End Domestic Abuse WI In The News

Thursday 10/10/2013

What issue will affect one in four women in America; covers the spectrum of age, race, religion, culture, income and education; and has October as its awareness month? If your answer to this question is breast cancer, you are wrong. The answer is domestic violence.

If you think domestic violence is not “your issue” or that people in your life are not affected by it, think again. Domestic violence happens in so many relationships and families that it is very likely someone you know has or is currently experiencing abuse — even if they do not talk about it.

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, or NNEDV, in the United States about 2.3 million people each year are abused by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. Of those victimized by an intimate partner, 85 percent are women and 15 percent are men.

So, what is domestic violence? Many use the term “domestic abuse” rather than “domestic violence” because violence brings to mind images of hitting, punching or some other form physical abuse. However, there are many other methods that abusers use.

Domestic abuse is a pattern of behaviors used to control an intimate partner and can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological in nature. So, controlling your partner’s finances, continually insulting your partner or isolating your partner from family and friends are examples of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse also has a huge impact on children as millions of children each year witness some form of abuse. End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin reports that children who are exposed to domestic abuse are at a “higher risk for alcohol and drug abuse, sexual acting out, running way and suicide.” Boys who grow up with domestic abuse are more likely to abuse their intimate partners; girls are less likely to seek help if they become victims in their adult relationships.

This October, join the Family Center to raise awareness for that “other” issue affecting millions of women. Support victims of domestic abuse and do not blame them for it — just as you would not blame a woman for having breast cancer. Help the Family Center and advocates across the state to end the stigma of domestic abuse and encourage victims to speak out.

One way to show your support during Domestic Violence Awareness Month is to wear purple-colored clothing. Another way is to wear a purple awareness ribbon — stop at the Family Center if you are in need of a ribbon. You also can change your Facebook profile picture to one that promotes awareness or post information about domestic abuse; invite your friends to do this as well. Most importantly, talk about domestic abuse. Share this article with your neighbors, co-workers, or friends. Silence hides violence — domestic abuse will not stop if we do not discuss it.

If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, please do not look the other way — call the Family Center at 715-421-1511or email info@familyctr.org.

Visit www.familyctr.org for more information.

Gretchen Konopacky

Wisconsin Rapids Tribune

Thursday 10/03/2013

LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Over the last two years, 89 people have died, in Wisconsin, due to domestic violence, according to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

That number is down from 116 in 2009 and 2010.

October is domestic violence awareness month; to kick off the month, advocates held a candlelight vigil at UW-La Crosse Tuesday evening.

The vigil was a time for supporters to gather and honor victims and survivors of domestic violence.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says La Crosse County had no domestic violence homicides in 2011 and 2012.

In Vernon County, Anita Satterlee, was killed in 2011.

Earlier this year, La Crosse lost a couple in a murder suicide.

They were among those remembered during the vigil.

New Horizons said we can help by knowing what healthy relationships are.

"If one partner has control over all the finances if you're isolated from family and friends," Ann Kappauf, Executive Director of New Horizons said. "If your partner is physically abusive to you you're in an abusive situation and seek help because we're concerned about your safety."

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin said domestic violence is a matter of life and death.  They hope their homicide report prompts people to become more active in an effort to prevent abuse.

"Over the last two years, we have seen so many tragedies," Patti Seger, Executive Director, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin said. "Some made national headlines, others received scant attention. We hope every story now compels us to do better as a state and nation."Studies have shown the vast majority of domestic violence homicide victims never sought help from a domestic abuse shelter or service provider."We want every victim who is currently in danger to know that help is available," Seger said. "You are not alone, and you don't have to live in fear forever. Services are available throughout Wisconsin, which truly save lives."Other data from the report includes:

  • Perpetrators of domestic violence homicides were overwhelmingly male. In 2011, 72% of perpetrators were male. In 2012, 86% of perpetrators were male.
  • In 2012, a relatively high number of children were killed by their fathers or other adult male household member. This category accounts for close to one quarter of all domestic violence homicide victims in 2012.
  • In 2012, about half of the homicides that were related to intimate partner violence occurred after the relationship ended or when one person was trying to leave the relationship. This fact demonstrates the separation is often the most dangerous time for a victim.
  • Victims in the report reflected the span of life, from less than one-year-old to 84 years old.
  • In 2011, homicides occurred in 12 separate counties. 21 counties are represented in the 2012 homicide listing.

The full report is available online at: http://wcadv.org/sites/default/files/2011.2012HR.pdf

Steffani Nolte

WXOW 19

 

Wednesday 10/02/2013

Azana Salon and Spa shooter Radcliffe Haughton was among four Wisconsin men who were prohibited from possessing guns, yet used them to kill their wives or girlfriends in 2012, according to a new report from End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

Since 2000, there have been 499 domestic violence homicides in the state. At least 53 of the victims were killed by a domestic abuser with an illegal gun, according to the advocacy group. Another 189 were killed with legal guns.

One of the most recent was Zoey Krueger, 22, fatally shot by her boyfriend Nov. 5 at a motel in Jefferson. Carl Avery, 25, had been charged with trying to strangle Krueger less than a year before he killed her. Another woman had a restraining order against him, which made it illegal for him to have a gun.

Inquisitive and strong-willed, Krueger was a social butterfly who lit up a room, according to her mother, Teresa Coy. Krueger also didn't like to give up on people. If she saw something good in them, she was willing to stick with them for the long haul.

Krueger had been seeing Avery for just over a year. The morning of her death, she had realized enough was enough and tried to leave, her mother said.

Krueger was the second woman in her family to die in a domestic violence incident, her mother said. Coy's cousin, Barbara Heine, was fatally shot by her boyfriend in 1998.

"One shove can lead to your life being taken," Coy said. "It's unfair to the victims. Zoey. My cousin. They had no choice."

In all, 52 people — 10 of them in Milwaukee County — died in 38 domestic violence incidents in the state last year, the report says. Four of those were perpetrator suicides.

The report, released Monday, also updates the 2011 numbers, which were released a year ago. According to the updated figures, 31 incidents resulted in 37 deaths, including three perpetrator suicides in 2011.

The advocacy group, formerly known as the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has tracked domestic violence deaths statewide for 12 years. During that time, the high was 67, in 2009.

In 2012, victims' ages ranged from less than 1 to 84 and included one baby born at five months gestation when her mother was choked and beaten, according to the report. They lived in 21 different counties. Also in 2012, 86% of perpetrators were male.

"These tragedies must call us to do better. Domestic violence homicides are preventable homicides, but too often abusers are not held accountable and are allowed to illegally possess guns to threaten, injure and sometimes kill their victims," said Patti Seger, executive director of End Abuse.

Although the right to bear arms is guaranteed under the Second Amendment, there are exceptions. Felons, people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence and people with domestic abuse restraining orders against them are barred from owning guns.

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 change that, setting up a process for allowing courts to verify whether people subject to domestic violence and child abuse restraining orders surrender their weapons.

But even if such a law already had been in place, it likely would not have prevented Haughton from killing his estranged wife and two of her co-workers at Azana and wounding four others before committing suicide.

That's because it is not against the law to sell a gun to someone who is the subject of a restraining order, and the bill does not change that.

When a restraining order was granted to Zina Haughton against her husband three days before the shooting at Azana, he did not have any guns. But within 48 hours of leaving court, he purchased one from an online dealer.

Officials at End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin would like to see universal background checks on gun sales, no matter how or where those sales occur.

"Requiring background checks on gun sales is a tangible policy that would make this report shorter in future years," the document says.

The report also points out two types of domestic violence homicides that seem to be increasing in prevalence: homicides in the workplace and homicides involving veterans.

In addition to the workplace deaths of Zina Haughton, Maelyn Lind and Cary Robuck at Azana, the report notes the death of Ann Schueller, 51, of Wausaukee, whose ex-boyfriend stalked and harassed her before fatally shooting her at the gas station where she worked. He was a convicted felon, which made it illegal for him to possess the rifle he used to kill her.

The third workplace incident resulted in the death of Wauwatosa police officer Jennifer Sebena, killed by her husband, Benjamin Sebena, while she was on duty.

Benjamin Sebena and Radcliffe Haughton also were among three veterans to commit domestic violence-related homicides in 2011 and 2012.

The third was James Cruckson, who fatally shot Fond du Lac police officer Craig Birkholz in 2011, according to the report. Cruckson's girlfriend drove to the police station and reported that he had sexually assaulted her. She told police her 6-year-old daughter was possibly still in the house. Three officers entered the house to try to rescue the girl. Cruckson shot one of them twice. Birkholz responded to a call for backup and also was hit twice, in areas not protected by his Kevlar vest. Cruckson later killed himself.

So far in 2013, three women have been killed by their intimate partners who were veterans, according to Tony Gibart, public policy and communications coordinator at End Abuse. One of them was Toni Voss, 27, who lived in Adams County with her boyfriend, Coleman Dybul, a Marine who reportedly was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder after serving several combat tours in Afghanistan.

On the night of March 2, Dybul woke up, heard a noise and thought he saw someone outside the couple's bedroom window. He screamed, and Voss also screamed, Dybul told police. He said he believed someone was choking Voss, so he picked up the loaded shotgun he kept next to the bed and fired. When he turned on the lights, he realized there was no intruder and he had shot Voss in the chest, Dybul told police. He has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide.

"The intersection of domestic violence and the military is a sensitive and timely subject," the report says. "... We do not suggest that veterans are generally more violent than civilians. ... Most men and women who serve in the military will never be violent when they return home. Yet, because domestic violence knows no bounds, any large segment of the population — like the veteran and military service personnel population — is necessarily going to include a percentage of batterers."

The Military Advocacy Program of the Battered Women's Justice Project has concluded there is no way to know whether serving in combat causes domestic violence, the report says. However, some research suggests that "certain aspects of military and combat experience may exacerbate the dynamics of domestic violence," according to the report. "Additionally, health conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which are seen among individuals who have been in combat, may independently explain some violent behavior."

Wednesday 10/02/2013

A new report says 52 people died as the result of domestic abuse in Wisconsin in 2012, including four perpetrators who took their own lives.

The analysis of from the advocacy group End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says that since 2000, there have been 499 domestic violence homicides in the state. At least 53 victims were killed by a domestic abuser with an illegal gun. Another 189 people were killed with legal guns.

 

End Domestic Abuse executive director Patti Seger said domestic violence homicides are preventable homicides, but too often abusers are not held accountable and are allowed to illegal possess guns.

End Domestic Abuse advocates for universal background checks on gun sales, no matter how or where those sales occur.

Associated Press

Wednesday 10/02/2013

Fifty-two people died in domestic violence-related murders and suicides in Wisconsin last year, an increase of 15 deaths over 2011.

A report from End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says that there were three domestic violence homicides per month in the state. As in past years most of the perpetrators of those murders were men and most of the victims were women. Fourteen of the victims were under the age of 18. One of the report's authors, Tony Gibart, says the most common weapon of choice remains the same: guns.

“Guns are the most common weapons in domestic violence homicides and continue to pose a significant risk to both victims and innocent bystanders when abusers are allowed to possess weapons illegally,” says Gibart.

The report also found an increase in the number of domestic violence incidents taking place in the victim's workplace, a place where the perpetrator can often most easily find the victim. Gibart says his organization is also increasingly concerned about domestic violence in the families of military veterans. Veterans were involved in three of the 2012 homicides.

“There appears to be a complex relationship between trauma that one might experience in combat and domestic violence here at home,” says Gibart.

Gibart says this year his group is also calling on police and prosecutors to work harder to convince victims of domestic violence to testify in court against their abusers and to hold abusers more accountable when they violate restraining orders. He says convincing victims that the legal system will protect them can go a long way towards preventing domestic violence homicides.

Friday 09/27/2013

n response to a Waukesha woman’s killing by her abuser, a Wisconsin legislator plans to introduce a bill to prevent domestic violence offenders from owning guns while under a restraining order.

Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, plans to introduce legislation this fall to force offenders under restraining orders related to domestic or child abuse to give up their firearms within 48 hours of the court’s issuance.

Bies said the bill would institute a specific protocol for gun surrenders and is a reasonable and proven way to protect against domestic violence homicides.

A Waukesha woman’s death at the hands of her boyfriend, who possessed a gun while under a restraining order for domestic abuse, motivated him to introduce the bill, Bies added.

Tony Gibart, public policy coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, said his organization supports the bill because it would help domestic abuse victims.

“This bill will give victims the peace of mind that their safety is being taken seriously,” he said.

Current law states the domestic violence offender is required to surrender any and all firearms when a judge issues a restraining order for domestic or child abuse, but little follow up is done by law enforcement or the courts after the ruling, Bies said.

“Wisconsin needs to close this gap in our laws and provide a better opportunity to prevent the next domestic violence tragedy,” he said.

He added he wants to make sure police and court procedures are strengthened under this law. A survey conducted by sheriff departments statewide found 70 percent of counties did not follow up to ensure offenders did not possess weapons in compliance with their restraining order.

Four counties participated in pilot programs that consistently used the court procedures to follow up with abusers, Bies said.

“[County residents] said the procedures made them feel safer, gave them peace of mind and enhanced their actual safety,” Bies said.

Gibart said the bill is a simple way to reinforce the purpose and intent of a restraining order.

“It really takes a basic step to what needs to be done around firearm surrender,” Gibart said. “It makes [the restraining order] more than a piece of paper.”

Jeff Nass, president for Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs, and Educators, Inc., an organization charted by the National Rifle Association, said he believes the bill has “a lot of gray area” on the procedure in which law enforcement and courts would follow up with abusers.

Since the state does not require registration of guns, obtaining all the offender’s firearms could be more difficult, Nass said.

“If the offender has more guns than they say, how do you prove it?” Nass said.

He said this bill could also harm innocent victims because if an offender ever filed a restraining order against the victim, victims would be left unarmed and less able to defend themselves.

The bill will be introduced to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice. It is currently being circulated for co-sponsors.

Bies said the bill has gained support from both sides of the aisle and he hopes the bill will reach an Assembly vote by the end of this year.

 

Thursday 09/26/2013

APPLETON — A bill circulated in Madison this week adds an enforcement element to firearm surrenders and has the support of Fox Valley law enforcement and domestic abuse advocates.

Door County Republican Garey Bies is gathering sponsors for the bill that calls for courts to directly ask about firearm ownership and verify guns are turned over to sheriffs or a qualified third party within 48 hours after a restraining order is issued. A vast majority of Wisconsin counties, 70 percent, rely on the honor system for the surrender.

A nearly identical bill failed in 2010 after introduction by Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton. The effort to reintroduce the bill has been elevated after a series of Wisconsin spousal shootings in which victims had just months earlier obtained restraining orders. It was also the subject of a February report by the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team.

“I’m hopeful that attitudes have changed, but am not entirely confident,” Bernard Schaber, now a cosponsor, said. “The National Rifle Association will say this is a bad thing and it’s our job to tell them no it’s not and tell them why.”

The previous effort received opposition from the National Rifle Association, Wisconsin Firearm Owners and Wisconsin Gun Owners. A state NRA lobbyist was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, the bill had eight cosponsors in both the state Assembly and Senate, but did not have a companion bill in the Senate.

Efforts to follow-up with protection order subjects have been successful in the Fox Valley.

In 2011, the state’s Office of Justice Assistance spent $150,000 on a study in Outagamie, Winnebago, Sauk and Waushara counties to examine new ways of enforcing the law.

Though a court commissioner orders the surrender of weapons, the process of locating and making sure the weapon is turned over to the sheriff or responsible third party had been lacking. Results from the study were clear: Active enforcement meant guns were no longer in the hands of violent abusers, and the extra step was accomplished without extra labor costs.

During the yearlong study in Outagamie County, 66 guns were ordered to be turned over as a result of 109 protection orders. In Winnebago County, 74 guns were ordered surrendered from 79 protection orders in 15 months.

Last year, Outagamie County issued 82 protection orders with firearm surrender requirements.

Appleton Police Chief Pete Helein rarely wades into law enforcement politics, but has been outspoken in his support for the measure that is already followed in the Fox Valley.

“When guns are in homes where domestic violence is occurring there is a direct correlation with the potential for a fatality of victims or our officers,” Helein said. “Since the county was a test site for the procedures we saw firsthand how it can help keep guns out of the hands of those who would act violently.”

Wendy Gehl, a legal advocate for Harbor House Domestic Abuse Program, said the bill simply enforces a law that’s already on the books.

“It’s one thing to listen to a court order about guns and we’ve found it’s quite another to physically relinquish that gun,” Gehl said. “This isn’t about taking away rights or stopping someone from hunting, this is about people that have already lost their firearm privileges because of their violent behavior.”

The bill also has the backing of End Abuse Wisconsin, a group that tracks domestic abuse violence. Its research suggests that guns were used in nearly half of all domestic abuse homicides for the last decade, more than any other weapon or method of killing.

Nationwide, domestic-related assaults involving firearms are 12 times more likely to result in deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This accountability is an important message to victim and perpetrator that victim safety is taken seriously,” said Tony Gibart, policy coordinator for End Abuse Wisconsin. “The gun lobby says it doesn’t want new restrictions in favor of enforcing the ones we have, and that’s what this bill does. Opposition would seem hypocritical.”

— Nick Penzenstadler: 920-996-7226, or npenzenstadler@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @npenzenstadler

Appleton Post-Crescent Media

Tuesday 09/24/2013

In many Wisconsin counties, judges don't know if domestic abusers own firearms — even though a state law makes it illegal for them to do so. 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.

That could soon change under a bipartisan bill that would set up a process for allowing courts to verify whether people subject to domestic violence and child abuse restraining orders surrender their weapons. The bill, which author Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) began circulating for co-sponsors Monday, also has the support of the judiciary.

Bies expects the bill will get a speedy hearing and a vote in the state Assembly by the end of the year.

"When people are in a situation where they are supposed to turn their guns in, we will make sure it's done," said Bies, former chief deputy sheriff in Door County. "That way, if something arises, they won't have easy access to a weapon. They will have to work harder to find one, and maybe by then they will have calmed down a little bit. That's the goal: To take away the heat-of-passion type situations."

Under the bill:

· People who are served with temporary restraining orders must be notified that they cannot possess firearms and that they are required to surrender their guns.

· If a judge grants a permanent injunction, the perpetrator must fill out a questionnaire listing the make, model and serial number of any guns owned. The perpetrator would be required to testify to its accuracy under oath. Lying would constitute the crime of perjury.

· If the perpetrator does not attend the hearing at which a permanent injunction is granted, the victim must be allowed to notify the judge about any guns the abuser may have.

· If the guns have not been surrendered within 48 hours, the perpetrator must attend another hearing, scheduled within a week of the order becoming permanent. There, the abuser must prove the guns have been turned over to law enforcement or to a third party approved by the court. Failure to attend the hearing and failure to give up guns both would be considered contempt of court and result in arrest.

Teri Jendusa-Nicolai, a domestic violence victim-turned-advocate who was kidnapped, beaten and left for dead in a storage shed by her former husband in 2004, said she is glad victims as well as perpetrators will be able to inform the court about guns.

"You and I both know that criminals are not going to come forward and be honest. If criminals were honest there would be no criminals," she said.

She hopes the new law will discourage abusers from escalating their behavior by holding them accountable if they do lie. Jendusa-Nicolai obtained restraining orders against her ex-husband, David Larsen, before she was kidnapped.

A judged ordered him to turn over his weapons, but he did not, she said. She told police he kept two guns in a closet in his house, but officers were powerless to seize them, she said. During the kidnapping, he threatened her with one of the weapons, she said.

Larsen was later convicted of state and federal felonies and sentenced to life in prison.

"Anything that can allow these perpetrators to be held responsible or be penalized is a step in the right direction," Jendusa-Nicolai said. "The more they get away with, the more they're going to do. That's what happened in my case. If there's more accountability, that is going to lessen the amount of crimes."

A shooting at the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield in October has made reforming domestic violence laws a priority for state legislators in both chambers and both parties this session. But it likely would not have prevented Radcliffe Haughton from killing his estranged wife, Zina, and two of her co-workers at Azana and wounding four others before committing suicide.

That's because nothing in the bill makes it illegal to sell a gun to someone who is the subject of a restraining order.

When a Milwaukee County court commissioner granted a restraining order against Radcliffe Haughton three days before the shooting, he did not have any guns. But within 48 hours of leaving court, he purchased one from an online dealer, meeting the man in a McDonald's parking lot to pick up the weapon.

A similar bill was proposed several years ago, but judges were concerned that it would be unworkable because the court system already is overburdened, said Jeffrey Kremers, chief judge of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. A four-county pilot program began in 2010 to study the issue before moving ahead.

At that time, 70% of Wisconsin counties did not automatically check if abusers turned in their guns.

Four counties initially received grants from the state's Office of Justice Assistance to implement the pilot program: Outagamie, Sauk, Waushara and Winnebago. Milwaukee County put a similar policy in place effective April 1.

Steven G. Brandl, as associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, evaluated the four-county pilot and found it to be effective.

There was very little cost involved in implementing the new procedures, and they did not significantly add to court overcrowding because most perpetrators handed over their guns without a second hearing, Brandl's report says.

"Victim advocates in each of the counties were also very supportive ... and, based on comments received from victims, thought that the new procedures made victims feel safer, gave them peace of mind, and enhanced their actual safety," the report says.

During the time period Brandl studied, from February 2011 through February 2012, courts in the four counties granted 212 domestic abuse and child abuse injunctions. The perpetrator owned a gun in 41 cases, according to either the perpetrator or the victim. Those guns were turned over in 33 cases.

After the chief judges read Brandl's report, they unanimously recommended that every county in the state adopt procedures for firearms surrender, Kremers said.

Because each county is different, court officials in each jurisdiction need to be able to come up with their own specific procedures, he said.

In Milwaukee County, the new policy for firearms surrender has added to the workload of clerks, judges, commissioners and other court staff, but implementation is going relatively smoothly, Kremers said.

"Do I think we're getting every single firearm out there or that a respondent might have access to?" Kremers asked. "I'm convinced that we're not. But we're doing the best we can within the rules of the law."

Police still need a warrant to search someone's house for a gun, Kremers said.

"The problem is a lot of times it comes down to petitioner saying there is a gun and there is no evidence of it," he said. "There's a hearing and he denies he has a gun and so now what? You can't go searching every house because somebody thinks there's a gun."

One possible fix to reduce the number of perpetrators who lie is used in Sauk County: When deputies there serve someone with a temporary restraining order, they immediately ask about guns and make a list. They do this before informing the person that a restraining order prohibits gun possession.

"This notification and inquiry by the sheriff's department may be done with such little warning that the respondent may not be prepared to be deceptive in their response," Brandl wrote.

Another possible flaw in the bill is that it would continue to offer perpetrators the choice of surrendering guns either to law enforcement or to a third party, such as a relative or friend.

"At the very least, it is probably fair to say that a respondent's access to his firearms is easier (less secure) if surrendered to a friend or relative than if the firearm is surrendered to a law enforcement agency," Brandl wrote.

Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, formerly the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, called the bill "common-sense homicide prevention legislation."

"In many Wisconsin counties only minimal steps — if any — are taken to ensure violent abusers follow the law and turn over their guns," she said. "When domestic violence victims come forward, they show tremendous courage, and they deserve a system that takes their safety seriously."

 by Gina Barton

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

 

Monday 09/09/2013

A proposed change in state law will make it easier for domestic abuse victims to protect themselves from abusers who live in other states.

Backers say the bill is needed to protect victims from the increasing use of social media by domestic violence perpetrators.

Wisconsin is one of only a few states that requires people filing a restraining order to show that the person they are filing it against lives in Wisconsin. The new bill would allow victims who may have fled an abuser in another state to file a restraining order from Wisconsin if the out-of-state abuser is still harassing or threatening them online, by telephone, or through the mail.

Ashley Welak, a legal advocate for People Against a Violent Environment, remembers a client who said she felt like she was “living a nightmare” because of the online harassment she endured. After she fled her abuser from Las Vegas, he began posting fake pictures of her on social media.

“She almost lost her job because of the kinds of things he was putting on there – pictures of her with barely any clothes on,” says Welak. “He also made an advertisement on Craigslist [of her] as an adult entertainment escort.”

Only because her abuser had family in Wisconsin was she able to file a restraining order. Others victims whose abusers don't have relatives in the state are often forced to return to the state where their abuser lives to file the restraining order.

Tony Gibhart of the group End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says Wisconsin's current restraining order laws are outdated.

“They weren't written when anyone knew what a text message was or anyone knew what Facebook was,” he says. “They're not really reflective of … the kinds of abuse we’re seeing in an increasingly technological environment.”

Gibhart says out-of-state restraining orders have proved effective in preventing such abuse in other states.

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Friday 09/06/2013

People who hide relatives on the run from the law or destroy evidence to protect them would face prosecution, under a bill scheduled for a hearing Thursday in Madison.

The measure, spearheaded for a dozen years by a woman whose grandson was killed in Oak Creek, has been introduced repeatedly in the Legislature but has not passed.

Shirley George, whose grandson Joey was murdered outside a bar in Oak Creek in 2000 after he was mistaken for another man, hopes this time is different.

"I am very excited about it (the hearing)," said George, who lives in the Waupaca area and calls the measure "Joey's Law." "I hope it comes to fruition."

Current Wisconsin law exempts the suspect's spouse, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters from prosecution if they harbor the felon or hide, destroy or place false evidence.

About a dozen other states have exceptions for family members harboring relatives, but Wisconsin law exempts more relatives and permits them to do more to thwart law enforcement without fear of prosecution.

The Journal Sentinel documented several examples in which homicide suspects were helped by family members — one finding of an investigation that uncovered how offenders escape punishment because of shortcomings in the system.

The current version of the bill is sponsored by Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) with nine co-sponsors in the Senate and Assembly. The bill has been introduced in the Senate and the Assembly.

The Senate's Committee on Transportation, Public Safety, and Veterans and Military Affairs is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the bill, according to staffers from the offices of Olsen and Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), chairman of the committee.

The bill would make it a class G felony — and with it up to 10 years in prison — to hide someone wanted for the most serious felonies. The bill would mean up to 31/2 years in prison for harboring a felon in less serious crimes.

An expected amendment to the bill would provide protection for domestic violence victims. Language protecting such victims became a sticking point in the 2012 version of the bill.

As that bill was originally written, a domestic violence victim could not be charged with aiding a fugitive if the fugitive earlier had been convicted of domestic violence.

Domestic violence victim advocates wanted to go further, allowing people who claimed to be victims to use that as a defense against a charge they helped the fugitive. Prosecutors said no exception for domestic violence was needed, asking that they have discretion on whether to charge someone in such a case.

Tony Gibart, spokesman for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, formerly known as Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said this week the organization wants people who willingly help felons to be held accountable, but the bill needs to be carefully crafted.

"We believe the Legislature can accomplish this important goal, while still protecting domestic violence victims who, out of fear for their or children's safety, are coerced into helping abusers," he said.

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams said an exception for domestic violence victims or potential victims could create a loophole. He said the law could be crafted so being a domestic violence victim could be a defense against prosecution, but requiring the prosecution to prove someone was not a victim would make applying the law impracticable.

"Last time, it watered it down a lot," Williams, a longtime homicide prosecutor, said of the previous domestic violence amendment. "Someone could claim they were a victim of domestic violence because they were hiding a murderer or hiding evidence and we would have to disprove that. Anyone could claim that."

Friday 08/30/2013

His first wife flung a chair at him, breaking a window. In return, CJ Doxtater straddled and punched her.

It was only when his second wife left him that Doxtater, an Oneida tribal member, began his long journey from an addict and abuser to an advocate fighting the kind of violence that plagued his own marriages.

Now an outreach coordinator for Madison-based End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, formerly the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Doxtater can see how he used physical violence to reinforce the emotional and psychological abuse he also heaped on his first two wives. He says he believed at the time that "violence was a tool that was okay for men to use -- to keep our women in line."

Native American women are more than twice as likely as African American or white women to experience sexual assault and domestic violence, according to studies (PDF) from the U.S. Department of Justice. One in three Native American women are raped in their lifetime.

Such crimes against Native women are often committed by non-Native perpetrators. Historically many of these assaults were not prosecuted because women did not come forward and because tribes did not have the legal authority to pursue charges. For these and other reasons, advocates turned their sights to the Violence Against Women Act to address violence within tribal communities and were relieved earlier this year when Congress finally signed off on its reauthorization.

"[This law is] relevant to my past, to how I got here, to my foundation," says Doxtater, who credits Alcoholics Anonymous, a tribal mentor and a men's support group for helping him change his violent ways. "But it's also relevant in my family, where I see domestic violence still happens, within our tribe. There's still a high rate. There's a lot of pain there."

'A safety and sovereignty issue'

The reauthorized act, which became law in March, provides funding and support for victims of stalking, rape and domestic violence and helps hold perpetrators responsible. Particularly important to the Native American community, it contains a new provision allowing tribes to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit a crime on a reservation. In Wisconsin, the state is responsible for prosecuting crimes -- including cases of sexual assault and abuse -- on most reservations.

While only one of the 11 tribes in Wisconsin, the Menominee Nation, has the criminal jurisdiction and law enforcement structures to use the new provision, it has inspired hope and set the stage for other tribes to develop them as well.

"Tribal advocates, Native American men and women, certainly understood this as a safety issue and a sovereignty issue and were united behind it," says Tony Gibart, policy development coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, who lobbied for the bill in Washington, D.C., along with executive director Patti Segar.

"It's important to have that ability to protect your citizens," adds Martina Gauthier, a lower court tribal judge for the Menominee Nation.

Gauthier says it would take a couple of years to put the needed structures in place, and each tribe, as an independent nation, will choose if and when to do so.

The 2010 federal Tribal Law and Order Act offers some support for this and also increases coordination between tribes and federal, state and local law enforcement. Some individuals still fall through the gaps of tribal and non-tribal law enforcement, says Pam Johnson, a member of Lac Courte Oreilles and executive director of American Indians Against Abuse in Hayward, Wis.

"You may [reach a tribal officer] who's two weeks out of basic training for law enforcement, where they may say, 'call the county,'" says Johnson. "The county [says]...'you need to call the tribes.' Someone in need will hear from both sides, 'call the other.'"

Cultural values

Doxtater's first wife died of a congenital heart defect and his second left him for a shelter. He was never prosecuted for his abuse.

He says that was before the 1989 mandatory arrest law, which now requires law enforcement to intervene and arrest the aggressors in abusive situations.

"The attitude [before the mandatory arrest law] was that these kinds of incidences belong in the home," says Doxtater, adding that it was part of a philosophy to "not air dirty laundry outside the home."

Now nearly all Wisconsin tribes operate a civil justice system where such things as restraining orders can be authorized.

While tribes move to build these law enforcement systems, Doxtater is pursuing a different approach with End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

"I would like to affect cultural value systems. For me, that goes beyond a legal infrastructure," he says. "It goes to the core of our society. With effective value systems and accountability in place, I think domestic violence, sexual assault don't have anything to survive on."

Doxtater and a coworker have been facilitating leadership institutes for underserved populations, training Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanics to become advocates who address domestic violence and sexual assault in their communities.

Doxtater says they discuss historical trauma, oppression and abuse and how these intersect with domestic violence.

"Each individual will choose where they'll need to grow, and we'll provide that," says Doxtater. "Our hope is that it coincides with our understanding and helps build a shared language and through that, shared goals to effect change."

He has begun working with tribes to improve how they collect and share data to better serve victims. Each tribe currently has its own program, and data sharing might promote continuity of services across tribes.

One other program Doxtater is excited about is a trauma-informed care initiative that connects victims with mental health support and other care providers.

Doxtater's work mirrors the change he made in his own life. Twenty years after his second wife left him, Doxtater married again. He calls his current relationship "my first human marriage."

And he sees progress in the Native American community as well.

"Things are getting better," says Doxtater. "At times it doesn't seem like it, but the hope is alive."

Nora G Hertel

Isthmus 08/29/13

Monday 08/26/2013

Domestic violence victims in Milwaukee faced the risk of eviction if they called police because of a city ordinance that counted the calls as a "nuisance," according to a study.

The city's ordinance says that if police receive three or more calls in a month, the property may be declared a nuisance and the landlord could be charged for police service. At the prodding of police, landlords most often have resorted to evictions in such situations, according to the study by a professor from Harvard University.

To ward off having their property branded a nuisance, landlords have discouraged domestic violence victims from calling police, posting signs and even suggesting extreme measures, according to the study.

"She has been beaten by her 'man' who kicks in doors and goes to jail for one or two days," one unnamed landlord wrote in a letter to police, cited in the study. "We suggested she obtain a gun and kill him in self-defense but evidently she hasn't. Therefore we are evicting her."

The study also found that the nuisance letters and citations were disproportionately issued in Milwaukee's black neighborhoods.

The study, published earlier this year, was based on data from 2008 and 2009. Since then, Wisconsin law and the city's ordinance have been changed so domestic violence calls, along with stalking and sexual assault, cannot be considered a nuisance.

Local victim advocates and the study's author applauded the change but said the problem of domestic violence victims losing housing because of the actions of their abusers persists.

"A lot of clients don't know about the exemption and don't always feel at liberty to talk about it, and the cycle of violence continues," said Carmen Pitre, executive director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee. "This is another layer of being held liable for what is happening in their relationship."

The study's lead author, Matthew Desmond, noted there are other calls to police that still count under the nuisance ordinance that could be domestic violence.

Other categories, too

"It is a step in the right direction. ... I don't think we can assume that fixes everything," Desmond, an assistant professor of sociology at Harvard, said of the law changes. "DV hides behind a lot of categories — 911 abuse, subject with weapon, noise. It's not always called 'domestic violence.'"

The study is critical of landlords but also police, saying that officers are essentially off-loading their responsibilities on landlords.

Evicting tenants is far from easy, said Tristan Pettit, a lawyer who represents landlords in eviction actions and writes a blog on landlord issues. He also said the landlord has to consider the risk to other tenants when abuse is happening.

"The landlord knows he has a volatile situation and needs to protect his other tenants, too. They are stuck," Pettit said. "Whether DV is in there or not, my clients have the same problem. Police just push it off on landlords and have us do police work, and we are not the police."

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said Desmond's study sometimes fails to appreciate how officers use the ordinance to solve problems rather than to punish victims or pass off their responsibility onto landlords. The ordinance allows police to be proactive and see what is driving police calls at a certain problem property, rather than just reacting to it, he said.

"Nuisance abatement is a tool in the toolkit. It is a problem-solving technique to abate an ongoing condition," Flynn said. "The overarching goal is not, 'Can we get out of work?' It is, 'Can we solve the problem?'"

City's nuisance ordinance

Under Milwaukee's chronic nuisance premise ordinance, enacted in 2001, a property could be declared a nuisance if police are called to an address more than three times in a month for calls that fall under the ordinance.

Once that happens, a letter goes out to the landlord ordering him to take action. Desmond, with help from a student from Columbia University, examined about 500 letters from 2008 and 2009 and matched them with 911 police calls and demographic data.

The study found the top nuisances cited in those letters were "trouble with subject," "noise" and "domestic violence." And while domestic violence accounted for about 4% of calls to police from that period, it made up nearly 16% of nuisances cited in the letters, the study found.

The study's authors called the situation a "devil's bargain."

"The nuisance property ordinance has the effect of forcing abused women to choose between calling the police on their abusers (only to risk eviction) or staying in their apartments (only to risk more abuse)," the study said.

The study also found that actions under the ordinance were most likely in black neighborhoods. The highest rate was in integrated areas, suggesting minority groups within those integrated areas feel threatened and call police more often.

The study's authors interviewed landlords who received nuisance letters about their properties. The landlords said the only option police generally would accept to get rid of the nuisance was eviction. They discovered evidence of landlords discouraging tenants from using 911.

One landlord told police he sent a memo to tenants letting them know, "they cannot just dial 911 when they feel there may be an emergency. They must first make sure it is a real emergency."

Another landlord posted a sign telling tenants to call him, not police.

"Don't waste the Police Department's time with these frivolous calls or you will be the one who is evicted!!"

The comments illustrate the role that landlords can play in the lives of domestic violence victims, said Tony Gibart, spokesman for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

"A landlord who threatens eviction if his or her tenant calls police may be eliminating one of the few options the victim has to stay safe," Gibart said. "On the other hand, a landlord who helps a victim escape by changing the locks or allowing the victim to relocate to another apartment can be a part of the solution."

Change in law

A change in state law in 2009 protected domestic violence victims from being evicted because of the abuse. A second change would not allow leases that permit eviction because of crimes at the property, "even if the tenant could not reasonably have prevented the crime." Gibart said a bill currently before the Legislature would reverse that second measure.

It took Milwaukee until early 2011 to change its nuisance ordinance to exclude domestic violence, along with stalking and sexual assault.

However, Assistant City Attorney Robin Pederson, who handled the nuisance ordinance from 2009 until last year, said the office has long been aware to not count domestic violence incidents under the ordinance.

"When I came on, it already existed and we were already aware of it and we always trained our officers on that issue," Pederson said.

City Attorney Grant Langley did not return a call for comment last week.

District Attorney John Chisholm, whose office deals with the people causing the nuisance, said he would like to see deeper examination of the issue in light of the study.

"You would clearly not want to unintentionally create a disincentive to call police for DV," Chisholm said in an interview earlier this year.

Pitre said since 2007 her staff has been building better relationships with prosecutors, police and landlords in Milwaukee. And while there has been improvement, there is room for more, she said.

She would like to see an examination of how the nuisance ordinance has been enforced since domestic violence was exempted two years ago.

"There is an opportunity to ask ourselves, 'What is happening? Do we need to change to address that?' This is a good time to do it," she said.

 

Thursday 08/01/2013

 

DARLINGTON — Sharon Wand was described by her sister Wednesday as a simple-minded victim of domestic violence whose husband continues to control her from prison.

“Right now, she’s lost,” said Amy Peterson, the younger sister of Wand, 27, who wrote a letter to the Wisconsin State Journal recanting statements that her husband, Armin Wand III, and brother-in-law, Jeremy Wand, set the fire in early September that killed her three young boys and the fetus she was carrying.

Peterson said Wand, who was also badly burned in the fire and is still recovering from her injuries, wrote the letter after visiting her husband in prison about a month ago and then spending about a week living with her husband’s sister, Tammy Wand, in Argyle.

Peterson, who lives in Necedah and talks to her sister almost every day by phone, described her sister as gullible and easily susceptible to manipulation.

She said Sharon Wand told her she visited her husband in prison because she wanted closure. Instead, she said, Armin Wand was “lovey-dovey with her” and used the same controlling techniques he used during their marriage to convince her of his innocence.

“She wanted to believe he didn’t do it when she knows he did,” Peterson said.

Wand’s recantation of her story is not uncommon among victims of domestic violence, according to Tony Gibart, the policy coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

Domestic violence victims go through periods of denial to “escape the trauma they are experiencing and the nightmare they are living,” Gibart said. That also makes Wand more susceptible to manipulation from her husband or his family, Gibart said.

“There are complex and contradictory feelings in this situation that can be manipulated by allies of the abuser,” he added.

Wand briefly left the Lyghthouse, a 16-bed facility near Platteville that helps people with brain injuries and mental health and other behavior problems, to stay with Tammy Wand, Peterson said.

“She wasn’t taking her medicine and she wasn’t talking to her doctors,” Peterson said.

In addition to writing letters to media outlets, Wand wrote several profanity-laden passages in her Facebook page that said her husband and brother-in-law were innocent and proclaimed her love for her husband. She later deleted several of those passages, Peterson said.

Wand’s guardian, Geri McKeon, took her back to the Lyghthouse last week, shortly after Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department detectives inquired about Wand’s Facebook comments, Peterson said.

Wand’s recovery as a victim of domestic violence may take longer than her recovery from her burns, Gibart said. Victims like Wand, “need to be around people who are understanding and accepting, people that don’t belittle or patronize them.

“They need to rebuild that sense of control and empowerment that the abusers take from them, so that healing process will take many years,” he said.

from: Wisconsin State Journal

Tuesday 07/16/2013

A group that tracks domestic violence statistics in Wisconsin, and supports programs for victims, is changing its name.

Officials from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced yesterday that the group will now be End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Eleanor Anderson says groups like that make it easier to talk about a serious issue.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says Wisconsin had 464 reported domestic abuse-related homicides between 2000 and 2011.

From: WHBY

Tuesday 07/16/2013

The Violence Intervention Project has placed a lantern outside the main office at 1405 Division St. in Algoma to commemorate victims whom have lost their lives to domestic violence. This was inspired by the tragedy of two lives recently lost to domestic violence in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The lantern will be lit for a period of one week following each domestic violence related homicide that occurs throughout the state of Wisconsin. The Violence Intervention Project will utilize the lantern to create community awareness. Information will be available on Violence Intervention Project’s Facebook page.

A woman is beaten every nine seconds in the United States, and domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence collects data pertaining to domestic violence in Wisconsin, and they have reported 464 homicides from 2000 to 2011.

Forty people lost their lives to domestic violence in 2011 alone. Victims ranged in age from infancy to 82 years old. Domestic violence affects people from all religions, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, socioeconomic status and educational backgrounds.

No one is immune to domestic violence, as we have learned from the recent homicide of the interim director of the domestic violence agency in Marinette. Many people find themselves questioning how a domestic violence victim advocate could herself be a victim of domestic violence.

Domestic violence never happens because of something the victim did or didn’t do. Blaming the victim for the violence that was perpetrated against her takes away the responsibility of the offender. The question we should be asking is why do offenders abuse.

Domestic violence is more than a single act of violence; it is a cycle of abuse that repeats itself over a period of time. An abuser uses isolation, emotional abuse, threats, intimidation, economic abuse and children to gain control over their victim, making it increasingly difficult for a victim to end the relationship.

If you are being abused: remember that you are not alone, it is not your fault and help is available. If you are interested in speaking to an advocate or attending a support group, please call the Violence Intervention Project at (920) 487-2111 or our 24-hour Hotline at (920) 837-2424. All services are free and confidential. Find us on Facebook. Please help the Violence Intervention Project shed a light on domestic violence in Wisconsin.

From: Green Bay Press Gazette