A new report by the Connecticut Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board found that family members, friends, and co-workers of 16 victims who lost their lives in 2010 were unaware of the escalation in violence between the victim and the perpetrator.
The board found those closest to the victims did not process the information or warning signs, or know what to do about them.
In addition to the 16 victims of domestic violence, two relatives and an unborn child were also killed in the 2010 homicides and many of the perpetrators committed suicide, Penni Micca, chairwoman of the Fatality Review Board, said.
Identifying details were removed from the final report out of respect for the victims and their families. The report was based on case chronologies that were created and examined by members of the review board and based on information gathered from public record, other documents, and interviews with family and friends, Micca said.
The board’s duty was to make observations about specific elements in the cases, she said.
The review of the fatalities helps organizations like the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence make recommendations regarding public policy and programming.
“The double tragedy of deaths due to domestic violence is the realization that in many cases they could have been prevented. Domestic violence homicides are seldom without warning,” Micca said.
In an attempt to continue the steady decrease in fatalities, the committee recommended greater involvement from co-workers and employers of domestic violence victims to help alleviate the state of domestic abuse.
This year’s report placed an emphasis on the importance of the workplace as a victim’s only safe haven.
“Both co-workers and employers have a unique opportunity to observe indicators of domestic violence impacting victims or unsettling behavior on the part of the perpetrator,” the report stated. “Employers are uniquely positioned to link survivors to support and resources; time at work may be the only time the victim is away or free from the abusive partner’s influence.”
The report established that culturally and linguistically appropriate systems need to be put in place for domestic violence victims. Victims whose first language is not English have difficulty accessing help from the courts and social services, Micca said.
Karen Jarmoc, executive director of CCADV, supported the recommendations and talked about how her organization is moving forward with a new program to address the issues that lead to fatalities.
“As a state coalition, we’re going to work very collaboratively this year to ensure that those lethality issues are more present in people’s minds especially with those individuals who are in the place to provide help,” Jarmoc said.
Connecticut was selected as one of 10 states to implement a national model called the Lethality Assessment Program starting in September, Jarmoc said.
The program will call for 14 law enforcement agencies to work with 10 domestic violence agencies in the state to provide an assessment and intervention at the scene of a domestic violence incident, she explained.
Last year’s report from the fatality review board helped shape the legislature’s efforts in the past year, state Rep. Mae Flexer said.
“Many of the proposals that we stood here and talked about last year did become a part of the domestic violence bill that we passed just a couple of months ago and I expect that many of these recommendations will be part of our efforts in 2013,” Flexer said.
One reform that was enacted in the last couple of years was to break down walls between the civil court system and the criminal court system to allow for more communication regarding cases involving the same parties, Flexer said.
Another recent change, according to Jarmoc, is that restraining orders on those who commit acts of domestic violence can now be up to a year instead of just six months.
And while it’s too soon to tell if the programs are effective, the number of domestic violence fatalities has decreased over the past two years. Connecticut saw 14 domestic violence homicides in 2011 and five substantiated homicides in 2012, Micca said.
In the future, the board will place a greater emphasis on near fatalities, Micca said.
“Reviewing near-fatal intimate partner cases can provide information that cannot be captured through a fatality review, such as the experiences of the victim and her children,” she said.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Attorney Nancy Tyler shared her personal experience of being stalked for three years and finally kidnapped by her abusive ex-husband.
“Women need to protect themselves, and those who help them do that need to know how best to keep them and their families safe,” Tyler said.