Domestic Violence in the News Winter 2022

newspaper_pic.jpg Downplaying Domestic Violence Has Dire Consequences For All

There are “dire consequences for a nation that refuses to take violence against women seriously,” writes Boston Globe Associate Editor and Columnist Renée Graham, pointing out that “If Darrell Brooks Jr. had been behind bars, he wouldn’t have been behind the wheel allegedly driving an SUV that mowed down dozens at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., killing six people” and injuring 62 others.

She states that “a man with a history of violence against women should never have been in a position to allegedly ram his car into a holiday parade. Domestic violence is terrorism. More people in this country, especially women and children, are injured or killed in acts of domestic violence each year than in all terrorism-related incidents.”

And she points out that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) “has been languishing since 2018” in the U.S. Senate, noting with frustration that it is “barely on the radar screen.”  Here’s Graham’s column, as it appeared in the Boston Globe on Thanksgiving weekend:

OPINION

The Waukesha tragedy shows that downplaying domestic violence has dire consequences for all

Families that should be celebrating the holiday weekend are instead planning funerals.

By Renée Graham, Boston Globe Columnist, November 29, 2021

If Darrell Brooks Jr. had been behind bars, he wouldn’t have been behind the wheel allegedly driving an SUV that mowed down dozens at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., killing six people.

Three weeks before the tragedy, Brooks was arrested for driving his SUV over a woman in a Milwaukee County gas station parking lot. The woman was hospitalized, and Brooks faced numerous charges, including three related to domestic abuse. Yet despite a lengthy criminal record, including violence against women, Brooks was released on $1,000 bail just nine days later.

Last Sunday, Brooks, fleeing from what police have called “a domestic disturbance,” allegedly plowed his vehicle into parade participants and onlookers. The dead range in age from 8 to 81. More than 60 people were injured. Several children were sent to intensive care.

These are the dire consequences for a nation that refuses to take violence against women seriously.

Brooks was charged with intentional homicide and held on $5 million bail — a far cry from the amount that allowed Brooks out of jail after his previous alleged offense.

The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office has now launched an internal investigation into what it called the “inappropriately low” bail that Brooks received at that time.

When Brooks was arrested, authorities were quick to allay concerns that the Waukesha tragedy was an act of terrorism or connected to the Rittenhouse verdict two days earlier in Kenosha, about an hour south of Waukesha.

That overlooks the fact that a man with a history of violence against women should never have been in a position to allegedly ram his car into a holiday parade. Domestic violence is terrorism. More people in this country, especially women and children, are injured or killed in acts of domestic violence each year than in all terrorism-related incidents.

Yet too many courts do not offer victims the protections they deserve from dangerous offenders.

A few weeks ago, Lindsay Smith was ambushed and shot in the head while leaving her job in Salem. Her assailant was a man with whom she had lived in Hanover, N.H. In September, Smith was granted a 30-day restraining order against Richard Lorman, who she said had been physically and sexually abusive.

When that order expired, Polly Hall, the New Hampshire Circuit Court judge who had granted the original order, declined to reinstate it. She said, “The Court cannot find that the defendant’s conduct constitutes a credible present threat to plaintiff’s safety.” Weeks later, Lorman shot Smith; he later died by suicide. Smith survived and is recovering from her injuries. The New Hampshire Judicial Branch is investigating why Smith’s request for a restraining order was denied.

While such investigations are necessary, that same energy needs to be applied to believing and protecting domestic violence survivors before another preventable calamity strikes.

As witnessed in Waukesha, the grim ramifications of violence against women do not stop with the targeted victim. Domestic violence calls are considered among the most dangerous for law enforcement. According to Everytown, a nationwide gun safety advocacy group, many mass killers have histories of domestic violence or hatred of women.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told The New York Times in 2019 that those violent backgrounds are “an important red flag.”

A nation committed to protecting women and other domestic violence victims would pay heed to those red flags. And Republicans would rally to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Instead of reauthorization, which the House approved again in March, VAWA been languishing since 2018 due to Senate GOP obstructionism. With so much else devouring the nation’s attention, VAWA is barely on the radar.

Yet the violence that Brooks allegedly inflicted on yet another woman and its tragic repercussions will be top of mind for Waukesha residents. They couldn’t gather in joy with family and friends for the Thanksgiving weekend. Some will pass those days sitting by hospital beds or planning funerals.

And many will wonder why a man who should have been in jail for domestic violence allegedly ended up turning the festive mood on their streets into unimaginable horror.

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newspaper pic The Unrelenting Tragedy of Domestic Violence

The obituary began by describing a woman who “died tragically, a victim of gun violence and domestic abuse, on November 8, 2021 at the age of 43.” She was a “devoted mother, “beloved sister” and a “child care expert,” the ensuing paragraphs noted.  At its conclusion, a request was made for memorial donations to a local Denver non-profit, “or a domestic violence charity of your choice.”

To those who knew her, the news of her death was devastating.  It brought overwhelming sadness and warm remembrances submitted to an online memorial site, along with considerable resolve.  One person implored, “May this senseless crime and the suffering it has caused renew the determination of us all to prevent other women from meeting a similar end.”

Mention was made of her two young children, and how she cared not only for them, but for the children of other families as well.  Left unsaid was what occurred that day.  Local news, however, reported the horrific events.

“Investigators have determined that Monday’s shooting that left two people dead … was a murder-suicide, the Office of the Medical Examiner announced,” explained a report published in the Denver Gazette.  “(She) died of gunshot wounds and her manner of death was homicide. (He) died of one gunshot wound and his manner of death was suicide.” They were in a relationship, according to the Denver Police Department, and “lived in the same neighborhood less than a mile apart.”

The news story concluded with this vital reminder to all:  “Anyone who knows a victim of domestic violence or is experiencing domestic violence themselves can call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.”

Read the obituary.

Read the news story.

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newspaper pic

 Domestic Homicide with Yet Another Child as Witness

Local police said a 34-year-old woman was killed inside her home by her husband while the couple’s 3-year-old and a 4-month-old were present, and a 5-year-old was at school. According to police, the infant was asleep, but the toddler greeted an officer responding to a 911 call at the door of the home and directed him to the gruesome scene inside, where both victim and alleged perpetrator were covered in blood and officers recovered a bloody knife and ax, according to local news reports.

That community, with a population of less than 20,000, did not have a homicide between March 2011 and December 2019, according to FBI data, local media reported. But there have been three since then, and all of them were cases of domestic violence, published reports indicated.

After death of Ansonia mother, CT advocates to take closer look at domestic homicide

CT POST (Ansonia, CT – Nov. 13, 2021) — There have been nine intimate partner homicides in the state this year, and in a third of them, children have been witnesses.

The most recent was Tuesday on Root Avenue, when police said 34-year-old Grace Zielinska was killed inside her home by her husband, Kamil Zielinski, while the couple’s 3-year-old and a 4-month-old were present, and a 5-year-old was at school.

According to police, the infant was asleep, but the toddler greeted an officer responding to a 911 call at the door of the home and directed him to the gruesome scene inside, where both victim and alleged perpetrator were covered in blood and officers recovered a bloody knife and ax.

Zielinska’s death was ruled a homicide caused by “sharp force injuries” to her head and torso after an autopsy Wednesday, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The Department of Children and Families took the couple’s children into custody Tuesday.

“These three kids, their whole lives changed in a minute,” said Meghan Scanlon, president and CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, calling for more investment in services for child witnesses of domestic violence. “It’s our responsibility as a community to ensure they have the supports they need moving forward. I don’t think we’ll make any significant generational change if we don’t make those investments.”

While advocates could use more resources, she said, there are child advocates present at each of the coalition’s 18 service providers throughout the state to help children who witness domestic violence or are victims themselves.

Scanlon also noted that of the nine intimate partner homicides reported in the state so far this year, five have occurred in greater New Haven — Zielinska’s, a West Haven murder-suicide last month, a Guilford homicide in July, and two homicides in New Haven in March.  It could be a coincidence, she said, but officials at the coalition will try to see if there’s more to it than that.

“This region in particular is something we’re going to look at,” Scanlon said. “Is there a barrier or disconnect in services? The answer could be no, but we want to figure out if there’s anything else we could be doing to strengthen services in that region.”

Ansonia Police Lt. Patrick Lynch said detectives were still trying to piece together the specific circumstances that led to Zielinska’s killing. The city had 97 domestic violence arrests as of Oct. 31, he said. Last year, there were 152. In 2019, there were 95.

“We have seen a decrease this year but it’s still unacceptable,” Lynch said. “The numbers that we have are still pretty bad.”

Ansonia did not have a homicide between March 2011 and December 2019, according to FBI data. But there have been three since then, and all of them were cases of domestic violence.  More than 10 years ago, the city’s police department was the first in Connecticut to pilot a lethality assessment program that has since been instituted statewide.

The program directs police responding to domestic violence calls to use an 11-question form to determine whether there’s a higher danger of further violence, and if so, connect (victims) directly to services.

The most recent data available for the program, from 2020, shows Ansonia had one of the highest rates of screenings statewide, behind only New Haven, Hartford, Groton and Waterbury.  Lynch said a number of factors could be at play, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a spike in domestic violence and violent crime nationwide.

Ansonia Police Chief Wayne Williams and Mayor David Cassetti spoke at a press conference concerning Zielinska’s death Wednesday urging victims of abuse and those aware of domestic violence to reach out.

“It was a terrible tragedy Ansonia sustained in the loss of this young woman,” the mayor said, calling on victims to contact his office if necessary in addition to police and shelter services. “Domestic violence is on the rise and it’s a terrible thing and we have to nip it in the bud.”

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