FEATURED IN TACTICS AND WEAPONS
For those whose lives are entwined in healthy and happy relationships, it is often difficult for them to fathom the phenomenon of domestic violence let alone the devastating and, at times, deadly consequences that can ensue as a result. Though both women and men can be victims caught up in this arena, women predominate in reporting their victimization and men tend to report infrequently, if at all.
Police officers who respond to domestic calls, and victim specialists who may deal with victims in the aftermath of the incidents, have seen some of the wildest scenarios and heard some of the most incongruous stories in the course of their careers. Nothing is beyond belief in their realm of experience. Oftentimes, the dysfunctional relationships that result for victims of violence are the culmination of factors that include alcohol and drug abuse, growing up in homes where violence is witnessed, total dependency and lack of self-esteem, multi-cultural issues, and a lack of vital community resources to aid victims in extricating themselves from bad situations.
- In Ohio, Timothy Havens, 38, allegedly shot his wife, Carolyn Havens, 42, while they were having sex. Ms. Havens survived and was treated at a hospital, but her husband claims that he didn't intentionally shoot her and explained that, while reaching for something on the nightstand, the weapon went off. According to documented records, Mr. Havens had served jail time for previously assaulting his wife and was required to attend anger management classes.
- Also in Ohio, Jeffrey Hill went on a crack cocaine binge, smoked $700.00 worth of the drug, and had a heated argument with his partially paralyzed 61-year-old mother, Emma Hill, from whom he stole money. He subsequently stabbed her in the chest ten times and killed her.
- In Wisconsin, an intoxicated man, Torey Devaux, allegedly urinated on the dog of his female roommate because she refused to have sex with him. He subsequently shoved her sister into a wall and punched out a window.
- In Michigan, a man reportedly stabbed his mother with a fork.
- In Nebraska, an unemployed and apparently intoxicated man allegedly attacked his girlfriend because she made him macaroni for dinner. She was reportedly assaulted with the cooking pot and the food was later discovered scattered throughout the house in various places. The victim locked herself in the bathroom where she called for emergency assistance, and she reported suffering a cut on her nose and bruise on her face.
- In Maryland, a young Hispanic woman was cooking dinner when her live-in boyfriend argued with her and allegedly put his hands around her neck and choked her. The victim displayed visible signs of injuries with red marks on her neck and swelling about her face. The man was charged with second degree assault and is awaiting trial. He has reportedly been violent with the victim several times in the past.
It can be noted from the above case examples that domestic violence has many forms and variations. The surrounding circumstances and instigating causes can vary in degree and can culminate in victims being emotionally traumatized, physically injured, and even killed. For those victims who survive the violent behavior that impacts their lives, they often find themselves in a continuing cycle of volatile dysfunction that becomes an unceasing form of behavior that preys upon their vulnerability through the exertion of power and control by their abusers. For the victims who are killed in the course of their domestic abuse, the surviving family members are often plagued with overwhelming guilt coupled with forms of self- blame for what they perceive to be their lack of ability to have foreseen what was coming. After the fact, survivors feel they should have somehow been able to intercede and to make a difference that could have, in their minds, precluded the outcome of devastating events.
On a daily basis, police officers, victim specialists, and all others in the criminal justice system who regularly deal directly with victims of domestic violence and the cycle of abuse consistently hear the same stories--the victim who recants and says it never happened, the victim who is in denial concerning the fact that what happened to her really is domestic violence, the victim who minimizes her victimization and who blames herself for what occurred, the victim who makes continual excuses for the abuser, and the victim who insists that the abuser merely had a "bad day," that he really does "love her" and promises he won't do it again.
Consequently, it is important for professionals in the criminal justice system to maintain their objectivity. They must not allow the redundancy of the violent syndrome and ongoing contact with the same victims to color their outlook to such an extent that it evolves into one of nagging apathy and rampant cynicism. It is vital that the initial on-scene approach and response of police officers be one of fairness to all parties involved and one that is devoid of facial expressions or verbal articulations that depict otherwise.
At the same time, in their capacity, professionals must not permit their own emotions, sympathies, and duty to assist, to override the necessary balance that should be maintained to deal equitably and sensitively with victims of domestic violence. Balance is a critical component that must be developed and retained when working in this area. Professionals must be supportive of one another and cooperative in their working relationships. They need to make a concerted effort to establish boundaries in both their work and personal lives. For them to remain effective in the performance of their professional duties and responsibilities, they must take care of themselves by maintaining their own physical health and emotional well-being.
Domestic violence cases can be extremely disturbing by virtue of their nature and content. Such incidents show no bias with regard to those whose lives they affect, and they are laden with a multiplicity of issues, varied problems, and traumatic impact. In this sphere, nothing is any longer incredible because anything is possible. Those who work with cases of domestic violence must remain committed to making a positive difference and realize that their contributions can--and do--have a significant impact.