Saturday, May 14, 2011

“Creaming:” Why Many DV Victims Don’t Get Help

by Anne Caroline Drake July 10, 2009

Kudos to Anne Caroline Drake for eloquently and honestly bringing issues and problems with the "system" charged with addressing violence against women into focus... I am reprinting her article here as I just read it yesterday... almost 2 years later the "system" is still creaming.  

Today I’m blowing the whistle on a corrupt system. I promised myself when I started this site that I would only write positive stories. But, I think it is time for y’all to know the truth about how the system operates. . .notice I did not use the word “works.”

While I was researching the story of Nancy Tyler yesterday, I discovered the story of Alice Morrin in the Hartford Courant.

Both women were trying valiantly to survive relationships with pit bull abusers. Both women frantically contacted friends for help. Nancy survived. Sadly, Alice did not.

Linda Blozie of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence was quoted in articles about each of them:

. . .the onus gets placed on the victim to keep themselves safe. . .

. . .there’s always some kind of trigger point that would put someone more at danger. I don’t know if you can ever predict that someone is going to be murdered.

Those of us who have survived domestic violence know the first statement is ever so true, and the last sentence of the second statement is pure bullshit. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to predict that Richard Shenkman would burn down the house before he’d surrender possession to Nancy. He’d done it before.

Neil Jacobson and John Gottman published their excellent book When Men Batter Women: New Insights into Ending Abusive Relationships in 1998. The book clearly explains the difference between a “cobra” and a ”pit bull” abuser.

The domestic violence system deals fairly effectively with people fleeing “cobra” abusers. Why does the system so frequently fail people fleeing “pit bull” abusers?


“Creaming” is a non-profit term for the practice of accepting clients who present a quick and easy fix. . .like skimming cream off the top of an old-fashioned butter churn.

It’s relatively easy to get free from a “cobra” abuser. All you have to do is call in sick and wait for him to leave for work. By the time he comes back home, you can be safely relocated. He’s not likely to hunt you down or stalk you. He’s more likely to slither on to his next victim.

But, “pit bull” abusers don’t let go. They stalk. They engage in litigation abuse. They destroy careers. They burn down houses and kidnap people. And, when they realize the relationship is, in fact, over, they kill. Their victims need lots of help and resources to survive.

When they don’t, their murders present fantastic fund raising opportunities for domestic violence agencies.

I’m blowing the whistle because I know for sure that Crystal Brame and Rebecca Griego both called domestic violence agencies. Crystal also called NOW. Rebecca worked for the University of Washington which bragged about their workplace safety program for DV victims, but they did nothing to protect her. Crystal and Rebecca did everything they knew how to do to stay alive. But, the system failed them miserably.

Vernetta Cockerham similarly did everything she knew how to do to protect her daughter. But, the cops let her down.

What leaves me furious is that the people who were paid to protect them didn’t. And, most of them still have their jobs.

We need to start holding the system more accountable. Like the good folks in Connecticut, we need to start asking hard questions. Why wasn’t Richard Shenkman in jail? He’d been terrorizing Nancy Tyler for years. Yes, he got arrested. Several times. The judges always grant his bail requests. He’s yet to be prosecuted. Why?

We also need to be vigilant about who gets Violence Against Women (VAW) funding from the Department of Justice (DoJ). They dispense the bulk of their funding to domestic violence agencies and police departments. Some do wonders with the funding they receive, but others let us down. We need to lobby our elected federal representatives and the DoJ to make sure VAW funds are increased for agencies who get the job done, and funds to the rest get cut or eliminated.

No more excuses.

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