By Maria DiBari
In a short time span, eight domestic violence related deaths have occurred in Dutchess County, NY. The most recent tragedy occurred in the Town of Milan. John A. Hogan shot his ex-wife in the back of the head with a .22 caliber pistol in front of their daughter and then committed suicide in the home. Unfortunately, these incidents are common and each situation usually ends the same; the victim severely injured or murdered and the batterer commits suicide.
Domestic homicide is the most predictable and preventable murder in the US. There are clear indicators leading up to all (attempted) homicides that should be considered red flags to the victim, police officers, advocates, doctors, co-workers, friends and families. Reliable indicators associated with intimate partner violence and leading up to a domestic homicide should be easily recognized by the victim and the support system in place. Appropriate preventive decisions based on previous violent histories should be made to prevent tragedies.
In every relationship involving domestic violence there are clear signals that victims should be aware of. Some indicators include:
A history of violence in the (previous) relationship, verbally abusive, threats and intimidation, threats of suicide or murder, drug/alcohol abuse, controls finances, refuses to accept rejection, prevents victim from having friends or visiting with family, possession or access to weapons, strangulation, minimizes the incidents of abuse, stalking, jealousy, monitoring phone calls/texts/emails, abuser was abused as a child, victim believes that the abuser will try to kill her/him.
Currently, NYS and Dutchess County, in particular, have been resistant to reforming resources for victims and implementing domestic homicide prevention methods. Despite many homicides in the Hudson Valley, efficient lethality assessment tools are not utilized to predict risk and prevent deaths, a high quality GPS monitoring system has not been considered, and domestic violence training for law enforcement and first responders is lacking. There are many victim service providers available, yet many victims cannot access or obtain appropriate assistance in a timely manner, such as legal representation, emergency funds, and effective safety planning. Batterers programs are not mandatory and truly effective programs do not exist. Rehabilitation for offenders is a topic seldom discussed in our community. Domestic violence has become a political hot potato and our leaders are slow to act and make changes, and many domestic violence experts refuse to acknowledge the need for reform at all.
Victims of violence are in need of effective safety planning and batterers need rehabilitation. Safety planning and rehabilitation for both the victim and the offender are early intervention methods that can be used to prevent crime. The most important action a victim can take when faced with a potentially life threatening situation is to dial 911, report and document violence. Some police departments will allow victims to file informational reports for documentation purposes as well. For those that have witnessed or suspected domestic violence, the term "if you see something, say something" is the best course of action to take to prevent future violence and death.
The time to act on reforming resources, policies and procedures is now. Until we acknowledge the problem at hand, learn by analyzing previous cases and improve the support system we have in place, the problem will only escalate and the number of deaths will continue to increase.