Break the silenceOct 7th, 2013 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
Domestic violence is a crime with many faces. It’s a thief that robs the victim of her self-worth. It’s a terrorist that sends children to the safety of their closet. It’s the silent stalker that puts fear in its victim every waking moment and we need to make it stop!
Domestic abuse occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person.
Domestic abuse includes not only physical violence, but mental, emotional and economic abuse as well. October is the month recognized for observance of victims who have died, celebrating those who have survived and connecting with those who work to end violence. One in four women (25 percent) has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. Nearly three out of four (74 percent) Americans know someone who is, or has been a victim of domestic violence.
Victims of violence often suffer in silence, not knowing where to turn, with little or no guidance and support. Sadly, this tragedy does not just affect adults. Even when children are not directly injured by violence, exposure to violence in the home can contribute to behavioral, social and emotional problems. There are more high school students reporting more now than ever the physical violence within a dating relationship.
This type of behavior is a learned one and can be passed on to future generations. The use of drugs and alcohol perpetuates violence inside of the relationship.
To effectively respond to domestic violence, we must provide assistance and support that provides for the immediate needs of victims. The decision to leave the abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for the victim. The abuser begins to lose power and control over the victim and this is when many victims are killed or badly injured.
It is not easy in this economic time for victims to leave their relationship. Victims worry about finding a job, housing and providing for their children. These problems only intensify during periods of financial stress which cause many to return to their abuser, even at the risk of their own lives. In Plaquemines Parish domestic violence does exist and cases range from a slap to a serious injury.
The District Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence Program intervenes in over 200 cases per year. Within 24 hours after an arrest the victim is called in for an interview. Victims receive important information regarding the safety of her and her children.
The Assistant District Attorney gathers additional evidence and information that is crucial in achieving a conviction. The Domestic Violence Coordinator then explains the court process and safety information. Successful prosecution can include an intensive amount of probation conditions for misdemeanor Domestic Abuse Battery cases. $300 plus court costs, 6 months jail suspended only to be put on probation for 1 year active flat. With this plea agreement, domestic pleas include that the defendant complete a 26 week domestic violence prevention program (anger
management). Also included is an evaluation of the defendant for substance abuse or mental health issues. A firearm is prohibited from possession by the defendant throughout probation.
When a defendant ignores the probation conditions the Judge and the Judge’s probation officer have a hearing with the defendant and if non-compliant the sentence is revoked and defendant has to serve 6 months in prison. The victim is informed and consulted about the agreement.
A protective order throughout probation or longer is in place, ordering the defendant to stay away from the victim.
Jail time is often the goal for prosecution for felony cases. In most cases, by establishing a close relationship with the victim, prosecution staff has a higher success rate in securing convictions. Recently, the District Attorney’s office achieved such a conviction for Domestic Abuse Battery and a felony firearm offense. The defendant will serve 5 years in prison. The batterer held his victim hostage with her 7 year old son present. The victim had spent the defendant’s last $5 for gas for her car.
The defendant became very irate and punched her in the mouth with a closed fist causing her lip to bust. When the victim attempted to leave the house he blocked her exit. He threatened to kill her if she left. He pulled a weapon, pointed it at her and repeated he would kill her. Thinking clearly the victim was able to convince the defendant to allow her and her child to leave. She then called law enforcement.
The relationship was a year old. The victim
continually lived in fear for the safety of her loved ones, not knowing what he would do at any given moment. Because Plaquemines Parish has a zero tolerance policy for domestic violence, the District Attorney’s attentive advocates, prosecutors, law enforcement and court personnel assure a victim’s safety with referral services and convictions.
October is dedicated to victims and all who are committed to breaking the cycle of violence. We can help with the prevention of Domestic Violence by providing people with education about healthy relationships, and by changing attitudes of those who support violence. Service providers are located in every community. Across the nation, victims are encouraged to seek out the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799. SAFE. We must not turn our backs on a victim suffering from physical violence. Forget the old adage “I Don’t Want to Get Involved!”. The new adage —“It’s My Duty to Be Involved!”
If you know or suspect someone is suffering from an abusive relationship and needs help immediately call 911 first. Then call 504.297.5146, District Attorney’s Office. Also call 504.297.5290 or 504.297.5169 to speak to a Domestic Violence Advocate in the District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Program for information on how to get the help and protection needed to escape an abusive relationship.