Even “Really Special People” Can Hurt Their Partners

The famous singer-songwriter Don McLean has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. Mclean, best known for his 1971 song Don McLean“American Pie,” made the plea in response to a Jan. 18 incident in which Camden, Maine, police responded to an early morning telephone call from McLean’s wife seeking help.

Patrisha McLean said that her husband has physically and verbally abused her for three decades and has “a violent temper,” according to the Rockland District Court order obtained by ABC News.

“For the first 10 years or so his rage was unfathomably deep and very scary,” she wrote in a statement attached to the protection order, ABC reported. “On Jan. 17, Don terrorized me for 4 hours until the 911 call that I think might have saved my life.”

During the incident, Patrisha wrote that her husband “pressed the palms of his hands against my temples and squeezed as though my head were in a vice.” She says that she has suffered from headaches since the incident.

She requested an order of protection. But the order was later dismissed, and the couple reported through their lawyer they had “agreed to go forward.”

McLean defended himself on Twitter. “This last year and especially now have been hard emotional times for my wife my children and me. What is occurring is the very painful breakdown of an almost 30 year relationship,” he tweeted. “Our hearts are broken and we must carry on. There are no winners or losers but I am not a villain.”

After McLean’s arrest became public, Francis Marion University in South Carolina canceled an April 2 fundraising gala and concert featuring the performer. American singer-songwriter Don McLean. “We support gender equity issues and all the provisions of Title IX,” a university official said in explaining the cancellation.

“The entire town was shocked” by McLean’s arrest, a town of Camden Select Board member told the Associated Press. “They are both really special people,” the local official said. “He’s done wonderful things for the community.”

It is shocking to learn these accusations about a singer many feel we know because his songs have been part of our life’s soundtrack. But here’s the thing – even “really special people” are capable of doing really bad things. The arrest of celebrities reminds us of that. In this case at least, unlike some we’ve cited involving domestic violence charges against NFL players, McLean’s alleged actions have cost him a concert. We’ll see if future gigs are canceled.

Of course, we don’t know all the details, and people are innocent until proven guilty. But Patrisha’s chilling words in her written statement ring true, and they suggest a pattern of abuse. If so, odds are that the Jan. 18 incident won’t be the last.

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.

 

Tennessee County Uses GPS Technology, But Skepticism Surrounds Effectiveness

OM210_Final-2Law enforcement officials in Grundy County, Tennessee, are using GPS tracking technology to hold domestic violence offenders accountable and keep victims safe.

The sheriff’s department uses the tracking device for anyone arrested for domestic violence and released on bond, WRCB-TV.com reported. The offender wears an ankle bracelet, and the victim will carry a GPS key fob. The sheriff’s office sends an alert if the offender gets too close to the victim.

“We don’t want the victims to be scared anymore,” Sheriff Clint Shrum told WRCB-TV. “We want them to know we have something in place to help them be protected.”

The county started using the technology April 1, and is currently using about a dozen monitoring devices from Tennessee Recovery & Monitoring. The device costs $13 a day to operate — and the offender must pay the bill.

About 40 cases of domestic violence have been reported in Grundy County in the last six months. According to the Grundy County sheriff, the number of inmates in the jail is the lowest it’s been since last September.

Offenders typically wear the monitoring device 60 to 90 days, or until their next court appearance, the outlet reported.

Although domestic violence advocates support the practice, some jurisdictions are skeptical about the effectiveness of electronic monitoring. Orange County, Florida, for example, ended the practice after the 2012 killing of a witness by a man who was supposed to be under home confinement with an ankle monitor, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Mayor Teresa Jacobs this week told the paper, “No reinstatement of these programs is being considered at this time.”

Frederick Lauten, chief judge for Orange and Osceola counties, told the Sentinel, “electronic monitoring sounds good in theory, but working out the logistical issues is very challenging.” It might “provide a false sense of security to victims,” he said. “But there’s little you can do to stop a person bent on harming someone else.”

It’s unclear if electronic monitoring reduces recidivism rates or prevents offender from committing another crime. Marc Renzema, founder of the Journal of Offender Monitoring, said interest has dropped as agencies learned of the cost and labor the system requires. “In the early days, the technology was way oversold, and judges — and even in some of the cases corrections staff — thought it could do stuff that it couldn’t do, he told the Sentinel.

New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry Bill Moves Forward

New Jersey is a step closer to creating the United States’ first statewide Internet registry for domestic violence offenders. The state’s Assembly Women and Children Committee June 18 approved New Jersey Assembly Bill A-2539, also known as Misty’s Law. The registry would be similar to the sex offender registry. Individuals would be able to research potential partners and learn about any history of domestic violence. It would also allow survivors of domestic violence to track their abuser’s location.

“A few clicks of the mouse could help prevent someone from falling into an abusive relationship,” Democratic Assemblywoman Carmelo G. Garcia said in a press release on PolitickerNJ.com. “This could prove an invaluable tool, especially given how hard it often is for victims to extricate themselves from this type of relationship.”

The law would allow any member of the public to view records that include: the defendant’s name and any aliases; any aggravated assault offense involving domestic violence for which the defendant was convicted; the date and location of disposition; a brief description of any such offense, a general description of the defendant’s modus operandi; the defendant’s age, race, sex, date of birth, height, weight, hair, eye color and any distinguishing scars or tattoos; a photograph of the defendant and the date on which the photograph was entered into the registry; the make, model, color, year and license plate number of any vehicle operated by the defendant; and the street address, zip code, municipality and county in which the defendant resides.

Misty Ramos

Misty Ramos was murdered by her boyfriend in 2012.

The bill is named after Misty Ramos. She was strangled to death in June 2012 by her former boyfriend, Noel Irizarry, at her home. Irizarry was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her death. Misty Ramos’ brother, Kell Ramos is president of  Domestic Violence Action Group USA, which supports the bill. After Izarry’s arrest, Ramos learned that his slain sister’s boyfriend spent 10 years in prison for slashing the throat of his ex-girlfriend, NJ.com reported. Ramos is a documentary maker working on a film about the issue.

The group will focus on men, Ramos told NJ.com. “We need men to be part of the solution,” Ramos told the news outlet. “Focusing on the woman is needed, but what happens to the next generation? The same cycle repeats itself. There’s going to be more men doing the same thing. How do you stop that? Other men have to hold men accountable to their actions.”

 

Mayweather Hype Highlights Lack Of Accountability For Abusers

Beyond the high-stakes hype for the recent Floyd Mayweather/ Manny Pacquiao boxing match, another conversation was taking place. If you watch the fight, wrote Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi, “You are putting money into the pocket of Mayweather — a man who is one of the most despicable domestic abusers in the history of sports.”

mMayweather’s record is well documented: He’s been accused of assaulting five women in at least seven different incidents. In 2012, Mayweather was sentenced to three months in jail for attacking his former girlfriend, ; two of their children witnessed the assault.

“He grabbed me by the hair and threw me on the ground and started punching me on my head with his fist and twisting my arm back and telling me he is going to kill me and the person that I am with,” she said in a police report USA Today published last year.

Mayweather denies he hurt Harris. Where’s the proof? he asks.

Before the Mayweather/Pacquiao match, Grantland published an artful piece that attempted to explain  Mayweather’s mix of athletic prowess and apparent violence against women. “The more I watched Mayweather fight, and the more I read about his allegedly violent acts outside the ring, the more I began to see it as all of one piece,” Louisa Thomas wrote. “The circus that follows him. The bag filled with cash and gambling slips. The entourage. The houses and the women installed in them, the diamond rings as collars. The way he takes the measure of a situation in the ring, determining when it’s safe to punch and when to duck.”

Ahead of the fight, advocates took to social media to point out the contradiction of Mayweather benefiting from the match. Hashtags #MoneyWhereMyMouthIs, #BoycottMayweather and #nomaypac and urged people to donate the $99.99 cost of the pay-per-view fight to an anti-domestic violence organization. (Mayweather took home $130 million for his victory.)

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported an 80 percent increase in the number of donations the week before the fight. “People are frustrated that someone of Mayweather’s stature gets a pass,” said Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Mayweather is making millions off a fight when we are struggling to provide assistance to victims and survivors of domestic violence.”

Raising money to help survivors is great. Holding abusers accountable, no matter how rich and famous, would be even better.

Batterers’ Intervention Programs Address Root Cause of Domestic Violence

bangorDespite claims that batterers’ intervention programs (BIP) fail to change offenders’ attitudes toward women or domestic violence, the facilitator of a long-running program in Bangor, Maine, remains convinced they can make a difference.

Kathryn Maietta and her husband facilitate the only batterers’ intervention in their county. She thinks it’s a mistake that domestic violence offenders in her community must receive psychological counseling and anger management courses, but are not required to attend a BIP. That failure means offenders do not learn how to change their behavior, according to a Bangor Daily News story. (The writer spent several months observing Maietta’s program. It’s a deep dive and worth a read.)

Although the National Institute of Justice says such programs have “a modest affect,” the article cites a 2004 paper that shows that offenders who attend a BIP are less likely to offend. Retired Bates College psychology professor Robert Moyer reviewed 300 studies that compared re-offense rates of those who completed batterers’ intervention programs with the rates of program dropouts. “… dropouts are more than twice as likely to re-offend as completers are,” Moyer wrote.

The Maine program follows the model of Emerge, created in 1977 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Among Emerge’s goals for offenders are to immediately stop physical abuse and intimidation, understand the harm this behavior has caused; and develop an understanding of how you have benefited from your behavior in the past and how you can benefit from changing your behavior now

Skeptics of BIPs cite their ineffectiveness, lack of availability, and cost. But Maietta, who runs the program in Maine, cites the misperception of domestic violence as an anger management problem as a major barrier to faith in BIPs. “Domestic abuse,” she told the Bangor paper, “is about power and control.” Understanding that core truth could change the way communities respond to offenders.

Massachusetts Law Shields Domestic Violence Offenders

A Massachusetts legislator hopes to reverse a state law that says police logs and arrest reports on domestic violence cases are not public records. That policy is part of the state’s comprehensive domestic violence law, signed by Gov. Deval Patrick in August.

The law establishes a new crime of first-offense domestic assault; imposes delays in setting bail in domestic violence cases; makes strangulation a felony; allows employment leave for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking; and requires new training for police, court personnel, judges and prosecutors,

Removing domestic violence information from police logs and reports doesn’t keep victims safe and may help abusers avoid public sshadow-mancrutiny, state Rep. Josh S. Cutler told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

“We’re all in favor of protecting the victims,” he said. “I don’t think we should be in the business of protecting the perpetrators.” Concealing perpetrators’ identities puts domestic violence “back in the shadows, when this is something that needs to be in the light of day,” he said.

Cutler filed a bill in January that would remove the confidentiality requirement for police logs. Confidentiality would be maintained for more in-depth police reports under his bills.

Domestic violence survivors’ advocates said that keeping the police information out of the public eye gives victims more safety, the Telegram & Gazette reported. “Victims are contacting police to stop the violence. They’re not necessarily contacting police to share their story publicly,” Karen Riley-McNary, director of community intervention for domestic violence services at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts, told the publication.

The new law makes it easier for some victims to report abuse, another service provider said.

Worcester Police Chief Gary J. Gemme said making the perpetrator’s name public “serves an important public safety purpose. It provides notice to the public about crime that has occurred in their community and their neighborhood.”

Cutler’s proposal has support from Norfolk County district attorney and the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association.

Another North Carolina Community Learns from High Point’s Success

Agencies addressing domestic violence in Henderson County, North Carolina, have made a smart move. The community recently formed the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative, bringing together organizations and public servants working to end family violence.

Now advocates, victim service providers, law enforcement and legal professionals share information and discuss strategies to address the problem. Offenders “will be put on notice, and violators will be punished in a collective effort to save victims and deter abuse,” blueridgenow.com reported.

The alliance developed in response to concerns about after the level of domestic violence in the community. In 2013, four homicides – all that occurred in Henderson County that year — resulted from domestic violence. Ten out of the county’s 16 homicides over the past five years were linked, the news outlet reported.

Organizers learned from the success of the High Point Police Department’s program, which two years ago shifted attention from the victim to the offender. Strategies include focusing on offenders through face-to-face intervention; monitoring offenders; and clearly outlining the consequences will be if the abuse continues.

The goal is simple: Intervene before anyone gets hurt or arrested. High Point police say the number of domestic violence-related calls, injuries, and arrests have declined. So has the number of deaths.

The approach is gaining steam. In addition to communities in North Carolina, law enforcement agencies in California, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and New Jersey are starting offender- focused initiatives. Some are turning to High Point’s staff for training, a North Carolina Fox station reported.

Sheriff Charles McDonald

Sheriff Charles McDonald

In Henderson County, officers are getting more training in strategies to investigate domestic violence calls. The new initiative focuses on more than just the arrest, said Sheriff Charles McDonald. The traditional approach “hasn’t necessarily allowed us to effectively deal with putting people on notice, holding them to standards and effectively reducing the amount of incidents,” he said.

The alliance hopes to let offenders know they “know you’re headed in a bad direction. You need to stop. We’ll help you now, but there comes a time and place where every exposure is going to reap an increased penalty,” McDonald told blueridgenow.com.

The plan is “not just putting more people in jail, but hopefully stopping more people from having to get to the point where jail is the only answer left,” he said.

Another Domestic Violence Treatment Shows Promise

An innovative therapy program in the Iowa Department of Corrections, Achieving Change Through Value Based Behavior, shows promising results in changing domestic violence offenders’ behavior and rates of re-offenses in the state. The program, created by University of Iowa associate professor of psychology Erika Lawrence, is now being sought in other states.

Every week for six months, offenders in the Iowa program attend a group therapy session facilitated by Community Treatment Coordinators Brian Moffatt and Elaine Bales. The group therapy session emphasizes the recognition of angry feelings and encourages the offenders to sit with them, suffer through them, and not act on them.

facilitators of domestic violence treatment groups in the offices of the Fifth Judicial District in Des Moines

Brian Moffatt and Elaine Bales, facilitators of domestic violence treatment groups in the offices of the Fifth Judicial District in Des Moines, sit Nov. 25 inside the room where group sessions with offenders take place. (Photo: Charlie Litchfield/The Register)

It’s a less confrontational treatment method compared to the state’s traditional approach that coaches the offenders to get rid of angry thoughts. An approach  Lawrence believes is not realistic.

Lawrence explains, “What we are saying is maybe you have those emotions, but you can still choose how to behave…You shouldn’t feel anger? Changing thoughts doesn’t work. But you can choose to change your reaction to them.” She continues, “A lot of what we do is slow down what is an automatic process. My wife is yelling at me, I get upset and it just happens. We take a step back and look at the emotions. When you get angry or anxious, you notice all that and take a moment to ask, ‘What are my options? What is important here?’ It might be their freedom, not going back to jail, or it might be their relationship.”

The meeting room at the Fifth Judicial District

The meeting room at the Fifth Judicial District where group sessions with domestic violence offenders take place is seen Nov. 25 in Des Moines.(Photo: Charlie Litchfield/The Register)

The program directly questions cultural norms of masculinity that deems violence as an appropriate response to anger. Another facilitator of the group, Karen Siler, clarifies, “When those things are challenged, it can be a direct cause of violence. We have a culture of violence against women and against people who are different…We have all these laws against it and all these punishments for these crimes, and it still happens. So what are we going to do?”

Moffatt was initially skeptical of the program but then he began to witness the change in the men.

Nick Ceretti, an offender in the program is an example of how the program is changing lives. Originally, Ceretti hated coming to the weekly sessions but by week seven, it clicked. Before the program, Ceretti said he wasn’t very good at expressing his feelings during an argument with his girlfriend and would turn to drugs and alcohol to solve the problem. Now he says he’s able to talk things out with her. “Every week I came home from class, I would talk about things with her,” Ceretti said to The Register. “She has way more respect for me. It came down to acting like a grown-up instead of like a child.”

Results of the program to date

  • Men in the program had lower rates of physical, psychological and sexual aggression at week 24 compared with men in cognitive behavioral therapy models used in Iowa for decades.
  • Men in the program had a lower rate of violent reoffenses one year after treatment or dropout (13.4 percent) than men in cognitive behavioral therapy (22.9 percent).

Two Programs Show Promising Results in the Fight Against Domestic Violence

It’s hard to fathom that in 2014, Domestic Violence, or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), in the United States is still an epidemic. Intimate partner homicides make up around 40–50 percent of all murders of women in the United States. If that statistic didn’t disturb you, The Huffington Post noted the difference between American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 and the number of American women killed by current or ex male partners during the same time frame,  6,488 and 11,766 , respectively. IPV homicides are practically double the amount of casualties lost during war.

It’s quite clear that something is seriously not working with how the U.S is addressing domestic violence.  While domestic violence committed by intimate partners has declined by more than 60 % since Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, since then, the numbers have stayed “relatively flat.”

High Point Police Detective J.W. Thompson waits as a person is processed before entering the city’s jail to serve a domestic violence prevention notification to an offender, in High Point, N.C. (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)

Thankfully, programs like the High Point Police Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative and Futures Without Violence’s Coaching Boys Into Men are starting to put a dent in the dismal statistics. Both programs focus on preventing domestic violence by concentrating on the offender and their behavior instead of the victim. Most traditional IPV interventions have been victim-focused, having a “heavy emphasis on helping victims avoid patterns of abuse, on disengaging from abusers, and on physically removing themselves from abusive settings.”

In 2009, The High Point Police Department asked,  “What if, in addition to providing services for the victim, we used very focused formal and informal sanctions against the offender? Can the IPV offender be held accountable with real predictable consequences without creating additional harm for the victims?” Thus, after consulting with researchers, practitioners and community members, the High Point Police Offender-Focused Domestic Violence Initiative was born. The initiative was implemented in 2012 and “targets the offender with a strategy of aggressive deterrence.”

Since the implementation of the program , the recidivism rate for domestic-violence offenders in High Point has been cut to about 9 percent, which according to the police department, is about one-third the national rate.

Over in Pennsylvania, the Coaching Boys Into Men program engages young male athletes to practice respect towards themselves and others by learning how to build non-violent relationships from their coaches. The curriculum based program feeds on the premise that young athletes view their coaches as role models and take their advice seriously.

The  Coaching Boys Into Men curriculum is broken down into a series of “training cards” and addresses issues such as “catcalling and demeaning boasts about girlfriends.”  The curriculum is usually given before practices. Wendell Say, head football coach for 35 years at Aiea High School, has been using the program for over five years before practice.  Say told ABC News, “The curriculum is simple — it just takes 15 minutes at most, unless you let the kids talk…I sometimes take 45 minutes.”

The philosophy behind the program is evident in the pledge taken by players and coaches:

“I believe in treating women and girls with honor and respect. I know that violence is neither a solution nor a sign of strength. I believe that real men lead with conviction and speak out against violence against women and girls. I believe that I can be a role model to others by taking this pledge.”

Offender-based programs are the vanguard in the fight against domestic violence.  As National Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones reminds us, “Like all  domestic violence cases, there is one person to blame: the abuser.”