Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Alabama makes history again at NBC13 News

We are winding down from this event, and winding up for our next collaborative partnership. It's been wild, interesting, exhilarating, and now I'm sitting here looking at the view of a city that looks beautiful...I see lights, white, red, yellow and green.

There are dark spots and busy traffic flowing to and from. This room is still buzzing...what a spectacular site it is to see. So here we are, high above and into the skyline, yet...somewhere down there, in someones neighborhood, there's a victim who wish they could get out. They want to get out of the house, away from the perpetrator and blend into the night. They are looking for their way through the lights that maybe at the door of hope...

It could be a woman, a child or man who can't see what I see right now, because they can't even look forward to tomorrow. For them, tomorrow might just be another night of the same.

I can see almost everything from up here, and yet I can't see those victims, but I know that they are there. I'm looking for you, we're looking for you! At this moment I'm standing in the window, but tomorrow I'll be on the ground.

This is Sunny Slaughter, Director of the Alabama Silent Witness Initiative on Domestic Violence and I'm signing off live at NBC13....tonight we made history....tomorrow is another day for us to make change!!

Good night.

The Legal Eagle of the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Jennifer Arsenian is the legal eagle at the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence and her expertise is bar none when it comes to knowing, articulating and building partnerships across the state, while advocating on behalf of victims of domestic violence.
The Coalition has prioritized designing a criminal justice response for the State of Alabama through a cohesive, collaborative and coordinated effort to address domestic violence in our State.
The Criminal Justice Coordinated Community Response Project has been underway for approximately 7 years. This team of experts which includes, the courts, law enforcement, probation, prosecutors and anyone who maybe involved or potentially involved in the judicial process. Building these types of collaborative partnerships are not as easy as it may sound, as it requires significant leadership and dedication to follow it to the end.
Alabama has significant data which speaks to the necessity of having this collaborative partnership. In 2008 Alabama reported 34 domestic violence homicides, 1, 615 aggravated assault, 29, 940 simple assaults and in 20% of these cases a fire arm was used. The Violence Policy Center ranked us 6th in the nation for men who murder women and we are 12th for reported incidents of domestic violence.
Jennifer has worked diligently on developing the best practices in partnership with various criminal justice agencies which include: (1) starting with the first responders and understanding their role and the impact that they have as the initial people to engage the victim and potentially the perpetrator and the importance of risk assessment for themselves and the victim (2)ensuring that the investigative units understand the importance of collecting evidence that can be used and is processed properly for the next phase; and (3) lastly putting into place the prosecutorial procedures which lead to successful prosecution and successful batterer intervention and supervision for convicted offenders. Throughout the entire process victim advocacy is crucial to ensure victims are aware of services, know how to develop safety plans and understand the criminal justice process.
Our ultimate goal is to create a seamless response to domestic violence cases ensuring victim safety and perpetrator accountability are the paramount goals throughout the criminal justice system. We have had an incredible response from communities throughout the State and we see real positive change for victims in Alabama.

Hitting the streets in Blue - Birmingham's Finest Speak

The Birmingham Police Department is the largest police department in the State of Alabama with Jefferson County serving as the largest of the 67 counties making up the state. Chief A.C. Roper has been on the job for a little more than a year and is stead fast on reducing crime across the City.

Here with me live at NBC13 are Officers Pryor and Officer Hendrix, whose main beat is the Southtown community area near St. Vincents Hospital. These officers have been on the job for a total of 7 1/2 years, giving their support to the efforts of ending violence and protecting the residents of Birmingham. This is not a job of convenience for law enforcement, but a passion to the commitment of protecting and serving the public.

Unfortunately, domestic violence disturbance calls are the most dangerous of all the calls that law enforcement can receive. Alabama is currently ranked #2 in the nation for law enforcement homicide deaths. In April 2009, five officers lost their life in the line of duty in the span of thirty days in Florida and Pennsylvania responding to domestic disturbances.

Officer Pryor and Officer Hendrix are being proactive in their approach to domestic violence and violence in the community, by going back to good old fashion foot patrol and building relationships in the community, with residents by showing a presence and direct communication. They are building trust by developing relationships with the kids who recognize them, and can call them by name as well as the people who know that they are there.

One of the most difficult aspects of their jobs is being called to the scene of a crime, and once they arrive, the victim or caller does not want to prosecute the perpertrator but use them as a means to show that they are unafraid. This complicates their roles and increases the level of danger to them as the victim, perpetrator and others have the potential to turn against them.

These officers while they understand the tactic, they also know that this can lead to them being called back to the scene because of additional violence. They are also concerned about the number of unreported incidents that may involve victims who don't know that they are truly there to help.

Officer Pryor and Hendrix, patrolling the streets in Southtown community....

Homeless Hearts Author Jean Newsome

Jean Newsome, Nurse Practitioner, put pen to paper and gave rise to the voice of so many victims who are homeless in America, to say that victimization does not extend into the place were sleep may be more than a notion would be an untruth.
In her book, Homeless Hearts, Jean gives us a peak into a world where it can sometimes seem colder than most, and survival a matter of life and death.
This book tells the life story of 12 women and the path that led them to the shelters where Jean met them. As a nurse for over 30 years, she had no idea of the life events and trauma that people can experience. To look at her sitting here with me, I can only imagine who she was before this. Her eyes and the passion in her voice, tell ME a story. I didn't know her before this very moment but I can tell that she was definitely changed by what she saw and heard.
Her words do not come so easy....Jean says, "that until we understand the CYCLE of what we can be in, then the cycle cannot be broken" As I am waiting for her to gather her thoughts and regain her composure, her silence is almost deafening in a room that is busy with the hustle and bustle of bloggers and interviewees.
As Jean continues, she tells me that this book is about 12 life stories representing violence, mental illness, addiction and how they got there and why they are still there. It is explained in their own words and not hers.
I ask the question why did you write the book? Why not just go in, do your job and get back to your own life? She said that did all those things, until one day when she sat down and actually had a one on one conversation with each of one the women. She listened to their stories and what happened in their lives. Once "she" heard the stories, she knew that the world and lives of these women had to be shared with those of us, who live without presence of their existence nor their circumstance.
This is an education for the public, of the people, by the people and for the people. Textbook theory and ideology had no place for what these women have experienced, this is for the coffee and couch the blanket and pillow.
The back cover of the book gives a summary of it's purpose..."Many books have been written about homelessness and homeless women. Homeless Hearts is the first book to let those women speak for themselves."
For additional information contact and order:

Alabama Coalition Against Domestic blazing the trail in Workplace Violence

I'm here with my New Jersey native sister Joan Sulzmann. Joan is with the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence which is housed in Montgomery, AL. ACADV is actively making strides in educating businesses and the community on Violence in the workplace.
Joan said that this is a huge problem that is often hidden in the workplace, with 1 out of 6 "female employees" who are adversely affected by violence. Approximately 3-5 billion dollars is incurred in the treatment of victims each year nationally.
Unfortunately, there is an increased chance of stalking and harassment in the workplace because perpetrators know where the victim at all times. The ACADV is educating employers about the policies, programs and services which are currently available or which can be developed to assist victims and assist employers with raising awareness.
Employers can be more effective and active in their approach by including specific domestic violence policies which are inclusive in their existing policies, and address domestic violence in the workplace.
Documented court cases have supported the need to have this information in place because some employers have been and can be held liable in certain instances for not protecting their employees from domestic violence incidents which occur while they are at work.
Joan made reference to the small study that was conducted in Maine with a small group of perpetrators who talked about the use of company resources to stalk their victims. The employers may have had some culpable information about the tactics that were used to cause the victimization, and in one case the employer bailed the employee out of jail. These studies show the clear need to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions regardless of where they are.
Joan has worked in this field for over 25 years and has heard some of the most severe stories which include workplace violence. This direct knowledge has driven her passion to protect victims, hold perpetrators accountable and provide options to the employers on how to keep their employees safe.
Joan stated that having resources available to victims in the workplace is necessary, because most of the time victims are so afraid of what may happen to them if and when they tell their employer about the victimization that they are experiencing in the home.
The ACADV has published a manual and developed an advisory committee with business professionals from across the state that have contributed to what prevalent information that may be the most valuable to other employers.
They have also begun hosting luncheon seminars for HR Managers and others to get them involved.
If you would like additional information or resources please contact them at 1-800-650-6522.

Married to the Presiding Judge in Jefferson County AL

Cameron Vowell is spending time with us as we blog to raise awareness about domestic violence, however she is not new to this arena as she is married to Presiding Judge Scott Vowell. Judge Vowell is the Presiding Judge of Jefferson County, AL and has played a crucial role in helping to get the domestic violence court up and rolling in the State of Alabama.
The Vowells have dedicated their time, lives and passion to making a difference in the lives of so many others. Cameron recently finished a five year term on the State Ethics Commission in Montgomery, Alabama.
Taking a break might sometimes seem impossible, but Mrs. Vowell always makes the time to keep tabs on their 22 year old son who is currently in Washington DC working for Congressman Artur Davis. This is a family that is committed to community service, and taking their civic responsibility serious.
The Vowells have set the pace in an arena where victims might not have known their name, but this family is constantly dedicated to the cause behind the scenes, and in front when and where necessary.
Mrs. Vowells, has served on the Board of the Women's Fund and been an active member since it's inception. From the very first day of the conversation, even before the doors would open, she was part of making it happen.
Mrs. Vowells says that wat she enjoys most about the domestic violence initiative, is watching brilliant women come together to answer the call of sisterhood with one voice in reducing violence, educating the public, developing programs, moving forward initiatives, setting the pace for advancement in the courts, and building the partnerships to make it happen.

$34,000 Raised by YWCA Central Alabama serving St. Clair and Blount County

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and organizations have been dilgently planning to step up their efforts to bring more awareness and raise funds to help victims.

The YWCA held its first Purse and Passion fundraiser to save lifes and make an impact for victims and survivors of domestic violence. This facility will service 10 victims, women and children, providing them with the sense of security that they so desperately seek in the face of danger.

Purse and Passion started 10 years ago in Birmingham and this is the First Purse and Passion in St. Clair County to service the ever growing need. Survivors are able to share their stories which speak to the need of having additional facilities like this across state.

Alabama is truly taking the lead in raising awareness for violence of crimes that are occuring across Alabama and in the nation. YWCA Central Alabama is building partnerships and changing lives.