Title: Sexual and Physical Abuse Resource Center (SPARC) History and Documents
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Title: Sexual and Physical Abuse Resource Center (SPARC) History and Documents
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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND REFORM SPEECH


Hello, my name is Dr. Mary Nutter and I am the executive director of the
Sexual and Physical Abuse Resource Center, commonly known as SPARC. I was
invited here today to talk to you, the legislators, representatives and lawmakers of
our state, about the growing problem of domestic violence. I'm going to discuss

domestic violence and what can be done to help stop domestic violence, but first I

would like to tell you a little about SPARC.

SPARC is a not for profit organization in Gainesville that serves Gainesville

and its surrounding communities. SPARC's mission is to eliminate the battering of

women and children and end the cycle of violence in the community. SPARC

originates from the Rape Information and Counseling Services program, which

began in 1974. In 1977, the name was changed to the Sexual and Physical Abuse

Resource Center to reflect the broader mission of the organization. Funding for

SPARC and the services it provides comes from the United Way, the Marriage

License Trust Fund, monies that are administered by Health and Rehabilitative

Services, and the community's generosity.

SPARC offers numerous services to the community to help the women and

children who may be in need. A 24-hour hotline and counseling services are

available to those in need of someone to talk to. An emergency shelter is available

for women who may need to get themselves and their children out of an abusive

environment. SPARC also provides information, victim advocacy, community

education, children's programs and emergency food, clothing and transportation to

those in abusive situations in the community.

One of SPARC's main concerns, as well as one of my main concerns, is the

growing problems of domestic violence and abuse in the home. Domestic violence

is not a new problem, but rather an old problem that is just now receiving serious









consideration. Until the 1970s, the time of the first wave of legal reform on

domestic violence issues, an aggravated assault against a stranger was a felony but

assaulting a spouse was considered a misdemeanor. According to a 1990 gender-

bias study completed by the Florida Supreme Court, police seldom arrest domestic

violence offenders even when there are injuries serious enough to warrant

hospitalization of the victim. Although domestic violence is often a private problem,

even when the public is drawn in, like the police, not very much is done to prevent

the abuse from happening again.

I see a lot of cases of repeated abuse through the women who come to the

shelter, but one case in particular stands out in my mind. About a year and a half

ago a woman came to the shelter from a neighboring county. She was pregnant
and had two small children when she came to the shelter to escape an abusive and
violent boyfriend. Her boyfriend had repeatedly threatened to kill her and her

children to everyone In the community, including the police. She had filed
numerous reports with the local police and the police had Investigated the situation
a number of times, but still nothing was done to keep the boyfriend away from her.
Finally, after repeated threats, she left her home and the community to go to

the shelter. She felt she had to protect her children. Her boyfriend somehow found

out where she was going and followed her to Gainesville. Even in Gainesville he

persistently followed her and tried to contact her, regardless of restraining orders

and injunctions. One day he called her and told her he was going to kill himself.

She called the police and told them of his threat and asked that someone go to his

home to check on him. When the police arrived there, he was gone. That was a

year and a half ago. Even today she is still, to some degree, afraid that one day he

will return and make good on his promise to kill her. She should not have be afraid

for her life or her children's lives.









In many ways her fear is justified. Not very much was done to prevent him

from stalking her and threatening her while he was here. What would stop him from

carrying out his threats and seriously hurting her or her children? The one time the

police were involved he was offered counseling or jail time. Which do you think he

chose? Counseling. He even told his counselor that he was planning to kill his

girlfriend.

Last year the American Medical Association, backed by the Surgeon General,

said that violent men constitute a major threat to women's health. A 1988 Surgeon

General's report listed domestic violence as the No. 1 cause of injury to women.

Domestic violence is not a problem that can be ignored in hopes that it will just go

away. Something has to be done to end domestic violence and make the problem

go away.

Statistics show that in 1991, approximately 4 million women were beaten and

1,320 were murdered in domestic attacks. Research shows that approximately 50

percent of married women are beaten at least once by their husbands. Twenty-five

percent of these women are pregnant.

Domestic violence can involve pushing, punching, slapping, choking,

stabbing, and forcing sexual activity. Domestic violence involves using the threat of

violence to control another person's behavior.

Typically, the first response to domestic violence is to ask why women stay in

abusive relationships. Many women do leave abusive relationships. Other women

may endure the violence for a number of reasons. A woman may stay because she

does not have enough money to support herself and her children; she may not have

anywhere to go; she may not have any job skills; she may be afraid her abuser will

do something worse to her or her children; she may feel it is her duty to keep the

family together; or she may hope that her partner will eventually change. Often,

women will stay in the relationship in order to keep the family together but will leave








when the violence is directed at the children. To observers the reasons for staying
in the situation always sound trivial compared to the threat of abuse. The one thing
to remember is that you never know what you will do until you are faced with the
situation. Hindsight and secondhand observation are wonderful things.

According to a 1992 Senate Judiciary Committee Report, women are six

times more likely than men to be victims of violent crimes in intimate relationships.

In 1991, more than 90 women were murdered every week. Nine out of 10 of those

were murdered by men. A 1991 report for health care providers said that medical

expenses from domestic violence total at least $3 billion to $5 billion annually.

Linda Osmundson, co-chair of a battered wives' task force for the National

Coalition Against Domestic Violence says, "Domestic violence is not seen as a

crime. A man's home is still his castle. There is a system that really believes that

women should be passive in every circumstance."

Women will be forced to endure physical abuse until people stop suggesting

that battered women who stay in abusive relationships deserve the violence and

instead focus on the real issues.

Often, battered women are forced to respond in self-defense to the violence

they experience. Currently, there are 2,000 battered women in America who are

serving prison time for defending themselves against their batterers. According to

Angela Browne, in When Battered Women Kill, FBI statistics indicate that women

convicted of killing their male partners are frequently sentenced to longer prison

terms than are men convicted of the same crimes.

How do we stop domestic violence? Is it possible to end the cycle of violence

In our community? These are common questions. Statistics show that, in the more

recent past, we have not been effective in stopping domestic violence. We have

found ways to help people cope with domestic violence and offered people









alternatives so that they can help themselves in violent situations, but the problem

still exists.

Part of the answer can be found in the recent movement for clemency. The

recent laws passed by Florida's legislature are a step in the right direction. The new

laws help define domestic violence and who can be involved in domestic violence.

The law expanded the definition of domestic violence to include any criminal offense

that causes injury or death to any family member. The law also redefined the family

to include people who are living together or have lived together as a family, or who

have a child together. These reforms in the existing laws will help define the

situations so that law enforcement officials can better respond and handle them.

Florida's stalking laws will also help curb the violence because stalking is very often

a part of domestic violence.
A movement that has emerged as an alternative to the clemency movement

is the movement for more preventive measures to curb domestic violence, as well as

try to prevent it. This movement suggests increased penalties for federal sex

crimes; increased monies to police, prosecutors and courts to combat domestic

violent crimes; and reinforcement of state domestic violence laws.

There are many other ways to curb domestic violence. Providing shelters for

victims of domestic violence is one of the ways most commonly used. Shelters,

contact with shelter employees and contact with victims in similar situations help

breakdown the isolation that prevent many domestic violence victims from leaving

abusive situations or from getting help. Research shows that women who resort to

violence in self-defense are generally the ones that are the most socially and

economically isolated.

Another way to curb domestic violence would be to wage a "war on violence."

In the past a "war on drugs" has been waged and, although not totally effective, has

brought about some favorable results. Community education and increased








community involvement are two factors that came out of the effort that can still be

seen today. This type of community effort and education could also help with an

issue like domestic violence.

For example, I'm sure many of you did not know the magnitude of the

domestic violence problem until today. The numbers I told you are not the most

important factor here. The magnitude of those numbers is what is important. Many

of you probably don't remember the exact numbers, but I'm sure many of you do

remember that the statistics were surprising and a little bit frightening.

Increased community education is certain to help an issue like domestic

violence because not many people are familiar with the magnitude of the problem.

Only the people directly involved in the issue, whether they be a victim, a volunteer

or a friend of a victim, realize the depth of the domestic violence problem in our

society. Community education could help everyone realize the depth of the

problem.

Another factor of the "war on violence" would be to show the batterers and

others involved In violence that society will not tolerate parents who abuse their

children and spouses who batter each other. That type of behavior should be

punished.

Reform in prosecution and investigation of domestic violence disputes is an
area that some states have shown interest in to help curb domestic violence and

best deal with the present violence. Minnesota was one of the first states to institute

mandatory arrests for domestic disputes. Even if the victim does not wish to press
charges the police are obliged to make an arrest if there is evidence of abuse. This

would help in the situations where victims are afraid to press charges after calling

the police or after being confronted by police. Also, the increased use of the

arresting officer as a complainant in the case against the abuser would help prevent,

the case from being solely dependent on the frightened testimony of the victim.








The reluctance of prosecutors to plea-bargain assault cases down to disorderly

conduct would increase the likelihood of stiffer penalties for the abuser.

Another way to more effectively deal with the domestic violence we have

today is better training of law enforcement officers, judges, emergency-room

personnel and others who come in contact with victims of domestic violence.

Better training would help all of these professionals be more aware of the problem

and of what domestic violence looks like. Each year more than 1 million women

seek medical treatment for injuries caused by their husband, boyfriends or

significant others. Only 4 percent of those injuries are correctly identified by

doctors as resulting from domestic violence. This training could also help law

enforcement officers learn better how to deal with the very volatile situations in

domestic abuse.

Victims of domestic abuse are often not the only victims in the situation.

Batterers are often victims themselves. Research shows that the behavior exhibited

by batterers is a learned behavior. Many batterers were victims of abuse while

growing up and have learned, by example, that it is acceptable behavior. Programs

to reform the behavior of the batterer would result in more productive members of

society. Teaching batterers anger and stress management, as well as teaching

them to redirect their anger and to recognize the signs of abusive behavior, could

help them in self-assessment and in revising their own behavior.

Domestic violence and spouse abuse are obvious problems that we are

going to have to confront sooner or later. We need to confront these problems

now, before they escalate further. There are too many victims of violence today.

The last thing we need is more victims. You, the legislators and representatives of

this state, have the power to institute reform to curb the growing problem of

domestic violence. Help stop the problem before it gets worse.

I would like to leave you with a quote by Carlyle about reform.





8


"Reform, like charity, must begin at home. Once well at home, how will it

radiate outwards, irrepressible, into all that we touch and handle, speak and work;

kindling every new light by incalculable contagion, spreading, in geometric ratio, far
and wide, doing good only wherever it spreads, and not evil."
Thank you for your time and attention.




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