Posts tagged ‘domestic abuse’

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

Abuse victims share stories to give hope, raise awareness (Part 2 of 2)

*published Oct. 25, 2009

Domestic abuse is considered one of the least-reported crimes.

Denial by the victims that abuse has occurred is a factor in that, according to Jennifer Couvillion with the Calcasieu Women’s Shelter.

“Domestic abuse runs the spectrum, from verbal abuse like constant criticism and put downs, on to sexual and physical abuse,” Couvillion said. “It’s about control, and the abuse, physical or not, is to maintain control over that person and environment.”

Couvillion said there is no set timeline to track an abuser.

“The abuser may go from zero to 10 in a week or it may take years,” Couvillion said.

Three victims of domestic abuse agreed to talk to the American Press about their past situations, why they stayed and how they found the courage to leave.

Their names have been changed to protect their identities.

‘That was normal’

Mary, 51, said she grew up around abuse.

“My father abused my mother, and she eventually left,” Mary said. “Then we moved into a very poor neighborhood.”

Mary said her neighbor and best friend also lived in an abusive home.

“I remember running home in the middle of the night because after her father beat her mother, he would attack the kids,” Mary said. “Abuse was always around me, and I thought abuse was only physical.”

Mary also was in the military. Most of the decorations in her office are medals and pictures from her 25 years in the Navy.

In 1998, she became a liaison for abused sailors.

“I was in court every day hearing about physical abuse, and one day, a social worker came in and started naming all these things.”

Mary said the social worker talked about how a woman’s husband criticized her appearance and found fault in everything she did. He also pressured her to perform certain sexual acts.

“And I thought, ‘that’s my life,’ but because my husband wasn’t punching me, I didn’t think it was abuse,” Mary said.

Mary said after she learned the full definition of abuse, she didn’t leave.

“I had been in two wars. I just thought, ‘Why whine about it?’ Because this was normal to me to constantly be criticized and put down,” Mary said.

But she said she internalized everything he said.

“I found myself depressed when I was alone. I cried a lot.”

She said one event made her realize the situation would get worse.

“His mother had to come live with us because of her Alzheimer’s,” Mary said. “One day he got so mad at her, he shook her until her false teeth fell out,” Mary said.

“I thought, ‘If he will do that to his mother, what would he do to me?”

But she still didn’t leave.

Finally, during an argument, her husband threw her on the ground and put his foot on her neck and threatened to kill her.

That night, she gave her daughter from a previous relationship two garbage bags and told her to pack everything.

“I told her, when I pick you up from school tomorrow, we are never coming back to this house.”

Mary said it was very hard right after the split, and she wanted to go back.

“He was very well-respected in the community. We were both highly ranked officers. He was always in church,” Mary said. “But it was all a mask.”

Mary said she even thought about sending her daughter to live with her grandmother, thinking her husband wouldn’t be so volatile if she wasn’t around.

And it wasn’t until after her divorce, that she learned her husband was verbally abusive to her daughter.

“When I got married, she changed and was very despondent,” Mary said. The then 12-year-old’s father was in prison, and her stepfather constantly told her she would end up the same.

Her daughter said all of his comments made her feel like he didn’t approve of her. He called her spoiled and overdramatic, and his children from a previous marriage would say the same things.

“She also overheard the things he said to me,” Mary said.

“After the divorce, I spoke to his ex-wife. When I told her about the verbal, sexual and physical abuse, her only reaction was, ‘Oh, he’s back at it again.’ ”

That’s when she learned that he had choked and almost killed his first wife.

‘Swept me off my feet’

Beth, 42, said she grew up in a strict household where you didn’t show your emotions.

“Early in my life, I had relationships with very controlling people,” Beth said. “The guy would try to control how I dressed and my actions, and I just thought that’s what love was.”

She said she never saw domestic abuse as a means of control.

“When I first met my husband, he swept me off my feet ” Beth said. “He was very charming and everyone loved him.”

Beth said her situation made a turn for the worse after she had their son.

“He was dealing with alcoholism, and he put me down a lot,” Beth said. “He had me convinced that I would never be happy, and that I couldn’t do anything right.”

Beth stayed for 11 years.

Her son, now 9 years old, remembers his father’s temper.

“He remembers when my husband got so mad he shot our TV,” Beth said. She and her son, then 4, went into another room to avoid an argument. But her husband followed them, with a shotgun.

“It sometimes seems that I have to re-parent him, because he does sometimes try to be very controlling with me,” Beth said. “I’ve had to set boundaries because he would scream and try to order me to do things. He saw that.”

The breaking point was when his alcoholism got really bad.

“He started walking around the house with a loaded gun,” Beth said. “I really had dreams of things changing and would always say ‘if he wasn’t an alcoholic.’ ”

Beth said her ex-husband has been through detox.

“To this day, he says I should have known what to do to keep from making him mad. To this day, he’s never apologized.”

Her divorce was recently finalized. Beth has since had to file for bankruptcy and doesn’t have all the nice things her exhusband’s six-figure salary bought.

“But now I can go home and go to bed and sleep.”


‘I stayed for the good times’

Morgan, 54, grew up in a household where her mother was the aggressor.

“She would attack my dad because he cheated on her.” When her mother stabbed him, they divorced.

Morgan said when she was dating her husband, she thought he was perfect.

“He was funny and romantic,” Morgan said. “When we married and had children, he would cook and make sure the kids behaved and did their homework.”

Morgan said she remembered that he liked things his way a lot, but didn’t see it as controlling.

“When he didn’t want me to go somewhere, I thought ‘he loves me this much.’ ”

Her husband became addicted to drugs early in the marriage, and Morgan used that as another excuse for his behavior.

“And he would always convince me that I caused him to be controlling.”

When he got physical with her, Morgan fought back.

“I would tell myself that I’m doing the same thing as him, so I couldn’t complain.”

And Morgan had convinced herself that her marriage would last, unlike her parents.

“I had decided I would preserve my marriage at all costs,” Morgan said. “My dad was in my life growing up, but he wasn’t in the home, and I wanted my children’s father to be in their household.”

Over the course of 10 years, Morgan left and came back to her husband five times.

The final straw was an argument that took place in front of their youngest child.

“I threw a vase at my husband, and it broke all over the place,” Morgan said. “That’s when I realized, I can’t have my children thinking this behavior was OK.”

Morgan decided, for their sake, she had to seek a more stable life.

“When he was not being abusive, he was doing wonderful things, and this is your husband. You love him,” Morgan said. “And you always think things will get better.”


October 25, 2009 at 4:36 pm

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