Ponder This: Closer look at domestic violence (Part II)

This is the second part of a three part series of Dale Driscoll’s ‘Ponder This’ column looking at domestic violence, challenges in fighting for legislation like Brittany’s Law – and much more. Part three will be published on Friday, November 11th and Part one can be read by clicking here.

Many ask why women stay in violent relationships? It is essential to stop blaming the victims of abuse. Victim blaming only makes the abused feel more ashamed and afraid to seek help. We must remember every situation is different. Abuse usually starts gradually. Many reasons exist as to why victims do not leave their abusive partners: financial, children involved, thinking how to provide for them, isolation from family and friends, and, most importantly, fear of retaliation. Some victims also believe they can do no better than whom they are with. It is long overdue. We need to hold abusers accountable for their actions. No one deserves to be abused: verbally, mentally or physically.

Some important Red Flags to look for considering domestic violence:

When your dating partner:

  • Believes in male/female roles
  • Was violent before you met
  • Is often angry and or has a bad temper
  • Blames others for what he or she has done
  • Deflects to take steer the focus away from them self and place blame on another
  • Grew up in a violent/abusive home
  • Is jealous
  • Lies
  • Is highly possessive
  • Violent mood swings

Some vital statistics:

  • While domestic violence also affects men, for obvious reasons eighty-five percent of the victims are women.
  • Every nine seconds in the US a woman is assaulted.
  • Globally, one in every three women is beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused during their lifetime. Often, the abuser is a member of woman’s own family.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than auto accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Studies suggest that up to ten million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
  • Nearly one in five teenage girls who have been in a relationship stated a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
  • Annually, domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work in the US alone -the equivalent of thirty-two thousand full-time jobs.

Where does Brittany’s Law fit in?

Currently, it is the only bill introduced offering preventive measures against domestic violence. Most laws and programs in place help victims once abuses have taken place. In other words, the damage has already been done. Nine states have similar laws in place.

What is Brittany’s Law?

A bill which would create a registry stating any man or woman convicted of a crime relating directly to domestic violence. Once paroled, the newly released felon would be placed into an electronic database. Similar to Megan’s Law, the registry would have three tiers: third being reserved for the worst offenders. The level of the offense would determine the length of time the offender must be registered.

I have been working diligently with Senator Mike Nozzolio and Assemblyman Brian Kolb for the past 7 years trying to get this legislation passed and signed. I have also worked on occasion with Assemblyman Bob Oaks, Senator Cathy Young, and other key legislators in Albany. The bill has made it through the senate six years straight with overwhelming support only to see it stall in committee in the State Assembly.

What prompted me to pursue this legislation?

In November 2009, my thirty-four-year-old daughter, Helen Buchel, and twelve-year-old granddaughter, Brittany Passalacqua, were brutally murdered by Helen’s boyfriend John Brown. Significant flaws were exposed. Had the laws which initially governed parolees been enforced, this tragic event may not have occurred. For example, parole officers had been told by their superiors not to re-violate parolees. This practice was implemented to alleviate overcrowding in prisons and save tax dollars. This at the expense of Helen, Brittany, and countless others. I was informed that John Brown was not allowed anywhere near his biological children from a previous marriage. Yet he was allowed to move in with my daughter and her underage children. Had the system performed the way it was initially intended, my girls. Were their lives less precious in the eyes of the division of parole?

John Brown went before his parole officer, the day before he killed Helen and Brittany to discuss his continued violations. On this visit, it had been decided John would be given a “Get-out-of-jail-free” card if he were to work for them as an informant once his parole had been completed. In my opinion, something was seriously wrong with the system. Drastic changes needed to be made. I decided to act.  After a few emails, Senator Nozzolio contacted me to discuss the details of what had taken place.

Knowledge is power. The Senator and I both felt that the citizens have the right to know all sex offenders around us, therefore, we need to have the tools to access a felon’s violent history as well.  Some suggest that these felons have served their time, but victims and family members never get that opportunity. Those injured and or who have perished at the hands of violent felons do not get the luxury of parole. Their fate is permanent.

This past legislative session, we honestly believed there was a good chance of finally getting this bill to the assembly floor for a vote. As this was Senator Nozzolio’s last year in office, he was finally given a reason for the constant stall in the assembly.  The Democrat majority believed the term “violent felon” was too broad. To appease them, we decided to go with their wording of the bill they were pushing. The original bill from 7 years prior had been was chopped considerably.  The bill, as written now, pertains to anyone who committing a crime directly related to domestic violence, even though the percentage of violent offenders to abuse their partners is in the high seventy percentile rate. If this is what it took to get this law on the books we would settle with what the Democrats wanted, anything to get this law on the books.

It is often mentioned by State Legislators that citizens are already able to access a felon’s history on the New York States Department of Corrections website under” Inmate Lookup.” In order to accomplish this, you will need not only their name but their date of birth. Once accessed the information is vague. In my daughter, Helen’s case, when she sought information on John Brown the description only stated “Felony in the 2nd “.  There was no mention made of what the charge or felony conviction was.  John Brown told Helen he was in prison for getting into a bar-room brawl protecting a woman. He made it sound as if it were a commendable act; a protector of woman.  It was a blatant lie to make himself look good in the eyes of my daughter. While in prison felons become masters at lying and manipulation.  I know of two others who have used the same line. They know the right buzz words to use.  The actual offense John Brown was convicted of was throwing his infant child into a wall causing irreparable brain damage. There was no mention of child abuse either. Had she have had the tools to be privy to this information, my daughter would never have dated this vile individual.

Senator Nozzolio and I were confident that Brittany’s Law was going to get passed and signed into law. It was his last year in office, and six and half tireless years of making necessary and unnecessary adjustments, Brittany’s Law was finally going to happen.

Then the unthinkable happened…

Stay tuned for Part III of this series on Friday, November 11th.

Dale Cook Driscoll’s ‘Ponder This’ is a bi-weekly column featured exclusively on FingerLakes1.com. She is constantly evaluating the political and social landscape around the state, and has been a long-time advocate for Brittany’s Law — legislation aimed at creating a violent offenders registry in New York State. She can be contacted via email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter here.

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