Sherri Bevan Walsh
White picket fences. A yard with a big oak tree. A husband, wife, two kids, and possibly a dog. Sounds like the typical, idyllic, Norman Rockwell family setting. And many of us have that image in our heads when talking about the good old days – describing a family dynamic perhaps from six decades ago. The 1950’s gave us television classics like ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best’. The shows highlighted an ideal lifestyle where minor problems were solved in less than 30 minutes.
But we know better. Families back then argued and fought just like families of today. And many times those arguments escalated into violence. We can no longer think the husband feels he is misunderstood, or blame the wife for not doing enough to keep her husband happy. We cannot use the same mentality now as many did when dealing with domestic violence from 60 years ago.
Just recently, a Summit County couple was found dead in their home. Investigators say it was a murder-suicide. The 55-year-old man strangled his 46-year-old wife, before killing himself. The couple was going through a divorce. And just days before their bodies were discovered, a judge ordered the man to move out of the house as part of the divorce proceedings. And, police were called to the home twice over a four month period for reports of the couple arguing.
Could something more have been done? What role can police officers and first responders play in preventing these situations from escalating?
The U.S. Department Of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner."
Domestic Violence is a crime when a person:
The Summit County Prosecutor’s Office offers assistance and guidance in these types of situations. We regularly provide training for law enforcement agencies. In May, the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office held four days of training for the Akron Police Department. Throughout the training, prosecutors described different situations and scenarios involving domestic violence. Prosecutors provided insight into how to deal with the victim and the aggressor and how to tell the difference between the two.
For example, the victim may not have any obvious physical injuries. And the aggressor’s injuries can be more severe than the victim’s. But injuries alone do not tell the whole story. First responders need to try to get deeper into what happened. Consider the history of violence of each party involved. Were there any past convictions? How many times were officers called to the home? What do neighbors, co-workers, or family members say? Gather as much evidence as possible. And take pictures. A lot of pictures. People’s memories may fade, but the pictures remain, and can many times tell the story. Taking these steps will not only help the victim but assist prosecutors in proving their case.
Although anyone can be a victim, the majority of domestic violence victims are women. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 85 percent of victims of intimate partner violence are women, and women ages 16-24 are at the highest risk of being affected by intimate partner violence.
So what can a victim of domestic violence do? Breaking free requires a safety plan, in order to minimize risks when it's time to leave.
This article is not to be considered legal advice. Please consult your police legal advisor regarding any legal issue.
Last Updated (Tuesday, 20 October 2015 06:03)