Onondaga County, NY Pushes for Public Awareness to end Domestic Violence

Randi Bregman, Executive Director of Vera House in Syracuse, gives the organization’s annual Report to the Community Wednesday ELLEN ABBOTT / WRVO NEWS

The contagious myth that domestic violence takes place in private and should accordingly be kept from public consciousness has infected many communities throughout the U.S. Onondaga County in New York, however, believes they have found the perfect antidote to ending the epidemic of public ignorance on issues of domestic violence: transparency.

Each year, Vera House, a domestic and sexual violence service agency based in Syracuse, publishes an Annual Community Report. In an interview with The Daily Orange, Randi Bregman, executive director of Vera House, emphasized the importance of public knowledge of domestic violence in every community.

“Every incident of domestic and sexual violence is, in fact, a public issue,” said Bregman. “Having a public opportunity to talk about the impact, to let the survivors’ stories be heard, is essential.”

The 2016 report published by Vera House for Onondaga County showed a significant improvement in law enforcement’s supervision of domestic violence offenders since beginning their mission to end public ignorance. In 2015, Onondaga County’s Department of Probation supervised 220 offenders. The very next year, almost one thousand offenders were under direct supervision and over one thousand were issued temporary orders of protection by the Onondaga County Family Court, a critical increase from only 959 the year before.

Below, Figure 1 shows the remaining data Vera House acquired from law enforcement crime reports for the 2016 year. The data shows that out of 10,963 total calls of reported domestic violence disputes, 6,696 were answered by the authorities.

Figure 1

The Vera House report does not account for homicides that occur as a result of domestic dispute. William Fitzpatrick, an Onondaga County district attorney and director of the Victim Assistance Program (VAP), stated that one out of every four homicides in Onondaga County is directly related to domestic violence. Syracuse, the largest community in the county with a population of 140,000, had a total of 31 homicides in 2016, six of which were directly linked to domestic violence; several are still under investigation.

Elevating public knowledge about the ravages of domestic violence is part of the mission of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). NCADV’s report showed that, of all intimate partner homicides, 20% of victims were not the intimate partner of the offender, but close family, friends, neighbors, law enforcement, or third-party bystanders.  These collateral damage statistics don’t often show up in the national numbers surrounding aggregate domestic violence homicides. 

In addition to the loss of life, NCADV’s National Statistics Domestic Violence Fact Sheet shows an undeviating correlation between domestic violence and economic defects in a community. About 20-60% of domestic violence victims lose their jobs as a result of their abuse. This accumulates to a total loss of eight million days of paid work per year or 32,000 full time jobs. It is estimated that this inability to work costs the U.S. economy between $5.8 billion and $12.6 billion annually.

The connections are clear: domestic violence may occur in private, unseen by much of the public eye, but it has an undeniable ripple effect across American communities. In addition to the economic and familial aftermath, local officials must strive to educate themselves on issues regarding domestic violence and contribute to the public’s understanding as often as possible. Similar to Big Mountain Data, organizations such as the Vera House work closely with law enforcement agencies across the nation to make this knowledge easily accessible to the public. 

 

New Jersey Hosts Symposium on Intimate Partner Innovation

Big Mountain Data is proud to announce:

21st Century Approaches to Ending Intimate Partner Violence

Monday, October 30, 2017

Wilson Hall Auditorium
9 a.m. – Check-in and coffee
9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Program (includes lunch)

Registration: Free

Register Online

It is estimated that one in four women and one in seven men aged 18 and older in the US have been the victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

In New Jersey, an act of domestic violence occurs every 7.29 minutes.

There are ongoing efforts in the state of New Jersey to bring innovative approaches to the problem of domestic violence and this program provides one additional opportunity for law enforcement and community members to hear about other approaches and to engage in dialogue.

The program will feature a documentary video about High Point, North Carolina along with a panel presentation that includes:

  • Shay Harger, Director of Victim Services at Family Service of the Piedmont
  • Chief Kenneth Shultz, chief of the High Point Police Department
  • Dr. Jessie Holton, Research Coordinator/Program Evaluator at Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, Titusville, FL
  • Amina Bey, Executive Director, Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center, Newark, NJ
  • Susan Levine, Victim Support Program Coordinator, 180 Turning Lives Around
  • Tom Parr, Monmouth University ’85 alum and documentary filmmaker
  • Igor Kovalik, Director, editor, entrepreneur
  • Susan Scrupski, Founder of Big Mountain Data

This program is sponsored by
The Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey
State of New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice
Office of the Monmouth County Prosecutor
The School of Social Work, Department of Criminal Justice, Monmouth University
and 180 Turning Lives Around

Presenters

Shay Harger

Shay Harger

Shay Harger is the Director of Victim Services at Family Service of the Piedmont in High Point and Greensboro, North Carolina. Shay has over 13 years of experience in victim services with an extensive background in providing direct services to both adult and child victims, victim services administration and providing professional training locally and nationwide. As Director of Victim Services, Shay oversees a staff of 50 which includes, a North Carolina accredited Batterers Intervention Program, two National Children’s Alliance accredited Children’s Advocacy Centers, two Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Shelters and two Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Programs.

Shay currently serves as a faculty member for the Domestic Violence Danger Assessment and Risk Management national training provided through Emerge, in Cambridge, MA. Shay also provides nationwide training for the High Point Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative, often referred to as “The High Point Model”. Shay is a member of the High Point Initiative Team that won the 2016 Center for Problem Oriented Policing Herman Goldstein Award.

 

Chief Kenneth J. Shultz

Chief Kenneth J. Shultz

Chief Kenneth J. Shultz has been a sworn officer with the High Point Police Department for over 28 years. After serving in multiple capacities throughout his tenure, he was selected as Chief in April of 2016. He now works to continue the innovative approaches that the High Point Police Department is known for as the Agency continues to specifically target violent crime and prioritize safety in High Point. As a law enforcement officer, Chief Shultz understands the vital role that partnerships and community support plays in the success of any of their efforts. As such, he prioritizes all cooperative endeavors and works to strengthen them whenever the chances arise so that together, they can more successfully address the challenges that are faced throughout the City.

Chief Shultz received a Bachelor’s Degree from Laurel University in Management and Ethics. He has also received professional training through the FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA. and the Senior Executives in State and Local Government course offered as part of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Executive Education Program in Boston.

Chief Shultz was born in High Point and grew up in Davidson County. After graduating from Ledford High School, he joined the Army Reserve and was a member of the 11th Special Forces Group (Airborne). While working at the police department, he completed a six year enlistment with the Army Reserves, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant (E-6).

 

Officer Jessie Holton

Dr. Jessie Holton

Dr. Jessie Holton has been a police officer and organizational sociologist with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office for the last 12 years. He has spent the majority of his law enforcement career in the Special Victim’s Unit and in Research & Development. While working as a full-time investigator he completed has Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees at the University of Central Florida. His research background includes implementing several innovative programs such as the SVU therapy dog program, the Interstate Human Trafficking Probe, the Domestic Violence Strangulation, Inmate Re-entry, PTSD in Law Enforcement, and several other nationally recognized programs. Additionally, he is responsible for creating a researcher-practitioner partnership called the L.E.A.D.E.R.S. initiative, or Law Enforcement Direct Engagement Research System. This partnership allows several research institutions to conduct studies within the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office to evaluate and improve police practices while also allowing graduate students to experience applied research methods. The results of Dr. Holton’s work have produced multiple presentations at both professional & academic conferences as well as publications in peer-review journals and invited-book chapters.

 

Susan Scrupski

Susan Scrupski

Susan Scrupski is a veteran technology executive and entrepreneur. From studying computer science, to the early days of the UNIX wars, to the blockbuster market for IT services, to the advent of the commercial Internet in the late 90s, Susan has always seen technology advancing a new way to work– a new way to connect and improve the world in which we live. She has been a serial entrepreneur identifying trends early and seizing first-mover advantage to create businesses that fill a new niche. Her businesses have ranged from traditional consulting advisory; in-depth research and analysis firms; large-scale communities of interest; redefining how advisory, project work, and leadership development is handled in the networked 21st century, to her current social impact startup that focuses on applying data-driven solutions to domestic violence: Big Mountain Data. With this new venture, Susan is applying her resources, her international network of career relationships, and her understanding of technology to identify and build data-driven solutions to impact domestic violence.

 

Tom Parr

Tom Parr

Tom Parr, a Monmouth graduate (class of 1985) is a film director and advertising creative director. His recent work for the Detroit Pistons won him 2 Emmy’s for directing. Tom, has deep advertising roots, having worked at Ammirati & Puris & BBDO (both in New York) and at McCann Erickson in Detroit. His portfolio includes work for Doritos, (Super Bowl) HotJobs.com, (Super Bowl) Visa, FedEx, Bumble Bee, Coca Cola, Cadillac and Buick, for whom he created the groundbreaking Tiger Trap multi-platform event. When Tom isn’t making film or taking photos he is painting or playing guitar. You can see some of his work at Exit98films.com.

 

Susan Levine

Susan Levine

Susan Levine, BA, is the Victim Support Program Coordinator at 180 Turning Lives Around (180) in Hazlet, New Jersey. She is responsible for the day-to-day supervision of the Domestic Violence Response Team program (DVRT) and the Sexual Violence Program, which includes the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). In addition to facilitating the mandated training for 180’s DVRT and SART volunteer victim advocates and direct services staff, she also conducts law enforcement in-service training at police departments in Monmouth County and at the Monmouth County Police Academy. Ms. Levine also presents lectures on the DVRT program and Alcohol/Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault to the New Jersey State Police trooper recruit classes.

In 2000, Ms. Levine began her work with 180 by providing direct service to victims of domestic violence as a volunteer DVRT Advocate/Team Leader. She is an original member of the Marlboro DVRT, a collaboration of 180 and the Marlboro Township Police Department. Ms. Levine has co-authored DVRT SOP revisions adopted by Monmouth County police departments, including the Mandatory Call-out Policy, which has been shared with law enforcement agencies throughout New Jersey.

Ms. Levine has conducted domestic violence and sexual violence training statewide for judges, court personal, prosecutors, command staff at US Army Fort Monmouth, and for military Sexual Assault Response advocates at US Naval Weapons Station Earle. In addition, she presents workshops for professionals offered at the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and to speaks to classes at Monmouth University and Brookdale Community College.

 

Igor Kovalik

Igor Kovalik

Igor Kovalik is a director/editor/entrepreneur. Most recently winning an Emmy Award with Tom Parr for their directing work for the Detroit Pistons’ 2015-2016 TV Campaign. The Campaign also received top honors winning the 2016 NBA Marketing Award as selected by the other teams.

Born in the former Czechoslovakia and raised in Toronto, Kovalik studied film at NYU and eventually settled in Los Angeles. In 1997 he opened up an editing company that eventually became Beast Editorial. Under Kovalik’s management it grew into one of the largest commercial editorial companies in the USA with offices in LA, New York, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta.

Since selling his interest in Beast to Deluxe Media, he’s focused primarily on content creation and documentary work. He has traveled around the world shooting and creating viral campaigns for Western Union, Princess Cruises, INTEL and the UN.

Along with his commercial clients, Kovalik has been active in the music video industry having worked with Pink, Shakira, REM, and The Black Eyed Peas among others. He has been collaborating with Linkin Park since 2007 and has had a hand in every music video they have created since.

Kovalik has worked on numerous feature length films including projects for Oprah Winfrey and Michael Mann. Kovalik has won numerous Clios, MTV Music Video Awards, Cannes Lions and an Emmy.

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Just like Politics, All Domestic Violence is Local

From L: David Barden, Attorney; Jim Verity, Former Orange Co. Sheriff Law Enforcement Officer; Carol Wick, Domestic Violence Expert; Dr. Lee Ross, UCF Assoc. Professor of Criminal Justice; Tom Gabor, Criminologist Christy Jordan, Mental Health Counselor.

Big Mountain Data was pleased to produce a local learning event for the League of Women Voters here in Seminole County.  The topic was, “Guns and Domestic Violence: a Deadly Combination.”  The event ran two hours and featured noted gun violence scholar, Dr. Thomas Gabor, as well as an expert panel including voices from law enforcement, victim services, and academia.  Nearly 100 Seminole County residents attended the two-hour event.

Key takeaways included a better understanding of how the danger increases exponentially when a domestic violence offender has access to a firearm, the gaps in the existing process regarding the surrender of firearms, how “murder-suicide” in the headlines is nearly always a euphemism for domestic violence homicide, and the role the community can play in increasing pressure on local leadership to identify and safeguard the population from dangerous, high-risk offenders.

“We need to focus on the volatility of the perpetrator rather than the vulnerability of the victim.” – Carol Wick, domestic violence expert.

Big Mountain Data Assembles Data Analysis Panel at #IACP2016

IACP2016Law enforcement is on the front lines of domestic violence.  Before we can implement policies and procedures to hold offenders accountable, we need to get an accurate portrayal of what is happening behind closed doors in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.

Domestic violence rears its ugly head every day where at least three people are murdered at the hands of someone they know intimately.  On average, across the U.S., domestic violence homicides constitute at least a third of all homicides every year. Moreover, it’s one of the most predictable homicides law enforcement must confront on an annual basis. Officers new to the force start to see the predictable patterns emerge soon after they begin their careers.  It’s for this reason, Big Mountain Data works with law enforcement to demonstrate how the data they have already in their RMS and CAD systems can reveal answers today.

Our longtime partner, SunGard Public Sector, invited us to orchestrate a panel at this year’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference to discuss how data analysis played a major role in the highly successful High Point Model, now recognized by the DOJ’s Office of Violence Against Women.

The workshop will be moderated by V.P. Kevin Lafeber, of SunGard Public Sector. Participating on the panel will be retired Chief Marty Sumner, who led the domestic violence initiative for High Point for the past 7 years, as well as the crime analysis team from High Point and SunGard PS that had to modify the RMS in order to effectively implement the ground-breaking tracking system.  Chief Ken Shultz will talk about future improvements and enhancements to the OFDVI strategy.

The IACP conference will be held October 15-18 in San Diego, CA. This session will fill up early, so be sure to reserve your spot.

session2

 

 

Two New Additions to the Big Mountain Data Advisory Board

In January of 2015, I was invited at the request of the High Point Police Department, to learn about the agency’s incredible work on domestic violence.  It was a full two-day workshop and law enforcement agencies from around the country attended.  Also present were representatives from The Battered Women’s Justice Project, the Department of Justice, John Jay College, and The Institute for Intergovernmental Research (IIR).

sandi

Sandi Murphy, Battered Women’s Justice Project, asking the tough questions about the High Point Model for domestic violence offender deterrence.

Sandra Tibbetts Murphy, BWJP

Before I got to the meeting, I met a woman in line at the car rental counter.  We exchanged jokes and pleasantries about the inefficiency (understatement) of the car-renting process.  When I got to the HPPD workshop, I spotted this same woman in our session!   That woman was Sandra Tibbetts Murphy.  She asked tough questions in our workshop, and I made a mental note to be sure to connect with her after the two-day training class was over.

Sandi is a world-class attorney who’s written extensively on scholarly and legislative aspects of domestic violence law.  Many times, I’ve reached out to her over this past year and asked her to clarify aspects of the law I didn’t fully comprehend.  She has always been patient and kind to give me her best insights on her interpretation of the law or the issue I was addressing.

Today, I’m proud to announce Sandi is joining our esteemed Board of Advisors.  She will now be able to engage with our extended team on our enterprise social network, and help guide and inform our understanding of the law.

Retired Chief Marty Sumner, HPPD

martyretirement

Chief Sumner’s May 2016 retirement party in High Point. A still from our film footage.

The second superstar joining our board is someone I’ve come to know and admire since our very inception.  In fact, it was his words spoken on national television in September 2014, that compelled me to jump out of my seat and demand to know more.  At the height of the Ray Rice saga, ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos ran an investigative segment on domestic violence.  I will never forget the words I heard that day:

“In the five years before we began this, we had 17 domestic-related violence homicides.  In the five years since, we’ve only had one.”  – Chief Marty Sumner,  September 2014.

Chief Sumner retired from his 31-year in law enforcement last May.  He has an unparalleled understanding of crime data, and especially domestic violence data. For the past 7 years, he led the initiative to apply focused deterrence to High Point’s domestic violence problem that was once over a third of the city’s homicides.  What has come to be known as the High Point Model has now been recognized by the DOJ’s Office of Violence Against Women, resulting in a $1.6M contract to the National Network for Safe Communities for replication and further evaluation.  The High Point story is the subject of our documentary. It was Chief Sumner who led the effort to perform a thorough analysis of the city’s domestic violence data, make necessary modifications to the law enforcement software, and implement a system of reporting and alerts that established the baseline that fueled the High Point Model’s success.

The addition of these two strong advocates for change have added a new layer of credibility and strength to our mission.

Leveling Up on the High Point Story

HP1079_coverReaders of this blog should know we’ve been working on a film since our inception.  The story, which we have been calling, Turning Point, is a documentary about a city in North Carolina that got serious about its domestic violence problem.  With documentaries, the power of the story sometimes reveals itself the further you get into the process.  This is exactly what happened with our film team. At some point last year, we all came to the same conclusion: This story is bigger than us. We knew we had a tiger by the tail that deserved a mass audience and higher production values.

Today, after a few months of deliberation and putting the pieces together, we’re announcing we’re partnering with a world class documentary filmmaker to produce the High Point story.  We’re starting over to create a feature film with an ambitious budget and with professionals who are expert filmmakers and storytellers. The amazing news is, we will continue to work on this project creatively. Our two directors will be filming and editing the story.  My role will be to continue to advise on the story, and pitch in on fund-raising.

Our partner is The Documentary Group.  The “Doc Group,” as its known in the film industry, is one of the leading documentary filmmakers in the world.  The company was founded in 2006 by core members of PJ Productions following the death of legendary broadcaster Peter Jennings.  The producers and directors were the team behind Jennings’ documentaries at ABC News.  We had our first meeting with the doc group in November, and decided to move forward together to tell this incredible story.  This week, the film team is back in High Point kicking off the first of many on-location shoots.

Our producer on the film, Tom Yellin, was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Cartel Land.  Cartel Land is a feature documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015.  It has since won a series of high profile industry recognition awards and accolades including the 2015 George Polk Award for Documentary Film.  Next Sunday, February 28, we hope you’ll tune in to the Oscars and wish Tom well.

The High Point story has the potential to make a difference in the field of domestic violence unlike nothing else we could have imagined when we started thinking about fresh, new ways to look at this age-old social problem that results in injuries, broken families, and deaths every day.  We hope you share in our excitement and anticipation for the completion of this game-changing story.

 

Connecticut Law Obfuscates Abuser Accountability

Thanks to a change in Connecticut law, law enforcement agencies in that state may not report the names and addresses of people accused of Top Secretdomestic violence crimes. Supporters of the new state law say the change guarantees confidentiality to domestic violence. In most cases, they say, releasing the name or address of the offender results in the release of the victim’s identity.

Here’s the key section of Public Act No. 15-211, Sec. 24, Section 54-86e: all names and addresses of victims of domestic violence remain confidential “and shall be disclosed only upon order of the Superior Court.”

Although the intention of the law is to prevent re-victimization, Big Mountain Data opposes the move. The law stands in direct opposition to our philosophy: Only by publicly identifying perpetrators and holding them accountable for their criminal actions can we end domestic violence. We support public access to the names of perpetrators as well as statistics about arrests, convictions and other details about domestic violence offenders.

After the policy became law in July, the police department in the town of Redding changed its official policy, apparently becoming the first agency in the state to do so. Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) told The Redding Pilot in November that she supported the Redding department’s move and hoped the decision would spur open discussion of the issue.

“I do support this policy because it offers confidentiality for the victim. We are, therefore, not outing the perpetrator, but from where I sit, offering confidentiality is the stronger [objective],” Jarmoc said in November.

The Connecticut law conflicts with another state law – one that requires identification of anyone who is arrested. Connecticut lawmakers got around this by approving legislation Oct. 1 that exempts law enforcement records from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act under eight circumstances. One is “if they were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime and disclosure would not be in the public interest because it would reveal … the name and address of the victim of sexual assault or risk of injury to a minor.”

Thomas A. Hennick, public education officer for the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, told The Easton Courier the dispute reveals “a conflict in interpretation,” adding, “there is no such thing as a secret arrest in Connecticut.”

We’ll keep an eye out to see how this issue evolves. It may take a legal challenge from a media outlet, relative or concerned citizen to push the issue into court. In the meantime, we respectfully disagree with CADV’s Jarmoc that the Connecticut law is a good thing. But we agree with her on this: Let’s debate this issue publicly.

 

Big Mountain Data to Participate in Police Data Initiative Data Dive

Last spring, the White House announced the Police Data Initiative (PDI).   When we saw the announcement, it immediately piqued our interest.  Big Mountain Data’s mission is predicated on openness and transparency with regard to the data that can be collected, analyzed, and reported on intimate partner violence.  Via our partner Socrata and our contacts at the Sunlight Foundation, we reached out to see if we could begin to form a community of interest for knowledge-sharing and best practices specific to intimate partner violence data within the PDI.

PDImap1-1024x687

We were thrilled to hear last summer that Orlando joined as the first city in the state of Florida to join the PDI.  Orlando has an excellent reputation for community engagement, a strong technology base, and a progressive law enforcement agency keen on innovation. Orlando Police Chief John Mina even attended a forum with President Obama in October to discuss criminal justice reform and specific ways data can be made available to the public.

As the Orlando Police Department (OPD) prepares to release data on the open portal, the agency has been exploring how featured areas of interest can be examined in a “data dive” forum that will bring together subject matter experts in the community, law enforcement, and city government.  Lucky for us, the first data dive effort to explore this new form of collaboration will be focused on domestic violence and sexual assault data.  The event is invitation-only, and we are pleased to be taking part in this exciting inaugural event.  Representatives from the state involved in advocacy work, as well as local advocates and data experts will be sharing their expertise along with local government officials and law enforcement.  The goal of this session is to bring people together to preview the datasets, provide feedback before final public release, and generally kickstart conversations on how increased transparency can help inform programs and introduce new approaches in the spirit of better protecting and serving the community.

The Director of Innovation for the City of Orlando, Matt Broffman is leading this effort on behalf of the city.  He’s done a terrific job of coordinating the stakeholders involved in the event, as well as setting expectations.  The event will take place on January 27th in the afternoon.  Big Mountain Data has provided input for suggested themes worthy of exploration by the participating teams and will be contributing the talents of Stacy Sechrist and John Weil from University of North Carolina – Greensboro who have worked together over three years analyzing a decade’s worth of domestic violence crime data.  We are very optimistic that this workshop will be an excellent catalyst to launch many conversations on the strategic use of police data to thwart violence against women in central Florida.  We are thrilled to be a part of this historic event.  If the workshop yields good results, this model could be replicated to other PDI sites.

 

NFL Fumbles Again  — This Time On Greg Hardy Case

Another pro football season, another horrific domestic violence case involving an NFL player.

Last year it was Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. This year it’s the aftermath of the Greg Hardy case.

According to a harrowing account by the sports news and commentary website Deadspin, Hardy’s then gNFL-Footballirlfriend, Nicole Holder ran from Hardy’s Charlotte, N.C., apartment in 2014 minutes after “he had, she said, thrown her against a tile bathtub wall, tossed her on a futon covered in assault rifles, and choked her until she told him to ‘kill me so I don’t have to.’”

When a police officer ordered her to stop and asked why she was crying, she gave this heartbreaking response: “It doesn’t matter. Nothing is going to happen to him anyways.” As Deadspin noted, she was, unfortunately, right:

Last year, Hardy was convicted of assault in a bench trial, but the charges were dismissed on appeal and, it was reported yesterday, expunged. He missed more than a season of football, but went on to sign with the Dallas Cowboys, for whom he’s become a bigger star than ever despite (or perhaps because of) a series of incidents ranging from making sexist comments in a press conference to going after a coach on the sidelines. Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ billionaire owner, calls him a “real leader” who has the respect of all his teammates and inspires America’s Team.

Once again, a professional athlete – a highly paid celebrity who makes his living from an arguably violent sport – was not held accountable for a vicious attack on his intimate partner. Accountability for the offender is key to our work at Big Mountain Data. If the big guys – celebrities, athletes, wealthy men, cops – aren’t held accountable, it’s unlikely that the Average Joe taking out his aggressions on the woman he supposedly loves will ever pay the price for his unacceptable behavior.

Holder accepted a settlement from Hardy, which means she’s no longer talking about the case. Still, the Hardy case echoes patterns we’ve heard before:

  •             The abuse escalated over time.
  •             Weapons were in the home where the abuse occurred.
  •             The victim underplayed the abuse, saying she “fell down the stairs.”
  •             The victim told police she had not reported previous abuse because she feared the perpetrator.
  •             The perpetrator claims HE is the victim, although photo evidence from the police clearly disputes that.
  •             On the opening day the trial, a judge threw out the case when the accuser stopped cooperating with prosecutors.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has faced criticism for signing and supporting Hardy. In response to Deadspin’s account of the Hardy case, SI.com’s Doug Farrar called on the NFL to take action on domestic violence. NFL leaders had seen the police photos of the Hardy case before Deadspin published them, he noted.

“The NFL needs to come out and say, ‘we have screwed this up royally,’” Farrar said. “The NFL has to do something real, not an empty statement from the leader, but something real.”

Here’s a thought: How about no longer enabling players who beat up women? Stop fumbling your response to domestic violence.

 

Who is Keeping Track of the Dead? This woman.

2015-11-19-1447944639-6154714-ChristineArmstrong.jpgEvery day, for the past fifteen years, Christine Armstrong sits at her computer and scans the overnight news stories for deaths related to domestic violence.  These days, she limits her research time to four hours a day. Well, she tries anyway.

Her quest began in 2000 when Armstrong had a personal brush with domestic violence and then helped a friend escape an extremely dangerous marriage.  At the time, she was living in New York City working in the television business. Her experience prompted her to learn everything she could about domestic violence.  After her research revealed how prevalent domestic violence homicides were around the country, she was surprised she wasn’t able to find any documentation other than a few hundred names on a national organization’s web site. Horrified, and knowing there there were many, many more victims as a result of her own investigation, she began searching them out and documenting them with calendars.

Today in 2015, she has honed a sophisticated practice of conducting news searches that scour the web using over 27 different keyword combinations that turn up homicide stories every day that the media doesn’t always correctly identify as domestic violence related.  This unfortunate practice of “missing” the domestic violence connection to homicides is one that has been well-documented in academic and journalism circles. According to researcher Lane Kirkland Gillespie, assistant professor in the department of criminal justice at Boise State University, “Recent studies find only about one-quarter to one-third of news stories utilize language that identifies the homicide as domestic violence; and a lesser amount, 10-15%, specifically discuss intimate partner homicide in the context of domestic violence as a broader social issue.” (See her academic paper on the subject.)

Soon after she began her record-keeping, Armstong started volunteering in the field educating others about domestic violence.  She kept up the chronicling of domestic violence homicides from 2001 to 2004.  In 2005, she relocated to Alabama and went to work for a local shelter where for the next seven years she would continue to research the stories, keep calendars, notebooks, and spreadsheets of data as part of her day job.  She eventually built a web site, 2015-11-18-1447864608-1178054-f.pngand launched a Facebook page where she could post daily stories for the public.  That Facebook page has grown to more than 28,000 fans with thousands of posts over the last few years.  She left the shelter in 2011, and two years ago she had to take the web site down, as it was difficult to justify the expense and time maintaining the platform.

Yet, her work has continued even though now she is employed outside the field.  Publishing at least a half dozen different news reports a day, she tracks it all: women, men, parents, grandparents, children, neighbors, co-workers, law enforcement officers, and any other bystanders impacted by these crimes.  On average, Armstrong is documenting approximately 1,800 names a year that have been directly touched by domestic violence homicides.  Her spreadsheets contain over 14,000 names.  She keeps a running list of missing and unsolved cases she’s turned up over the years.  The list includes more than 800 missing women where domestic violence is known or is believed to have been a factor in their disappearance. You can see their photos on her Facebook photo albums.

“I do this work because, to my knowledge, no one else is doing it and many of these victims aren’t even included in domestic violence statistics. A lot more people are dying from domestic violence crimes than most people realize. These are real people with lives. Their loved ones have been in touch with me and would like to see some good come from their loss.” – Christine Armstrong

As difficult as this work is, Armstrong perseveres.  What’s most alarming to her is how little things have changed over fifteen years.  She sees the same stories in 2015 she saw in 2001.  The stories reveal how common it is for a domestic violence homicide suspect to have several contacts with the police and the courts with little or no consequence.  She notes that with 18,000 separate police departments and justice systems in the country, progress is sketchy and piecemeal.  The quality of service a domestic violence victim receives largely depends on where they live, and sadly, the majority of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges don’t know how to recognize a domestic violence case when the clues are so obvious.  “Rarely does a day go by that I don’t see a story where some law enforcement officer, prosecutor or judge declined to intervene in a high risk case and now another person is dead,” she says.

Armstrong points out some of the worst to suffer are the thousands of children who have lost one or both parents to domestic violence.  Even worse, many have witnessed the violent deaths of one or both of their parents. Left orphaned, many end up in the custody of the state and in foster homes.

One trend Armstrong has observed is particularly troubling. Her data reveals there are more homicides stemming from dating relationships than married relationships in the past few years. Advocates have long been seeking equal protection in dating relationships, particularly as it relates to protection orders and removal of firearms. Progress has been slow, yet the body counts mount.

As a whole, Armstrong  feels we don’t seem to be learning much from our mistakes.  A lot of the change that does take place, seems to take a tragic death and a high profile lawsuit to make it happen. She’s disappointed and somewhat shocked in light of recent national media attention that there isn’t much unity in our national response to this chronic social epidemic. She says, “While response has improved in some of our communities, much work still needs to be done – an incredible amount of work.”

Armstrong is doing her part.