Who has been following this podcast? With my job, I have debated listening to this; however, I felt I needed to. Why?
Without making this too much of a “Bash on the Powell family”(I’m sure we could all provide our feelings) or even about them, I want to address some thoughts on Domestic Violence (D.V.) and ways to help others recognize it when they see it.
There is a very special woman and I’m hoping she will see this article. She opened my eyes to see a different perspective into the heartbreaking, dangerous, and sometime fatal world of D.V. . For her safety, I am going to avoid using her name, yet, I’m going to refer to her as “Angel”. After all, that’s how I see her and that’s how I know many victims have probably felt. I know she would disagree with me, but that’s for us to argue about later.
During my initial six years of Law Enforcement (11 now), I had assignments to respond to numerous homes filled with tragedy. When I say tragedy, I mean “holy shit how did this shit go on for so long and not be prevented”. Where was the family, the friends, neighbors, and law enforcement? Why in the hell didn’t Law Enforcement stop this shit before “tragedy strangled”?
Well, that’s a very valid question…
I don’t recall having a lot of training in regards to D.V. as a Law Enforcement Rookie; Matter of fact, I don’t think I had more but one or two D.V. related scenarios in the Police Academy (I could be wrong it was 11 years ago). Who’s fault is that, mine or the academy’s? Personally, I’m not going to blame either of us. We are learning and I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know everything! Neither does our society. Society implements new things and we have to learn and train on them. It takes time to understand. Hopefully, the next paragraph will demonstrate my point.
The Violence Against Women Act was put into place in 1994. You read that correct… The Violence Against Women Act… but what about the Violence Against Men or Violence with Children Present? Again, we are learning. We don’t always get the wording or draw a perfect picture the first time. D.V. includes EVERYONE! This was a big movement in the right steps. So for now, I will leave that there and will address it in the following paragraphs.
Over the course of my career, there have been countless times where I would arrive on scene of D.V., gather statements, make my best decision as to who the aggressor was, and take them to jail. Wait… what do you mean find out who the aggressor was? It’s the man! Uh, nope. Not always. Anyways, that was it… shitty investigation skills, huh? Yeah, but at the time I didn’t really know much better. By law, I had to intervene no matter what when it came to D.V. related crimes. More often than not, though, I would see a battered woman and I would take the man to jail. Then I moved on to the next call for service.
“Hey, good luck! Hope everything works out well! See you on the next one…”
At the time, I didn’t really know how uneducated I was with these situations. I typically figured it was the dude who beat the living shit out of his wife, end of story. I never really dove into the history or looked at all the evidence. When I say evidence, did you know there is a difference between choking or being strangled? Yeah, neither did I or most of my victims. Let me tell you, it’s a BIG DAMN DIFFERENCE. Strangulation means Power and Control… Over what? Well, how about your next breath? That’s right, it means some asshole has control, like God himself, over your next breath of air.
Have you ever seen blood-red eyes, with these pinpoint looking red spots? I sure as hell didn’t see that shit in the academy besides a few slides of it. Not enough for me to remember or describe what I was really seeing in a report. Those red pinpoint spots you may see in your family member, friend, or neighbors eyes… those eyes tell a story, those types of eyes are the result of strangulation.
“Victims should look for injuries on their face, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, chin, neck, head, scalp, chest and shoulders, including: redness, scratches or abrasions, fingernail impressions in the skin, deep fingernail claw marks, ligature marks (“rope burns”), thumbprint-shaped bruises, blood-red eyes, pinpoint red spots called “petechiae” or blue fingernails.” – https://www.pottstown.org/DocumentCenter/View/211Facts Victims of Choking (Strangulation) Need to Know!
How do I know all of this shit? I’ll tell you, it’s not from any field trainer or from any instructor in the academy. It was the day “Angel” showed up. Have you ever heard of someone who is willing to be called out at all hours of the day or night and is willing to protect a victim of D.V. even after Law Enforcement leaves? Well, I have.
Angel, you taught me what it looked like to care. Angel, you showed me how to look for signs in my victims when I entered the door of a homeless filled with D.V. Without you, I would have made “wrongful arrest” at times. To those victims I arrested, I am sorry for not seeing the evidence. I have arrested MEN and they were probably the victims. I didn’t know that until looking back weeks, months, or even years later. It’s not always Violence Against Women. I believe in 1994 they did a fantastic thing, but did they miss adding Men/Children to the Act? I agree that the strength of a man is probably more powerful than the strength of most women. Most of the time, the evidence was more clear when the male battered the female. Thanks to the Angel, I was able to help document in my report what truly happened. She taught me to document “strangulation” instead of “choking”. She also taught me to document the pinpoint red spots in the eye or other places on the body and refer to it as “petechiae”. (Google it and be familiar with it)
Are we seeing a clearer picture? I hope so. I have one story to tell before I end…
I moved away and went to work for another Police Agency. Well our police department shared an office with a lot of the city personnel… One of the ladies in the office had a husband who was a police officer, so it was easy for her connect with us. Everything about her seemed normal, she seemed happy and upbeat. She had two younger children, boy and girl. She never talked negative about anything. Little did we know, things were bad for her at home. I mean really bad. How were we supposed to know? Was that my responsibility as a police officer? Do we have D.V. Radar? Did I miss the physical signs of D.V.? I don’t know if I did. I pray she will forgive me one day if I missed her signs. I am sorry to the family if I didn’t see what her eyes were wanting or trying to tell us.
One day, she never returned to work. Her police officer husband shot and killed her, their two children, and his mother in-law. Then turned the gun to himself and ended his own life. The 145 page investigative report may document what family, friends, neighbors, and law enforcement missed. Sometimes these signs are not physical, and many times they are not even expressed verbally or emotionally. If you see something wrong, document it. Write it down. Gather the information for the person you believe to be a victim of Domestic Violence. You never know, they may need you to be their scribe behind the scenes. I thank the Angel that taught me to care about the victims and specifically teaching me to slow down and observe the bigger picture by looking for those smaller details.