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The way the "system" works for victims of domestic violence

Posted Oct 02 2009 3:07pm
I've decided to take this comment and put it on display, as well as other comments and ideas I'd like to discuss here tonight. The first two comments, written by the same person, a victim of violence, are hard to read and hard hear--but they embody the truth that many victims of violence are forced to live with.

Victim/Survivor, Ivette Attaud-Jones:

"I am a 21 year survivor of domestic violence and abuse, and my abuser was and still is in the military. He assaulted me while I was 6 months pregnant with twins and I went into premature labor and one of my twins died. I contacted his chain of command, and no one did anything. After I called the MPs and they came to the house, his commanding officer sent him back home! The MPs left me there- didn't ask if I needed medical attention, etc. I went into labor that night and gave birth to my twins at 26 weeks. And, my daughter's death was not classified as "manslaughter", but a "premature birth". That happened on Ft. Bragg.

5 months after the death of my daughter, he assaulted me again, this time, breaking my collarbone from being body slammed on concrete. That happened off Ft. Bragg. I found out in 2008 that the case went to court in 1988, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor and paid a $40 fine for breaking my collarbone. Yes, he still made his rank, and yes, he is still in the military.

I know all too well how the military handles domestic violence and abuse cases."

Earlier today, we spoke about domestic violence resources failing women affected by abuse and in need of help, and this is what she wrote on the subject:

"A few months ago, I met someone from the Dept of Mental Health and Hygiene and commented on the lack of credible resources for victims looking for help. I compiled a report for her of all the domestic violence resources in NY that are listed in the 2008 Domestic Violence Resource Directory that was put together by the Commissioner, the Mayor's office and the Dept of Mental Health and Hygiene for her to submit to her superiors. The results were very disappointing."

"Maria, I submitted my list to the deputy commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene. She never responded to me with any feedback. I will mention my report and my findings on my show. Maybe my recap show on August 1, and blast it on my website. Not in an attempt to bad-mouth anyone, but to show that those "resources" were of no use to me and possibly to a lot of survivors. I really believe that these "resources" keep the victim mentality going and bleeds government funding. If I'm a victim looking for help from an organization and they can't help me, they do make sure to take my name, address, and all my pertinent information because that translates into funding dollars. These organizations are running the way the funders want them to run, not the way they need to run to actually help anyone.

There are no resources for survivors out there - just counseling."

For the past week I have been receiving comments and letters from women and men either let down by the current system in place, or frustrated with the lack of response from DV organizations/agencies/government. There have been people reaching out to me, victims, survivors, shelters asking me to speak at events, people wanting to help advocate for new laws--there has been support from all ends. People read my stories and immediately connect with me, immediately feel like they have shared a similar experience, and they have. Sadly, there are alarming numbers of women dealing with the after effects of abuse, and sometimes what comes after abuse is far worse. I know first hand how difficult it is to seek justice in cases involving domestic violence. At this time, most states are behind when it comes to domestic violence laws, which is why victims of DV cannot sue their abusers civilly (statutes of limitation vary state to state). In my opinion, this is the most disappointing realization a victim can have; due to the statute of limitations, victims of DV lose their right to file a civil action in a court of law against their abuser. For most victims of DV, filing a civil suit would be the only way to seek restitution for any medical injuries etc., and finding out that you have no right to sue your abuser is disturbing. It doesn't stop there. The second disappointing realization in most states (although not in NJ) is the time limits on restraining orders. Women all over the USA run to the courts to get their 6month-1yr orders of protection. This protective piece of paper is issued to victims of violence, and as far as I know in NY, do not come easy. A battered woman must find a lawyer and fight for this piece of paper, sometimes go through a trial and relive the abuse in front of their batterer, and what is the reward? A permanent OP that is only permanent for 1 year, if that. In NJ these OPs are lifelong after a trial. What is so different about NJ's battered women? Needless to say, we need domestic violence reform and we need it now.

This is a comment from another victim that reached out to me this week regarding divorce:

"Mine lasted five years after I left him with my child of a few months... I went through the same mental and verbal abuse, the control, he stripped me of all financial means, took all that we had, changed all the checking and savings accounts. He was pissed and decided he was going to make me pay... and he did. He delayed our divorce, excuse after excuse, date after date, my attorney's fees actually broke me down, I could not afford a lawyer any longer and had to settle 5 years later... I settled... I gave in... I wished I did not... I wish I was financially and emotionally stronger, I wished there was an organization out there who could fight for us, me and my daughter, or help us fight for ourselves. The judge gave him visitation rights every single week end, I have my daughter all week long, he has her on week ends. He still controls me to this day, my daughter is now 9....He controls me through her. I learned to live with this control/abuse, I hate the judge though, he was on my husband's side, it was my fault, I left home! couple this with a bad lawyer who took in all my money then..."

Another victim reaching out in support, commenting on DV resources failing victims:

"I support you! I am now a follower of yours.
I too understand the frustrations dealing with a system that says they are there to help, but then are not there."

Victim commenting on DV resources:

"I found dead ends of help through calling all the so called help lines. We have to change the system. It does not work for severe cases. We need immediate help and lots of changes, together we can go to Washington and change this for others since we have been victims. We know what needs to change. We can stop the repeat action of violence of our repeat offenders and the system not working how it is set up."

One of the saddest stories I have heard, this comment comes from a victim of abuse who still to this day seeks justice for the crime that was committed against her:

"Hello, My DV case is the same as yours. I want to be free of my abuser who broke bones - several in my body and I left him after 94 days of marriage after my severe barn beating, which the DA's prosecuting attorney violated my victims rights act of 2005...My car was destroyed in front of a State Trooper and a 911 call was made for help and back up while my husband was destroying my car with me in it and the Trooper stood their with a gun on his hip and did nothing. State Trooper Wadas...this is state police ...The DA and the police are liable...All I want is justice and an annulment and a fair separation like you do. I know how you feel."

I speak on behalf of all DV victims that end up entangled in the after effects of violence, and find themselves in a completely new struggle, the "DV run around". Instead of finding peace after escaping these abusive relationships, victims find more abuse/neglect, but they find it from the very institutions that are intended to help them, organizations that send victims on a journey that is designed to fail. Although the physical abuse has ended, a new evil has taken its place--this time in the form of DV resources failing to help victims, laws that do not reflect reality, and courts that entertain re-victimization of the victims. DV victims soon find that there is a bigger beast, a "system" that seems to work against us rather than for us, a "system" that protects the offender and leaves its victims in the cold.
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