helpful.

Please contact 970-867-4444 (ext. 26 or 23) for an application or print out and complete the online application.

Application for Volunteer Training

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NCADV Statement on Rice Dismissal

DENVER, CO–NCADV is disappointed that the charges against Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens NFL running back, were dismissed today by the New Jersey court system.

According to New Jersey’s pretrial intervention website, the pretrial intervention program (PTI) is used in “victimless crimes” and criminal cases that do not involve “violence.” Given the severity of Mr. Rice’s violence and the charges filed against him, it is concerning that this program was ever presented, and accepted as an option.

We believe completion of the PTI is hardly proof of personal change, nor was the program appropriate for his crime of domestic violence.

The Criminal justice system has essentially sanctioned and reinforced the reality that society and systems still do not understand the prevalence and crime of domestic violence. The message sent by these actions is that perpetrators of domestic violence will not be held accountable for their crimes.

“This is an example of why victims don’t come forward, why they do not feel safe, and why we still can’t trust systems to hold perpetrators accountable,” says Ruth Glenn.

Until domestic violence is adjudicated as a violent crime and systems hold perpetrators accountable, victims of domestic violence will never be safe.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), has worked since 1978 to make every home a safe home. NCADV works to raise awareness about domestic violence; to educate and create programming and technical assistance, to assist the public in addressing the issue, and to support those impacted by domestic violence. Learn more at www.ncadv.org.

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NRA opposition forces New Orleans lawmaker to gut anti-domestic violence bill

Phillip Gouaux introduced himself as a council member from Lafourche Parish April 29 before delivering stunning testimony — in a few short breaths — to a panel of lawmakers at the Louisiana State Capitol.

“I’ll bring you back about 16 months ago. At that time, my ex-son-in-law, who is remarried, drowned his wife — his current wife. Came to my house, shot me, killed my wife,” he paused, touched his mustache and muttered, “Excuse me,” before starting again. “And proceeded to shoot one of my daughters.”

The House’s Administration of Criminal Justice Committee was hearing a bill aimed at strengthening laws to protect victims of domestic violence. Among the provisions were enhanced penalties for strangulation, enhanced penalties for violations of protective orders and an expansion of the type of offenders who qualify to be charged with domestic abuse battery.

The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, is a product of the Domestic Violence Prevention Commission. The group was born out of a resolution from last year’s legislative session for the purpose of recommending new legislation to curb domestic violence. It is comprised of judges, prosecutors, district attorneys, social workers, law enforcement and others.

But because of the influence on lawmakers of gun lobby groups, like the National Rifle Association, who oppose the bill, Moreno said there’s no chance some of the more impactful provisions will pass.

“I can’t beat the NRA on this one,” Moreno said Wednesday (May 6).

Gouaux’s story made national headlines in December 2013. His ex-son-in-law, Ben Freeman, 38 at the time, had also killed two others, including the CEO of the hospital where he worked, and had wounded a third person during rampage that stretched across two parishes.

About a month before the incident, Freeman strangled his then wife. A restraining order followed. A year-and-a-half before the rampage, Freeman was charged with a misdemeanor for stalking Gouaux’s daughter, the one to whom he was once married. He was sentenced to anger management and received no recourse when he failed to attend the classes, Gouaux said. “The courts truly failed us.”

About a half dozen other people testified about abuse they took or close encounters with abusers that were immediately preceded by stalking. Some in the audience wiped tears.

Read the complete story

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Till Death Do us Part: Post and Courier wins Pulitzer Prize for domestic violence series

The Post and Courier was awarded the year’s most prestigious Pulitzer Prize for its series about the deadly toll that domestic violence takes on South Carolina women.

The Public Service gold medal went to the newspaper for its “Till Death Do Us Part” articles that were published across five editions in August. Reporters Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff authored the series.

Their work told the tales of domestic abuse survivors and of the 300 women in the Palmetto State who have been shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death by men during the past decade.

More than 300 women have been shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death by men in South Carolina over the past decade, dying at a rate of one every 12 days while the state does little to stem the carnage from domestic abuse.

Read the series

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Domestic Murder and Murder-Suicide: It’s Not About the Relationship

The headline from WIVBTV News in Buffalo read, “Troubled Relationship Ends Tragically”.

Meanwhile, there was this headline in the Savannah Morning News, “Troubled Port Wentworth Marriage Ends in Murder”.

These are two examples of how news media regularly misrepresent cases of domestic violence murders and murder-suicides; not just in their headlines but also in their reporting beneath the headlines. The end result of this skewed coverage is that the murder is presented as an outcome of a “troubled relationship” rather than as the end result of a violent abuser who is seeking to possessively control his partner, and in most cases, to prevent her from leaving him.

In the WIVBTV News story about a murder-suicide involving an unidentified husband and wife, the reporter says, “Neighbors say there was a long history of domestic violence in the Black Rock home, and a recent restraining order was supposed to protect the victim who lived inside the home.” The reporter added that the husband had also been suspected of having previously killed his ex-wife.

Despite these clear indicators of prior domestic violence, the on-air reporters proceed to muddy the picture by saying, “Neighbors say the woman was finally going to leave.” One particular neighbor was quoted as saying, “She was bruised from head to toe but then she’d go running back to him”. With the absence of any expert commentary, this irresponsibly suggests that the wife was somehow culpable by going back to an abusive partner. Here, an expert commentator would likely have pointed out that returning to an abusive partner is common since abused women are at highest risk of being killed when they are leaving their partner.

In the Savannah Morning News story about the murder of Nancy Sanders by her husband Kenneth, who stabbed her 27 times in front of their children, it was noted that he’d been arrested four months earlier for biting Nancy. Nancy’s sister talked of how possessively controlling Kenneth was toward Nancy, relating how he would call her multiple times per day and show up at the house if she did not answer. “My sister couldn’t breathe”, the sister said. Kenneth Sanders had previously been arrested for stabbing his first wife. Despite this clear evidence of his past violence and smothering control, however, the report goes on to cite several of Nancy’s problems.

Rather than recognizing that her apparent depression might be related to being abused, the report says, “The behavior noticed by her friends possibly related to fibromyalgia. Nancy was diagnosed with the disease, a chronic pain disorder closely related to depression, shortly before she was killed.” Adding insult to injury, the reporter mentioned that several years earlier Nancy “had been involved in forgeries, according to court reports”. Meanwhile, the reporter includes a quote by Kenneth’s brother who related that Kenneth had recently told him, “I couldn’t take it anymore”.

These two cases are not isolated examples of how the media paints false pictures of intimate partner homicides. According to several studies of domestic homicide news coverage that were conducted by domestic violence experts, skewed or incomplete analysis are more the rule than the exception. According to the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence, only 22 percent of the 230 newspaper articles about domestic homicide that they analyzed specifically cited these as domestic violence-related incidents. A higher proportion of these stories, (48 percent), cited the killer’s stated motivation, such as “rejection”, “rage” or having been “provoked”, as if this were a reason for killing rather than an excuse.

One particularly egregious example was a front page headline in the Boston Herald that blared, “Scratch Ticket Rub Out” with a follow up headline, “Cops: Lottery Habit Fueled Fatal Attack.” The story quoted the killer as saying that he killed his ex-wife because of her “addiction” to instant lottery scratch tickets (hence the “rub out” in the headline). This is a case where the killer’s excuse was taken at face value even though it was subsequently revealed during his murder trial that his wife’s lottery ticket purchases had nothing to do with his decision to kill her.

A Rhode Island study of domestic violence-related murder-suicides found that newspapers were more likely to cast these as “unpredictable private tragedies” rather than as manifestations of domestic violence. A Massachusetts study of domestic homicides between the years 2003-2008 found that the media identified only 11 percent as having a history of domestic violence even though all of them had such histories. A more recent study in Iowa reported similar findings. One problem identified by all three studies was the lack of domestic violence experts as sources of information about these crimes. A fourth study, this one in Washington state, found that domestic violence experts were cited in only 4 out of the 44 stories about domestic homicides.

Domestic violence experts provide important context to these homicides that help the public to understand that these are not “troubled relationships gone awry” or in the case of murder-suicides “suicide pacts” or “mercy killings”. Nor are they “crimes of passion” or the “provoked” actions of “jilted husbands”. Experts provide much-needed correctives to the obvious misinformation and biases offered by the killer’s friends and relatives. Experts can also provide commentary about the reactions of neighbors who often state that “they seemed like such a nice couple” or (the killer) “didn’t seem like the type”. Experts can point out that most abusers don’t fit the stereo-types of abusers as “macho men” or “rageaholics” and are often well-liked by their co-workers and neighbors. In my own study of attempted homicides, neighbors rarely knew about prior domestic violence, according to the victims. As one victim put it, “(the neighbors) liked him (the abuser) way more than they liked me”.

By relying solely on non-experts as sources of information, the media wittingly or unwittingly reinforces misconceptions about domestic homicides, and sometimes seems more intent to entertain than to inform the public. Domestic homicide is most often the culmination of a history of domestic violence in which victims are being abused right in front of our eyes and in broad daylight. The real tragedy is that we don’t see it because we are looking for something else; something that more closely matches our preconceptions. Domestic homicides sometimes provide experts with the opportunity to call attention to the underlying realities — but only when the media thinks to call us.

One excellent resource about media coverage of domestic violence of domestic violence homicides is “Domestic Violence: A Guide for Media Coverage” published by the Iowa Domestic Abuse Death Review Team. It contains concrete recommendations for accurate and responsible reporting about domestic violence. Good reporting isn’t just a matter of better informing the public but also helps surviving victims to understand their experience in a larger context and to recognize that they are not alone, and their loved ones to heal. For daily domestic violence news and information in the United States, follow Domestic Violence Crime Watch on Facebook. Domestic Violence Crime Watch is dedicated to raising awareness about domestic violence with a focus on domestic violence related homicide.

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