Fight­ing back tide of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence

The News-Times - - OPINION -

The New Canaan Po­lice De­part­ment’s web­site car­ries a chill­ing boil­er­plate state­ment about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence: “If you live in New Canaan, and you are the vic­tim of vi­o­lence, it is highly prob­a­ble that the per­pe­tra­tor is some­one that you love.” New Canaan res­i­dent Jen­nifer Du­los’ dis­ap­pear­ance has drawn fren­zied at­ten­tion from the me­dia as well as the pub­lic. She was a mother of five in the midst of an ugly di­vorce. She ex­pressed fear of re­tal­i­a­tion from her es­tranged hus­band in court doc­u­ments.

Her hus­band, Fo­tis Du­los, and his girl­friend, Michelle Tro­co­nis, were ar­rested af­ter po­lice found se­cu­rity footage of a man be­lieved to be Du­los dump­ing blood­ied bags in sev­eral garbage re­cep­ta­cles in Hart­ford.

We don’t know the full story re­gard­ing Jen­nifer’s fate or her hus­band’s ac­tions. But such a sensationa­l case shouldn’t be needed to draw more at­ten­tion to a vile prob­lem that of­ten oc­curs away from the pub­lic eye.

As the Na­tional Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence has pointed out, some 20 peo­ple per minute are phys­i­cally abused by a part­ner in the United States. This case, tragic as it ap­pears, would draw much less

at­ten­tion if Jen­nifer were not white and wealthy.

Abuse comes in other forms as well. And it doesn’t dis­tin­guish between race, re­li­gion or check­book.

Con­necti­cut has long had a poor record on deal­ing with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dents. For many years, the re­flex­ive re­sponse of po­lice of­fi­cers was to break up a fight and leave with­out mak­ing ar­rests.

One case changed that. Tracey Thurman’s ef­forts to file com­plaints against her hus­band in the early 1980s were ig­nored, even af­ter she was at­tacked in front of an of­fi­cer. On June 10, 1983, her hus­band stabbed her 13 times af­ter she called po­lice. Tracey sur­vived and has spent the in­ter­ven­ing years re­lent­lessly help­ing oth­ers.

The sub­se­quent Fam­ily Vi­o­lence Pre­ven­tion and Re­sponse Act, bet­ter known as the “Thurman Law,” was en­acted in 1986, mak­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence an au­to­mat­i­cally ar­restable of­fense.

But Con­necti­cut’s ap­proach to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases re­mained bro­ken. Po­lice of­fi­cers would re­spond to a scene and ar­rest both par­ties in a dis­pute, a cat­e­gory in which the state was a du­bi­ous leader. Among other things, the vic­tim’s ac­cess to so­cial ser­vices could be com­pro­mised.

Po­lice in re­cent years have asked for more train­ing on best prac­tices for re­spond­ing to re­ports of do­mes­tic abuse. A law took ef­fect this year that man­dates train­ing to best iden­tify the pri­mary ag­gres­sor.

This makes the job harder for po­lice of­fi­cers. But their job should be harder, if only for the sake of the vic­tims.

“We know that do­mes­tic vi­o­lence homi­cide is both pre­dictable and pre­ventable,” said Karen Jar­moc, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Con­necti­cut Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence.

We all carry a re­spon­si­bil­ity to try to con­trib­ute to­ward pre­ven­tion. Vic­tims as well as any­one who knows a vic­tim can call the statewide do­mes­tic vi­o­lence hot­line at 888-774-2900 (English) and 844-8319200 (Es­pañol).

Con­necti­cut shouldn’t need Jen­nifer Du­los to re­mind us more work needs to be done.

As the Na­tional Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence has pointed out, some 20 peo­ple per minute are phys­i­cally abused by a part­ner in the United States.

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