RLD on DV: Raise Awareness & Support Survivors

Greetings RLD Fam!

It’s been six years that I have had my blog. For most of those years, I have done “The RLD on DV” series during October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Having prosecuted domestic violence homicides for 4 years, and being a survivor, this issue will always be close to my heart.  This year, I’ve done a lot more attending events than writing – so allow me to share what the 2019 journey has looked like.

At the Pain to Purpose Ball with (L-R) Judicial Candidate Olanike Adebayo, Miami-Dade School and Board Member Dr. Dorothy Bendross- Mindingall

I began the month with the Pain 2 Purpose Survivors Ball where we honored survivors of domestic violence and mourned those who were lost.  Pain 2 Purpose is an organization founded by Shanda Roberts, herself a survivor of domestic violence, to empower survivors and educate the public.  Four brave survivors stood up, and shared their stories of violence, pain, but eventual triumph.  The story that resonated most with me was that of Shaqueenia Hanna.  She took us through the relationship with her child’s father — how his possessiveness and jealousy led him to shoot her thirteen times outside of her home. Shaqueenia shared a powerful slideshow presentation, which included pictures from the hospital interspersed with pictures posted on social media requesting prayers for her healing. There was an extremely moving video of her finally able to get out of bed and painfully, slowly, walk for the first time after the shooting. Her path to healing continues. In addition to internal injuries, she is now blind in one eye. Her ex is in custody awaiting trial. He faces a 25 year minimum mandatory – life for the use of a firearm causing great bodily injury.

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Next, I joined Tamron Hall, celebrities and regular folks across the country with the #PutTheNailInIt campaign by polishing the nail on my ring finger purple. The goal is to raise awareness about domestic violence, and to support Safe Horizon. Safe Horizon is the nation’s leading victim assistance organization; its mission is to provide support, prevent violence, and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities. As I was telling my manicurist about the campaign, the lady next to me in the salon took interest in joining the campaign. We began to chat – and she revealed that she survived domestic violence. 

The odds of having two survivors sitting next to each other at a salon? Higher than you think. Every 9 seconds, a woman is abused by her spouse. 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner abuse.  10 million children witness adult domestic violence at home. They are more likely to grow up to be abusers, or be abused. It’s a vicious cycle. In the criminal justice system, we need to address these traumas to prevent more tragedies from occurring. 

Lastly, I had the privilege of being on the Law & Crime Network to provide commentary on the Markeith Loyd case. He was charged with killing his pregnant girlfriend, and a female police officer in Orlando. The case drew international attention due to Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s anti-death penalty stance. His testimony during the trial in his defense revealed a man deeply disturbed with clear mental health issues in excess of the traits of a batterer. He was found guilty; the jury chose to send him to prison for life rather than impose the death penalty.  See my thoughts below.

I hope you will join me in fighting domestic violence all year round – take the time to engage others in this fight through education, and sharing resources as well as encouragement to folks suffering in this horrible cycle.

 

 

The RLD on DV: Personal Stories of the Victims

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Continuing this month’s series on Domestic Violence Awareness, I wanted to touch on three more distinct stories, with separate themes.  The first is a horrible story from Kentucky, where a man used the family dog as part of the instrument of violence against his girlfriend.  I have prosecuted cases where offenders will often abuse the family pet, knowing that this is another way of upsetting the victim. But this offender took it one step further.  See her story here.

The next story explores the trauma of a Miami woman who did leave her husband, but he found her, and shot her.  He is still at large; his picture is below. Please read her story here. This Miami Herald story also discusses the challenges involved in domestic violence cases.

Jose Luis Duarte, wanted for Attempted Murder. Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald
Jose Luis Duarte Borrero, wanted for Attempted Murder. Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald

Lastly, Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete who was known as the “Blade Runner”, was released from prison yesterday to serve the rest of his murder sentence under house arrest.  He was tried for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.  Reeva was shot by Pistorius through a locked bathroom door in the home they shared because, as he stated, he believed she was an intruder. Despite the evidence that came out at trial indicating she was afraid of him, the presiding judge found him guilty of the lesser charge manslaughter and sentenced him to five years in prison. After serving only one year in prison, he will spend the remainder of his sentence in his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria.

Reeva Steenkamp
Reeva Steenkamp

This is a reminder that domestic violence affects all races, all ethnic groups, all socio economic backgrounds, and all countries. I have worked with domestic violence victims who covered their bruises with Chanel sunglasses, to those who scraped by on government assistance.  The evil disease that is DV does not discriminate; neither should we in our assumptions.

M.