Friday, July 31, 2009

Vacation Mode

In case you're not following me on twitter, I've posted links to several articles of interest while I've been on vacation. I'll be back at blogging next week, after a trip to give a presentation about establishing a CourtWatch program at the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence's annual conference next week.

Here are some of the articles I found interesting as I surfed the internet (instead of the Atlantic) while on vacation:

CSI Myths: The Shaky Science Behind Forensics -
CA Governor Eliminates State Funding to Domestic Violence Programs -
Restraining orders ineffective at combating cyberstalking -
See Shared Hope International’s Report on Child Sexual Slavery in America
Sexting: Dangerous & Deadly
Jimmy Carter: The words of God do not justify cruelty to women -

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Anti-Feminist blog

I searched for "Domestic Violence" on Twitter and was saddened to see this blog:

If it saddens you too, please send her a comment. I did so, but she hasn't permitted it to be posted yet. If you do choose to comment, help educate this young lady that DV is about Power & Control.

Being feminine and a feminist are not mutually exclusive. And being a feminist doesn't necessitate bashing men, women acting like men, or the extreme quotes she has cited in her blog (for example, that marriage is the equivalent of slavery for women, etc.). I know many men who consider themselves feminists. They are supportive of equality for women. That entails mutual respect between men & women, with neither being superior nor inferior to the other.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kudos to Judge Marlene Alva

The Sentinel reports that Shannon Burke was granted permission by Circuit Judge Marlene Alva to participate in marriage counseling with his wife Catherine. But Judge Alva refused to give the couple unlimited contact. She ruled that the former radio personality may talk to his wife during marriage counseling sessions but at no other time. Alva also refused his request to order the removal of Burke's GPS tracking device.

It is not uncommon for a victim to request contact, and even undergo marriage counseling, with their spouse - even after a serious assault.

I hope that the therapist that the Burkes meet with is thoroughly trained in the dynamics of domestic violence. And I hope that they each engage in individual counseling:
  • Shannon: to understand and change his attitude about the reasons why he felt it was acceptable to use a gun to threaten his wife; and
  • Catherine: to develop a comprehensive safety plan.
CourtWatch applauds Judge Alva's efforts to keep the victim safe.

Victim Participation Does Make a Difference

After Thursday's bond hearing in this case, I'm left wondering why only the mothers are speaking out about their daughters' victimization by 18-yr old Edwin Cintron (see my earlier blog entry). Four mothers of the victims were in court for this brief hearing. I commend them for taking the time to attend. I believe that it does make a difference to the Court when victims are represented. Many important decisions regarding a defendant's prosecution are made in these pretrial hearings (particularly bond motions and motions to suppress). The stronger the State's case, the more leverage they have with respect to future plea negotiations. The presence of the victim does have an impact in these hearings, even when they don't address the Court.

Mr. Cintron’s bond was posted and his passport was surrendered subsequent to the June 26th hearing. However, his grandmother was unable to house him because her landlord would not permit it. Thursday's bond motion was to ask if Mr. Cintron could live with his uncle in Texas. Judge Bob LeBlanc denied his request. Since there is nowhere for him to go, he is still at the Orange County Correctional Facility.

As a sidenote, Mr. Cintron’s 13-yr old sister has been sent to another state, removed from her friends (the victims), to protect her brother. Removing her is tantamount to punishing her for the actions of her brother. This will likely cause her friends to feel guilty about their willingness to speak up and prosecute Mr. Cintron. She has essentially been exiled, which can only make their recovery more difficult.

Click here to see WFTV's coverage of the hearing. And here's what can happen to sex offenders who have no place to go. I wish I knew what the best solution is for a situation like this. At the moment, it appears to be jail.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shannon Burke Gets Another Chance

Local news organizations reported Saturday that Catherine Burke, the wife of radio host Shannon Burke, now calls the shooting in which she came within a fraction of an inch of being a domestic violence fatality, an accident. The Sentinel reports that she still loves him and is committed to the relationship. Click here for WKMG's report.

There are several comments posted on the Setinel's website that viciously attack her. I can only surmise that they were written by people who have never walked a mile in the shoes of someone who is a victim of domestic violence.

Most people have difficulty understanding the reasons why victims stay in these relationships. When you're on the outside looking in, it's very easy to say "dump the bum." And when the victim chooses not to, she is judged and criticized by those who know little to nothing about the dynamics of DV relationships. The reasons that victims stay are as numerous as the victims themselves. They are complex and very individualized. They fall into a blend of the following "F" reasons:
  • Fear: Victims often fear that their abuser will become more violent and could kill them and/or their children; they fear losing the children (custody battle or abduction); they fear lonliness; they fear the difficulties of being a single parent; they fear that the legal system won't protect them; they fear what people will think when the relationship falls apart.
  • Finances: Victims often have no employment or income; abusers often control all the money or they've ruined their partner's credit rating. In the first year following a divorce, a woman's standard of living declines by 73% while a man's increases by 42%.
  • Fantasy: Victims believe their abuser's promises to change; they still love the "Prince Charming" that he is capable of being; they want to have an intact family and believe it's best for the children to stay together; they believe they're responsible for the success or failure of the relationship; and there may be more good times than bad. They loved this person enough to marry them - you can't just decide one day to stop loving someone you've been with for a long time.
  • Family: Victims are often isolated from family/friends or they feel pressured by their family to maintain an appearance of a happy marriage.
  • False Beliefs: Sometimes victims have "learned" to be helpless - believing that they are incompetent and unable to function on their own; sometimes they blame themselves for their abuser's behavior and think that if they would just stop making mistakes, the abuse would stop.
  • Faith: Victims often turn to their faith leader as the first cry for help. Sadly many clergy are clueless about how to respond - they're more focused on "saving" the marriage than they are the safety of the person who needs help. So they (wrongly) advise them to stay and submit to their husband. Victims also feel required to forgive their batterer (either because they've been taught that God expects it).
This only scratches the surface. There are many more reasons that victims stay, including immigration issues, low self-esteem, lack of community resources, etc.
Mrs. Burke has made her decision at this point to try to salvage the relationship. She believes that her husband is trying and that he has embraced God and is making dramatic changes in his life. I hope that's true. Because only God has the power to bring about the changes in attitude and behavior that can repair their relationship. I only fear that, as in so many DV cases, Mr. Burke's repentance may be superficial. A genuine change will take months, if not years, to become evident. I hope and pray Catherine can remain strong and that Shannon finds accountability partners to keep him on the right path.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Domestic Violence Epidemic of Fatalities

Last year I had the opportunity to attend the National College of District Attorneys' conference on Domestic Violence in Orlando. I met Casey Gwinn, the former San Diego City Attorney who founded the internationally recognized San Diego Family Justice Center which is credited with reducing domestic violence homicides in San Diego by over 60%. He currently serves as the President of the National Family Justice Center Alliance which is developing specialized, multi-agency Centers to stop domestic violence across the United States.

Please see his blog here: It is a vivid reminder of why our community needs to adequately fund domestic violence related initiatives. Orange & Seminole County 2009 fatalities are listed below.

For more information about the Family Justice Center Initiative, go to

2009 Orange County DV/Child Abuse Fatalities
TOTAL = 12 (including 4 suicides)

  • 1/16/09: Jerry A Cisco (stabbed by his girlfriend)
  • 1/28/09: Loyta Sloley (shot by her boyfriend who committed suicide)
  • 2/28/09: Rahmesha Oliver (shot by her ex-boyfriend)
  • 3/1/09: Lolitta Flores (strangled by her boyfriend)
  • 3/27/09: Brianna Morges-Gress, age 4 months (starved by her mother)
  • 4/2/09: Felix Davila (shot)
  • 4/6/09: Maria Estela Lopez-Soto (stabbed by her estranged husband)
  • 4/21/09: Derrick Curry - suicide (his victim survived a stabbing)
  • 5/10/09: Celeo Rosales (shot by her ex-boyfriend who committed suicide)
  • 6/12/09: Keshen Parboo - suicide (his wife survived a shooting)
2009 Seminole County DV/Child Abuse Fatalities
TOTAL = 9 (including 4 suicides)

  • 1/27/09: Anthony Jesy Cabral, age 2 (blunt force trauma by his mother's boyfriend)
  • 4/5/09: Mitchell Moore (shot by his mother who committed suicide)
  • 6/15/09: Dillon Wood, age 10; Aubrey Wood, age 12; Cynthia Wood (shot by their father/husband who committed suicide)
  • 6/27/09: Kenneth Keefer - suicide (may have been killed by law enforcement after a standoff at his home
  • 7/4/09: Gary Adams - suicide (his estranged wife survived a shooting)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Different Sort of Independence Day

Another attempted murder, this one in Sanford, ended with the suicide of Gary Adams, 59. His estranged wife survived the attempt on her life . In spite of the injuries she sustained, one might see this event as a different sort of independence day for her. Her abuser can no longer abuse her. See the Fox 35's coverage at

It was reported that Mrs. Adams had received an injunction for protection against him. However, since he had not been officially served with the paperwork, he was not legally in violation of the court order. Whether or not he knew it existed is unknown by me at this point.

Too often, people think that an injunction will keep their abuser away from them. We need to emphasize that this piece of paper is only as binding as the Respondent's respect for the law (or their fear of jail). I urge victims to have a comprehensive safety plan in place before they take this important step to protect themselves. Because once those papers are served on an abuser, they may attempt to exert more control over their victim. Seventy-five percent (75%) of all DV-related fatalities occur when a victim has left, or attempts to leave, their abuser. An injunction cannot make you safe by itself. It is merely one component of a safety plan. There are numerous other factors that must be considered before taking this step. Because every situation is unique, it is crucial that victims consult with a trained advocate to prepare themselves to end the relationship. Call 1-800-500-1119 to be connected with your local DV Shelter for assistance in preparing a safety plan.

Sometimes it takes months for a victim to prepare to leave (saving up money for an apartment, finding a job, childcare, etc.). It's for that reason that those of us on the "outside" of the relationship should never question a victim's reluctance to leave - nor should we make them feel guilty for staying. In fact, it is sometimes safer to stay until all the steps necessary to leave safely are in place. If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, please do not tell them what they need to do (their abuser has likely been telling them what to do for years). Do not badmouth their abuser either. Because victims will often defend them. It's much better to offer assistance and encouragement rather than sounding judgmental about their partner, their choices, or their situation.

I suspect it will take a long time for Mrs. Adams to recover from this assault. I hope her friends and family provide the support she needs to do so. And if additional support is needed, I hope she finds it from Safehouse of Seminole or other well-trained counselors.