The case for DV Reform

Posted on October 27, 2011 by DVReform

Gimme Shelter: The Case for Domestic Violence Reform

By the time you go to bed tonight, 3 women will have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

For millions of victims, domestic violence is a matter of life and death, but victims of domestic abuse are being victimized again- ignored and abandoned by the very victim service providers that claim to help them. These publicly and privately funded agencies have no oversight – and are in desperate need of reform.

It’s hard to comprehend, but each month its estimated thousands of victims of abuse are turned away from state and federally domestic violence shelters and agencies. Many shelters refuse women with children, charge fees battered women cannot afford, and reject women because of their immigration status, their sexual orientation or their abuser’s occupation. A majority of those shelters that DO accept all victims are not funded by the private and public sector through NNEDV, NCADV, and state coalitions, so they are limited to the numbers of victims they can shelter.

When a victim of domestic violence calls a hotline at the local, state or national level, instead of help, they are often referred to another agency, which in turn refers them to yet another agency. Many women tell of being referred back to the same agencies, but receiving little or no practical help.

Maria DiBari, an abuse survivor who has since created the Tri-County Crisis Center in New York, says, “A victim will reach out in need of a specific resource and no one can provide it. Hotlines will refer to shelters and shelters will refer to other agencies and programs and those programs and agencies will refer them back to the shelters. So it becomes a vicious circle.”

DiBari approached many agencies including LSHV, OPDV, NCADV, NYS Coalition, every shelter in NY, Justice Centers in NYS, and she contacted all of her state officials for assistance and still could not get the resources she needed.

Alexis Moore, head of Survivors in Action, and also a former victim of abuse, agrees. “I was referred and referred and referred… until finally I was referred back to the same agencies that I had already been through.”

They both point to battered women like Heather Williams, of Connecticut, who has reached out to more than 50 state and local agencies, but has yet to receive the help she needs. Heather’s most dire need: legal representation.

“I am a victim of domestic violence and stalking. I have a four year-old daughter and have been in an ongoing custody battle with my abuser. In the past, I’ve had numerous orders of protection that have been violated, have been unable to obtain my own police reports, and, most recently, have been falsely charged with domestic violence. I’ve already spent $100,000 in attorneys’ fees for child custody and have been unsuccessful in my attempts to protect my daughter and myself from my abuser. I live in fear of retaliation. Once you’ve left, the danger is far from over. Now your abuser is on the war-path, and there’s no one to help you.”

Finding and obtaining legal representation is the biggest challenge for victims. Many victims go without legal counsel because they can’t afford lawyers. Agencies will often refer them to Legal Aid, a service that provides free representation, but few if any of their attorneys are experienced in domestic violence law, an essential to help victims of abuse navigate the courts, DCF/CPS, the paperwork, the endless bureaucracy, and the legal tricks their abusers will play.

Heather, after requesting assistance from more than 50 government and private agencies in New York and Connecticut, as well as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has yet to find a pro-bono attorney to take her case.

Often services offered women are simply denied. Lily Morales contacted the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – one of the most heavily funded agencies in the United States – for free reconstructive surgery after her abuser disfigured her face. Though surgery is advertised as a service the NCADV provides, Morales was refused.

Other women are simply given incorrect or bad advice. Alexis Moore was told by prosecutors, law enforcement, victim advocates, domestic violence shelters, and other agencies to change her social security number for safety reasons, only to have her request repeatedly denied by the social security administration, for “lack of ongoing abuse” – the standard reply in such cases. When the SSA does grant a social security number changes, victims have actually been arrested and accused of identity theft or fraud.

Karen Elkins, a pro-bass angler, abuse survivor, SIA advisory board member and DV Reform supporter was denied social security number change for safety in 2009. The letter she received from SSA denying her social security number change for safety is like what is estimated to be millions of letters received by abuse victims from SSA each denied by SSA for the same reason, “lack of ongoing abuse”.

There is little oversight of how federal and state funded agencies spend their money: no assessment as to whether or not these agencies are meeting the victims’ needs. Even worse, victims have no recourse when this happens – no place to report this second victimization.

The problem is NOT money but instead how monies and resources are allocated by publicly-funded agencies. DV Reform is about bringing oversight and accountability to these agencies. DV agencies and victim service providers are not regulated as other agencies are yet they deal with customers i.e. victims who are facing life or death circumstances. Victims left behind need to have a place to file formal complaints like consumers have today with law enforcement, businesses and other government agencies.

Everyone knows all too well what DV is. The problem now is victims who are reaching out for help find that no real help exists and there is no place to turn when they are left behind to complain or file a formal complaint.

We are advocating for there to be a federal domestic violence oversight committee for EVERY agency who operates in U.S. that receives funding from public or private sector – where victims can document experience and file complaints.

By writing to local, state and federal officials in support of DV Reform, individuals can use social media platforms to promote this cause as well and join with Tri-County Crisis Center and Survivors In Action by visiting our web sites and contacting us there.

www.SurvivorsInAction.org and www.TriCountyCrisisCenter.org

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One Response

  1. So much of what is on this website resonantes with the horror that I and my son, too have experienced.

    Does anyone have information about the Constitutional right to be a mother? There is info “Constitutional right to be a parent” (http://familyrightsassociation.com/bin/Constitutional_Rights_Parents.htm), but I have some confusion on whether the child is considered “property” of the father?

    Being a mother is the most basic HUMAN RIGHT. It would seem to me that since “Family Court” has turned into a huge money making fiasco industry, it’s time to divide the issue. Supposedly, when a couple is married, the ‘state’ becomes the 3rd party in the marriage. How is this so? There is no IMPLIED CONTRACT, so signing a marriage license is undertaken under blind coercion. There is no disclosure of such at or before the signing of the marriage license, or anywhere during the ‘ceremony’. Am I right? Technically, if a couple is married in one state and lives in a different state, how could that state have ‘jurisdiction’?

    Any issue of domestic violence, and ESPECIALLY the issue of criminal sexual assualt of a child should ONLY be dealt with by LAW ENFORCEMENT. See CAPTA RE-AUTHORIZATION ISSUE:
    EXPANDING LAW ENFORCEMENT’S ROLE IN
    CHILD ABUSE INVESTIGATIONS
    CAPTA Memo #2: July 11, 2001
    Kimberly Randall, JFC Law Student Extern
    and Randy Burton, President, Justice for Children… (don’t have the link, but have the saved pdf file – if interested, let me know.. drmooney@citcom.net) which indicates clearly that child ‘protective’ services DO NOT HAVE THE APPROPRIATE TRAINING, EDUCATION OR SKILLS necessary to complete a TRUE INVESTIGATION.

    WE MUST STOP THIS FARCE – NOW. We must address each state’s Governor SIMULTANEOUSLY to IMMEDIATELY have ALL civil/domestic proceedings STAYED during CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS (discovery by the abuser gains their advantage in ‘civil’ proceedings and has a tendency to OBSTRUCT JUSTICE during a criminal investigation). In this correspondence (and it would be great to have a complete DEMAND uniformly written), and distributed to ALL mothers of ‘lost children’, domestic violence centers, rape crisis centers and the ALLEGED child advocacy centers, and ALL organizations for this cause FOR ALL OF US TO FORWARD TO EACH OF OUR GOVERNORS. That is noise. Victims remain silent, and ROARING OUR DEMAND, EXPOSURE OF DOMESTIC TERRORISM ON MOTHERS (protective parents) and TOTAL HORROR of these situations MUST HAPPEN will EMPOWER THE NECESSARY CHANGE. Every day a child loses of their childhood cannot be regained.

    I personally am appalled and mortified, DEVASTATED that the issue of CRIMINAL INCEST is not being addressed appropriately. This issue is too difficult for ANYONE to believe.

    We also MUST get the PROGRAM set, by JOINING TOGETHER to find the consistencies of these cases.

    Truly, the DOJ and other organizations fighting ‘internet predators’ HAS MISSED THE BOAT !!! My contention is that PROPERLY SUPERVISED CHILDREN WOULD NOT BECOME PREY. The DOJ has increased their funding for internet predators. REALLY? Does that mean that they are CONDONING POOR PARENTING? (to qualify, I am not saying that ALL children ‘prey’ are unproperly supervised, but it does stand to reason that if they were, there would be a lot less of this to contend with.)

    I find it TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE that NO-ONE is addressing INCEST. The ‘family’ lawyers are NOT TRAINED PROSECUTORS OR INVESTIGATORS. Child protective service ‘SOCIAL WORKERS’ are NOT TRAINED INVESTIGATORS – NOR DO THEY HAVE THE POLICE POWER (although there are most likely MANY cases where they do push their point – when they know they can get away with it).

    Even when ‘court appointed professionals’ and social workers testify that they did not follow laws or court orders or PROPER investigations, the family court judge just SITS there and does nothing. After all, the judges ONLY concern (motion before the court) is to decide custody.

    I lost custody of my son nearly four years ago. The fiasco was artfully orchestrated. The court left the decision of who my son visits to the father. REALLY?!!? So, since he won custody, IF THERE WAS NO ABUSE HAPPENING, why has he not allowed any contact with mom?

    I have been drug through this court fiasco for almost 9 years now. What kind of country do we live in? that ATTORNEYS are running the show?

    Blessed are they who have a family intact and do not have any clue about any of this. I firmly believe that there are enough of us by now, that we can create the change not only for ourselves, but also to circumvent this horror from happening to any more children.

    Our Governors coupled with DOJ and a hand from the whitehouse could appoint a SPECIAL TASK FORCE to address EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THESE CASES. The remedy DOES NOT HAVE TO BE DRAWN OUT. THE MORE SIMPLE THE SOLUTION, THE BETTER RATE OF SUCCESS WE WILL ALL HAVE. I BELIEVE THIS IS POSSIBLE. The world is changing. Why not for the GOOD OF ALL !

    Open for discussion folks! I welcome any suggestions or insight and will do whatever I can to aid this progression for PEACE.

    Blessings to all whose hearts are shattered. A new day awaits.

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