The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

October 2, 2012

Combatting domestic violence

Problem is escalating; awareness, recognition and information on where to turn for help are crucial

OTTUMWA — Pay attention. Domestic violence is getting worse.

“I’ve seen an escalation of violence in the cases we serve,” said Cheryl Brown, executive director of the Crisis Center and Women’s Shelter.

She and other advocates against domestic violence said the murders and assaults are at an epidemic level; more women are injured  from domestic violence than from car accidents. Their job is to get people to pay attention.  

“Sixty percent of women who are murdered are murdered by an intimate partner,” Brown said. “One in four women will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime.”

Men are victims, too, but 19 out of 20 victims are women, Brown said.

At a proclamation signing in Central Park on Monday, Ottumwa Mayor Frank Flanders declared October Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Ottumwa.

“Battering is the number-one cause of injury to women,” Flanders told a small but attentive audience Monday.

An unfortunate number of men feel entitled to control the lives of their spouse or girlfriend, he said.

Not to gender bash his own gender, he added, but it’s time for men to listen. They are not in a relationship to “control” the woman. Our spouses’  rights are equal to our own, he said.

The state is listening. Legislators in Des Moines passed a new law making the crime of strangulation different than just pushing someone.

Gary Oldenburger, assistant Wapello County attorney, said grabbing a domestic partner’s arm could result in a 30-day jail sentence. Wrapping their hands around your throat, choking off the air until you live or die only at the whim of the assailant was also a simple misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.

Now, adding strangulation to the charges can result in a sentence of up to two years. That’s if it doesn’t cause actual, measurable injury.

It’s also an indicator to a prosecutor like Oldenburger. Most women who are murdered by a partner have been choked at least once.

Both he and Kaylea Adkins, the community liaison at the Crisis Center and Women’s Shelter, said women need a safety plan to leave such a violent situation safely. Telling a woman to “just leave” is not helpful unless you can also tell her how.

In fact, both Adkins and Oldenburger say they want those who know of a woman in a potentially lethal situation to contact their offices. They have or can acquire information on getting out safely.  

Women’s Shelter answers and suggestions  are available by calling 1-800-464-8340 or 641-683-1750. Or call the Gary Oldenburger and staff at the Wapello County Attorney’s Office, 641-683-0030, with an email address at goldenburger@wapellocoatty.com.

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