Saturday, April 21, 2012

When Women Find Love Is Fatal by Erica Goode New York Times

Sadly, nothing has changed in the 12 years since this article was publised in the New York Times

Published: February 15, 2000
They had little or nothing in common. And in the normal course of events, it is unlikely their worlds would ever have intersected.
Kathleen A. Roskot, 19, the daughter of middle-class parents on Long Island, was a star athlete on the Columbia University lacrosse team. Marie Jean-Paul, 39, known to her friends as Carol, grew up in Haiti, and worked as a nurse's aide at a hospital in Brooklyn. Joy Thomas, 18, graduated from Mount Vernon High School in June and was studying to be a teacher at Westchester Community College.
Yet in the course of 48 hours, the lives of these three women were abruptly and horribly linked together: they were, all three, the targets of homicidal attacks by men with whom they had had romantic relationships.
On Feb. 6, Ms. Roskot's throat was slashed in her dormitory room with a kitchen knife, apparently wielded by a former Columbia student she had dated. The next morning in Brooklyn, Mrs. Jean-Paul's husband used a machete to cut his wife's throat, then doused her body and set it on fire.
Ms. Thomas, shot in the head in Westchester hours later, lived, but only through a stroke of luck: her former boyfriend's pistol jammed. In all three cases, the men believed responsible for the attacks committed suicide shortly afterward.
Such events ought to be surprising. In fact, anyone who examines the crime reports knows that they are commonplace.
According to homicide statistics collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 32 percent of the 3,419 women killed in the United States in 1998, the latest year for which data are available, died at the hands of a husband, a former husband, a boyfriend or a former boyfriend.
On the basis of smaller, regional studies and the limitations of the data gathering methods used by the F.B.I., however, many experts believe that the true figure is much higher, perhaps as much as 50 percent to 70 percent. In comparison, 4 percent of 10,606 male homicide victims in 1998 were killed by current or former intimate partners.
And while homicide rates as a whole have sharply declined over the past 20 years, and the rate at which men are killed by intimate partners along with them, rates for women, and particularly for white women, have not declined as sharply, despite efforts by police departments around the country to increase their response to calls involving domestic violence. In some regions, New York City for example, they have not gone down at all.
''We haven't come close to affecting intimate partner violence and homicide the way we have other kinds of violence and assault,'' said Dr. Susan Wilt, director of the New York City Department of Health's Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. ''It remains a shocking issue that this is the main reason that women end up dead and that it occurs within the context of their home and family, where they are supposed to be safe.''
''Women worry when they go out,'' Dr. Wilt said. ''They should worry when they stay in.''
Why are men so much more likely to kill their partners than women? Feminist scholars and domestic violence experts have long contended that such crimes reflect a society in which men feel entitled to exercise power and control over women, and to use physical violence when necessary to assert their dominance.
''We are in a culture that in many ways celebrates male dominance and female submission, and that is in some ways the definition of an erotic heterosexual relationship,'' said Sally Goldfarb, an associate professor at Rutgers School of Law in Camden, N.J., and an expert in family law.
Some evolutionary psychologists who study spousal murders, like Dr. Margo Wilson and Dr. Martin Daly at McMaster University in Ontario, also argue that men as a whole, rather than individual men, are the problem. But they base this assertion not on culture but on biology. Violence, they believe, may have developed as a strategy for men to exert proprietary control over women, and in particular over their reproductive capacities. Many psychologists, in contrast, focus on the personality characteristics and life histories that lead men to batter and kill.
Whatever the validity of such views, social scientists have in recent years begun to investigate homicides by intimate partners in a much more systematic way, hoping to find ways to spot the potential for lethal violence before it occurs, and to develop better tactics for intervention.
What emerges from such studies is a picture as consistent as it is discomforting. Many studies confirm, for example, that women are at particular risk when they are in the process of leaving a relationship, something long noted by domestic violence workers.
In a study of 293 women killed by intimates in North Carolina from 1991 to 1993, Dr. Beth Moracco of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health and her colleagues found that 42 percent had been killed after they threatened separation, tried to separate or had recently separated from their partners. In another study, researchers found that of 551 intimate partner homicides in Ontario from 1974 to 1990, 32 percent were committed in the context of a separation; in another 11 percent, the killer believed that the female partner was sexually unfaithful.
The period just after a woman has left is often the most risky, studies find. In a review of homicides in Chicago, for example, Dr. Wilson and Dr. Daly found that 50 percent of the killings of wives by their husbands took place within two months of a separation; 85 percent occurred within a year.
''The link between separation and murder is more than incidental,'' Dr. Wilson and Dr. Daly observed in their study. ''Homicidal husbands are often noted to have threatened to do exactly what they did, should their wives ever leave them, and they often explain their homicides as responses to the intolerable stimulus of the wife's departure.''
The intensity of emotion that leads men to kill women they once loved is often evident in the crimes themselves.
''It's absolutely a crime of rage,'' said Dr. Wilt, who has been tracking homicides by intimate partners in New York City since 1990. ''There is a sense of 'How dare you think you can live without me?' ''
Of the 379 women known to have been killed by male intimates in New York from 1990 to 1997, Dr. Wilt and her colleagues found, 46.7 percent were killed with guns, 26.6 percent were stabbed, 8.2 percent were bludgeoned, 7.9 percent were strangled, and 10.6 percent were killed by other means, including suffocation and being pushed from a window or the top of a building.
That women killed by a male partner are more likely to be stabbed or strangled than those killed by someone less close to them, Dr. Wilt said, reflects the emotional nature of the crime. ''When you stab or strangle someone to death, it's a lot more intimate than shooting them,'' Dr. Wilt said.
Dr. Donald Dutton, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, who recently completed a study of 50 men in prison for killing their wives, said that ''typically, the murder itself is overkill -- there is more done to the woman than is necessary to kill her.''
Dr. Dutton said men who killed their wives or girlfriends tended to fall into two categories. A minority, he said, are calculating killers, whose motive is instrumental: cashing in on an insurance policy, for example. More common, he said, are killers who suffer from severe personality disturbances. Such men, Dr. Dutton said, often have a terror of being abandoned and express their dependency in extreme jealousy and controlling behavior.
''What's going on deep down is that they believe the woman is leaving them and they can't live without her,'' he said. ''The prospect of her leaving throws them into a downward spiral where they feel like they are staring into the abyss.''
Frequently, Dr. Dutton added, the killer enters a ''dissociated,'' trancelike state after the killing. In one case, he said, a man killed his wife and children in Berkeley, Calif., boarded a plane for New York, and was picked up by the police at La Guardia Airport still wearing his bloody clothes.
Sometimes when a woman is murdered, it appears to come out of nowhere: Thomas G. Nelford, the Columbia dropout who is believed to have killed Ms. Roskot, appears to have had no history of battering, and friends described him as a pacifist.
More often, though, there were many portents of danger. Through a study of completed and attempted murders of women by intimate partners in 11 large and mid-size cities, a group of researchers, led by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, is trying to put together a list of risk factors for lethal violence.
The study is not yet completed, but Dr. Campbell and her colleagues have published a small part of their findings and have posted some preliminary findings on the Internet.
The study reinforces the findings of other research. For example, Dr. Campbell said in an interview, the researchers are finding that the biggest risk factor is a history of violent behavior by the man in the relationship. Of 250 women in the study who were killed by current or former partners, 65 percent had been assaulted by their partners in the past. Of the 200 victims of attempted homicide, 72 percent had experienced a previous assault.
Past stalking of the woman by her male partner, Dr. Campbell and her colleagues found, also posed a significant risk, occurring in 69 percent of homicides and 84 percent of attempted homicides. When the woman had separated from her partner, the frequency of stalking rose to 88 percent.
In many cases, Dr. Campbell said, stalking occurred even when the couple lived together. A man, for example, might show up unexpectedly at his partner's workplace, beep her repeatedly on a pager, demanding to know where she is, or telephone her dozens of times a day.
Other predictors of lethal violence included an escalation in the frequency or severity of physical abuse, attempts by the man to choke the woman or to force her to have sex, the presence of a gun in the house, the use of street drugs or the abuse of alcohol by the man, verbal threats, and the woman's belief that her partner was capable of killing her.
A history of domestic violence is found less often in men who kill themselves after killing their partners, Dr. Campbell said. Studies indicate that about 25 percent of men who kill their partners commit suicide afterward. Often, they do so with an equal display of emotion: Mrs. Jean-Paul's husband, for example, is believed to have set himself on fire. The man police believe killed Ms. Roskot threw himself in front of a subway train a few hours after she was killed.
Curiously, in the multicity study, men who tortured or killed animals -- long thought to be a sign of potential danger -- were no more likely to kill their partners. But Dr. Campbell cautioned: ''No matter what the research says, what I say to women is, 'If he does something that is terribly frightening, be scared! If it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck, be scared!' ''
In one case she encountered, Dr. Campbell said, a man slit the throat of his wife's favorite dog and left the dead pet in the bathtub for her to find.
What can women do to protect themselves? At least one study, by the National Center for State Courts, of civil protection orders issued in three jurisdictions, found that contrary to popular belief, such orders are effective in the majority of cases, making women feel safer and reducing incidents of violence. A court order obtained by Ms. Thomas, the Westchester Community College student, however, appears to have done her little good.
Still, in most cases, by the time a court intervenes, the woman's situation is already dire. For young women, said Ms. Goldfarb of Rutgers, an important preventive measure is to be alert for signs that a man is potentially dangerous -- before the relationship grows serious.
''Many of the same types of gestures or comments that we are taught as young girls to view as romantic are, in fact, major warning signs of a serious potential for domestic violence,'' Ms. Goldfarb said.
She gave as examples statements that might appear solicitous but that in reality may indicate extreme jealousy or a controlling nature. A man might say, for example, ''I can't live without you,'' or ''You only need me,'' or ''I can't breathe unless I'm near you.'' Or he might phone her 20 times a day or appear unexpectedly at her door.
''It may sound like Prince Charming,'' Ms. Goldfarb said. ''But in reality that kind of possessiveness is designed to isolate a woman from other sources of support in her life. It is a foreshadowing of violence.''
And perhaps a signal to stay as far away as possible.

Crime Victims Rights Week April 22- April 28, 2012 - making a case for parallel justice

The National Center for Victims of Crime does an amazing job assisting victims of crime.  In 1999 at the suggestion of a Secret Service agent who was attempting to help me with my stalking,  I contacted the NCVC.  I worked with the Deputy Director of Public Policy who helped draft the current NJ Criminal Stalking Law.  The Stalking Resource Center at the NCVC urged me to share my tale of stalking with women to encourage more women to fight back.  Susan Herman, who was the Executive Director of the NCVC, crafted the philosophy of parallel justice. 

The Next Revolution in Crime Victims' Rights: A System of Parallel Justice

During the past 20 years, a sea change occurred in the involvement of crime victims in the criminal justice system.

The far-reaching recommendations of the 1982 Final Report of the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime set the stage for nothing less than a revolution in establishing crime victims’ rights to participate in the criminal justice system. At the time this report was released, only the state of California provided constitutional protection to crime victims’ rights. Furthermore, very few states gave victims what we now consider to be the most basic of rights, including the right to be present in the court room, the right to be notified about and provide input into crucial developments in the criminal justice process, and the right to restitution.

Since 1982, we have seen measurable progress. Currently, every state in this country gives victims of crime the rights to be notified, present and heard during legal proceedings, and more than half guarantee those rights in their state constitutions. The cloak of invisibility has been shattered and victims are now more widely viewed as legitimate participants in the criminal justice system.

And, yet, something critically important is still missing for victims of crime. The criminal justice system was set up, after all, to apprehend, prosecute, punish, and rehabilitate offenders. As a society, we have spent billions of dollars on dealing primarily with the perpetrators of crime. Tragically, however, far too many of the 25 million Americans who become victims of crime each year are left isolated in crime’s wake—fending for themselves and struggling alone with the enormous emotional, financial, and physical consequences of crime.

It’s time to look to the next 20 years and further revolutionize the way we think about and support those who are harmed by crime. It’s time to create a system of parallel justice, a system that tells each crime victim, “what happened to you was wrong and we will help you rebuild your life.”

What would parallel justice look like? A system of parallel justice would run parallel to the criminal justice system. Parallel justice would involve both a governmental and a community response. For every reported crime, our society spends enormous resources responding to the incident and trying to apprehend and prosecute the offender. With parallel justice, there would always be a second—parallel—set of responses that would be designed to help ensure a victim’s safety; to help a victim recover from the trauma of the crime; and to provide resources to help a victim get his or her life back on track.

It would be a system that compensates victims of all crime (violent and non-violent) for all their losses, including pain and suffering—not just immediate out-of-pocket losses as done sparingly in the current system. It would be a system that provides all victims who seek it with emergency, transitional, and ongoing services, including counseling, relocation assistance, and support groups. When crime victims need to relocate for their safety, they would have priority access to housing assistance. Victimization increases substance abuse, so, under parallel justice, crime victims would have priority access to treatment programs. Parallel justice would offer safety planning for all victims to prevent repeat victimization.

Within the criminal justice system, parallel justice would manifest through consistently fair and respectful treatment of crime victims. It would mean victims’ rights are respected and enforced, and when these rights are denied that meaningful recourse is available. It would also mean that when convicted offenders are ordered to pay restitution to victims for harm done, those orders would be enforced.

Within our communities, a system of parallel justice would foster a greater awareness of the impact of crime on its victims and encourage a more compassionate response. For example, businesses would demonstrate concern for their employees’ security by rearranging schedules, if necessary, or by helping to provide different means of transportation to and from work. Universities would assist students who are raped or stalked with transferring to a different school or by allowing time off from classes without being penalized academically. Accountants and financial planners would volunteer their services to help homicide survivors pay bills, attend to financial affairs, and settle estates. Neighbors would help crime victims by running errands, cooking meals, performing household repairs, or babysitting children. There are endless opportunities for our communities to help victims of crime.

Certainly, many jurisdictions across the United States have programs to assist crime victims. But, in most places, these programs and services are inadequate, under-funded, and of only minimal scope. To address shortcomings in the current system and to ensure that victims of crime receive the assistance and support they need to rebuild their lives, communities should be encouraged to draw inspiration from the example of this country’s September 11 response. Our generous altruistic spirit need not lie dormant until a major calamity strikes. It can be exercised daily on behalf of the anonymous, powerless, aggrieved, and often suffering victims of everyday crime.

This is National Crime Victims' Rights Week, an opportunity for us to dream big and envision a more comprehensive and compassionate response to victims. Let’s, once again, revolutionize our response to victims of crime by taking the path of parallel justice.