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Last week, it came to light that a prominent Wisconsin prosecutor was at the center of a sexual harassment scandal. A domestic violence victim said that District Attorney Ken Kratz made personal advances towards her through inappropriate text messages. Police documents show dozens of messages that were sent last year while Kratz was prosecuting the woman’s ex-boyfriend’s case. Some of the texts are as follows: “Are you the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA…the riskier the better?” “You are beautiful and would make a great partner some day.” A third text refers to the woman as a “tall, young, hot nymph.”
Emails from November 2009 between Kratz and the Wisconsin Department of Justice show Kratz denied wrong-doing for weeks. Despite being the chairman of the Wisconsin Crime Victims Rights Board and despite the fact that he sent over 30 of these inappropriate text messages, he still claims that he did not violate the law or any rules of professional misconduct. What planet is this guy on? Does he think that just because these messages were sent via text that they can’t be construed as sexual harassment?
As a society, we often question why battered women stay in their relationships. From the outside, it’s easy to ask why they don’t leave or take action to improve their situation. Do we need a clearer example than this? The victim thought she was on her way to freedom by taking a stand against her abuser, and yet she was unable to escape the cycle of abuse this time on a much grander scale. Like the abuser, Kratz used his position over the victim to intimidate her and coerce her into submission. In one of his text messages, he indicated that the prosecution of her ex-boyfriend’s case would take a long time and could be dismissed at any moment. If she ignores the DA’s passes, she risks him dropping the charges, thus putting her in back in danger. This parallels exactly what she went through in her relationship. Again, she faces it.
Leaving an abusive situation is hard enough, and victims need as much support as they can get. They often look to people in positions of authority and power as people they can trust, as people who can help them rebuild their lives. When that trust is broken and they have been betrayed by the very people they go for to help, where else are they supposed to go? There is now an increasing concern that victims will be reluctant, even more than they already were, to come forward because of legitimate concerns regarding how they’ll be treated and whether they’ll be taken seriously.
The decision has just been made that Ken Kratz will step down from his District Attorney position. Unfortunately, his resignation will not automatically repair the damage he has caused to victims’ trust and confidence in the legal system. As someone in a position of authority, it was his job to treat crime victims with dignity and respect and yet he doesn’t believe he crossed a line. (But he did.) He betrayed the very woman he was supposed to be helping to protect. It is critical that victims in our communities know that there are good people that want to help them.
How can we, as a society, make sure that the abusive and inappropriate behavior of this one man won’t prevent victims from coming forward and receiving the help and support they deserve?
As part of their Community Investment Program, Preston Wynne Spa is inviting you to pamper yourself & help victims of Domestic Violence all at the same time! When your day of luxury is over and you’re ready to check out, mention this promotion at the register and Preston Wynne will donate 3% of individual treatment costs to Next Door. Schedule appointments for a group of 4, and Preston Wynne will up their donation to 12%!
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Next Door’s Director of Program Services, Patty Bennett, and other Santa Clara County leaders discuss domestic violence with Chuck Finney on KALW’s Your Legal Rights Radio Program. Listen to Patty Bennett on KALW Radio here!
Patty was also interviewed by KBAY’s Sandy Stec for her radio show on Sunday, October 3, 2010. Listen in here: NEXT DOOR SOLUTIONS OCT 3
Autumn has arrived which means it’s back to school time! Gone are the summer days full of long vacations, reading for fun, and lounging by the pool. Instead, parents & children are now concerned with football games, homework, school dances, peer pressure, and grades. Unfortunately, we can add one more thing to the list of things to worry about: dating violence. While the topic is rarely talked about, it is a legitimate concern seeing as 1 in 3 dating teens are expected to experience some form of dating abuse. As our children are returning to school, it’s important to be aware of the dangers that may accompany teen dating and recognize any signs of trouble that may already exist.
Young women aged 16-24 are more vulnerable to violence than any other age group, yet most teens and young adults have no idea that they are at such high risk. Before my time at Next Door Solutions, I had no idea just how prevalent dating violence truly was. I graduated from college just two years ago and looking back, it is possible that I missed some very telling signs of young people in trouble. I wish I had known then what I know now. Maybe then I could have helped share the idea that jealous is NOT a sign of his love for you and that just because he apologizes, doesn’t mean he won’t get aggressive again in the future.
It is so important that young women are armed with the knowledge that I may not have had. Admittedly, if my mother ever came to me and wanted to talk about engaging in safe dating practices, she probably would have been met with groans. However, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have listened to what she was saying. Starting a conversation on what constitutes as a healthy relationship not only helps women recognize signs of potential danger, but it will create a safe space where she feels comfortable sharing if someone does put her, or someone she knows, in harms way.
Besides creating a dialogue at home with our children, there are additional ways to raise awareness about teen dating violence. If you are a parent of a junior high or high school student, make an appointment to meet with their school principal and ask that some type of dating violence curriculum be implemented. According to Love Is Not Abuse, only 25% of schools teach about dating violence but in those schools, most students say they are able to identify the early signs of abuse. Parents can use all the help they can get when it comes to keeping our children safe, so let’s make sure our schools are doing their part in preventing teen dating violence.
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The People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) neighborhood experiment, which was filmed in South Africa using hidden cameras, is a powerful and disturbing one. The PSA begins with a man playing drums in his home late at night. Over the course of the evening, he receives several complaints from neighbors claiming that the noise is too loud.
On a different night, the same man plays an audio recording of a couple having an argument, which quickly escalates with sounds of a woman getting beaten. Unlike the previous night, he receives no noise complaints or inquiries about what is going on inside. Had there been an actual fight, the woman would have been left alone while the neighbors stayed inside listening to the woman defend herself against her partner.
With at least 1 in 4 women experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime, it is safe to say that most people know someone who has experienced such abuse. Whether it is a family member, coworker, or neighbor, many of us question if we should help. The answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” Most of us know that we should step in and help, but often times we talk ourselves out of doing anything because of our own self-consciousness. What kind of repercussions will follow if we intervene- will it only make the batterer even more upset? Maybe it’s just not any of my business? What if I say the wrong thing and make my friend upset?
I’m not saying that bringing up this conversation isn’t going to be awkward or by any means easy, but that doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t worth having. If it were your friend or family member who found themselves in this situation, wouldn’t you want someone to be in their corner, to listen and to help? It might be scary or make your friend or family member uncomfortable initially, but the message you send when staying quiet is far worse- that it’s okay.
It’s time that we send the message that partner abuse will not be tolerated. Domestic violence is everyone’s problem and has consequences for more than just the people involved. For example, children who witness domestic violence in the home are affected as seriously as the person being abused. These innocent children suffer from anxiety and depression that will follow them for years to come. How can future generations learn respect and boundaries if nobody steps in to help? It takes just one person to intervene and send the message that violence is not acceptable. It’s time to take back our community and end this cycle of violence once and for all.
There are resources available to assist those wishing to help a friend or family member who is currently experiencing abuse. Please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.thehotline.org) for ways to help… and possibly save lives.
Thanks so much for participating in our survey.
We will publish the results next month!