Domestic violence may happen to you, too

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

“And Cain talked with Abel his brother:

and it came to pass, when they were

in the field, that Cain rose up against

Abel his brother, and slew him.”

Genesis 4:8

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence includes intimate partner violence as well as violence between family members.

My first domestic violence call

In 1965, early in my law enforcement career, I was exposed to the “family disturbance” calls we now call domestic violence intervention.

I was raised in a tranquil home environment where there was loving respect between Mom and Dad. As far as I know, they never hit each other. I learned this is not the case in many other homes.

I was dispatched to a “meet the man” call in front of the station. As I drove into the parking lot, a large Hispanic man on crutches, his right thigh in bandages, limped excitedly toward me.

“Help me! They let her out!”

He shouted at me with tears and fear on his face as he kept looking nervously over his shoulder.

Several hot days before, he was lying naked on his bed taking an afternoon nap. He was awakened by the sound of his Skilsaw starting up and a sharp pain across his upper right thigh.

His wife was operating the saw and was intent on moving it across him. She had taken umbrage with his extramarital affair and was in the process of trying to cut off his penis. He was lucky that the depth of the cut was set at just one inch. His manhood was spared…for the moment.

The hospital emergency room called the police after learning what caused more than 30 stitches to be taken to close a gaping wound.

An investigation by one of our detectives led to the wife being committed at a mental health facility for 72 hours of observation. They concluded she was mentally competent and released her. When she walked through the front door at home, our desperate man hobbled down to the police station begging for help.

Many other domestic violence cases followed me in those early years. Baseball bats, boiling water, knives, scissors, the usual fists and feet were the common modus operandi in dozens of cases when marriage partners suddenly “snapped” and lashed out.

The Bobbitt Incident

The year 1993 marked the occurrence of the infamous John and Lorena Bobbitt case in Manassas, Va.

Lorena was tired of his abuse and cut off his penis with a knife. I credit that case with focusing national attention on the growing issue of domestic violence.

According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, conducted from November 1995 to May 1996, nearly 25 percent of American women reported being raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date at some time in their lifetime.

A 1998 Common Fund survey found that 31 percent of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.

Women are primarily the victims in reported domestic violence cases involving an intimate partner. They are not willing to take it any longer.

In addition to the prevalence of domestic violence, accompanying issues are domestic homicides, health issues, domestic violence and youth, domestic violence and children, rape and stalking.

Impact on local law enforcement

I spoke recently with Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram about domestic violence in our county.

He advised that during the period July 2007 to June 2008, his department responded to 4,026 domestic violence calls that may have resulted in up to 405 arrests.

These labor intensive and dangerous calls require at least two officers to be present in order to assure safety for everyone involved. “Domestic violence in progress” calls cause grave concern for responding officers.

There is a standard operating procedure to ensure that any warrantless arrest holds up in court. It is a complex matter.

Safe houses

One day in 2001, while I was serving with the International Police Task Force (IPTF) in Sarajevo, Bosnia, two pretty young women from the Republic of Moldova came to our police station.

They had been enticed to Bosnia with a promise of employment in a cafe. The employer was actually a pimp and soon had their passports and them servicing up to a dozen rough “clients” a night.

After several weeks, the pimp began to beat them. They managed to escape without a penny to their names.

Trafficking in human beings is a major world problem. When the young women came to our station, they needed a safe place to stay while the Moldova Embassy replaced their passports and they were able to return home.

They were lodged at a safe house in a secure, secret location while the process and criminal investigation were completed.

Hope Harbor Home in Brunswick County

Recently, I met Lynn Carlson, executive director of Hope Harbor Home, at a meeting for volunteer recruitment at The Chapel of Holden Beach.

Her office is located in their “safe house” operation at a confidential location. Security is high at the facility housing 17 women and children. They have been at maximum capacity the past several months.

The women and their children are at risk while the perpetrator of violence against them is scheduled for court.

The shelter and program has a modest half-million-dollar budget. One-third comes from government and foundation grants, one-third from contributions and the rest from money generated by the sales in the five Hope Chest stores in Brunswick County:

Hope Chest 1: 2205 Holden Beach Road, 842-6950

Hope Chest 2: 112 Clairmont Plaza, Leland, 371-0058

Hope Chest 3: 5602 Oak Island Drive, Oak Island, 278-7781

Hope Chest 4: 3865 Business 17,Old Ocean Highway, Bolivia, 253-5001

Hope Chest 5: 7161 Beach Drive, Ocean Isle Beach, 579-2367

It is a nonprofit operation that relies on the generous spirit of volunteers willing to make a difference by standing up for someone in need.

Call 754-5726 for information about volunteering to help.

Shop at Hope Chest stores. In these hard times, it will save big money and help support Hope Harbor. Donate furniture and clothing.

The rate of domestic violence in Brunswick County almost guarantees victims may be someone you know.

You may have been victimized at some point in your life and understand what it feels like to live in need, intimidation and fear.

John Heidtke has been employed by municipal, county, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies since 1963.