WESTBOROUGH, MA March 20, 2018 Greater protection of victims of domestic violence is needed. When provisions for a plan of safety are executed victims are expected be afforded greater safety but not always. Domestic violence victims are at greatest risk when they make the decision to leave a violent partnership. This often means having a safety plan – especially when specific threats have been made. Safety plans are often drawn up by women in conjunction with counselors who specialize in helping families stay off the grid and hidden from violent spouses. In one case of familial homicide and suicide it was clear that the commonalities needed to be exposed among cases of familial homicide.
In particular, when I teach law enforcement officers about DVH, I encourage detailed witness statements much as possible especially if the victim described the fear and belief that she will one day be murdered by her partner. These documented statements, if spontaneously uttered, are often the greatest predictor of potential harm to victims and her children. If written into a police report the decision about dangerousness and bail may be influenced.
In the 2011 homicide from Maine, Steven Lake used social media to track his wife and 2 children from whom he was mandated to stay away. Yet, if his wife posted a photograph of his children he went to great lengths to undermine their safety by identifying anyone who “liked” the photo or commented on it. He used these posts to triangulate her whereabouts and living arrangements. This was a large part of what marginalized Stephen Lake and in turn Lake posted his own propaganda espousing his loneliness and love for his children. Lake garnered significant support from those social media “friends” who knew nothing about what he had done to require the protection from abuse order. Many, in fact, encouraged him to fight for his children which may have been a catalyst in his festering resentment and ultimately terminal rage. He was provided information and access to his wife’s social media platforms by a family member. For her part, Lake’s wife wanted to remain close to her in-laws in an effort to normalize her children’s life as much as possible. For example Lake’s parents were invited to the family’s thanksgiving celebration but declined because Steven Lake could not attend.
Similarities in domestic violence
Cases of domestic violence have similarities across socioeconomic status, ethnic and cultural background, and the cycle of abuse. The growth of social media platforms affords those inclined to control and isolate intimate partners from persons who might provide them security. Cases of domestic violence share the common theme of intimidation, coercion and control. Social media are a fun and useful medium to keep in touch with friends and family. But it is also lends itself to sometimes nefarious trolling to gain a perceived advantage in undermining the safety plan. Social media trolling contributes to the control they seek especially when victims seek protection. In order to limit the impact of social media stalking victims need to shut down all social media accounts and activity. Greater protection of victims and family members requires a comprehensive plan with provisions for times when they are violated – including mandatory arrest, risk assessment and no bail containment if deemed necessary.
“That is one conclusion of four former and current police officers in a recently released report. The men, who were volunteers and had no connection to the shootings, spent the last several months interviewing 69 people about the triple homicide and suicide in Dexter in June, to suggest ways to prevent future tragedies.” Portland Press Herald, November 11, 2011
The Psychological Autopsy report suggests improvements that may prevent future domestic violence homicides:
• Use of social media platforms by people involved in conflicts should be minimized, to prevent intimidation and stalking.
• Protection-from-abuse orders and bail conditions should mandate disclosure of all firearms that are accessible to the domestic-violence offender.
• An offender who seeks, hides, uses or attempts to acquire a gun or ammunition when a protection-from-abuse order is in place should be charged with a felony and not allowed bail.
• Bail amounts should be high enough to deter abusers from violating a protection orders.
• When a protection order violation involves a deadly threat, a judge should set bail, not a bail commissioner.
• Global positioning systems should track abusers during periods of protection orders in any incidents that involve deadly threats or evidence of weapons.
• At least two officers should be sent to all domestic-violence calls when officers suspect violence is likely.
• At-risk spouses should be advised to live in as secure an environment as possible, with deadbolts on doors, secured windows, motion sensor lights and a land telephone line.
• People charged with domestic violence crimes should not wait more than a year to go to trial.
The safety of potential victims including children is the penultimate goal of protection orders but too often they are ignored via stalking efforts that include using social media to track the activities of an estranged spouse. This overt defiance requires careful analysis and requires the arrest of the violator. Once this takes place a dangerousness hearing must take place before he or she is released but this rarely takes place.
Police officers are regarded as the front line first responders to family conflict and domestic violence. For better or worse, the police have an opportunity to effect change whenever they enter into the domestic foray – whether an arrest is made or not. This affords them a window into the chaos within the effected family system and the opportunity to bring calm to crisis. In many cases, the correct response to intimate partner violence should include aftermath intervention when the dust has settled from the crisis that brought police to this threshold. At these times the communication between family and police may be operationalized, improved and redefined. When this is done it establishes a baseline of trust, empathy, and resilience.
Another look at the mind body dialogue. The force of life lies within our body bringing forth our human energy. Those energy traces forge the bonds that form meaningful relationships in time and space and sustain us. The force of life starts with a tiny heart’s beating and does not stop until life’s last day when the heart no longer makes its inimitable squeeze.
The meaning of what is human is derived from the social appetence inscribed into it by mentors and those who tend to its garden from early on. Human growth stems from a carefully crafted blend of biological gifts and environmental design shaped over time. This may be lost without the core ingredients and nurturing bond that nourish it. In their absence, the vessel becomes incapable of tolerating life’s abject aloneness and may become diseased. The heart is a muscle that does not tire and yet it must be sustained or it quickly loses it lean and supple appearance slowly requiring more energy to power its life long lub-dub, lub-dub while still perfusing the body. Arguably, the interaction between one’s heart and one’s head is undeniable. What we do and how we think has much to do with the health of the body and ultimately, our life force.
It takes time to establish the human contacts needed to trust another person and put yourself in the hands of another with complete emotional certitude. The fundamental appetence for living is shaped by the relationships made during life. Those relationships that nurture and sustain may extend ones years of viability. Those relationships that suppress the normal, effusive, life force are detrimental to health much like a toxin.