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Mom recorded her own murder on cell phone — DV Crime

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CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. — Wesley Webb was fighting with boyfriend Keith Smith in their home in Schuylkill Township, Pennsylvania, when she decided to start recording the argument. What she ended up recording was her own murder, police say. Webb, 40, told Smith she would leave with her two children — three kids, all under age…

via Mom recorded her own murder on cell phone — WTKR.com

Written by EJ

May 12, 2016 at 6:50 pm

PIXABLE DATA: These Are The Most Dangerous States In America To Be A Woman/ Pixable

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http://www.pixable.com/article/the-most-dangerous-states-in-america-to-be-a-woman-69100?utm_medium=partner&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=pixlssocial

Every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted in the U.S.A. This statistic from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence may seem shocking, but not when you take into account that one third of American women will be sexually assaulted within their lifetime — one third. That means one out of every three women you know (your sisters, daughters, mothers and friends) will likely fall victim to this awful crime.

The true scope of how many women have been attacked or victimized, especially by people they know, is terrifying. What’s even more terrifying is everything we don’t know. The last published results of the National Intimate Partner and Violence Survey are from 2010.

The closest we could get to finding real, recent answers on the frequency of sexual assault and rape in the last couple of years is from the FBI. The legal definition of rape was recently changed to include both male and female victims, but the FBI still includes statistics of the legacy definition (female victims only) in their annual crime report. We expected the FBI’s crime report to more or less match the figures from the CDC’s 2010 survey, but we noticed a drastically low number of rape victims — roughly 26 women per 100,000 people.

That’s when we realized a key fact. The FBI is basing their figures on arrests and convictions, excluding statutory rape and incest and only documenting “forcible rape.” The sad truth is that most rapes go unreported — with forcible rapes making up only a fraction of all reported rapes — and even less rapists are actually convicted. According to RAINN less than half of all rapes are reported, only 12% of what is reported actually leads to an arrest and only 3% of rapists see punishment for their actions.

When it comes to violence against women, not every zip code is equal, and some places are more dangerous than others. We’ve examined statistics from the FBI, the CDC’s 2010 comprehensive National Intimate Partner And Violence Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau to narrow down the most dangerous places for women in the United States from 2010 – 2014.
One out every six women in the U.S.A. was a victim of an attempted or completed rape in 2010.

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Places like Alaska and Oregon hold the highest rates of rape against women, whereas states like Virginia and California hold some of the lowest rates. The 2014 information from the FBI also shows a different perspective than that of the above statistics from the CDC. While many of the same states are still on the top 10 list, some new states appear as well. This could be for a number of reasons. There could have been an increase or decrease in crime in the last four years among certain states or some states could just have a higher rate of conviction due to differing justice systems.
The 10 states with the largest percentage of women in 2010 who said they were raped in their lifetime are:

1. Alaska (21%)
2. Oregon (21%)
3. Michigan (20%)
4. Nevada (18.8%)
5. New Hampshire (18.7%)
6. Oklahoma (18.6%)
7. Washington (18%)
8. Colorado (18%)
9. Minnesota (16.9%
10. Connecticut (16.9 %)
In 2014, These were the states with the most rapes per 100,000 according to the FBI

1. Alaska (75.3)
2. New Mexico (51.4)
3. South Dakota (48.4)
4. Montana (42)
5. Michigan (40.9)
6. Arkansas (39.8)
7. Colorado (39.6)
8. North Dakota (37.3)
9. Kansas (37)
10. Arizona (36.6)
Sexual crimes against women (other than rape) are even more commonplace. These results from the 2010 CDC report are eye-opening.

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At the lowest rate, which occurs in Louisiana, 22% of women have experienced sexual violence other than rape. Most states fall somewhere between the 30 and 35% mark, while others like Oregon see 43% of women falling victim to non-rape sexual violence. The 10 states where women are most frequently sexually assaulted are:

1. Oregon (43.3%)
2. Alaska (42%)
3. Maryland (41.9%)
4. New Hampshire (40.8%)
5. Washington (40.5%)
6. Illinois (38.6%)
7. North Carolina (38.3%)
8. New York (38%)
9. Connecticut (37.2%)
10. Kentucky (36.8%)
One of the most obvious ways to determine if a place is dangerous is by looking at the murder rate. The murder rate for females in 2010 was notably higher in certain states.

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States in the southern half of the United States have a notably higher murder rate among females than states in the northern half. Southern states also have looser gun laws.
According to the CDC, in 2010, the states with the most murders per 100,000 people are:

1. Louisiana (4.44)
2. Mississippi (4.13)
3. Alabama (3.85)
4. New Mexico (3.69)
5. South Carolina (3.57)
6. Arkansas (3.48)
7. Nevada (3.48)
8. Georgia (3.32)
9. Tennessee (3.1)
10. North Carolina (3.07)
Stalking doesn’t always lead to violence, but it can. Even still, stalking is far less common than sexual assault but worth mentioning. This is the percentage of women in 2010 who reported having been stalked in their lifetimes.

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In Kentucky, the state with the highest percent of incidents, 19% of women report being stalked. Most states see an 11-13% rate of stalking, while the states with the lowest instances, Wisconsin and Virginia, see a rate of 9.8% and 8.6% respectively. The states with the highest percentage of women who have been stalked are:

1. Kentucky (19%)
2. Alabama (18.4%)
3. Nevada (17.7%)
4. Oklahoma (16.6%)
5. New Mexico (16.4%)
6. North Carolina (16%)
7. Tennessee (15.3%)
8. Wyoming (15.2%)
9. Mississippi (15.1%)
10. Pennsylvania (15%)

Four out of every five assaults are committed by someone the victim already knows (a friend, boyfriend, acquaintance, etc), and one third of women are assaulted by an intimate partner. The 2010 report shows the sheer number of women who reported being assaulted by an intimate partner within their lifetimes.

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Considering 94% of women who are murdered and four fifths of women who are raped are attacked by someone they know, these statistics are particularly telling. These states have the highest percentage of women who have been raped, physically assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner.

1. Oklahoma (36.8%)
2. Nevada (34.8%)
3. North Carolina (33%)
4. Michigan (32.5%)
5. Washington (32.4%)
6. Maryland (32%)
7. New Hampshire (32%)
8. Alaska (32%)
9. South Carolina (31.7%)
10. Tennessee (30.6%)
When labeling the most dangerous places for women, it may also be important to consider a woman’s mental health. A cluster of states seem to have had a notably higher suicide rate between 2004 and 2010.

If the attack is on oneself, versus a homicide or physical assault from another party, does it still count? Regardless of genetic predisposition to depression and self-harm, situations that lead a woman to suicide are perhaps indicators of an unhealthy environment.

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States with highest rates of suicide per 100,000 people are:
1. Alaska (9.62)
2. Nevada (9..62)
3. Wyoming (8.19)
4. New Mexico (8.06)
5. Montana (7.96)
6. Colorado (7.76)
7. Oregon (7.23)
8. Arizona (7.18)
9. Florida (6.40)
10. Idaho (6.31)
The problem is still growing, which is why we need more information.

Despite the most comprehensive and accurate report being from 2010, the frequency of rape among women has not decreased. According to the FBI, the figures rose 1.6% between 2013 and 2014. This leads us to the question, why isn’t there a more recent CDC study on domestic abuse if the problem is growing? How many women will really be assaulted (sexually or otherwise) in their lifetimes? How many women were actually affected within the last year alone and didn’t report it to the police?

Perhaps if people are more aware of the massive scale of the problem, it could help lead to a change. For every woman who says it can never happen to me, who truly believes it’s only a problem for a few unfortunate people, there is another woman who understands that it can happen to anyone and it does happen to anyone, even if she remains silent in her understanding.

There is help out there for women who find themselves in trouble. If you need help and you’re in the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline or 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

Mother Left Grief-Stricken After Ex Allegedly Forced Her to Hold Infant Twin Daughters While He Killed Them, Then Shot Himself/ people.com

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BY CHRIS HARRIS @chrisharrisment 11/19/2015 AT 03:45 PM EST

http://www.people.com/article/florida-man-kills-self-after-murdering-twin-daughters

Two twin babies were shot and killed in front of their mother last week during a murder-suicide that unfolded in a home in Jacksonville, Florida.

A police spokesman confirms to PEOPLE that the two five-month-old infants, Hayden and Kayden, were both killed on Nov. 13 by their 28-year-old father, Gawain Rushane Wilson.

Police say Wilson entered the home where the twin girls’ mother, 22-year-old Megan Hiatt, lived with her father, Travis. Wilson allegedly shot the babies, Hiatt and her father before eventually taking his own life.

Megan Hiatt, who is a twin herself, was the sole survivor of what police characterized as a “domestic incident.” Police could not confirm she had to have a breast removed as a result of last week’s violence, but did say she was shot five times. She is recovering from her injuries at UF Health Jacksonville.

The police spokesman also refused to comment on numerous media reports claiming Hiatt was forced to hold her two babies as Miller shot them dead.

Hiatt’s mother, Melissa Bateh, told First Coast News in an interview that Wilson wanted to destroy her daughter’s life. “He wanted to destroy her world. He wanted her to watch it be destroyed,” Bateh said, adding that her daughter told her she was forced to hold the infants as Wilson shot them.

” ‘Mama, he killed them. He killed them in my arms. He made me hold them when he killed them. He made me watch,’ ” Bateh recalled. “I knew, I didn’t … I couldn’t imagine someone doing that, holding your own children while someone kills them.”

Police confirm Hiatt and Miller “were a couple at one time,” but say it doesn’t appear the two were “still a couple” at the time of the shooting.

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help raise money to pay for the funeral costs for the twins and their grandfather. So far, it has raised nearly $20,000 in donations.

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Fast Facts on Domestic Violence/ clarkprosecutor.org

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Originally posted on clarkprosecutor.org ( link below)
http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/domviol/facts.htm

Fast Facts on Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. (“Violence Against Women, A Majority Staff Report,” Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 102nd Congress, October 1992, p.3.)

There are 1,500 shelters for battered women in the United States. There are 3,800 animal shelters. (Schneider, 1990).

Three to four million women in the United States are beaten in their homes each year by their husbands, ex-husbands, or male lovers. (“Women and Violence,” Hearings before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, August 29 and December 11, 1990, Senate Hearing 101-939, pt. 1, p. 12.)

One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States. (Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1991).

One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. (Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” 2000; Sara Glazer, “Violence, Against Women” CO Researcher, Congressional Quarterly, Inc., Volume 3, Number 8, February, 1993, p. 171; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000; The Commonwealth Fund, Health Concerns Across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, 1999).

In 1992, the American Medical Association reported that as many as 1 in 3 women will be assaulted by a domestic partner in her lifetime — 4 million in any given year. (“When Violence Hits Home.” Time. June 4, 1994).

An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. (Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA.)

85% of domestic violence victims are women. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)

Police report that between 40% and 60% of the calls they receive, especially on the night shift, are domestic violence disputes. (Carrillo, Roxann “Violence Against Women: An Obstacle to Development,” Human Development Report, 1990)

Police are more likely to respond within 5 minutes if an offender is a stranger than if an offender is known to a female victim. (Ronet Bachman, Ph.D. “Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report.” U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice and Statistics. January 1994, p. 9.)

Battering occurs among people of all races, ages, socio-economic classes, religious affiliations, occupations, and educational backgrounds.

A battering incident is rarely an isolated event.

Battering tends to increase and become more violent over time.

Many batterers learned violent behavior growing up in an abusive family.

25% – 45% of all women who are battered are battered during pregnancy.

Domestic violence does not end immediately with separation. Over 70% of the women injured in domestic violence cases are injured after separation.

1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men have been stalked in their lifetime. (Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. (1998). “Stalking in America.” National Institute for Justice)

One in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. (U.S. Department of Justice, “Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women,” November 1998)

Nearly 7.8 million women have been raped by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. (Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA.)

Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. (Frieze, I.H., Browne, A. (1989) Violence in Marriage. In L.E. Ohlin & M. H. Tonry, Family Violence. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Break the Cycle. (2006). Startling Statistics)

Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. (Strauss, Gelles, and Smith, “Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence” in 8,145 Families. Transaction Publishers 1990)

Children who witness violence at home display emotional and behavioral disturbances as diverse as withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, self-blame and aggression against peers, family members and property. (Peled, Inat, Jaffe, Peter G & Edleson, Jeffery L. (Eds) Ending the Cycle of Violence: Community Responses to Children of Battered Women. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1995.)

30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household. (Edelson, J.L. (1999). “The Overlap Between Child Maltreatment and Woman Battering.” Violence Against Women. 5:134-154)

The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services.

Victims of intimate partner violence lost almost 8 million days of paid work because of the violence perpetrated against them by current or former husbands, boyfriends and dates. This loss is the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and almost 5.6 million days of household productivity as a result of violence. (Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA.)

There are 16,800 homicides and $2.2 million (medically treated) injuries due to intimate partner violence annually, which costs $37 billion. (The Cost of Violence in the United States. 2007. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA.)

One in ten calls made to alert police of domestic violence is placed by a child in the home. One of every three abused children becomes an adult abuser or victim.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a national survey that 34 percent of adults in the United States had witnessed a man beating his wife or girlfriend, and that 14 percent of women report that they have experienced violence from a husband or boyfriend. More than 1 million women seek medical assistance each year for injuries caused by battering. (Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS); Horton, 1995. “Family and Intimate Violence”)

The average prison sentence of men who kill their women partners is 2 to 6 years. Women who kill their partners are, on average, sentenced to 15 years. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1989)

Women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, men for approximately 15%. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)

Between 600,000 and 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year, and between 100,000 and 6 million men, depending on the type of survey used to obtain the data. (Rennison, C. (2003, Feb). Intimate partner violence. Us. Dpt. of Justice/Office of Justice Programs. NXJ 197838. Straus, M. & Gelles, R. (1990). Physical violence in American families. New Brunswick, N.J.; Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner violence. National Institute of Justice, NCJ 181867)

Women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned Survey, August 1995)

People with lower annual income (below $25K) are at a 3-times higher risk of intimate partner violence than people with higher annual income (over $50K). (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)

On average between 1993 and 2004, residents of urban areas experienced highest level of nonfatal intimate partner violence. Residents in suburban and rural areas were equally likely to experience such violence, about 20% less than those in urban areas. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)

Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. 30% of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year. (Allstate Foundation National Poll on Domestic Violence, 2006. Lieberman Research Inc., Tracking Survey conducted for The Advertising Council and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, July – October 1996)

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Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

October 7, 2015 at 3:27 am

If You’re A Domestic Violence Survivor With Unexplained Symptoms, Read This/ Huffpost Women

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Earlier this week, The Huffington Post ran a story on undiagnosed traumatic brain injury in domestic violence survivors. We received an outpouring of emails from women who suspected they might be suffering from the condition. Here, we spoke to some experts on what women should do if they believe they have a traumatic brain injury.

Need help right now? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

It’s fairly well known that traumatic brain injury — a complex injury caused by a jolt or blow to the head — disproportionately affects athletes and soldiers. But what about the 1 in 4 women in the U.S. who are estimated to be survivors of domestic violence?

What Are The Symptoms Of TBI?

According to Hirsch Handmaker, a radiologist who is studying the link between domestic violence and TBI, as many as 20 million women each year may have TBI from abusive relationships. Symptoms of TBI include headaches, double vision, imbalance and decreased motor ability, as well as problems with memory, planning, learning, aggression, irritability and depression, he said.

Women who suspect they may have undiagnosed brain injury should see their primary care physician and get a referral for testing, said Robert Knechtel, M.D., interim director of the Sojourner BRAIN program, which launched an ambitious effort to research TBI in domestic violence survivors this week. Women may be referred to an ophthalmologist, audiologist, cognitive therapist or a neurologist for testing, depending on their symptoms.

Knechtel said the most important thing is to be honest with your doctor about the cause of injury. “Don’t be ashamed of telling the physician that you’ve been a victim of domestic violence,” he said. “They need to get the complete picture.”

Make A List Of Injuries, Including When They Happened

Knechtel recommends that women write down a list of all the times they were hit in the head and what part of the head was hit, if it is safe to do so. TBI affects memory, so for some women, this may be a difficult task. But in order to treat TBI, he said, doctors need to pinpoint exactly where the injury is located in the brain.

Women should also note if they have ever been strangled — a common tactic by abusers and a predictor of future lethal violence. “Strangulation is a cause of traumatic brain injury, and you don’t really even need to lose consciousness,” Knechtel said. “If you have decrease of blood flow to the brain, you can have parts of the brain that are affected.”
Ask Your Doctor Any Questions About Your Injuries. Make Sure They Are Answered.

Write down questions for the doctor before the visit, Knechtel said, and make sure they are answered before you leave. While there is growing awareness of TBI in military and athletes, he said, many health care providers are still not educated about brain injury caused by domestic violence and may downplay women’s symptoms, or chalk them up to stress. “Insist on testing, and on having an investigation done,” Knechtel said. “If you are being ignored, you may need to find a different doctor.”

If a woman has an acute injury, she should seek help immediately at an emergency room. “The first 24 to 48 hours are critical from a concussion standpoint,” he said.

If You Experience A Concussion, It’s OK To Sleep And Rest

Knechtel cautioned that women are especially vulnerable to brain injury in the aftermath of a concussion, and should do whatever is possible to avoid a secondary head injury while in recovery. “The additive nature of concussions over a short period of time can significantly impact long-term brain damage,” he said, comparing a woman who is discharged from the hospital and subsequently assaulted to a football player who returns to active play before his brain is healed.

Following a concussion, he said, it can be helpful to lie down in a quiet, dark room and sleep. Despite what many of us were told growing up, letting someone fall asleep after a concussion is actually exactly what the brain needs.

Contact Your Local Domestic Violence Coalition

Allie Bones, the CEO of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, recommends that women who have TBI symptoms reach out to their state domestic violence coalition to see what support services are available in their area.

“The coalitions tend to have the best information about what the domestic violence programs across the state offer,” she said. “These days, most programs are trying to focus on a trauma-informed approach, coming from the perspective that people who have experienced trauma have a lot of different ways their brain may be affected.”

Undiagnosed TBI can make it harder for women to leave abusive partners, as they may have trouble planning a safe exit strategy, holding down a job or may suffer from debilitating low self-esteem due to impaired cognitive abilities.

Bones said that domestic violence coalitions can give women an opportunity to talk about their experiences, and to find support with some of the typical problems that domestic violence survivors struggle with, like finding affordable housing and filing for divorce, which can become even more unmanageable with a brain injury.

Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

September 22, 2015 at 3:45 am

13 year old reunited with mother after being imprisoned by father

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Florida boy, 13, is reunited with his mother after being found imprisoned behind a false wall in his father’s Georgia home after going missing FOUR YEARS ago Boy, 13, from Florida, reported missing to child welfare authorities in 2010 He had gone to father’s house in Georgia and he ‘refused to give him back’ He downloaded cellphone app and text mother saying he was being beaten Police arrived at scene and found teen hidden behind wall in a linen closet Five people – victim’s father, stepmother and three juveniles, were arrested They are charged with false imprisonment, obstruction and cruelty to child On Saturday morning, boy was reunited with mother in emotional scenes.

The unnamed teenager reportedly downloaded a cellphone app to text his Florida-based mother to tell her he was being held captive and beaten at the house in Clayton County, Georgia.

Police arrived at the scene and found the boy hidden behind a false panel in a linen closet in the property’s garage. He repeatedly thanked officers for rescuing him, according to reports.

In heart-wrenching scenes on Saturday morning, the victim was pictured clinging on to his weeping mother, who had traveled to Georgia, as another female relative sobbed uncontrollably nearby.

Now, five people in the house in Duke Court – the boy’s father, stepmother and three juveniles – have been arrested and charged with false imprisonment, obstruction and cruelty to a child.

The boy was reported missing to child welfare authorities in 2010 after he went to visit his father and he refused to return him to his mother, according to WSB-TV.

However, his mother never contacted the police, potentially because she is an immigrant and was unfamiliar with the system, it is said. But after receiving her son’s text, she immediately called 911.

Following her call, officers arrived at the property at 2am on Saturday. They reportedly questioned the house’s uncooperative occupants for several minutes before locating the victim.

It is unknown what condition the teenager was discovered in, or whether he was taken to hospital.

Sargent Joanne Southerland, of Clayton County Police Department, told the news station: ‘We came here to the home and were able to get inside and talk to the people inside.

‘After several minutes of denying that the child was here and that there was ever any assault or anything like that, we were able to find him in the linen closet.’

Officer Daniel Day added: ‘I just couldn’t believe it. We found him, we saw him. To say it was a great feeling is an understatement. He just couldn’t thank us enough, he was overjoyed we had found him.’

Police have now requested a search warrant for the property. A spokesman said they still have a lot of unanswered questions, including how the boy was imprisoned for so long without intervention.

The boy, whose legal custody is believed to lie with his mother, is expected to remain under the protection of the Division of Family and Children Services for the next couple of days.

What I’ve learned about domestic violence in my year reporting on it- Jess Hill/ theguardian

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http://www.theguardian.com

Pretty much everything I thought I knew about violence against women and children turned out to be wrong. Here’s how

When I started researching domestic violence last year, I thought I basically understood it. Some men, driven to distress by things such as unemployment, substance abuse or mental illness, were unable to control their anger, and took it out on the person they loved the most. We’ve all said and done things we’re not proud of in relationships – I thought domestic violence was just the extreme extension of that.

Enough lip service. We need urgent action to prevent deaths of women and children

It took about two weeks for that notion to be demolished. Dozens of conversations with survivors and advocates revealed a very different reality, and understanding it was like being given the key to a secret room. Domestic violence is not driven by anger, first and foremost. It’s driven by a need for – and a sense of entitlement to – power and control.

But someone with such a powerful drive to control would surely reveal that at work or around friends, I thought. But I wasn’t right about that, either. Sometimes they do, but often perpetrators come across as normal, good people – even pillars of the community.

It wasn’t until I’d spent months researching and writing about it that I began to understand why most people don’t get domestic violence: it doesn’t make sense. The traits are often entirely counter-intuitive, and attempts to look at it through the lens of common sense can actually drive you further from the truth.

It doesn’t make sense that even women who are smart and independent will stay with a man who treats them like dirt. It doesn’t make sense that even after fleeing, a woman is likely to return to that man six times on average – “it mustn’t be that bad”, people say. It doesn’t make sense that someone you know to be a good bloke could be going home to hold a knife to his wife’s throat. None of it makes sense.

But the more you learn about the nature of domestic violence, the more sense you can make of it. For me, a big penny-dropping moment was reading Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman’s landmark book on understanding psychological trauma. In it, she equates the experiences of domestic violence victims to those of prisoners of war. In both situations, establishing control over the other person is achieved through the “systematic, repetitive infliction of psychological trauma” designed to instill fear and helplessness.

Survivors who have escaped this systematic abuse often emerge from it confused and utterly disoriented. Tragically, that means they often don’t present as credible witnesses: in their post-traumatic state, their stories can be fragmented, highly emotional and contradictory.

In the court system, especially in cases determining the custody of children, victims can appear mentally disturbed and overly anxious, especially compared to their ex-partners, who come across as composed and reasonable. In a system where most lawyers and judicial staff are not trained to recognise the signs of family violence, victims – even ones with court orders on their side – can find themselves being accused of making up allegations to gain advantage.

According to a 2013 survey by VicHealth, a statutory health authority in Victoria, 53% of Australians think women going through custody battles make up or exaggerate claims of domestic violence in order to improve their case. Until I started researching this phenomenon, I believed that, too.

What’s even more confusing is that commonly, perpetrators believe they are the victim, and will plead their case to police, even as their partner stands bloody and bruised behind them. They can genuinely believe their partner provoked them to commit the abuse, just so they could get them in trouble. After a while, the victims start to blame themselves for the abuse, too – after all, he’s so nice to everybody else.

The work is hard, but it is worth it. Looking around at the room full of domestic violence advocates and survivors at last night’s Our Watch awards (launched this year in collaboration with the Walkley Awards, to recognise reporting on violence against women) it really hit me how important this work is. Domestic violence doesn’t make sense. But for these people – and for the thousands who are suffering in silence at this very moment – we need to make sense of it.

Jess Hill is an investigative reporter who contributes to Radio National’s Background Briefing and The Monthly. She has reported exclusively on domestic violence for the past year, and was on Thursday the recipient of three Our Watch Walkley Awards, including the Gold Award for reporting on violence against women.

* Women in danger should call triple zero immediately, while those suffering abuse can call DV Connect’s domestic violence hotline on 1800 811 811.

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Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

September 15, 2015 at 12:59 am

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