Local initiatives increase awareness of
By David Volz / October 1, 2014
Because domestic violence is a major problem in the U.S., October has been named National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But many in Broward County are working daily year-round to help increase awareness of the issue and ways to eradicate it.
Broward Sheriff's Office Detective Holly Tucker of the BSO Special Victims Unit frequently works with people who are suffering the effects of domestic violence.
"Domestic violence is the term for a pattern of controlling behaviors, violence or threats that one person uses to establish power over an intimate partner to control that partner's actions and activities, " she says. "The tools they use to establish that power include isolating the person from family and using children against the victim. They may control the victim's finances. The abuser may threaten to kill the victim or the children. And the majority of victims are women."
Tucker recommends that people who believe they may be victims of domestic violence look for patterns of abuse. Is money being withheld? Are verbal threats being made? Has the abuser threatened to kill the children?
"People don't just say, 'I will kill you,'" Tucker says. "Some people are fine when they are not using drugs or alcohol but, become violent after using drugs and alcohol. This is a huge sign."
In many homes, men are the primary breadwinners and they may point this out to their wives if they are being abusive, she adds. Some abusers will center on the fact that the victim has no money, credit cards or a place to go.
"I had a case where a husband became very controlling and insisted on looking at his wife's phone. She would want to go out with her girlfriends and he would say no," Tucker says. "He was abusing drugs and he started hitting her. He would tell his wife that no one wanted her and threatened to kill her and her son if she left."
Finally, the woman left in a hurry, picking up whatever belongings she could carry. She reported her husband's abuse to law enforcement. The man was arrested for aggravated battery with a firearm, as he had pointed a gun at his wife.
Many forms of violence between intimate partners can be considered domestic violence. If a husband strikes his wife in the face, that is battery. If a person is arrested for domestic violence, they will not get immediate bond. He or she will have to wait until the next morning to go before a judge. On weekdays in Broward County, the alleged offender will go before Judge John Hurley. Also, victims of domestic violence can get a restraining order at the county's main courthouse.
Domestic violence, which also involves those who are not married, is often not dealt with legally because many victims are reluctant to pursue charges. Tucker recalls a situation involving a couple who were dating. The man had spent ten years in prison. At one point he became angry with the woman and began waving a gun at her.
"I called her and asked if she wanted to file charges. She would not cooperate. Without the woman coming forward there was nothing we could do," she says. "I told her that what he had done was wrong. The man was a career criminal."
Sometimes people are uncomfortable with law enforcement, she adds. They may believe the abuser will stop or they want the relationship to continue. They may believe the abuse just happened in the heat of the moment and they don't want their boyfriend or girlfriend to get into trouble.
"If a person is arrested for domestic violence, a court can order the person to attend an anger management program. But if the victim does not follow through and file charges, the abuser cannot be ordered to anger management," Tucker says.
People should be aware that there are social service agencies that will help people who are leaving abusive situations, she notes, and that there are programs to help women find a new place to live.
Tucker advises that those in abusive relationships should have a plan in place to leave. Money for that purpose should be put away and they should have a bag packed so they can leave in case their situation becomes too violent. They should ask family and friends ahead of time if they can stay with them, if they need to leave their home."
Tucker realizes there are some cultures and nations where domestic violence is more common. Sometimes women from other nations will not cooperate with police because they don't believe law enforcement should be involved in a family matter.
Still, she says it is crucial that victims of domestic violence follow through legally to help end the problem.
Ruth Glenn, interim executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Denver, Colorado, said National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is designed to bring awareness and education about domestic violence and how it is perpetuated against women and children. The Day of Unity is observed on the first Monday of October.
"Domestic violence is a significant issue and has a major impact on families and communities," she says. "It is our hope that one day we won't need to have a Domestic Awareness Month because domestic violence will have been eradicated. We want to see a cultural change about violence against women and prevention of this problem based on education."
Where to go for Help
Women in Distress of Broward County, Inc.
Offers help to women experiencing domestic violence. The organization maintains a 24 hour phone line, and is a nationally accredited, state-certified, full service domestic violence center serving Broward County. Women in Distress also provides an emergency shelter, counseling and support for victims and their children, education and professional training on domestic violence and related topics in schools and the community.
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Serves as the professional association for Florida's 42 domestic violence centers. Its mission is to work towards ending violence through public awareness, policy development and support for Florida's domestic violence centers. FCADV operates Florida's toll free domestic violence hotline linking callers to the nearest domestic violence center and provides translation assistance when needed.
Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida.
A non-profit law firm established in 2003. Funded in part by the Legal Services Corporation, its mission is to improve the lives of those with low income in the community through advocacy, education, representation and empowerment.
Source, Broward Sheriff's Office website.
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