A new year, a new tragedy.
While we don’t know all the details yet, the facts are that the husband working at FPL Food shot and killed his wife and then himself. The husband had been arrested for family violence in the past, along with other criminal acts.
Seventy-four women and four men were killed in Georgia in 2010 – victims of “domestic violence incidents.” Even the phrase we use to describe these brutal murders sanitizes the ragged, bleeding edges of what is an epidemic in Georgia. Sixty-six children were present in these incidents. Three of them were killed. Friends, other family members, co-workers and new partners also were witnesses, and sometimes victims in these cases.
While protective orders will not stop every batterer, studies show that violence is completely stopped in 50 percent of the cases and substantially reduced in 25 percent of the remaining cases in which the victim gets a protective order. At Georgia Legal Services, our lawyers work with hundreds of survivors every year trying to help them get out of these dangerous, often life-threatening situations. We counsel them about safety planning and about getting protective orders to put a legal barrier between them and their batterers.
To make these orders effective, all citizens must speak loudly and make it known that family violence will not be tolerated. Family violence is a crime and must be treated as a crime. Batterers continue to make excuses, blame the victims and take up money from law enforcement, the court system and medical facilities that so many others need.
No one can remain silent about family violence or look the other way. Silence or indifference kills. All of us must be committed to ending this epidemic of family violence.
(The writer is the managing attorney for the Augusta Regional Office of the Georgia Legal Services Program.)