End Domestic Abuse WI In The News

Monday 09/09/2013

A proposed change in state law will make it easier for domestic abuse victims to protect themselves from abusers who live in other states.

Backers say the bill is needed to protect victims from the increasing use of social media by domestic violence perpetrators.

Wisconsin is one of only a few states that requires people filing a restraining order to show that the person they are filing it against lives in Wisconsin. The new bill would allow victims who may have fled an abuser in another state to file a restraining order from Wisconsin if the out-of-state abuser is still harassing or threatening them online, by telephone, or through the mail.

Ashley Welak, a legal advocate for People Against a Violent Environment, remembers a client who said she felt like she was “living a nightmare” because of the online harassment she endured. After she fled her abuser from Las Vegas, he began posting fake pictures of her on social media.

“She almost lost her job because of the kinds of things he was putting on there – pictures of her with barely any clothes on,” says Welak. “He also made an advertisement on Craigslist [of her] as an adult entertainment escort.”

Only because her abuser had family in Wisconsin was she able to file a restraining order. Others victims whose abusers don't have relatives in the state are often forced to return to the state where their abuser lives to file the restraining order.

Tony Gibhart of the group End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says Wisconsin's current restraining order laws are outdated.

“They weren't written when anyone knew what a text message was or anyone knew what Facebook was,” he says. “They're not really reflective of … the kinds of abuse we’re seeing in an increasingly technological environment.”

Gibhart says out-of-state restraining orders have proved effective in preventing such abuse in other states.



Friday 09/06/2013

People who hide relatives on the run from the law or destroy evidence to protect them would face prosecution, under a bill scheduled for a hearing Thursday in Madison.

The measure, spearheaded for a dozen years by a woman whose grandson was killed in Oak Creek, has been introduced repeatedly in the Legislature but has not passed.

Shirley George, whose grandson Joey was murdered outside a bar in Oak Creek in 2000 after he was mistaken for another man, hopes this time is different.

"I am very excited about it (the hearing)," said George, who lives in the Waupaca area and calls the measure "Joey's Law." "I hope it comes to fruition."

Current Wisconsin law exempts the suspect's spouse, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters from prosecution if they harbor the felon or hide, destroy or place false evidence.

About a dozen other states have exceptions for family members harboring relatives, but Wisconsin law exempts more relatives and permits them to do more to thwart law enforcement without fear of prosecution.

The Journal Sentinel documented several examples in which homicide suspects were helped by family members — one finding of an investigation that uncovered how offenders escape punishment because of shortcomings in the system.

The current version of the bill is sponsored by Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) with nine co-sponsors in the Senate and Assembly. The bill has been introduced in the Senate and the Assembly.

The Senate's Committee on Transportation, Public Safety, and Veterans and Military Affairs is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the bill, according to staffers from the offices of Olsen and Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), chairman of the committee.

The bill would make it a class G felony — and with it up to 10 years in prison — to hide someone wanted for the most serious felonies. The bill would mean up to 31/2 years in prison for harboring a felon in less serious crimes.

An expected amendment to the bill would provide protection for domestic violence victims. Language protecting such victims became a sticking point in the 2012 version of the bill.

As that bill was originally written, a domestic violence victim could not be charged with aiding a fugitive if the fugitive earlier had been convicted of domestic violence.

Domestic violence victim advocates wanted to go further, allowing people who claimed to be victims to use that as a defense against a charge they helped the fugitive. Prosecutors said no exception for domestic violence was needed, asking that they have discretion on whether to charge someone in such a case.

Tony Gibart, spokesman for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, formerly known as Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said this week the organization wants people who willingly help felons to be held accountable, but the bill needs to be carefully crafted.

"We believe the Legislature can accomplish this important goal, while still protecting domestic violence victims who, out of fear for their or children's safety, are coerced into helping abusers," he said.

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams said an exception for domestic violence victims or potential victims could create a loophole. He said the law could be crafted so being a domestic violence victim could be a defense against prosecution, but requiring the prosecution to prove someone was not a victim would make applying the law impracticable.

"Last time, it watered it down a lot," Williams, a longtime homicide prosecutor, said of the previous domestic violence amendment. "Someone could claim they were a victim of domestic violence because they were hiding a murderer or hiding evidence and we would have to disprove that. Anyone could claim that."

Friday 08/30/2013

His first wife flung a chair at him, breaking a window. In return, CJ Doxtater straddled and punched her.

It was only when his second wife left him that Doxtater, an Oneida tribal member, began his long journey from an addict and abuser to an advocate fighting the kind of violence that plagued his own marriages.

Now an outreach coordinator for Madison-based End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, formerly the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Doxtater can see how he used physical violence to reinforce the emotional and psychological abuse he also heaped on his first two wives. He says he believed at the time that "violence was a tool that was okay for men to use -- to keep our women in line."

Native American women are more than twice as likely as African American or white women to experience sexual assault and domestic violence, according to studies (PDF) from the U.S. Department of Justice. One in three Native American women are raped in their lifetime.

Such crimes against Native women are often committed by non-Native perpetrators. Historically many of these assaults were not prosecuted because women did not come forward and because tribes did not have the legal authority to pursue charges. For these and other reasons, advocates turned their sights to the Violence Against Women Act to address violence within tribal communities and were relieved earlier this year when Congress finally signed off on its reauthorization.

"[This law is] relevant to my past, to how I got here, to my foundation," says Doxtater, who credits Alcoholics Anonymous, a tribal mentor and a men's support group for helping him change his violent ways. "But it's also relevant in my family, where I see domestic violence still happens, within our tribe. There's still a high rate. There's a lot of pain there."

'A safety and sovereignty issue'

The reauthorized act, which became law in March, provides funding and support for victims of stalking, rape and domestic violence and helps hold perpetrators responsible. Particularly important to the Native American community, it contains a new provision allowing tribes to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit a crime on a reservation. In Wisconsin, the state is responsible for prosecuting crimes -- including cases of sexual assault and abuse -- on most reservations.

While only one of the 11 tribes in Wisconsin, the Menominee Nation, has the criminal jurisdiction and law enforcement structures to use the new provision, it has inspired hope and set the stage for other tribes to develop them as well.

"Tribal advocates, Native American men and women, certainly understood this as a safety issue and a sovereignty issue and were united behind it," says Tony Gibart, policy development coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, who lobbied for the bill in Washington, D.C., along with executive director Patti Segar.

"It's important to have that ability to protect your citizens," adds Martina Gauthier, a lower court tribal judge for the Menominee Nation.

Gauthier says it would take a couple of years to put the needed structures in place, and each tribe, as an independent nation, will choose if and when to do so.

The 2010 federal Tribal Law and Order Act offers some support for this and also increases coordination between tribes and federal, state and local law enforcement. Some individuals still fall through the gaps of tribal and non-tribal law enforcement, says Pam Johnson, a member of Lac Courte Oreilles and executive director of American Indians Against Abuse in Hayward, Wis.

"You may [reach a tribal officer] who's two weeks out of basic training for law enforcement, where they may say, 'call the county,'" says Johnson. "The county [says]...'you need to call the tribes.' Someone in need will hear from both sides, 'call the other.'"

Cultural values

Doxtater's first wife died of a congenital heart defect and his second left him for a shelter. He was never prosecuted for his abuse.

He says that was before the 1989 mandatory arrest law, which now requires law enforcement to intervene and arrest the aggressors in abusive situations.

"The attitude [before the mandatory arrest law] was that these kinds of incidences belong in the home," says Doxtater, adding that it was part of a philosophy to "not air dirty laundry outside the home."

Now nearly all Wisconsin tribes operate a civil justice system where such things as restraining orders can be authorized.

While tribes move to build these law enforcement systems, Doxtater is pursuing a different approach with End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

"I would like to affect cultural value systems. For me, that goes beyond a legal infrastructure," he says. "It goes to the core of our society. With effective value systems and accountability in place, I think domestic violence, sexual assault don't have anything to survive on."

Doxtater and a coworker have been facilitating leadership institutes for underserved populations, training Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanics to become advocates who address domestic violence and sexual assault in their communities.

Doxtater says they discuss historical trauma, oppression and abuse and how these intersect with domestic violence.

"Each individual will choose where they'll need to grow, and we'll provide that," says Doxtater. "Our hope is that it coincides with our understanding and helps build a shared language and through that, shared goals to effect change."

He has begun working with tribes to improve how they collect and share data to better serve victims. Each tribe currently has its own program, and data sharing might promote continuity of services across tribes.

One other program Doxtater is excited about is a trauma-informed care initiative that connects victims with mental health support and other care providers.

Doxtater's work mirrors the change he made in his own life. Twenty years after his second wife left him, Doxtater married again. He calls his current relationship "my first human marriage."

And he sees progress in the Native American community as well.

"Things are getting better," says Doxtater. "At times it doesn't seem like it, but the hope is alive."

Nora G Hertel

Isthmus 08/29/13

Monday 08/26/2013

Domestic violence victims in Milwaukee faced the risk of eviction if they called police because of a city ordinance that counted the calls as a "nuisance," according to a study.

The city's ordinance says that if police receive three or more calls in a month, the property may be declared a nuisance and the landlord could be charged for police service. At the prodding of police, landlords most often have resorted to evictions in such situations, according to the study by a professor from Harvard University.

To ward off having their property branded a nuisance, landlords have discouraged domestic violence victims from calling police, posting signs and even suggesting extreme measures, according to the study.

"She has been beaten by her 'man' who kicks in doors and goes to jail for one or two days," one unnamed landlord wrote in a letter to police, cited in the study. "We suggested she obtain a gun and kill him in self-defense but evidently she hasn't. Therefore we are evicting her."

The study also found that the nuisance letters and citations were disproportionately issued in Milwaukee's black neighborhoods.

The study, published earlier this year, was based on data from 2008 and 2009. Since then, Wisconsin law and the city's ordinance have been changed so domestic violence calls, along with stalking and sexual assault, cannot be considered a nuisance.

Local victim advocates and the study's author applauded the change but said the problem of domestic violence victims losing housing because of the actions of their abusers persists.

"A lot of clients don't know about the exemption and don't always feel at liberty to talk about it, and the cycle of violence continues," said Carmen Pitre, executive director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee. "This is another layer of being held liable for what is happening in their relationship."

The study's lead author, Matthew Desmond, noted there are other calls to police that still count under the nuisance ordinance that could be domestic violence.

Other categories, too

"It is a step in the right direction. ... I don't think we can assume that fixes everything," Desmond, an assistant professor of sociology at Harvard, said of the law changes. "DV hides behind a lot of categories — 911 abuse, subject with weapon, noise. It's not always called 'domestic violence.'"

The study is critical of landlords but also police, saying that officers are essentially off-loading their responsibilities on landlords.

Evicting tenants is far from easy, said Tristan Pettit, a lawyer who represents landlords in eviction actions and writes a blog on landlord issues. He also said the landlord has to consider the risk to other tenants when abuse is happening.

"The landlord knows he has a volatile situation and needs to protect his other tenants, too. They are stuck," Pettit said. "Whether DV is in there or not, my clients have the same problem. Police just push it off on landlords and have us do police work, and we are not the police."

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said Desmond's study sometimes fails to appreciate how officers use the ordinance to solve problems rather than to punish victims or pass off their responsibility onto landlords. The ordinance allows police to be proactive and see what is driving police calls at a certain problem property, rather than just reacting to it, he said.

"Nuisance abatement is a tool in the toolkit. It is a problem-solving technique to abate an ongoing condition," Flynn said. "The overarching goal is not, 'Can we get out of work?' It is, 'Can we solve the problem?'"

City's nuisance ordinance

Under Milwaukee's chronic nuisance premise ordinance, enacted in 2001, a property could be declared a nuisance if police are called to an address more than three times in a month for calls that fall under the ordinance.

Once that happens, a letter goes out to the landlord ordering him to take action. Desmond, with help from a student from Columbia University, examined about 500 letters from 2008 and 2009 and matched them with 911 police calls and demographic data.

The study found the top nuisances cited in those letters were "trouble with subject," "noise" and "domestic violence." And while domestic violence accounted for about 4% of calls to police from that period, it made up nearly 16% of nuisances cited in the letters, the study found.

The study's authors called the situation a "devil's bargain."

"The nuisance property ordinance has the effect of forcing abused women to choose between calling the police on their abusers (only to risk eviction) or staying in their apartments (only to risk more abuse)," the study said.

The study also found that actions under the ordinance were most likely in black neighborhoods. The highest rate was in integrated areas, suggesting minority groups within those integrated areas feel threatened and call police more often.

The study's authors interviewed landlords who received nuisance letters about their properties. The landlords said the only option police generally would accept to get rid of the nuisance was eviction. They discovered evidence of landlords discouraging tenants from using 911.

One landlord told police he sent a memo to tenants letting them know, "they cannot just dial 911 when they feel there may be an emergency. They must first make sure it is a real emergency."

Another landlord posted a sign telling tenants to call him, not police.

"Don't waste the Police Department's time with these frivolous calls or you will be the one who is evicted!!"

The comments illustrate the role that landlords can play in the lives of domestic violence victims, said Tony Gibart, spokesman for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

"A landlord who threatens eviction if his or her tenant calls police may be eliminating one of the few options the victim has to stay safe," Gibart said. "On the other hand, a landlord who helps a victim escape by changing the locks or allowing the victim to relocate to another apartment can be a part of the solution."

Change in law

A change in state law in 2009 protected domestic violence victims from being evicted because of the abuse. A second change would not allow leases that permit eviction because of crimes at the property, "even if the tenant could not reasonably have prevented the crime." Gibart said a bill currently before the Legislature would reverse that second measure.

It took Milwaukee until early 2011 to change its nuisance ordinance to exclude domestic violence, along with stalking and sexual assault.

However, Assistant City Attorney Robin Pederson, who handled the nuisance ordinance from 2009 until last year, said the office has long been aware to not count domestic violence incidents under the ordinance.

"When I came on, it already existed and we were already aware of it and we always trained our officers on that issue," Pederson said.

City Attorney Grant Langley did not return a call for comment last week.

District Attorney John Chisholm, whose office deals with the people causing the nuisance, said he would like to see deeper examination of the issue in light of the study.

"You would clearly not want to unintentionally create a disincentive to call police for DV," Chisholm said in an interview earlier this year.

Pitre said since 2007 her staff has been building better relationships with prosecutors, police and landlords in Milwaukee. And while there has been improvement, there is room for more, she said.

She would like to see an examination of how the nuisance ordinance has been enforced since domestic violence was exempted two years ago.

"There is an opportunity to ask ourselves, 'What is happening? Do we need to change to address that?' This is a good time to do it," she said.


Thursday 08/01/2013


DARLINGTON — Sharon Wand was described by her sister Wednesday as a simple-minded victim of domestic violence whose husband continues to control her from prison.

“Right now, she’s lost,” said Amy Peterson, the younger sister of Wand, 27, who wrote a letter to the Wisconsin State Journal recanting statements that her husband, Armin Wand III, and brother-in-law, Jeremy Wand, set the fire in early September that killed her three young boys and the fetus she was carrying.

Peterson said Wand, who was also badly burned in the fire and is still recovering from her injuries, wrote the letter after visiting her husband in prison about a month ago and then spending about a week living with her husband’s sister, Tammy Wand, in Argyle.

Peterson, who lives in Necedah and talks to her sister almost every day by phone, described her sister as gullible and easily susceptible to manipulation.

She said Sharon Wand told her she visited her husband in prison because she wanted closure. Instead, she said, Armin Wand was “lovey-dovey with her” and used the same controlling techniques he used during their marriage to convince her of his innocence.

“She wanted to believe he didn’t do it when she knows he did,” Peterson said.

Wand’s recantation of her story is not uncommon among victims of domestic violence, according to Tony Gibart, the policy coordinator for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

Domestic violence victims go through periods of denial to “escape the trauma they are experiencing and the nightmare they are living,” Gibart said. That also makes Wand more susceptible to manipulation from her husband or his family, Gibart said.

“There are complex and contradictory feelings in this situation that can be manipulated by allies of the abuser,” he added.

Wand briefly left the Lyghthouse, a 16-bed facility near Platteville that helps people with brain injuries and mental health and other behavior problems, to stay with Tammy Wand, Peterson said.

“She wasn’t taking her medicine and she wasn’t talking to her doctors,” Peterson said.

In addition to writing letters to media outlets, Wand wrote several profanity-laden passages in her Facebook page that said her husband and brother-in-law were innocent and proclaimed her love for her husband. She later deleted several of those passages, Peterson said.

Wand’s guardian, Geri McKeon, took her back to the Lyghthouse last week, shortly after Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department detectives inquired about Wand’s Facebook comments, Peterson said.

Wand’s recovery as a victim of domestic violence may take longer than her recovery from her burns, Gibart said. Victims like Wand, “need to be around people who are understanding and accepting, people that don’t belittle or patronize them.

“They need to rebuild that sense of control and empowerment that the abusers take from them, so that healing process will take many years,” he said.

from: Wisconsin State Journal

Tuesday 07/16/2013

A group that tracks domestic violence statistics in Wisconsin, and supports programs for victims, is changing its name.

Officials from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced yesterday that the group will now be End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Eleanor Anderson says groups like that make it easier to talk about a serious issue.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin says Wisconsin had 464 reported domestic abuse-related homicides between 2000 and 2011.

From: WHBY

Tuesday 07/16/2013

The Violence Intervention Project has placed a lantern outside the main office at 1405 Division St. in Algoma to commemorate victims whom have lost their lives to domestic violence. This was inspired by the tragedy of two lives recently lost to domestic violence in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The lantern will be lit for a period of one week following each domestic violence related homicide that occurs throughout the state of Wisconsin. The Violence Intervention Project will utilize the lantern to create community awareness. Information will be available on Violence Intervention Project’s Facebook page.

A woman is beaten every nine seconds in the United States, and domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence collects data pertaining to domestic violence in Wisconsin, and they have reported 464 homicides from 2000 to 2011.

Forty people lost their lives to domestic violence in 2011 alone. Victims ranged in age from infancy to 82 years old. Domestic violence affects people from all religions, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, socioeconomic status and educational backgrounds.

No one is immune to domestic violence, as we have learned from the recent homicide of the interim director of the domestic violence agency in Marinette. Many people find themselves questioning how a domestic violence victim advocate could herself be a victim of domestic violence.

Domestic violence never happens because of something the victim did or didn’t do. Blaming the victim for the violence that was perpetrated against her takes away the responsibility of the offender. The question we should be asking is why do offenders abuse.

Domestic violence is more than a single act of violence; it is a cycle of abuse that repeats itself over a period of time. An abuser uses isolation, emotional abuse, threats, intimidation, economic abuse and children to gain control over their victim, making it increasingly difficult for a victim to end the relationship.

If you are being abused: remember that you are not alone, it is not your fault and help is available. If you are interested in speaking to an advocate or attending a support group, please call the Violence Intervention Project at (920) 487-2111 or our 24-hour Hotline at (920) 837-2424. All services are free and confidential. Find us on Facebook. Please help the Violence Intervention Project shed a light on domestic violence in Wisconsin.

From: Green Bay Press Gazette

Monday 07/22/2013

Earlier this year, the unthinkable happened.

For the first time in almost two decades, the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was allowed to expire.

Although VAWA’s funding continues—for now at least—its authorization lapsed in January and is now at the mercy of those in Congress who do not wish to improve its protections for same-sex partners, immigrants and Native American victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

When VAWA’s reauthorization came up for a vote in April 2012, the Senate passed the expanded version on a broad, bipartisan 68-31 vote. Wisconsin’s then-Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat, supported the bill; Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, voted against it.

But House Republicans took issue with the Senate version’s expanded protections for victims of same-sex partner violence and vulnerable populations, and passed a limited version of the bill. Wisconsin’s congressional delegation voted along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats against it.

The bills died at the end of the last session of Congress.

But Democrats—including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore—have reintroduced the expanded version of VAWA. On Monday, the Senate voted 85-8 to take up the bill, which it is expected to do later this week.

“VAWA’s authorization expired over a year ago, but its programs and services continue to operate under language last updated in 2005,” Moore wrote in a statement released to the Shepherd. “Still, VAWA’s current form is in serious need of the updates and enhancements suggested by the domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy community. Fortunately, the Senate will soon pass this updated Violence Against Women Act. Yet I am concerned about the progress this Act will make in the House. Now is not the time for political posturing. I call on my colleagues in the House to protect all victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Women are waiting.”

Tony Gibart of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence said that while VAWA’s funding will continue for now, its lapsed authorization makes it vulnerable in the long term.

“There isn’t a bright-line deadline but the longer it goes unauthorized, the less stable and certain the appropriations become,” Gibart said.

Since its passage in 1994, VAWA has created a comprehensive effort to protect victims of intimate partner violence and strengthen the criminal justice system’s efforts to prosecute and prevent it.

VAWA funding has trained more than 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges; created a federal rape shield law to protect victims’ privacy; mandated that victims are not forced to pay for rape exams or the service of a protection order; and established the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Since VAWA’s passage, the rate of intimate partner violence has declined 50%, reporting of domestic and sexual violence has increased as much as 50%, and all 50 states have reformed laws relating to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, according to a fact sheet provided by Moore’s office.

Gibart said VAWA transformed the nation’s awareness of and response to the dangers of intimate partner violence.

“The Violence Against Women Act was a really important, landmark piece of legislation that had ripple effects throughout the country and was a catalyst for action at the state and local levels on this issue,” Gibart said. “It had a lot of indirect positive impacts that you can’t find anywhere in the text of the bill. But historically it was something that got the ball rolling in a positive way.”

From: Shepherd Express