Last May I wrote about how my older brother Ken murdered his girlfriend and then committed suicide on Mother’s Day of 1990. Here’s the link: http://www.dailyrepublic.com/archive_pdfs/2010/20100510/pdfs/a2.PDF
At the end of the column last year, I included resources for domestic violence and suicide help, but I wanted to focus more on it this year and so I interviewed Solano County Director of Family Violence Prevention Carolyn Wold.
If you know someone who is in a domestic situation which could end in tragedy, please read this and utilize the tools.
What is a typical call to the Family Violence Center?
It is usually a victim or close friend or family member of someone who is in a relationship with either physical or emotional violence. The first thing we do is determine how safe they are at that moment to even talk about what’s happening. If they aren’t safe, then we make plans to talk when they are.
What evaluation methods do you use?
We do a short-term and long term safety assessment and in some cases we use the Jacqueline Campbell Lethality Scale. It’s a widely-used 62-question assessment that the victim fills out. It really gives us a feeling for the potential for escalating violence in the relationship. Since the victim fills it out, they can see it for themselves. We can tell them what to expect, but when they’ve filled out a questionnaire based on their experience and their relationship, then the answers are theirs.
How effective are restraining orders?
Some say they are just a piece of paper and that if he is going to kill her, he is going to kill her. But the beauty of restraining orders is that it puts these relationships on our map. So many times our victims say they don’t want to get him in trouble or they just want him to get help. Well, until that batterer is in our system, we can’t get them help.
We advise victims to keep a copy of the restraining order with them and give one to their employer, their children’s school and their pastor if necessary. Often victims don’t want to tell people because they are ashamed, embarrassed and afraid but that is what batterers count on. We advise them to let as many people know as possible.
My brother killed his girlfriend at her workplace. Victims may stay in shelters, but what about when they are on the job?
When we talk with victims, we ask them about all the places where the batterer knows they may frequent. Most of our victims can’t afford to quit their jobs although some do because they are so afraid. We advise them on how to talk to their bosses as it is illegal for an employer to fire them because they are a victim of domestic violence.
Do you have statistics about domestic violence homicides in Solano County?
Unfortunately in the last year we’ve had more domestic violence homicides since when we started keeping track 11 years ago. Normally we have two to three, which is two to three too many, but in 2010 we had seven women killed.
Why do you think there’s an increase?
Historically it correlates with a downturn in the economy. When families have stressors like loss of jobs and homes and increased substance abuse added to relationships already on the edge, they can end tragically.
Also, a couple of years ago the Board of Supervisors were forced to make cuts in law enforcement, our office and in social services and we let them know we understood they had to make the cuts, but wanted them to understand that people were going to die. And they did. It is a very difficult place to be in both as a policymaker and as a service provider.
Where can people get more information?
On our website, www.solanocounty.com/stoptheviolence, we have a resource guide so if someone has a neighbor, friend, co-worker, or sister who they think is in a dangerous relationship or has neighbor, friend, co-worker, or brother they feel is a batterer and they want to get them help, it is a great place to get assistance and resources.
People think this is a woman’s issue, but batterers have moms, dads, sisters and brothers so it’s really a family and community issue.
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.