Monday, September 19, 2011

A trio of fatalities in 24 hours

Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins in less than two weeks. If you're not aware of DV in our community after this weekend, you must be living under a rock (either that, or you've been on jury duty for the Bob Ward murder case and therefore not allowed to view any news media).

Most people think that domestic violence only happens to lower income, uneducated people. Think again. The past two days in Central Florida should forever dissuade us from that notion.

Early morning, Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beatrice "Bea" Dickey, 44, murdered at home in Plant City

Alleged Perpetrator: Lawrence Douglas Dickey, husband
Weapon: baseball bat

Click here for the Lakeland Ledger's coverage

Bea Dickey's murder is perhaps what most of us think of when we hear a story about a domestic fatality. I wonder, though, did anyone at the Polk County Sheriff's Office suspect she might be a victim? 

Even though she was surrounded by law enforcement personnel at work, did she feel safe to disclose what was happening at home? Do the people she worked with know how to recognize domestic violence "warning signs" and how to refer their friend & co-worker to get assistance? Does the Sheriff's Department have a standard policy for dealing with domestic violence amongst its employees?
It is highly unlikely that we'll ever know the answers to most of these questions. But I hope that Ms. Dickey's death will make those closest to her ask them and formulate solutions to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

Sunday morning, September 18, 2011

Victim: Theresa Fogle, 56, murdered at home in Lakeland
Alleged perpetrator: Jeremiah Fogle, husband, subsequently opened fire and wounded two pastors at the couple's former church nearby
Weapon: gun

Orlando Sentinel's coverage dated  9/18/11 and 9/19/11

It has been reported that Mr. Fogle pled to manslaughter in the death of another wife, Diane, 25 years ago and was only sentenced to probation for that crime. 

This tragedy highlights

  • Abusers come from "good" families.
  • There are abusers in religious institutions, often in prominent positions (Fogle was a deacon in his church).
  • Abusers usually have many victims in their past (Fogle was married 7 times).
  • The court system is often ineffective in how it handles perpetrator accountability, particularly in domestic violence cases.
  • Domestic violence doesn't happen only in private. The church members who witnessed Mr. Fogle's shooting rampage were undoubtedly traumatized by his actions.
  • Churches, like businesses, need policies in place for dealing with domestic violence.

Approximately 10:00 AM, Monday, September 19, 2011

Victim: Heidi Shelmire, 38, murdered at Burger King, her place of employment, in Debary
Alleged Perpetrator: Jesus Morales, ex-boyfriend
Weapon: gun

Click here for the Daytona Beach News Journal report on this case
Click here for WFTV's report

This tragedy highlights several "cracks" in the system:
  • An injunction is not bulletproof. It only works if the respondent respects the law and is afraid of going to jail.
  • Just because an injunction prohibits the respondent from having a firearm, it doesn't mean he or she will comply.
  • Victims of dating/domestic violence need a safety plan when leaving a relationship. For some, an injunction might not be advisable. They need to seek assistance from trained advocates at their local DV shelter.
  • Domestic/Dating violence doesn't happen only in private. Ms. Shelmire's co-workers and the patrons at the store were undoubtedly traumatized by Morales' actions.
  • Employers need a comprehensive DV policy for the workplace. 
  • For whatever reason, the perpetrator was not arrested for violating the injunction on previous occasions. If the victim called for help when he violated the injunction, I hope law enforcement takes a long, hard look at why the court order was not enforced.
Do you suspect someone at your workplace, school, church or neighborhood might be a victim of domestic violence? Don't  know how to help? 

Start the conversation with "I'm concerned about your safety" and help them get connected with a trained advocate to do a safety plan. Victims tend to feel completely isolated and embarrassed about their situation. Tell them it's not their fault and that there are people who can help.

You might just save a life.

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