The domestic violence conference began with a video. It was simple, just some color slides of blood and bruises, accompanied by a love song.
Last year they commissioned pollster Dan Jones to conduct a survey on domestic violence. On Friday, the Governor's Commission for Women and Families held a conference to present some short, personal stories of abuse. The commissioners also wanted to give professionals a chance to respond to the study and to talk about what needs to be done next.First, the video. Photos of beaten flesh dawned and faded on the screen while Nat King Cole sang "L-O-V-E."
" `L' is for the way you look at me, `O' is you're the only one I see . . . " Stitches close a 6-inch head wound. A black eye is bruised halfway down a cheek.
"Two in love can make it, Take my heart but please don't break it . . . " Spouse abusers often abuse children, too. Witness the cigarette burns on those little feet. The tiny legs, swollen and yellow.
After the video, two women who had left their violent husbands told the audience how the system helped them and how it hindered.
A woman named DeeAnn said she'd met quite a few professionals: a judge who believed her husband's version, an FBI agent who talked her out of prosecuting, a welfare worker who accidentally gave her husband her new address.
She was thankful for the victim's advocates and shelter workers. Dee-Ann also told the audience why she stayed with her husband so long.
She said she had a desire to forgive him. She believed in the covenant of marriage. She was afraid of what he might do to her. She was afraid of how society would view her if she were a single mother.
After the remarks, the audience got down to work. Clergy met in one room, law enforcement in another, and educators, service-providers, judges and prosecutors, and health professionals all met separately. Next they divided into community groups - a police officer, a minister, a prosecutor and a shelter worker, and more, all brain-storming about how they could work together more efficiently.
They made lists. Diane Stuart, state coordinator for the Governor's Cabinet Council on Domestic Violence, said the lists will be given to the governor, to state department heads, to state and regional domestic violence coalitions and to legislators.
The professionals who work with domestic violence say they need:
- A statewide plan to exchange information and track perpetrators.
- Consistent statewide procedures for processing domestic violence cases through the courts.
- More training, not just for new police officers and prosecutors and judges, but for those who've been at it for awhile, too.
The professionals praised recent laws - those making it a separate crime of child abuse when a child sees a parent hurt and making it a misdemeanor to rip a phone away from someone dialing for help. They also suggested new laws.
They'd like to see all acts of domestic violence listed on the national Bureau of Criminal Identification database. State law should be amended to comply with federal law.