End Domestic Abuse WI In The News

Thursday 02/27/2014

MADISON — A legislative committee has approved a bill that would establish a standard process for seizing guns in domestic abuse cases in Wisconsin.

It was one of three gun measures addressed by legislators on Thursday.

The state Senate’s public safety committee passed the measure unanimously, setting up a full Senate vote. The measure passed the state Assembly last week. Senate approval would send the bill on to Gov. Scott Walker.

Wisconsin law requires people to surrender their guns if they’re subject to a domestic abuse injunction but doesn’t spell out how.

The bill from Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, would require the subject of an injunction to fill out a form documenting his or weapons. A judge would hold a hearing to order the person to surrender the weapons. The person would fill out a form requesting the guns’ return when the injunction expires.

Mandatory record checks endorsed

The Senate public safety committee also approved a bill that would require judges to gather police records on someone under an injunction before returning his or her guns.

The proposal by Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, would require judges to request the state Justice Department supply information on whether the person is otherwise prohibited from possessing a gun.

The committee approved the bill on a 5-0 vote. The vote clears the way for a full vote in the Senate. The Assembly approved the bill unanimously earlier this month.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association have both registered in support of the bill. The only group registered against it is Wisconsin Gun Owners, Inc. The group’s website says it opposes all gun control.

Mandatory background checks sought

Democratic lawmakers are calling on Republicans to act on a bill requiring universal background checks for all gun sales in Wisconsin.

Current law requires only background checks for gun buyers from federally licensed dealers. The bill would require background checks would apply to all sales, including gun sales made online and at gun shows.

Sen. Nikiya Harris, D-Milwaukee, said an 18 percent increase in Milwaukee’s homicide rate is one reason to close what she called loopholes in the public safety system. Harris says without universal background checks the state’s current laws preventing felons from possessing guns are meaningless.

Legislators stood behind boxes of 16,500 signatures from Wisconsin residents who support universal background checks. Republicans have not scheduled the bill for a hearing.

From: The Associated Press.

Friday 02/21/2014

Domestic violence groups are showing an interest in a potential state Supreme Court rule that would give judges leeway on how to deal with those representing themselves in court.

The rule, if the court adopts it, would permit judges to “make reasonable efforts to facilitate the ability of all litigants, including self-represented litigants, to be fairly heard.”

It also would offer a few examples of how a judge could better aid a self-represented litigant if the change is approved, such as explaining the proceedings and legal situations in plain terms, permitting narrative testimony and telling the parties what is expected of them.

The petition was put forth in September by the Access to Justice Commission and the court will hold a public hearing for it at 9:45 a.m. Monday.

So far, the proposal has elicited 35 letters of support, more than any other rule petition in recent months. Nine of those support letters are from domestic or sexual violence groups that say the measure is another step in ensuring that victims’ arguments are treated fairly by judges.

“It would be unrealistic to expect a person appearing pro-se to function with confidence and understanding without some assistance from a legal expert,” states a letter attributed to Braden Bayne-Allison, Vilas County Outreach Coordinator for Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.  “It would be beneficial if judges were to ensure that individuals understood the process during a hearing as it happens.”

Tony Gibart, policy coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin said the petition was something the group has monitored for some time. Many people who leave abusive relationships, he said, end up without a lawyer when they go in front of a judge for a restraining order or divorce.

“Not only the [court] process, but the substantive law can be confusing to lay people,” Gibart said. “It’s difficult for some attorneys to understand those, you can imagine … a victim.”

He said the group kept other shelters and advocates aware of the rules petition and its potential effects.

Wendy Gehl, legal advocate and staff supervisor for Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs in Appleton, said that the high costs of attorneys, combined with an economic downturn, has made it a “privilege” to have representation in court.

“At the end of the day, we want justice and we want fairness,” Gehl said. “Just because they can’t afford counsel doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have their position heard.”

The proposed rule change was modeled, at least in part, on an American Bar Association model code that sought to clarify how judges can help self-represented litigants while remaining impartial.

“It is not a violation of this rule,” the ABA’s model code states, “for a judge to make reasonable accommodations to ensure pro se litigants the opportunity to have their matters fairly heard.”

Wisconsin’s proposed rule change further notes “a judge’s exercise of such discretion will not generally raise a reasonable question about the judge’s impartiality.”

Commission member and retired Court of Appeals Judge Margaret Vergeront said she will testify in support at Monday’s public hearing, and expects judges and attorneys from across the state to weigh in, as well.

In addition to domestic violence groups, the petition drew letters from attorneys and judges from across the state. The Wisconsin Counties Association also is supporting it.

Vergeront said that the commission spent a lot of time while drafting the petition talking to attorneys, judges and groups to make sure that the proposal addressed all their needs.

She pointed out that the proposal is fairly “modest” when compared to other proposals to help indigent clients. This one merely clarifies a judge’s ethical boundaries, Vergeront said, and does not implement rules or projects that would cost money.

“When all is said and done,” she said, “there are still a lot of people who come to court without a lawyer.”

John Ebbott, executive director of Legal Action of Wisconsin Inc., called the proposal a “no brainer.”

“I’m not sure how anybody would oppose this,” he said.

Vergeront and supporters say this is just a small piece of what needs to be done, however.

“I think this is one way to improve,” Gehl said. “There are probably a lot of things that need to be done.”

From: Wisconsin Law Journal

Friday 02/14/2014

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans pushed Wednesday to clear the way for votes on domestic violence bills that would establish a process for seizing an abuser's guns, mandate tracking of non-arrests and require police to inform victims of their options.

Time is running out for the measures. The legislative session formally ends in April. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, wants to finish up even sooner, perhaps as early as next month. Legislators are scrambling to get as many bills out of committee and onto Assembly and Senate floor calendars as they can before they hit the summer campaign trail.

Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, and End Domestic Violence Wisconsin, a Madison-based anti-domestic violence group, held a brief news conference urging lawmakers to pass Bies' bill setting up a formal legal process for confiscating guns from a person under a restraining order.

Current state law requires people to surrender their guns if they're subject to a domestic abuse injunction. But the law doesn't spell out exactly how the weapons should be seized.

Under Bies' bill, the subject of the injunction would have to fill out a form documenting his or her weapons. A judge would hold a hearing within a week to order the person to surrender the firearms. The director of state courts would have to develop a form the subject could fill out requesting the weapons be returned when the restraining order expires.

"Will it save the world? No. Will it save many? Yes," Teri Jendusa-Nicolai of Waterford said at the news conference. Jendusa-Nicolai's ex-husband, David Larsen, beat her with a baseball bat and stuffed her into a garbage can in a storage locker in 2004.

Bies introduced the bill in October. It passed the Assembly's public safety committee last month and no organizations have registered against the measure, according to state records. But Republican leaders haven't scheduled it for a floor vote yet.

Bies said he planned to meet with Vos on Wednesday afternoon to seek a vote next week. A Vos spokeswoman didn't immediately return an email message.

Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, introduced the other bill in April in response to a mass shooting at a Brookfield spa in October 2012. Radcliffe Haughton shot and killed his wife, Zina Haughton, and two of her co-workers at Azana Salon & Spa before turning the gun on himself. Brown Deer police came under fire for not arresting him following reports of abuse in 2011 and again several weeks before the shootings.

The bill would require officers who respond to a domestic abuse call but don't arrest anyone to write a report explaining why. The reports would go to prosecutors, who would include them in annual reports they make to the state Justice Department tallying domestic abuse arrests, prosecutions and convictions. The bill also would lay out new police training standards for domestic violence situations, including telling victims about their legal rights, shelters and victim advocates.

The measure passed the Assembly on a voice vote in June and landed in the Senate's public safety committee.

The panel's chairman, Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, scaled the bill back dramatically. His version requires district attorneys to report non-arrests to DOJ but does away with the officer reports. It doesn't mention training standards but still requires police to tell victims about their options.

Petrowski aide Lane Ruhland said Petrowski scaled the proposal back because he didn't want to interfere with another bill he's sponsoring that grants the Law Enforcement Training Board flexibility in determining training standards and DOJ officials feared the non-arrest reports could help defense attorneys. DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck said the agency supports the changes but declined to elaborate.

Petrowski and Jacque were the only ones who testified on the new bill during a public hearing Wednesday. Both said the measure would help connect victims with services. End Domestic Violence Wisconsin Public Policy Coordinator Tony Gibart submitted a statement to the committee saying the bill will strengthen links between victims and police and build a clearer picture of law enforcement responses to domestic violence.

The committee could vote on the bill as early as next week. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, didn't immediately return a message inquiring about whether the bill could end up on a floor calendar.

 

From: the Associated Press.

Friday 01/17/2014

So far this year, two people in Wisconsin have died in gun-related murders. Today, Wisconsin Public Radio launches an occasional, year-long series on gun murders. We'll track where and why they occur, and follow law enforcement and community groups' efforts to try to prevent them. 

The first gun murder of the year took place at the Sidetracked Bar in Wausau on January 3rd. According to police reports, the victim, 27-year-old KC Christopher Elliot, was fighting in the bar parking lot with the suspect, 30-year-old John Lewis, when he was shot by what police believe was a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun. The gun has not been recovered. 

Police say the two men knew each other and the suspect has served prison time for drug trafficking crimes. According to Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, the apparent cause of this gun death fits the typical profile for gun murders in Milwaukee, where 85 people were shot to death last year.

“Many of these things are just arguments and fights between two people who are both carrying firearms,” Flynn says, “and somebody pulls a gun and we have a dead person.”

Milwaukee Police are are now investigating the shooting death of a twenty-year-old man killed on Wednesday on the city's south side. It's the second gun homicide in the state this year, and the first for the city. Yesterday police arrested an 18-year-old suspect in that murder. 

In 2012, the last year for which statewide figures are available, two-thirds of the 166 murders in the state involved a gun, and 61 percent of the perpetrators were between the age of 18 and 34 as were 48 percent of the victims. 

Mallory O'Brien of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission says usually both the victim and the suspect have a criminal record.  “For 2013, looking at the victims and suspects of homicide,” O'Brien said, “76 percent of the victims have an arrest history, and 93 percent of the suspects have an arrest history.”

That's a small consolation to the families of the victims and the people who live in the neighborhoods where the murders happen. Betty, who gave only her first name, lives on the block where Wednesday's south side Milwaukee murder took place.

“Crimes is always everywhere on the south side,” she said. “I think they should put like cameras in each block and have more cops, I guess, driving around.”

Milwaukee police have used cameras to deter shootings in some city taverns where several gun crimes have ocurred. But this week the city got funds from the state to expand the use of microphones to record the sound of gun shots in crime-prone neighborhoods. 

Chief Flynn says the ShotSpotter technology is already helping police solve a problem that has hampered investigations in the past: “The data produced by the ShotSpotter technology told us an alarming truth. In some of our neighborhoods -- the most gunfire-afflicted neighborhoods particularly -- only 14 percent of the shots-fired incidents were being called into 911.”

Technology like this is one way police are trying to reduce gun deaths. On the legislative front a bill designed to reduce the number of domestic violence gun deaths could get a vote before the end of the year. 

According to Tony Gibart of End Domestic Violence Wisconsin, a preliminary report for last year found guns were used in 19 domestic violence murders. He says the new law would require courts to verify that anyone with a domestic violence restraining order immediately surrender any guns they own. 

“We know that some counties are starting to do this, but most counties don't have any kind of active enforcement procedures in place,” Gibart said. “We do see, throughout the years, homicides that seemingly could have been prevented had there been more active enforcement.”

Gibart says that bill has not been scheduled for a vote yet.

Wisconsin Public Radio will continue to follow gun-related legislation throughout the year, and follow up with stories on these and other homicides as they occur and develop.

From: Wisconsin Public Radio.

Wednesday 01/15/2014

Several bills addressing human trafficking are making their way through the Wisconsin legislature. Advocates hope the bills make it easier to prosecute human traffickers and empower victims.

Wednesday 01/15/2014

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin State Assembly passed four bills today aimed at reducing the number of heroin-related deaths in Wisconsin. 

Friday 01/10/2014

A bill that would limit how much high-income earners pay in child support and require equalized placement of children in most custody cases is drawing strong criticism from family law practitioners and anti-domestic violence advocates.

Wednesday 01/15/2014

A father's rights group is backing a bill that would place a limit on how much money a divorced father would have to pay in child support.

Friday 12/13/2013

Posted: Dec 12, 2013 1:09 PM CST Updated: Dec 12, 2013 1:09 PM CST

 

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker has signed into law a Republican-sponsored bill that gives landlords more power over tenants.

The bill Walker signed privately Thursday allows landlords to dispose of any property an evicted tenant leaves behind, immediately tow parked vehicles and toss tenants out if a crime occurs on the property and the tenant was in a position to prevent it.

Democrats who opposed the measure argued that it strips tenants of their rights and limits local governments' control over property in their jurisdiction.

The bill was opposed by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the cities of Milwaukee and Madison as well as the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and others.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

ABC 2 WBAY

 

Tuesday 11/19/2013

For most families in the Beloit area, Thanksgiving is a time of celebration and togetherness. 

Thanksgiving has extra meaning for families at the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center. Although these families have all faced enormous challenges, this Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28, is an opportunity to be thankful for the support they have received from the community and to relish in hope of new beginnings.

 

“Thanksgiving at a domestic abuse shelter is bittersweet,” said Cori Forster, Program Director. 

“The victims and children we serve would certainly rather be safely living and celebrating the holiday in their own homes. But, they are also appreciative of the assistance and support they have received here through the generosity and support of this community.”

Forster hopes this Thanksgiving will be a positive one for the clients of the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor

Center.

“Our clients have overcome so much just to be here,” said Forster. “We want Thanksgiving to be a peaceful day for those who are especially yearning for peace and stability in their lives.”

The Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center offers counseling, legal advocacy and other assistance to families who are survivors of domestic violence, as well as emergency shelter

and food. 

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin (formerly the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence), which is the statewide voice for victims of domestic violence, released a report earlier in the year that attributes millions of dollars of health care cost savings to Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center and other agencies like it across Wisconsin. The report also links victim services to the prevention of almost 100,000 missed days of work

in Wisconsin.

The Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center notes that community donations of money, time and household items sustain it. Currently, the center especially needs paper products, diapers and wipes, cleaning and laundry supplies. To volunteer or make contributions, call 608-364-1083.

Beloit Daily News

Tuesday 11/12/2013

(WEAU)-- As the days go by and fall turns to winter year after year, there is one night that forever haunts Sarah Engle.

“He broke into my mother’s home. He hid his car. He cut the phone lines,” Engle said.

In September 2008, Sarah Engle’s ex-boyfriend, James Lahoud, shot and killed Sarah’s mom Charlotte and then waited for Sarah to come home.

"He raped me all night and thought he shot and killed me," Engle said.

The bullet shattered Sarah’s cheekbone paralyzing the left side of her face.

"I just found out this summer, it was a hair line away from hitting my upper spine," Engle said.

Sarah's story is heart-wrenching which is similar to so many Wisconsin women whose names have appeared in headlines. Those names include: Alisha Sidie, killed in 2008 in Jackson County; Theresa Still, killed in 2010 in Eau Claire County; Zina Houghten- killed in 2012 in Milwaukee County.

“I'm one of the lucky ones,” Engle said.

We hear name after name and story after story, but domestic violence homicide rates are still on the rise.

In the last year, 52 people died in Wisconsin in domestic violence related murders and suicides. Fifteen more people than in 2011.

“We know how dangerous this is for the victims, for police and other family members,” said Ray Maida, a former police investigator.

Maida trains police departments to investigate domestic violence crimes.

“This is really about homicide prevention,” Maida said.

He says one Wisconsin law that helps hold an abuser accountable is the ‘Mandatory Arrest Law.’ The law basically says if an officer has reason to believe that domestic violence occurred and will continue to occur; the officer must arrest the person who committed the act.

But an arrest is rarely ever an end to the story. Former Dane County Prosecutor Judith Munaker says the court system has to hold abuser accountable after arrest.

“A 9 month sentence for a battery or a 90 sentence for disorderly conduct are really rare. But what we are seeing more of is felonies, which happen all the time in domestic violence crimes, like strangulation or false imprisonment are getting charged,” said Munaker.

Tony Gibart with the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence says people really need to understand domestic violence to fight it.

“By definition is a pattern of abuse that’s directed at the victim to control and terrorize the victim. So if you remove that pattern what judges and juries see is not the reality of domestic violence,” Gibart said.

A bill in the state legislature would create a law to allow prosecutors to show a jury an abusers pattern of abuse in court. The bill passed in the House and is waiting for a hearing in the Senate.

"What’s important is that the system demonstrate accountability and follow through," Gibart said.

But tools to prosecute and arrest abusers are just part of the bigger issue. The question is how do we stop domestic violence in the first place?

"The reality is that until men embrace that domestic violence is their issue and that they are the ones that are repeatedly causing-based on the fact that they are the batterers and they choose to make the change it's going to continue to happen," Victim Advocate Pat Stein said.

“It starts out small so you don't realize it’s bad. I think that’s how a lot of domestic violence relationships work,” said Engle.

Engle says speaking out against violence has helped her heal. Her abuser is serving life in prison with no chance of parole. But Engle says she hopes one day her words will no longer be needed and the cycle of abuse will come to an end.

Stein says it’s important to remember that some women are abusers and some men are victims as well.

She says if you know are or know someone being abused, there is help.

Megan Lowery

WEAU.com

Wednesday 10/30/2013

During a trip to the state Capitol this month, Jessica Honish thought about Trish Waschbisch and smiled.

Honish and her colleagues from Rainbow House Domestic Abuse Services had just been introduced as the winners of a new honor from the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse. The award is called the “Trish Waschbisch Legacy Award” in memory of Waschbisch, a colleague slain this spring in what prosecutors say was a dispute with her boyfriend.

“I was thinking how proud of us Trish would be,” said Honish, the lead advocate for Rainbow House, which assists survivors in Marinette, Oconto and Menominee (Mich.) counties. “The trip was a chance to spend the day with Trish’s mom and dad, just reminiscing about what we had accomplished together.”

Much of the focus at Rainbow House these days is about recovery — for the clients who benefit from the agency’s advocacy and legal outreach efforts, and for the staff and volunteers adjusting to life without Waschbisch. She worked at the center for 13 years, the past two as interim director.

Brent Kaempf, now 49, is charged in connection to the fatal stabbing of Waschbisch, 45, in late April in the home they shared in Peshtigo. Kaempf was arrested in Milwaukee County less than 24 hours after Waschbisch was found slain.

His case is set for trial in late January.

The toll continues

Across the state, domestic violence continues to claim lives.

A report in September by The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence said 52 women, men and children died in domestic violence homicides in 2012, 15 more than the number killed a year earlier. Half of the victims in 2012 were slain at their homes.

“I’m always telling people how important this (domestic violence) issue is,” Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve said.

Sauve, a veteran of almost 30 years in law enforcement, declined to discuss Wasbisch specifically until Kaempf’s court case had concluded. But he said he regularly reminds deputies that when they are responding to a domestic dispute, “We could be preventing a homicide.”

The state’s oldest victim in 2012 was an 82-year-old West Bend woman shot to death by her husband, who then killed himself. The youngest was a Kenosha County infant who died shortly after her 18-year-old mother was badly beaten. The baby was covered in bruises when she was born; she died soon after.

Brown County had five people die in domestic-violence incidents in 2012, according to the coalition. Fatal incidents also happened in Outagamie, Marinette, Marathon and Wood counties.

People in the advocacy community mourned Waschbisch’s death, holding a candlelight vigil and doing other things to honor her memory. Honish said the people who knew her draw strength by thinking about the energy and resolve that Waschbisch brought to her work.

'Healing at different speeds'

Advocates say the numbers of people seeking help has not declined in the six months since Waschbisch was killed. While they say it’s positive that victims are comfortable seeking counseling, shelter and other assistance, several remain concerned that continued demand means that the problem has not abated.

Green Bay’s Golden House, for example, is on pace to serve more than 1,000 abuse survivors again this year. Other authorities in Brown, Door and Marinette counties all say that demand for their services remains strong.

Brenda Curtis, office manager at Sturgeon Bay-based HELP of Door County, said she regularly will encounter people who are surprised to learn that abuse occurs in the county, which is known as a destination for relaxing getaways. Two people in the county died in domestic homicides in 2012, according to the WCADV report.

“It would be nice if we could work ourselves out of a job,” Curtis said. “We are busier, and some of that is that more people are comfortable coming for help. But domestic violence is not decreasing, and I don’t know if it will ever completely go away.”

Back at Rainbow House, the winners of the Trish Waschbisch Legacy Award remember their colleague and vow to continue her work.

“All of us have been healing at different speeds,” Honish said. “But we know that if this had happened to anyone else — anyone of us — Trish would have been right there.”

Doug Schneider

Appleton Post Crescent

 

Thursday 10/24/2013

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center’s board of directors late on Oct. 22 announced the selection of an executive director after an extensive nationwide search. Colleen Carpenter assumes the post at the nonprofit on Nov. 18.

A news release said Carpenter would be the first full-time executive director at the center since 2011. She was hired to “help guide the organization as it continues to develop programs, build fiscal sustainability and cultivate relationships throughout the greater Milwaukee area.”

In a statement to the press, center co-president Paul Williams said, “Thanks to strong community support, the center has experienced a remarkable comeback, allowing us to take this next step towards our goal of making the center a national model of effectiveness and vibrancy.”

He continued, “Colleen’s extensive experience in program management, staff development, community outreach and grant-writing make her an outstanding choice for helping to achieve that goal.”

Carpenter currently is the executive director of Daystar Inc., a Milwaukee-based organization that provides long-term transitional housing for women fleeing domestic violence.

Her resume details more than 25 years of experience working for nonprofits in the areas of domestic violence prevention, housing for people living with AIDS and also youth services.

Carpenter spent the early years of her career in the Milwaukee area serving in leadership roles related to domestic violence prevention, including as president of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

She became the executive director of the YWCA in Alton, Ill., in 1999, and led a campaign to heal an organization on the verge of bankruptcy and “beset with employee morale and public relations challenges,” according to the news release. Carpenter is credited with overseeing a turnaround that put the YWCA on solid financial footing with the development of programs and new funding sources and improved public relations.

For the past decade, she has focused on fund development work with a specialty in grant management.

In 2011, Carpenter accepted the executive director post at Daystar and returned to Milwaukee, where her three grown children and their families reside.

“Milwaukee is where I came out, and I have always considered it home,” she said in the news release. “With the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, I am thrilled to blend my passion for serving the LGBT community with my lifelong career in nonprofit management, all in a location that I truly love.”

The center’s national search for an executive director was aided by Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Community Centers and funded by the Johnson Family Foundation.

Fifty-eight candidates applied for the job and were vetted by search and hiring committees.

“We were thrilled by the caliber of candidates who applied for this position,” stated center co-president Anne Perry Curley. “Given the center’s current opportunities and challenges, Colleen’s range of skills and experiences stood out as an extraordinarily good fit. The center’s board of directors unanimously endorsed her hire.”

Carpenter will take over from interim executive director Karen Gotzler, who since February 2012 has volunteered her time and the services of her company, Urban Strategies/Sector Management.

Gotzler will continue to serve as the center’s volunteer interim executive director until Carpenter joins the staff on Nov. 18 and will remain actively involved during a transition period.

Gotzler also has agreed to join the center’s board of directors when her staff role ends.

A reception to welcome Carpenter is scheduled for Dec. 5 at the center.

Wednesday 10/16/2013

While some stories of domestic violence made national headlines over the past year, there are countless tales of tragedy that receive scant attention.

End Domestic Abuse in Wisconsin recently released a report that documents and analyzes domestic violence-related homicides in 2011 and 2012. The report’s release coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness month.

The group — formerly known as Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence — hopes the sobering statistics contained in the report prompt communities to become more active in efforts to prevent abuse.

“Our intent is to honor the victims and survivors of domestic violence homicide,” said Patti Seager, executive director of EDAW. “We also want to support Wisconsin communities to create opportunities for intervention and the prevention of homicide.”

In 2011, the stark reality of domestic violence hit home when a Fond du Lac police officer and the wife of a convicted felon were killed in two unrelated domestic violence incidents.

Craig Birkholz, 28, and Nicole Anderson, 33, were among the 37 people who lost their lives in 31 domestic violence incidents in 2011. Last year there were 38 domestic violence homicide incidents resulting in 52 deaths. Five of the incidents resulted in multiple homicides.

Caught in the line of fire

Two homicides recorded in 2011 were the result of legal intervention by responding law enforcement officers. Birkholz was gunned down while responding to an emergency request from fellow officers who were engaged in a standoff with James Cruckson on March 20, 2011.

Earlier that morning, Cruckson’s girlfriend drove to the police station to report that Cruckson had sexually assaulted her. Believing that the woman’s child was still in the home, three police officers entered and were pinned down by gunfire before they could make contact with Cruckson. Birkholz was the second backup officer to respond to the call.

According to police reports, Cruckson and the woman had a history of domestic disputes resulting in police being called to the Lincoln Avenue home multiple times.

Agnesian HealthCare Domestic Violence Program Coordinator Tiffany Wiese said many victims are often hesitant to call police because they fear that their abuser will retaliate against them.

“Until our systems become more consistent in dealing with abusers through prosecution and rehabilitation, victims will probably continue to be fearful,” Wiese said. “Victims should report in order to hold abusers accountable and keep their families safe, but the reality is that this may put the victim and their family in more danger.”

Trying to break free

Many victims of domestic violence stay in a relationship out of fear, said Lindee Kimball, executive director of Solutions Center of Fond du Lac. Last year Solutions Center assisted 225 victims of domestic abuse.

“Victims try to leave their partners about seven times. They go back thinking things will be good for a while,” said Kimball. “It’s all about the power and control that the abuser exerts over the victim. They think it’s easier to go back and deal with it, hoping it won’t happen again. The scariest part is when they do leave. The abuser hates the fact that the victim is taking that power back. That’s usually when something happens.”

In 2012, about half of the intimate partner-related homicides occurred after a relationship ended or when one person in the relationship was taking steps to leave, according to the report.

Last year a relatively high number of children — nearly 25 percent — were killed by their fathers or other adult male household members.

“The male abuser knows what’s dearest to a mother — her children. They know they can hurt her most by taking them or harming them,” Kimball said.

Work in progress

Under state law, Jason Anderson should never have had possession of a firearm. The Fond du Lac man shot his wife as she lay in bed at their Fond du Lac home on Nov. 8, 2011.

While family members say there was no history of domestic violence, one witness told police that Jason Anderson had previously threatened his wife with a gun. Anderson was a convicted felon due to a drug conviction and, therefore, was prohibited from owning a gun. He was sentenced to life in prison for the death of his wife.

Under Wisconsin law judges don’t know if domestic abusers own firearms. And if an abuser lies about owning guns or ignores a court order to turn them over there is often no follow-up and no penalty.

A pending bipartisan bill would allow courts to verify whether people are subject to domestic violence and child abuse restraining orders and direct them to surrender their weapons. The bill would not change the fact that it is not illegal to sell a gun to someone who is the subject of a restraining order.

Wiese said laws addressing gun restrictions in domestic violence cases can be beneficial in trying to hold offenders more accountable or by keeping victims and their families safe by eliminating easy access to weapons.

“Laws are put out there regarding access to firearms ... but that doesn’t mean they are always enforced,” Wiese said. “Restraining orders and offenders being put on probation or serving time are definitely a step in the right direction, but safety is not always guaranteed in these situations. It’s a work in progress.”

A helping hand

Wiese said Fond du Lac County has many services and projects in place to help address domestic violence within the community. Fond du Lac County’s Coordinated Community Response (CCR) and Domestic Abuse Reporting Team (DART) are both put in place to bring together the first responders of these cases to discuss flaws within the system and ways to improve victim and affected family member services.

The Fond du Lac Police Department launched an enhanced victim follow-up protocol this summer led by the Domestic Violence Intervention Team. Officers accompany victims to meetings with counselors/advocates at Agnesian HealthCare or Solutions Center to obtain additional information or offer counseling services victims may need following an assault.

“We wanted to take a proactive approach to ensure that the wellbeing of victims of domestic violence was taken care of and they were getting the resources they needed to help them get out of abusive relationships,” said Assistant Police Chief Steve Klein. “It goes above and beyond just responding to a domestic abuse incident and making an arrest and referring the charge to the district attorney’s office.”

Kimball said friends and neighbors can also assist domestic violence victims, especially those who try to hide the abuse.

“After Nicole Anderson died, many folks started second-guessing themselves, wondering if they had missed signs of abuse. If you’re friends with someone and you suspect abuse, don’t be afraid to ask them because just maybe they’re waiting for you to ask so they can open up that gate,” Kimball said. “And if you think someone is being hurt address it, don’t ignore it. It might be too late next time.”

Colleen Kottke

Fond du Lac Reporter

Tuesday 10/15/2013

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Franklin County Family Resource Center (FRC) is ready to help with free community services and information.

The FRC, a state-accredited domestic violence program, promotes safe and healthy living environments for Franklin County families who are victims of domestic violence, said Director Cynthia Treadway. "The center strives to reduce domestic violence incidents and increase knowledge, self-esteem and empowerment throughout the county by providing services to the community, promoting community awareness and providing support for victims," said Treadway.

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice defines domestic violence as a pattern of physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abusive behaviors used by one individual to assert power or maintain control over another in the context of an intimate or family relationship.

For a child, that means witnessing, hearing, being told about or seeing the aftermath of abuse and coercive control used against a parent.

In the United States, 15.5 million children live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year. In 2010, the state of Virginia housed 2,625 children in domestic violence shelters. Of those children, 171 stayed in transitional housing due to their parent fleeing an abusive relationship.

The Virginia VaData Report showed 4,367 children receiving domestic violence advocacy services. Child abuse is 15 times more likely to occur in families where domestic violence is taking place. Information from the Franklin County FRC shows that children become aware of abuse when they are denied care because their parent is injured or unavailable to take care of them. Some children hear threats of physical harm or death and feel the tension building in the home prior to an assault. Some are forced to watch or participate in violence against their parent or are pitted against the non-violent parent by the abusing parent.

Children living in violent homes find various ways to cope with family violence, Treadway said. Some become truant, violent, sexually active or runaways. Others become addicted to drugs, foods or pornography.

Domestic violence affects children emotionally, behaviorally, socially and physically. A child may feel shame, fear, guilt, powerless, helpless, depression, abandoned or confused. He or she may start acting out or withdrawing. The child may excessively seek attention or take on the role of "caregiver," Treadway said.

Socially, a child may feel isolated from friends and relatives, or express poor anger management and problem solving skills. Some children may get involved in excessive social functions to avoid going home or become engaged in exploitative relationships as perpetrator or victim.

Physical signs of domestic violence in a child include nervousness, lethargy, frequent illness, poor personal hygiene, regression in development and self abuse, Treadway said.

A study by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence shows that boys who grow up with domestic abuse are more likely to abuse their intimate partners, and girls are less likely to seek help if they become victims in their adult relationships.

Help for domestic violence is available at the Franklin County FRC. All services are free, confidential, non-judgmental, voluntary and informative. Services offered include a 24-hour domestic violence hotline, crisis intervention, danger assessment, safety planning, information and referral, and court and systems advocacy. Other services available include an emergency domestic violence shelter, primary prevention and a children's activity support group.

The center also offers adult support groups and classes in stress and anger management, financial knowledge, parenting, training for professionals, as well as a domestic violence outreach program and follow-up. "We want to help," said Treadway. "We want to speak to groups, teams, organizations, churches and schools. We are not only a source of help for victims, we are a source of information for prevention." The center offers the following suggestions for those who are at risk for domestic violence:

•Plan for quick escape.

•If you believe you are about to be assaulted, try to stay out of rooms where there are weapons, such as guns or knives.

•Keep a list of telephone numbers of family, friends, doctors, shelters, etc.

•Gather important documents, such as birth certificates, passports, prescriptions, social security cards, copies of any protective orders, children's school records, medical records, bank account information, any documents you feel are important to you.

•Put aside emergency money.

•Hide an extra set of car keys.

•Keep an extra set of clothes and shoes for you and your children with a trusted friend.

•Take a special toy for your child.

•Talk to people you trust.

•In case of emergencies, dial 911. For more information, contact the center at (540) 483-5088 or visit www.franklincountyva.org/shelter. The domestic violence hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (540) 483-1234.

STACEY HAIRSTON

The Franklin News-Post