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Domestic Abuse: How Should It Be Reported on Patch?

We've reported a fair number of cases on Patch in the past few months. What's the best way to bring it to light?

You don't have to spend much time around the courthouse in St. Louis or St. Charles counties before you realize this: Domestic abuse is epidemic in the community.

Our associate local editor Joe Scott saw that pretty quickly as he started aggressively covering the courthouse for his fellow Patch editors in April. He's written nearly 600 stories about crime in the community since April; about 80 of them have been about some form of domestic abuse.

He's written about cases of boyfriends or husbands bashing women's faces, dragging them by their hair and punching them—in all cases, incidents that resulted in charges being filed against the assailants.

And you read those stories. A lot.

The average readership of those stories is fully 66 percent higher than the average story Joe writes. We write these stories because part of our mission is providing community news. People wonder what the police were doing in their neighborhood, on their block, in their apartment complex. We try to shed light on that when we can.

They want to know about the quality of life in their community, the kinds of people who live nearby and where the needs of their neighbors are. Reporting on crime is a means to that end, and frankly, as I said, you read it.

But it got us wondering: Are we doing more harm than good by reporting these cases of domestic violence in the community? Are we endangering victims of this crime by reporting on it, or discouraging victims from speaking out?

Or are we emboldening victims? If one victim is strong enough to speak out to authorities, perhaps that gives moral support to the next one?

It's a good time to be asking these questions. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We think Patch can be a constructive participant in the dialogue during October and beyond. And the statistics are pretty amazing.

According to a census done on one day in 2011, Sept. 15, by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence:

  • 2,012 victims of domestic violence received services
  • 537 hotline calls were answered
  • 378 requests for services were unmet due to lack of staff and/or financial resources.
  • 75 percent of unmet requests were for housing. Emergency shelter and transitional housing continued to be the most urgent unmet needs.
  • Other frequently requested unmet needs included legal representation, counseling, and legal advocacy.

"No, reporting a story doesn’t discourage a woman from coming forward," said Melissa Antney, a development specialist with Lydia’s House, a domestic violence shelter.

She encouraged us to continue covering cases of domestic abuse. So did Rachna Goel, with the Jane Doe Advocacy Center in Maplewood. Both said reporting on these crimes will lead to diminishing the stigma that is associated with it.

Goel advocates reporting all of it, from the serious to the relatively minor incidents, because it may help someone in the early stages of an abusive relationship realize what is happening.

Goel and Antney differ a bit on the approach they'd take in terms of naming defandants and the best ways to avoid further victimizing victims. We have more people to talk to; we're still fact-finding.

That's part of why we're opening this conversation to you. I hope you'll give us your points of view on this crime and how we at Patch ought to approach reporting on this issue. We're weighing all this input as we develop our guidelines.

Why do you suppose readers read about this? What information is necessary in reporting these crimes? What are the reasons to report on it? Are there good reasons not to?

JoanLauterbach September 24, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Mr. Completely,,,Emotional abuse is any type of behavior that is used to control a victim. It can include but is not limited to the use of threats, manipulation that comes in many forms, or persistent berating. Often times if an abuser is able to control his victim through these means then the physical violence is often rare but can be present if the victim refuses to conform. Emotional abuse can also be present when there is regular physical abuse. It can take the form of economic abuse such as not allowing the victim to have control over money or not allowing the victim to work. It can also include sexual manipulation or abuse. Many times the abuser makes threats either directed towards the victim in regards to physical safety, threats to take children away if they are involved or even threats of suicide. The abuser will make the victim feel as worthless as they can, then turn right around and say they love them. It can lead to severe depression, cognitive dissonance and even PTSD like symptoms. It leaves psychological scars that are very difficult to heal.
JoanLauterbach September 24, 2012 at 02:18 AM
POWER and CONTROL WHEEL~helpful tool in understanding the overall pattern of abusive and violent behaviors... http://www.ncdsv.org/images/powercontrolwheelnoshading.pdf
Deborah Smith Yochim September 24, 2012 at 06:47 AM
Thank you Joan. You explained it much better than I could. I am a victim of it and I explained it the best way I could. I like your explantion much better. Thanks again
JoanLauterbach September 24, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Deborah, I thought by what you said that you were indeed a victim because of your knowledge(you explained it well),,,we have a daughter who is getting out of this kind of evil relationships after many years and five children later,,,now he is continuing to put her down to her children and succeeding to an extent to see it his way,,,,,,,,,, I know the toll that it has takes on a person mentally physically and emotionally,,,My prayers will be with you, I
JoanLauterbach September 24, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Deborah, By the way, I asked my daughter for the comment that I made(she described it) Ironic as it may be she is now in her Junior year of College majoring in Psychology(needs to take care of the children ~a good job),,,of course, he tells her that it is a waste of time and the children tell her that also,,,it is a round and round thing,,,I pity the next poor victim of his manipulation, believe me there will be another, he is already working on it,,,my daughter was #2,,,it is the children that I am concerned for and what it has and is doing to them...

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