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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Another Glimpse into a Batterer’s Behavior

As many of you know, for the past year and a half I have been blogging about the trial of Bulos “Paul” Zumot. He had been charged with killing his girlfriend Jennifer Schipsi and setting their house on fire to cover the murder. Eight months ago, Zumot was found guilty of murder in the first degree and arson. For the family, it has been two long years since the murder of their sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. This past Friday, October 28th, I attended his sentencing, which local media called “a bizarre courtroom scene.” At least one leg of this long journey to healing has been completed. After at least seven postponements, Zumot was sentenced to serve a minimum of 33 years in prison. Most believe he will never see the outside of the walls of prison again. Justice was served.

Unfortunately, Zumot gave us one last demonstration of his narcissistic, self-serving behavior. He acted out – strategically. He started with one tactic, terminating the services of his attorney (probably should have thought of that before the verdict). That strategy did not prevail, so he went on to plead with the judge to delay sentencing and that did not work. Finally, he began ranting that the blame for this predicament landed on the judge and assistant district attorney, not himself. The world was against him because he was an immigrant. He wanted us to believe this was a conspiracy and that he was framed. He became louder and louder with each unsuccessful claim. Watching him go from one tactic to another, testing each for effect, reminded me of many other women’s descriptions of their partner’s behavior. I once worked with a woman whose battering partner left roses for her at our shelter door. She did not respond, so he next sent her a Polaroid picture of a gravestone in a cemetery. He wrote her name in pen over the gravestone. If one strategy doesn’t work, apply another, violence being the ultimate.

Although his ranting did not work, it was incredibly painful for the family and friends of Jennifer to hear. My heart wrenched watching Jennifer’s daughter andJim Schipsi, Jennifer’s father, attempt to give their victim impact statements, having to yell over Zumot’s rant. I desperately wanted to tape Zumot’s mouth and force him to face Jim and the family while they gave their statements. Zumot’s ugliness and poison filled the room at a time the family should have been able to finally give their statements. After all, they patiently sat in the courtroom day after day during the trial. They listened to the most gruesome aspects of the case. They saw pictures of their beloved relative’s murdered body. Those pictures will be etched into their memories forever. Yet they sat in the courtroom with dignity and grace. They deserved their day. Zumot wanted to steal that as well, but he didn’t win. He didn’t get away with murder and he was forced to listen to the heartbreaking testimony albeit in another room.

Zumot robbed Jennifer’s family and friends of her lightness, her presence, her beauty and love. As Jennifer’s aunt noted in her testimony, he robbed them of Jennifer’s future and he ruined their memories of her past. No amount of prison time will bring those things back but yesterday justice was served.

Keep Up the Domestic Violence Prevention Drumbeat

This is one of an occasional post from Margaret Epperheimer, a seven-year member of Next Door’s Board of Directors. She recently completed 40 hours of state-recognized domestic violence advocacy training, deepening her understanding of the challenge and her passion for “ending domestic violence for the moment and for all time.”

As National Domestic Violence Awareness Month draws to a close, we are reminded how lucky we are to live in a community that takes domestic violence prevention and victim support seriously. Legislators, city and county officials and community activists rally at this time of year to shine a spotlight on the issue. They remind us:

–          There were five domestic violence-related deaths  in Santa Clara County in 2010

–          The 2011 death tally, when it’s in, may well exceed the 2010 figure

–          Prosecutors issued criminal domestic violence complaints at a rate of one every 3.5 hours in 2010

–          Only emergency legislation two years ago stopped the closing of shelters and centers for battered women and children throughout the state

–          Funding for victim support and prevention programs has already been cut or is at high risk of being cut in the near future

This month, San Jose’s Walk to End Domestic Violence attracted hundreds. Our hats are off to those who sponsored and participated in this 14th annual event. Thanks to Assemblymember Jim Beall, who partnered with the California Select Committee on Domestic Violence to convene an information hearing to discuss the complexity of domestic violence issues in Santa Clara County and strategies to end the violence. Good for San Jose State University, West Valley College and other educational and civic groups for organizing their own awareness campaigns and facilitated discussions on the topic.

All of this is encouraging and energizing for those who work day-in and day-out to advocate for victims, provide programs for survivors, raise funds for awareness and prevention and who have dedicated their lives to creating a community and a world where domestic violence does not exist. Most of them know this will not happen in their lifetimes, but they are willing to make the investment in time, energy and dollars so future generations are spared. These heroes at agencies such as Next Door would gladly work themselves out of a job if they could. It’s grinding, selfless, often unpaid work that doesn’t get the attention and recognition it deserves.

As individuals and as corporations in this diverse, rich “Valley of Hearts Delight,” it’s up to us to take up the drumbeat of domestic violence awareness and not let the spotlight dim after this month of rallies and special focus. What can YOU do right now … today? Accept domestic violence as a community issue, not one that’s private and happens between two people. Educate yourself. Talk about it at home, at work, with your children, family and friends. If you suspect a friend, relative, colleague or neighbor is being abused, call Next Door’s 24-hour hotline (408-279-2962) to learn what you can do to help.  Advocate for an awareness/prevention campaign at your school or place of business. Volunteer. Donate. Get angry. Beat a drum. Think about it. What can YOU do?

Curbing Sexual Violence – The Liberian Experience

Alvin Winford, an experienced community leader from Brewerville, Liberia will contribute to the local community through a four-month fellowship funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In Liberia, Alvin was the program manager at the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect where he worked to mitigate gender-based violence in local communities. Most recently, he has spearheaded a project that has helped increase the capacity of local police forces to respond to gender-based violence.  Next Door is honored to have Alvin as a guest blogger.

By A. Alvin Winford

Sexual violence is a menace that defiles the human person. Due to its sensitive nature, it is underreported thereby leaving many victims with indelible scars which have adverse impact on their social, physical and mental well being.  It is difficult to see a society not grappling with it.  We must equally deal with these horrible acts by not only naming and shaming people who abuse power sadistically at the expense of the weak, but also take up some radical posture in meting out punitive measures against perpetrators in serving as deterrence.  I strongly believe that a serious sickness can only be cured if staid medication is applied no matter the pains the patient endures as long as it is remedied.

Recently, I was honorably invited by the YWCA Rape Crisis Center of Silicon Valley, a sister agency to the Next Door, to share my working experience with sexual violence in Liberia.

Looking at the statistics one can discern that this type of criminality has no borders.  Results from the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) revealed that 17.7 million women and 2.8 million men in the United States were forcibly raped at some time in their lives, with 302,091 women and 92,748 men forcibly raped in the year preceding the survey.

In my home country, girls ages of 10 – 14 are the most common victims of rape in Liberia In addition, about 10 percent of Liberian female aged 15 – 49 were forced against their will during their first sexual experience. About 18 percent of girls and women age 15 – 19 have experienced sexual violence and 32 percent of women report experiences of sexual violence coming from their husband or partner, 10 percent from their current/former boyfriend and 8 percent from a policeman or soldier. (Liberia Demographic Health Survey Report, 2007) The consequences of this violence are visible on the victims back in Liberia. Unwanted teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortion, single mother, health and psychological matters, being a social outcast in a gossip ridden community are some hurdles a victim is confronted with.

In Liberia we knew that drastic action must be taken.  The first step was to elect a female president in 2005, the first on the African Continent.   Her election was to send the message loud and clear that if Liberia were to move forward, then it was time to depart from our traditional past of a male dominant and abusive society. May we pause to join the rest of the world to congratulate my fellow country women Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, for receiving the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”  It is my fervent hope that this would strengthen their tenacity   in serving as a voice for the voiceless and reaching out to the many girls and women who are yearning for a violent free environment.

Continued next week — Liberia Builds a Safer Community for Women and Girls

Topeka Repeals Domestic Violence Law

While the costs of intimate partner abuse may seem obvious today, laws protecting women against partner abuse has been slow to evolve. Traditionally, violence against women has been widely practiced and condoned. Under early common law, women were seen as property and as such, familial violence was considered a private affair rather than a crime against the state. In the last couple of decades we have began to make advancements in using the law to protect women but a recent Topeka, Kansas city council meeting may have succeeded in moving this progress two steps in the wrong direction.

For the past week, members of the Topeka City Council have been toying with the idea of decriminalizing domestic violence to avoid paying the bill for prosecuting the cases. Despite the protests of domestic violence advocates and the national headlines calling foul, a 7-3 vote on Tuesday effectively repealed the local law that makes domestic violence a crime.

Apparently, Topeka’s three arms of government have not been able to agree on who should be responsible for prosecuting people accused of misdemeanor cases of domestic violence.

The New York Times reports:

The move, the councilors were told, would force District Attorney Chad Taylor to prosecute the cases because they would remain a crime under state law, a conclusion with which he grudgingly agreed. The council also approved negotiations to resolve the impasse.

Several victims of domestic violence spoke against the proposal at the meeting, questioning whether it would succeed in forcing the district attorney to resume prosecutions. “It is your responsibility to protect these people, and you’re failing,” said Matthew Agnew, 24, one such victim.

While the city may claim that their end goal in making this move is to force Taylor to begin prosecuting cases again, where does that leave victims of domestic violence in the mean time? Even if this gets resolved, the damage has already been done. Apparently nobody in the city of Topeka cares enough about the safety of women to pay for it unless they are forced to.

Next Door Solutions Receives $20,000 Grant from Mary Kay Foundation


 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEXT DOOR SOLUTIONS TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RECEIVES $20,000 AS PART OF $3 MILLION NATIONWIDE GRANT FROM THE MARY KAY FOUNDATION TO COMBAT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN SAN JOSE AND SANTA CLARA COUNTY

Mary Kay shelter grant program to help many of the 61,000 domestic violence survivors
assisted each day in the United States

SAN JOSE, October 10, 2011 – Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence has been chosen to receive a $20,000 grant from The Mary Kay Foundation as part of the organization’s annual $3 million national domestic violence grant program. Next Door is one of 150 domestic violence organizations participating in the program. The grant will be used to provide more than 240 women and children with vital 24-hour shelter, safety planning, and direct services that will help cultivate immediate and long-term safety.

Domestic violence programs are in greater need than ever before,” said Kathleen Krenek, Executive Director of Next Door. “Battered women need jobs more than ever before and as before, the Mary Kay Ash Foundation and corporation came to our rescue. The $20,000 grant helps to keep our doors open and for battered women, employment opportunities to meet their individual needs continue to exist.  We thank the foundation and corporation for your visionary approach to business and philanthropy.”

Domestic Violence Outlook

According to the second “Mary Kay Truth About Abuse” national survey conducted in March 2011, domestic violence shelters indicate the economic downturn has increased demand for services. Shelters also report, the ability to raise funds and provide services will be hampered into 2012. Due to the economy, the survey also revealed:

  • 80 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide (more than three out of four) report an increase in women seeking assistance from abuse, and most attribute this to financial issues.
  • 76 percent of domestic violence shelters (three out of four) indicate their funding has decreased.
  • 65 percent of women in shelters can’t find employment due to the economy.
  • 56 percent of shelters note the abuse is more violent now than before the economic downturn.

“In light of the economic downturn and alarming increases in domestic violence, The Mary Kay Foundation’s mission is more critical than ever before. Next Door has helped so many women and their families in the San Jose and greater Santa Clara County area. We know they will use these funds to benefit even more domestic violence survivors and their children and help end domestic violence,” said Jennifer Cook, The Mary Kay Foundation board member.

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About Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence

Next Door began in 1971 out of the garage of a local San Jose women’s rights activist. Since then, Next Door has become the premier agency addressing the needs of victims of domestic violence and their children. Next Door seeks to end domestic violence in the moment and for all time by addressing all sides of the issue by helping victims to rebuild their lives, building resilience in children who are exposed to DV, and advocating for responsible policy change. To achieve its goals, Next Door provides innovative prevention and intervention services to diverse ethnic and low-income families in Santa Clara County (SCC), California, the majority of which come from San Jose.

About The Mary Kay Foundation
The Mary Kay Foundation was created in 1996, and its mission is two-fold: to fund research of cancers affecting women and to help prevent domestic violence while raising awareness of the issue. Since the Foundation’s inception, it has awarded $28 million to shelters and programs addressing domestic violence prevention and more than $16 million to cancer researchers and related causes throughout the United States. To learn more about The Mary Kay Foundation, log on to www.marykayfoundation.org or call 1-877-MKCARES (652-2737).

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