Posts tagged ‘calcasieu district attorney’s office’

Men join stand against violence

*published Dec. 4, 2009

The Calcasieu Women’s Shelter and community officials on Monday made “A Call to Men” to stand up and speak out against domestic abuse.

Mayor Randy Roach, a member of a panel that included law enforcement officials, said men should speak out to those they suspect are abusers and those who make negative comments about their spouses.

He cited as an example a group of men in Gloucester, Mass., who pass out information on abuse to anyone willing to talk to them. They also make a point to speak out at work, he said.

“When I began working on how to improve children’s welfare, I got drawn into this,” Roach said. “It’s not just about education and health care. It’s about creating a stable situation for the parents so they provide the proper foundation. That takes the whole community.”

Avery (his name has been changed), 48, is a former abuser. He talked about the generational cycle he found himself in.

“I remember my father would beat my mother after accusing her of all kinds of things because he was jealous,” he said. “I always said I hated my mother’s bruises. But as soon as I became an adult, I was the accuser and trying to control everything. I was verbally abusive and just got worse.”

Avery talked about having a successful career and being active in the community, but being a completely different person at home.

“No one knew what was going on in my home,” he said. “I didn’t realize I needed help until she left and no apologies or flowers could get her back this time.”

Avery said that after he started seeing a psychiatrist he finally understood that there was a cycle he needed to break.

“Every man, my father and grandfather, how did we tell these women we loved them, and then turn around and punch and kick them,” he said. “I really had to understand that ‘No, that’s not just our personality.’ ”

Since getting help years ago, Avery said, he doesn’t keep in touch with some of his brothers because they are abusers who refuse to get help.

An especially low point for him, he said, was when his adult daughter ended up in an abusive relationship.

“It showed me that everything I did to my ex-girlfriend, our daughter saw,” he said.

Calcasieu Parish Detective Gerald Thomas talked about always making sure his fellow deputies understand that they have to be there for the victim, but that is only a small part of the equation.

“We can arrest half of the parish and we haven’t really done anything if the person does not acknowledge the problem,” he said.

Thomas said one of the biggest barriers is that the victim feels stuck.

“They think they deserved the abuse or beating or they can’t afford to live on their own, which is why the domestic abuse task force is so good. We bring everything together.”

The task force consists of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, legal advocates and the Calcasieu Women’s Shelter. Since Jan. 1, Thomas said, law enforcement agencies in Calcasieu Parish have handled 2,600 domestic abuse calls.

Calcasieu Assistant District Attorney Brent Hawkins said there needs to be a shift in focus.

“Too many times people ask, ‘Why is she with him? Why does she stay?’ when we need to be asking, ‘Why is he doing this?’ ” he said. “We have to support the victim.”

Hawkins said that in more than half of his cases, there is abuse in the victim’s and abuser’s family histories.

“My job is accountability and justice,” Hawkins said. “And part of that includes improving the victim’s quality of life.”


December 4, 2009 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Efforts to stem substance abuse topic of town hall session

*published Sept. 30, 2009


The parish’s top prosecutor urged the community to play a part in the effort to combat substance abuse and its associated crimes.

Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier was among area health and law enforcement officials talking about their cooperative endeavor to contain the abuse of controlled substances at a town hall session at the SWLA Center for Health Services.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on the legislation side,” DeRosier said. “But we also need the community’s involvement. People have to stand up and say they have had enough.”

DeRosier noted legislation that amends the seconddegree murder charge to apply it to when a person overdoses from someone else’s prescription medicine.

Judge Guy Bradberry of the 14th Judicial District’s Juvenile and Family Court talked about the district’s drug-free court.

The court works in-depth with 30 juveniles for 18 months.

“We begin intensive therapy, counseling, whatever we can do to stop this systemic cycle that keeps them in the justice system,” Bradberry said.

Bradberry said that once a week almost a dozen different agencies meet to discuss each child’s profile and progress.

“Another big part of this program is that we also get to go into the home,” Bradberry said. “Because you have to know that they have that stable environment.”

Other panel members included Calcasieu Parish Coroner Terry Welke, who talked about how legislation limiting the prescribing of pain killing medication in Louisiana and Texas has cut the number of overdoses in half.

Kayla Allison of the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center, which focuses on HIV education and testing, spoke of talks to teenagers about the correlation between drug use and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.


September 30, 2009 at 6:41 pm Leave a comment

State tops violence list (Part 1 of 2)

*published Sept. 25, 2009

La. has highest rate of women murdered by men

Louisiana is at the top of yet another bad list. The Violence Policy Center ranked the state No. 1 in the rate of women murdered by men.

The study used FBI Supplementary Homicide Report data for the year 2007, the most recent data available.

In that year, 1,865 U.S. women were killed by a single male offender. In cases where relationships could be determined, 91 percent of the victims knew their killers.

Many of the crimes were not related to any other felony crime, such as rape or robbery. About 60 percent involved an argument between the man and woman.

Jennifer Couvillion, executive director of the Calcasieu Women’s Shelter, said she found the news “saddening and disheartening.” She said she follows the study, which is released every two years and had previously ranked Louisiana third and fifth.

Couvillion said a number of reasons may contribute to Louisiana’s unhappy climb. “We haven’t been hit as hard, but I think the economy may have something to do with it,” she said. “Any type of stress exacerbates domestic violence.”

She reiterated advocates’ definition of domestic abuse: “repeated manipulative and coercive behavior that one person uses to have control over another person.”

“You usually see a steady increase in aggression from verbal abuse on to physical and sexual abuse,” she said.

She said 75 percent of women are killed by an intimate partner when leaving or after leaving.

For the 2008-09 fiscal year, the shelter, which serves Calcasieu, Cameron and Allen parishes, housed 228 women and 198 children, and its nonresidential programs helped 818 women and 140 children.

Nonresidential programs include support groups and help from Southwest Louisiana Law Center legal advocates in preparing restraining orders and accompanying victims to court.

‘Victims are unique’

Detective Gerald Thomas with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office said he is seeing a steady increase in cases being reported.

“We first have more awareness,” he said. “A lot of victims feel they don’t have any options if, say, the abuser has the main source of income.”

Thomas said there are now more support systems in place so victims don’t feel stuck in abusive situations. Another reason, Thomas said, is that law enforcement has become more proactive.

“For a long time, we were just reacting, going to that call,” Thomas said. “Now we try to make sure victims know what services are available and that the deputies care.”

Thomas credited a lot of the changes to the domestic abuse task force, which comprises law enforcement officers, the District Attorney’s Office and legal advocates.

“We make sure that deputies know that the victims are unique,” Thomas said. “We let the deputy know, if you are called there seven, eight, nine times, it’s your job,” Thomas said. “It’s your job to be there for the victim.”

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier counts a change in policy as a way to reach more victims.

“We no longer automatically accept the victim’s affidavit of non-prosecution,” DeRosier said. In about 70 percent of the cases, he said, the victim wants to drop charges after the fact despite repeated battering.

This could lead to a worstcase scenario, where the victim drops charges and the abuser kills her, he said. “This isn’t imaginary. I’ve seen it happen,” DeRosier said. “So we want to make the defendant and victim to understand the seriousness of this situation.”

Counseling required

“For the defendant, on a first offense, we would require anger management as part of pretrial diversion,” said Brent Hawkins, a Calcasieu assistant district attorney.

Hawkins said pretrial diversion usually lasts six months, but that officials always examine the offender’s history. “If we find drug or alcohol use, we will require treatment for those addictions as well,” Hawkins said.

When victims ask to drop charges, they are required to go to the Women’s Shelter for a short training course. The women are counseled about the cycle of violence and taught how to develop a safety plan if they decide to leave.

“In rural communities, there is a greater tendency to say we don’t want to get involved,” Hawkins said. “But you have children who are seeing this and then they are going to school trying to learn, while having this emotional baggage.”

Nationally, the rate of women killed by men in “single victim/single offender” category was 1.3 per 100,00. Louisiana, with 57 women killed in 2007, had a rate of 2.53 per 100,000.

Of the 57 women, 37 were in a relationship with the killer; 22 slayings began with an argument between the victim and the killer. Rounding out the top five: Alaska, Wyoming, Arkansas and Nevada.


September 25, 2009 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment