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Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2006

Stricter domestic violence laws urged

State report details attacks, homicides over two years

October 5, 2006

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While releasing a report Wednesday that chronicled two years of sexual and domestic violence murders, including a recent incident in Lawrence, advocates for stronger laws to protect victims urged prosecutors and judges to get tough with offenders.

"The message should be, 'I'm watching you like a hawk,'" said Deborah Tucker, executive director of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Tucker, of Austin, Texas, was on hand as part of the release of a new Kansas report called "Beyond Statistics," which provides details on homicides and attacks in Kansas from August 2004 to August 2006.

She said in areas where judges require domestic abusers to appear before them weekly, the incidence of violence decreases.

"The offender gets a clear message from the community that we know what you are doing, and we are watching every week," she said.

Former Kansas Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan, chairman of the state Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, said he had little patience for prosecutors who complain that domestic violence victims sometimes "won't show up" to level charges or testify against their abuser.

Stephan said many times these women are trying to keep the family together, are having serious economic problems or fear they won't be protected by authorities. The legal system, he said, must take these factors into consideration.

Stephan, who said his mother was a victim of abuse from his father, said the key is to raise awareness of how pervasive the problem is and how difficult it can be for many women to come forward to accuse their abuser.

Twenty-one people were killed by their partners in 2005, 25 in 2004 and 15 in 2003, according to state statistics.

Sandy Barnett, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said the group compiled the "Beyond Statistics" report so the public would "know victims' names, to remember their stories and to honor their lives."

The report includes the death of Linda Begay, 37, of Lawrence, who died in August after she was beaten.

Begay's boyfriend, Christopher Belone, 35, has been charged in her murder. Belone had been charged twice before in recent years with beating Begay, but both times prosecutors said Begay was an uncooperative witness.

Her death sparked an ongoing debate in Douglas County about the best way to handle domestic violence cases, which are dropped more frequently than other kinds of criminal cases.

Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said his office is trying to contact victims and interview them even before charges are filed, instead of making a charging decision and waiting to subpoena them for court weeks later.

But a local domestic violence advocate, Sarah Terwelp, of Women's Transitional Care Services, has said Douglas County still lacks a communitywide approach to domestic violence.

Barnett, of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said society had come a long way in responding to domestic violence but added "there is more work to do."

Only 40 percent of Kansas counties provide timely crisis services, she said.

For victims, she said the coalition would work to increase legal and emergency services, and safe and affordable housing. For offenders, the group will work to increase resources for prosecutors to enforce sexual and domestic violence laws.

- Staff writer Eric Weslander contributed information to this article.

Comments

roger_o_thornhill 8 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like someone here may have been accused of "domestic abuse". I think it is sad any time violence is used in any situation. It shows a serious lack of imagination, judgement, and control.

Becca 8 years, 2 months ago

And I applaud Confrontation, finally something I agree with him about.

prioress 8 years, 2 months ago

the state or the local police wont (sic) do anything they will just hire more do gooders to walk around with clip boards and study the issue yada yada yada. ========= I am sorry you feel that way; this is a cruel and tragic issue. Locking everyone up is not the answer, but clearly, women and children need help and, if appropriate, protection.

prioress 8 years, 2 months ago

Sadly, many religions have contributed to some of this violence, particularly against women. We need to free ourselves from medieval notions of women as chattel.

Confrontation 8 years, 2 months ago

Pogo: There is an extreme difference between domestic violence and other assaults. With other assaults, you don't always know your abuser, you usually don't live with the abuser, the abuser doesn't always threaten the lives of your children, and the abuser doesn't have complete control over your life. The fact that you don't see the difference is an incredibly sad thing. Your disgust at the "domestic violence industry" tends to show that you are or were an abuser of this type. Regardless of your "no, I'm not an abuser" response, I guess we'll never really know. We are anonymous, afterall.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 2 months ago

This is the typical liberal/socialist way of saying some individuals in society are more important than others. I thought we are all equal regardless of race, gender, color, religious affiliation, sexual preference, etc, etc.

What's next, laws banning crimes against obese lesbian black women from Iceland who watch Oprah?

geekin_topekan 8 years, 2 months ago

Interesting thought Pogo.Sort of like the addiction industry.Preys on those who want a quick fix from the outside instead of taking personal resposibility on their own recovery? Yes the industrialization of domestic violence has a never ending client list.And is horrific enough issue to keep the money flowing and the inflicted seeking services looking for that quick fix. As in any situation the "victims" have to be their own advocates and led by example.And offered guidance by those who have been there who don't want a fee.And recover through continued action and participation in helping new comers.There is a lot to be said for community. "Victim"?Try volunteer. What will you continue to be?

canyon_wren 8 years, 2 months ago

Pogo's comments are really useful. It seems like so many of our social issues--including the Drug War--suffer from being incorporated into a program. It is so easy to dismiss a "program" as being someone else's responsibility. I agree that domestic violence should be responded to as vigorously as any other crime--and not just looked upon as a woman's issue.

geppetto 8 years, 2 months ago

This is a shame to society. I think there are 2 problems and they are clearly stated in the article. We have people who harm other people in the case their significant other. We also have the person being abused not helping authorities. It is a sick cycle. I think children must be taught (not just at home) but in the schools that is not acceptable to punch, kid, or beat anyone for whatever reason. Also if you are being punch, kid or beat, you should defend yourself. I think if you teach that to kids we can stop the cycle.

ControlFreak 8 years, 2 months ago

Domestic violence occurs at any socio-economic level.

The reason domestic violence gets so much attention is because it was ignored for so long.

It use to be that a woman could not even press charges against her husband even if he beat her so severely that she ended up in the hospital. The justification being that it wasn't anyone's business outside of the family.

You are right, Pogo, beating is beating. Unfortunately, the law (or law enforcement) does not treat cases of domestic violence as seriously as other cases of assault and battery.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 2 months ago

The main reason victims don't want to testify is fear. Oh, yes, they may say they still "love" the abuser, yada, yada...but believe me, the real reason is fear of retaliation by the abuser.

This is sad in itself. If the courts and the police were better at offering protection for the victims, more of them would be willing to testify.

They would be more willing to testify if they really believed the abuser would get serious jail time and not be around to cause trouble for awhile, instead of just getting a slap on the wrist, i.e., probation.

Those women who have children with their abuser would also be more willing to testify if they didn't have to worry that the abuser would follow through on his threats to take the children away from her if she ever leaves him. Far too often, this happens in court. I will never understand how a judge can grant custody to a person who has convictions for domestic violence, but it happens all the time.

Confrontation 8 years, 2 months ago

Okay, so everyone is saying that there's no difference between a man beating his wife repeatedly (over a course of years), and a man getting into several bar fights? The man has total control over the woman, and he will continue to torture her until he is severely punished. A man beating a woman is very different from a man beating another man. These disgusting men look for anyone who can't fight back and win (women, elderly, children, etc.).

from_beautiful_downtown_topeka: It's sad that you think beating a child is similar to beating everyone else. Children deserve and need special protection from any grownups who decide to punch them.

ControlFreak 8 years, 2 months ago

A lot of times, people in society don't treat domestic violence as seriously as similar crimes perpetrated by strangers.

faithinlegalsystem_gone 8 years, 2 months ago

My attacker did not/will not spend one day in jail for what he - ever. Maybe if he finds me and beats me again the police will arrest him..... but I am not betting on that....not after this experience.

Perhaps the judges in Douglas County interpret injuries as "great bodily harm" only in cases where the woman dies.

Maybe if I would have died he would have gone to jail. Perhaps then Judge Six wouldn't have been as 'understanding.'

faithinlegalsystem_gone 8 years, 2 months ago

You're right Senegal66025 -

He destroyed my phone and would not let me get in my car......then the beating came.......................

Strangled multiple times, punched multiple times.....broken bones.....

At court, Judge Six told 'him'....."I understand what a confusing time this has been - You are free to go."

devilfish 8 years, 2 months ago

the laws are there they need to be enforced uniformly throughout the state.

dthroat 8 years, 2 months ago

Devilfish - I think you are correct. The laws ARE there and do need to be enforced.

Some of you will remember that I used to be closely connected to LE. I know for a fact that the laws do not give the cops much leeway in "domestic"situations. And there are a lot of arrests made because of that. Cops cannot/do not just "look away" from these anymore. Haven't for several years now.

BUT - (here is the legal stuff) There are strict definitions for "domestic" violence AND (the kicker) the law says an ARREST shall be made. It doesn't say anything about a prosecution. The DA or CA still has control over that aspect. I am not an attorney (and didn't stay at Holiday Inn Express last night) so don't want to second-guess too much on that angle, but do feel some of the cases are not handled well after arrest.

Becca 8 years, 2 months ago

Pogo-You make me sick. I'm sorry, but that comment you made made me ill inside. This "bogus" institution you speak of saved my life 5 years ago. I was with engaged to a guy that for the last half of that nightmare beat me almost every day, really for no reason. I'd look at him and he'd back hand me. I said something he didn't like, and he'd burn me with a cigarette lighter. He tried to push me out of a three story apartment window, and if it hadn't been for the guy that lived downstairs, I might have gone out that window. This bogus institution you speak of got me away from him, and into counseling. This bogus institution gave me the means to stand on my own for once. You obviously don't know what happens when a guy gets his claws into a woman. Your ignorance on this subject astounds me. For your sake, I hope you never have to go through something like that.

canyon_wren 8 years, 2 months ago

I didn't get the impression that posters thought that domestic violence NEEDN'T be treated as seriously as other crimes of a similar nature, but, rather that it WASN'T taken as seriously as a similar crime "outside the home,"and SHOULD be. I think this is what concerns some of us. The laws aren't being enforced, and probably new, stricter laws should be added.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 2 months ago

The issue couranna1, is that the existing laws apply to every victim regardless of age, race, gender, sexual preference, etc, etc. The problem with the "special class" laws is they essentially place a higher moral value on a crime against the special class of people that such laws identify. It is regrettable that a woman, child, or any man is battered. But, why is it anymore or less a punishable battery at any level of reasoning just because the battery was perpetrated against a "special class" of individuals from society. What you were really objecting to in my comments was the absurdity of the point I took the argument to. But, that extreme is the reality these laws present. Lastly, there are many men that have violent wives or girlfriends, its not all men beating women and kids (how sexist is the contra to such a point of view?). So if you truly are interested in protecting a select class of individuals in society, then you should be an advocate for laws providing heightened penalties for specific instances where women are beating men. If you don't concede this point you are as sexist and biased as your point seems to accuse men of being.

The bottom line is, if you get into to the legal mode of trying to carve out a special class of laws for every "special" group in society then the ultimate effect is the law does not treat everyone equally and will thus fail our entire society. When the law fails is when the real beatings begin. Nobody wants that.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 2 months ago

courana1, I'm feeling generous today so I'll help you out in your mental struggles. The simplest solution if you determine the existing laws are inadequate to protect everyone in society is to uniformly raise the threshold of penalty to meet the needs of the most underserved class in society. This satisfies the function of the law serving the most underserved in society while still remaining equally applicable to all. That way men that are beat by women enjoy the benefit of heightened punishments as well. Surely you would not say that women beating men is any less reprehensible then men beating women.

bunnyhawk 8 years, 2 months ago

I find it astonishing that historically we have been so tolerant of family violence. American law enforcement agencies are still staffed by many officers (male and female) who believe that family troubles are private and as such should be exempt from law enforcement intervention. I can think of no more heinous crime than to assault one's spouse or child...........the very people who count upon you the most for love and nurturance. In many many cases of domestic violence, mothers are unable even to imagine that there is a place where they and their children might be safe from the abusive male in the household......and history has unfortunately proved them right far too many times. If we really care about the safety of women and children, we would fund programs to help them relocate and build a new life. The extent to which we leave these women and their children dependent on their batterers is the extent to which the violence is most likely to escalate to ever more alarming extremes. A restraining order is nothing but a piece of paper.............if a raging man is coming at you with a knife or a whiskey bottle, that piece of paper is not good for anything but wiping up your blood..........that is, if you survive his attack!!! And I am gender specific with my comments, because unlike some of the other readers........I'm grounded in reality! Sure, occasionally a woman takes a swing at a man or even shoots one...............but the overwhelming majority of serious injuries and fatalities associated with domestic violence are perpetrated by men. Additionally, research studies have shown that many arrests of women for domestic violence reasons were related to incidents that occurred after law enforcement arrived on the scene. In other words, frightened women in pain taking a single punch at their batterer once the law enforcement officers are there to keep him from killing her.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 2 months ago

Great, then raise the threshold for every beating in society to match that that you propose for beating children. I'm all for it.

Lastly, your denial that men are the victims of attacks at the hands of violent women illustrates a problem that society chooses to ignore because of gender preconception. Yes, gender bias goes both ways despite what popular culture has brainwashed you to believe, or rather, ignore.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 2 months ago

couranna1, how do you propose to implement the laws you suggest without your emotion factoring in to the penalty? Remember the statute of the blind lady holding the scales. The law should be impartial and unbiased. What you propose is partial and biased. Why not just raise the threshold of punishment against every victim of violence? Isn't violence against just one person in society one too many.

Rationalanimal 8 years, 2 months ago

bunnyhawk, are you committing yourself to the position that some women are not violent batterers of men? Secondly, if not, then if the hold of the abuser is psychological, then the man's ability to escape his female abuser based on the superiority of his physical strength is a moot point. Therefore, there is just as much need to have special laws for men who are victim of domestic abuse as there is for women and children. Again, the simplest solution is to just raise the penalty for every violent domestic abuse crime. The unstated reality here is that the advocates want a special punishment attached because the abuse is a man. How fair and unbaised is that?

Bobo Fleming 8 years, 2 months ago

Word of advise to women. If the guy pulls the phone out of the wall and takes your car keys get the heck out of there because what comes next wont be good.

justthefacts 8 years, 2 months ago

I started to respond to the comment suggesting that the puncher should always be carted away by the cops and the punchee not be required to testify as a witness (see e.g. K.S.A. 22-2307, 21-4213, and 39-1431, all available on-line at www.kslegislature.org and cases about the Constitutional right to confront an accuser, such as STATE V. ADAMS, 131 P.3d 556 (Kan.App. 2006) and KEMPKE V. KANSAS DEPT. OF REVENUE, 133 P.3d 104 (Kan. 2006)available on-line at www.kscourts.org)
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..... but I decided that anyone so out of touch with what the law already requires and the concepts connected with what constitute a "fair trial" is beyond my ability to help educate..... Government 101 appears to no longer be a required class.....

Linda Endicott 8 years, 2 months ago

The constitutional right to confront your accuser is fine and dandy, justthefacts, unless that accuser is someone that has been terrorized by the perpetrator for months or years, and all it takes is one glowering stare to convince the accuser that they will have hell to pay if they continue the prosecution.

In cases where the defendants have some sort of power over the accuser, and can intimidate them with a mere look, I don't think the defendant should necessarily have the right to confront their accuser, face to face, in the same room. There's no reason why this can't be done with video, and any comments the defendant has can be relayed through attorneys or the court.

Children shouldn't have to sit in the same room with a defendant if they are the accuser in cases of abuse or molestation. Women (or men) shouldn't have to sit in the same room with the defendent in cases of abuse, either.

Those of you who haven't experienced abuse first hand may not be aware of how much pressure a defendent can exert on a victim, without ever saying a word. This to me is intimidation of a witness (even if that witness is also the accuser), and the law doesn't allow that, either.

So you tell me what the solution is.

Oh, and those who have been struggling against poverty or abuse all their lives aren't necessarily going to be well versed in Government 101. They may not know anything about how court works, or what laws apply, until they are actually in that courtroom for the first time. And then they may only have the attorney's word to go by as to what the law says.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 2 months ago

One of the problems, though, Rationalanimal, is that, though existing laws are supposed to apply to everyone equally, they often aren't enforced equally, not when it comes to domestic violence.

Assault by a stranger frequently results in an arrest, a conviction, and sometimes jail time. Assault by an intimate partner rarely results in jail time. Assault by an intimate partner is not taken as seriously as it is if someone goes out and beats up a total stranger.

Many a woman (or man) who is a victim of domestic violence can tell you stories of how the police were called, and nothing was done. Either the police will attempt to talk the victim out of pressing charges (even though the police are supposed to make an arrest if they think physical abuse has occurred), or the prosecutor will decide not to follow through with the case.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 2 months ago

And if he'd done the same thing to a total stranger, he'd be sitting in jail now. That's what I meant when I said the laws are SUPPOSED to apply to everyone equally, but apparently they don't.

faithinlegalsystem_gone 8 years, 2 months ago

Yes crazyks....I agree. If I had been a stranger, a police officer, or perhaps another man - maybe then they would have looked for him (since the police had his address they could have easily have done so).

Even his coming back multiple times after the attack to 'tell' me what to say 'happened' and then destroying evidence of such did not convince Judge Six he was a danger.

It was extremely hard to be in the court room with him. I wish I could have been on video and I wouldn't have been so afraid to tell in more detail what he did.

The judge allowed his lawyer to stay seated next to the man who beat me so that I had to turn my chair (away from the judge and the court reporter) towards them both to answer the lawyer's questions. Very strategic on the lawyer's part of course and I know the judge recognized this... but obviously didn't care. In addition, his entire family was seated behind them. Very intimidating and very frustrating. I had to face all of them as I was questioned. I just froze.

It was a terrible experience and I came out of there feeling as tho I was the one on trial. I don't even think the judge bothered to look at the pictures which were admitted into evidence. Guess the judge was having a 'bad day' and it required a little too much effort on his part. I wasn't worth it.

I guess the old saying - "once bitten - twice shy" makes a lot of sense in many of life's situations. For me, it certainly fits here.

I certainly hope anyone else in this situation does not experience what I have.

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