What You Need to Know Right Now About Domestic Violence
Domestic violence doesn’t only happen at home. It spills into the places we take for granted as safe—schools, stores, salons, or any workplace. Cosmopolitan investigates how relationship violence puts us all at risk…and how the protective orders intended to give us peace of mind sometimes aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.
BY RALPH BLUMENTHAL
June 13, 2012, Buffalo, New York—Receptionist Jacqueline Wisniewski, 33, shot and killed by ex-boyfriend at the hospital where she worked. July 13, 2012, Ellicott City, Maryland—Spa technician Lan Phan, 34, shot and injured on the job by ex-boyfriend. He was violating a protective order. September 11, 2012, Sioux Falls, South Dakota—Manager Amanda Collins, 24, shot and killed at the salon where she worked by her employee’s boyfriend. He was violating a protective order.
September 27, 2012, Orlando, Florida—Hotel workers Carlene Pierre, 28, and Vanessa Gonzalez-Orellanes, 28, shot and killed at the reception desk by Pierre’s ex-boyfriend. He was violating a protective order. October 18, 2012, Cassel Berry, Florida—Hairstylist Marcia Santiago is wounded and her coworkers Noelia Gonzalez-Brito and Eugenia Marte and customer Gladys Cabrera are killed by Santiago’s ex-boyfriend. He was violating a protective order. October 21, 2012, Brookfield, Wisconsin—Estranged husband of spa worker Zina Haughton fatally shoots her and coworkers Maelyn Lind and Cary Robuck. He was violating a protective order. November 1, 2012, Casper, Wyoming—Heidi Arnold, a math instructor, stabbed to death by her boyfriend’s son; he then executed her boyfriend in front of a class he was teaching at the local community college. December 4, 2012, Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina—convenience-store clerk Crystal Lockley, 24, and her coworker, Jennifer Ruffin, both stabbed, allegedly by Lockley’s boyfriend. December 14, 2012, Las Vegas, Nevada—Concierge vendor Jessica Kenny shot in a murder-suicide by an ex-boyfriend in the lobby of the Excalibur Hotel. January 28, 2013, Annapolis, Maryland—Washington Post newspaper carrier Tracy Lynn West shot by her estranged husband. A judge had reportedly denied her request for a protective order.
NO PRIVATE MATTER One in four large employers reports a threat due to domestic violence each year. Ashleigh Lindsey’s ex targeted this café where she worked.
It was Friday the 13th of last July when Tara Woodlee turned on her iPad at her home in Windom, Texas, a remote speck in the hills northeast of Dallas. She was frantic: Two men had been stalking her 20-year-old daughter, Ashleigh Marie Lindsey.
For months, Ashleigh—5 feet 3 and pregnant—had been on the run from her violent ex-boyfriend, Joshua Mahaffey, and his friend Joshua Scott. Now, they seemed to be closing in. Ashleigh was hiding out in Oklahoma at the home of her close friend, Heather Lara. But every hour, the two men bombarded her with phone calls, trying to lure her back.
Then, Woodlee pulled up Scott’s Face book page—and saw a photo of a .22 caliber revolver.
“I thought, Oh, god, no!” Woodlee says. “She was in the worst danger I could imagine.” Her husband dialed the county sheriff’s office, and not for the first time. Ashleigh had filed assault charges against her boyfriend, reached out to the county domestic-violence program, and obtained multiple orders of protection—all of which Mahaffey had blatantly violated. He had made so many threats against the strip-mall café where Ashleigh worked as a waitress that police had considered filing federal terrorism charges against him and bringing in the FBI. He had beaten and burned Ashleigh, kicked her pregnant belly, threatened her family. After all the attacks, the response to this latest call, Woodlee says, was dismaying: “We can’t do anything about a picture on Facebook.”
By that time, the gun had been used.
Hours after posting the photo, prosecu tors allege, Joshua Scott had shot dead his mother’s boyfriend. Then, in the blood-soaked car, he picked up Mahaffey to go looking for Ashleigh.
They all slept late that morning in Heather Lara’s house in Kingston, Okla homa. Ashleigh got up around 12:30 p.m. and headed out for her shift at the café. “I love you,” she called out to her friend.
Heather’s boyfriend, John Coleman, in the bedroom watching TV, heard doors slam and a gasp. “He’s here! Oh my gosh!”
Then, three gunshots.
Heather lunged for her phone and wrestled with Scott before she ran out the back door. Scott soon fled in the car.
Mahaffey lay dead on the bathroom floor, curled over the gun. And under him was Ashleigh, shot in the head and shoulder, blood pouring from her wounds.
Eerily, her cell phone began to ring. Coleman, in shock, automatically picked it up. It was Ashleigh’s mother, calling her daughter to warn her about the gun.
MOST OF US HAVE HEARD THE GRIM STATISTICS. Every day across America, four to five women are murdered by an inti mate partner or ex, most of them within three to six months of a breakup. What you may not realize is that so-called domestic violence is not limited to the home. Mahaffey’s threats on his girl friend’s workplace and his attack on her friend’s home turn out to be typical beha vior. Nearly one-third of domestic-violence deaths are family members, friends, and supporters of the primary victim, a Massa chusetts study found. And for every 10 targeted victims, more than 8 others, includ ing random bystanders, die in the bloods hed.
A Cosmopolitan survey of state data found at least 33 workplace domestic-violence killings in 2011. Last September, a 24-year-old salon manager in South Dakota was killed by a coworker’s violent boyfriend. The next month, men target ing partners killed four people in a Wis con sin spa and four in a Florida hair salon. In December, domestic violence sparked a stabbing at a North Carolina convenience store and a shooting in a Las Vegas hotel. In a Cleveland airport parking lot, a man shot his security-officer wife, fired at a colleague, and took his own life.
Michael P. Johnson, PhD, emeritus professor of sociology at Penn State University, has a chilling term for crimes like these: “intimate terrorism.”
Some gender-violence experts see an underexplored link to crimes like the December school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza’s first victim was his own mother, shot four times as she lay sleeping. Before Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, two women had reported him to campus police for stalking. John Allen Muhammad, the sniper executed for his role in the killing of 10 people in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002, had a history of abusing his wife. She later said she thought he staged the shootings to make her planned murder appear random. “Most domestic-violence homicides and the vast majority of mass shootings are committed by young men,” says Jackson Katz, PhD, a Los Angeles–based educator who runs corporate violence-prevention programs. “This is hardly coincidental.”
Here’s what else many of these crimes have in common: In case after case, the women had gone to the police and secured a protective order that was supposed to keep them—and everyone around them—safe. “What’s wrong with this picture?” asks Diane Rosenfeld, a lecturer on law and director of the Gender Violence Pro gram at Harvard Law School. “Domestic-violence homicide is so predictable as to be preventable,” she says, yet protective orders too often fail because police, prose cu tors, and courts lack the resources, or the will, to enforce them.
“If they look at it as just one more day-by-day incident, like a car wreck or a burglary, they will shrug it off,” says Mary Lauby, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sex ual Assault and Domestic Violence. But a violence complaint is rarely an isolated episode—or a “lover’s quarrel,” as one deputy described Mahaffey’s rampage. It is usu ally part of a continuum of abuse that may easily escalate, Lauby says.
The public shootings we call “senseless” are often not random at all. And every time a man threatens a woman he’s in a rela tion ship with, he could be one step closer to a crime with a greater scope.
GROWING UP IN RURAL NORTH TEXAS, ABOUT 70 MILES NORTH OF DALLAS, ASHLEIGH LINDSEY HAD A DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD. Her father, Wood lee’s ex, couldn’t keep a job and lashed out at his two daughters. “She was dating a lot of different guys and getting used,” her mother says. And then just before Thanksgiving 2011, she met Joshua Mahaffey. She was working in a customer-service call center in Durant, Okla homa, when a coworker, Joshua Scott, introduced her to his friend. Mahaffey was a “cowboy Casanova,” Heather Lara says. “He was very charming—’Hey, give a hug!’—and he looked like James Dean.” Heather warned her friend that Mahaffey had a past—at least one ex-wife and a couple of kids. But Ashleigh was smitten. After only a month, she moved in with Mahaffey.
Woodlee had remarried in 2006, and she and Ashleigh’s stepfather were uneasy. It wasn’t so much anything Mahaffey did or said, Jim Woodlee says. He just left you with a strange feeling in your gut. “There’s something wrong with him,” he warned Ashleigh. “Run!”
UNTIL THE 1970S, MEN WHO BEAT THEIR WIVES OR GIRLFRIENDS WEREN’T ARRESTED. Instead, the courts forced couples into mediation, which rarely stopped the attacks, says Marjory D. Fields, a for mer New York State Supreme Court Justice. In 1976, spurred by the women’s movement, Pennsylvania became the first state to allow residents to obtain protective orders. And since then, women (and some men) have had to rely on this slip of paper to stay safe.
Today, about 1.2 million targets of rape, assault, and stalking receive such orders annually, and many will say the action saved their life. Every dollar spent on protective-order intervention saves society $30.75, a 2009 Justice Department–funded study concluded. But a growing demand for services and drastic cuts in state budgets have created “a dangerous gap,” according to a 2012 study by the Campaign for Fund ing to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. Last year, the National Domes tic Violence Hotline was unable to answer 53,000 calls and 65 percent of rape-crisis centers had waiting lists.
There are nearly 18,000 county, muni cipal, town, or township govern ments enforcing these orders, notes Christine Armstrong, founder of Domes tic Violence Crime Watch, an online resource center. Opportunities for a woman to fall through the safety net seem endless. A judge must give her a sympathetic hearing, then police must find and legally serve the abuser. The offender can respond to the charges in court. Police may or may not collect his guns. Orders expire—they can last years or days—so the woman has to go back to court to renew it. If her ex vio lates it, the police must arrest him and prosecutors must decide to charge him.
Some police forces are more diligent than others.
Abusers violate orders anywhere from 7 to 81 percent of the time, depending in part on where they live. Overall, an American Civil Liberties Union report found, orders were violated in two-thirds of rape cases, half of physical-assault cases, and 69 percent of stalking cases. And when police fall short, women have little legal recourse, as Jessica Gonzales of Castle Rock, Colorado, found out. After authorities failed to enforce a restrain ing order against her estranged hus band and he killed their three daugh ters, Gonzales sued the town. But in 2005, the Supreme Court threw out her action, ruling that she did not have a constitutional right to have the restraining order enforced.
ASHLEIGH’S STEPFATHER WAS RIGHT. There was something wrong with Mahaffey. He could explode over anything. Once, Heather says, “he put Ashleigh’s head through the wall, through the ply wood,” then he took out a penknife and stabbed himself in the stomach. “She told me he would burn her with cigarettes,” Heather adds, horrified at the memory. “He would rape her. He wouldn’t let her go on the Pill. I said, ‘Ashleigh, you need to leave him!’ I begged her to stay at my house.”
Ashleigh’s phone kept disappearing, destroyed by Mahaffey, and her parents kept buying her new ones. She called Oklahoma deputies, but Mahaffey eluded them, sometimes hiding under their house and other times posing as his brother, Neil. Somehow, the police didn’t notice the name Joshua tattooed on his neck and knuckles.
On May 14, three weeks after find ing out she was pregnant, Ashleigh fled home to Texas. That week, a scream ing Mahaffey besieged the family home in Windom, escaping before Texas depu ties could capture him. On June 4, Ashleigh disappeared to move in with friends in Texas, leaving her frantic parents to file a missing-person report.
Deputy Steve Beebe tracked her down on June 8, and she reported the abuse. When Beebe filed charges, he found that Mahaffey was also wanted for violating a protection order from one of his ex-wives.
Deputies never could lay hands on Mahaffey, although he found Ashleigh easily. When she moved in with Heather in Oklahoma, her parents begged her to come home. But she refused, explaining, “He said if I went home, he would kill you, and he would kill my sister.”
The police had advised Ashleigh to remain in Marshall County, Oklahoma, where they said they would have an easier time arresting Mahaffey (although thanks to the Violence Against Women Act, orders of protection are supposedly enforceable everywhere). Staying put was a terrible idea, Woodlee says. “It made it easier for him to find her.”
Continuing to elude arrest, Mahaffey and Scott harangued Ashleigh with relentless calls to drop the abuse charges. She called Anna Marcy, advocate at the Crisis Control Center in Durant, Okla homa, now serving four counties since cutbacks had closed the center in nearby Madill. If Ashleigh had been able to take shelter in Madill, she could have kept her job. But Durant was an hour’s drive away, and she couldn’t afford the gas.
On June 11, the family got an order of protection barring Mahaffey from “any contact whatsoever” with Ashleigh.
But still, he kept after her. He was once pulled over for speeding, but he showed his brother Neil’s ID and went free. On July 4, Deputy Doug Blevins was at Heather’s house when the phone rang with one of Mahaffey’s incessant calls. Blevins spoke to him for 20 minutes. “I advised Mr. Mahaffey to quit contacting Ms. Lindsey,” the deputy reported. “He refused to meet with me.”
The next day, a third deputy, Michael Henry, visited the Enos Mall where Ashleigh worked as a wait ress. Mahaffey had been calling, “making threats as to where he was going to show up and do bodily harm to the employees,” Henry reported. “Mr. Mahaffey is out of control.”
Ashleigh renewed the protective order on June 20 and, after a brief hospital stay for stress and dehydration, again on July 11. Her parents and Anna Marcy finally convinced her to give up her job and move to a women’s shelter in Texas. But she wanted one last paycheck for the baby. She had already picked out a name: Patience. She never did have much, she said. This way, at least, the Lord would give her a little Patience.
FATAL BREAKDOWNS LIKE THOSE THAT DOOMED ASHLEIGH HAPPEN TOO OFTEN. But they don’t have to, says Suzanne Dubus, chief execu tive director of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 2002, the center helped a woman secure a protective order against her hus band. But he came back with a gun to kill her and himself. Hor rified, Dubus and her assistant direc tor, Kelly Dunne, created a new way to thwart such attacks. Called the High Risk Team Model, it has been lauded by the Obama admin istration as the nation’s most effective approach to domestic violence.
The model identifies 20 situ ations that may demand an emer gency response, includ ing extreme jealousy, access to guns, forced sex, and other risk factors drawn from the research of Jacquelyn Camp bell, PhD, at Johns Hopkins Univer sity, in Baltimore. Police are trained to ask questions such as: “Has he threatened to kill you? With a weapon? Do you believe he’s capable of it?”
When women are at high risk, police notify the rest of the team—prosecutors, crisis counselors, hospitals, and proba tion departments—and they work together to isolate the offender while aim ing to keep the woman in the community. One of the best ways to do this is GPS; in Massachusetts, judges now have the option of making high-risk domestic-violence offenders wear an ankle bracelet that alerts the victim and authorities if he is entering an exclusion zone.
Prior to forming the high-risk teams, the Geiger center recorded eight domestic-violence-related deaths in 10 years. Since then, zero. And 93 percent of high-risk women have avoided fleeing to shelters. The model has now been adopted by at least 25 other communities in Massachu setts and others in five other states. With greater awareness and funding from state legis la tures, the center could do even more training, Dubus says.
At Harvard, Rosenfeld heads a team of law students who aid victims seeking protection orders in high-risk cases and work with states to promote GPS monitor ing. Why should a woman essentially be imprisoned, she reasons, while the person terrorizing her walks free? “Shelters were a step forward when they were built in the ’70s, but they weren’t intended to let the justice system off the hook,” she says. “We need to stop asking, ‘Why doesn’t she leave?’ and put the responsibility for vio lence against women on their tormenters. Why don’t we make him leave?”
MINUTES AFTER ASHLEIGH WAS SHOT LAST JULY 13, DOCTORS FLEW HER TO A HOSPITAL IN PLANO, TEXAS. She was brain-dead, but doctors said there was a slim chance of saving her 16-week-old fetus if they could keep her on life support long enough.
Woodlee stood by her daughter’s bed side, gripping her hand as the line on the fetal monitor went flat. She leaned close and whispered, “Ashleigh, honey, I know you were fighting for your baby. But your baby’s gone. It’s okay to go with your baby.” Ashleigh died within 15 seconds.
Police soon found and arrested Joshua Scott, who pled not guilty to first-degree murder and is being held without bail. “What happened to Ashleigh was hor rific,” says Craig Ladd, the Oklahoma dis trict attorney serving Marshall County. He said that police had searched “fairly aggressively,” but “it’s always easy to come back Monday morning” with criticism. Marcy, the crisis counselor, added that “people who were supposed to be working together were not. It takes a community to keep a victim safe. We all failed Ashleigh.”
Deputy Henry confirmed that after Mahaffey threatened Ashleigh’s work place, the plan was to charge him with terrorism—something that would have mobilized the FBI. “All the events hap pened too quickly,” he says. “There are just some things you can’t stop.”
Woodlee doesn’t see it that way. She’s begun speaking to domestic-violence groups and lawmakers, raising money for a documentary, and urging the use of GPS and high-risk teams that might have stopped Mahaffey. “That’s what makes me the angriest,” she says. “There were so many times when he could have been caught. He could have been caught before he even met my daughter.”
WHAT ASHLEIGH DIDN’T KNOW
When she met Mahaffey, he had been married three times—once for seven days, court papers show—and had a record of violating orders of protec tion, concealing stolen pro perty, and assault and bat tery. He’d shot himself in the stomach in 2008, not his first suicide attempt, leading his mother to tell police he had “mental problems.”
“IF IT HAPPENED TO HER, IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.” Woodlee hasn’t changed Ashleigh’s bedroom. After the funeral, her daughter’s friends and even strangers deluged her with confessions that they too were in abusive relationships. “They didn’t want to be like her and wait too long,” she says.
It Happened Here…
Excalibur Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
“A SICKNESS KILLED JESS”
Last December 14, the 4,000-room hotel on the Las Vegas Strip was bustling with guests, including dozens of cheerleaders in town for a competition. Around 8:30 p.m., Edward Brandt, 31, approached the concierge desk where his ex-girlfriend, Jessica Kenny, worked and fired multiple times with a handgun, killing Kenny and then himself. Debbie Kenny, Jessica’s mother, had talked to her only minutes earlier.
“JESSICA CALLED ME THE AFTERNOON OF DECEMBER 14 UPSET. She said, ‘Did you hear about those 20 kids?’ Newtown had happened that morning, and all I could think about were those poor par ents. Christmas will never be the same.
“Jessica and I were living together in Las Vegas. She was my daughter and my best friend. Jess worked evenings as a con cierge, and at the time, I worked as a life-safety operator at the Paris Hotel. My job was to field calls from guests and send security officers to dangerous inci dents. I dealt with domestic disputes all the time—calls from women screaming, ‘I’m being beaten.’ And 9 times out of 10, when I sent the police up, the women would not even open the door. They felt trapped in these unsafe relationships. And I was so glad Jess was no longer in one.
“Jessica met Eddie when she was 22 and living in Lakeville, Illinois, where she grew up. He was a rich kid—he spent all day at the gym. He didn’t like that Jess worked, so when they moved to Las Vegas, in 2007, to be closer to me, she didn’t get a job—but then he never gave her money. So Jess asked to borrow money from me. I said, ‘Jess, this is nuts! You have to get a job!’ She did, and when she came home from her first day at work, Eddie had left.
“I was relieved. Eddie scared me. Jess swore to me that he never hurt her, but when she was living in Illinois, she’d call me at 3 a.m., crying after bad fights. She realized Eddie had serious problems. He called her a few years after he left to say he was in treatment for mental issues. So she was surprised when he called her to say he was staying at the Excalibur.
“That was December 6. He texted her twice over the next few days to ask her to dinner, but she texted back ‘no.’
“A week later, it was a Sunday night, and we had just ordered Chinese food and opened a bottle of wine. She got a text from Eddie that read, ‘I will pay you $20 to go have a drink with me.’ This time, she didn’t respond at all.
“That Thursday, I asked, ‘Have you heard anything from Eddie?’ She said no, and we joked that he’d found someone else.
“And then the next day was December 14. Jess called at 8:30 p.m. to say she was going out with her former coworker Tahnee after work. I told her to have fun and then took her dog out for a walk. When I went out into our courtyard, my friend David showed up and he looked upset.
“He said, ‘Where is Jessica? A guy shot a woman at the Excalibur.’
“I called Jess. No answer. I tried Tahnee, and it went to voice mail. David and I had already jumped in the car when Tahnee called back. She was crying so hard, she could barely speak. I knew then that Jess had been shot. I asked, ‘Was it Eddie?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ My heart burst. I just lost it. The detectives had ques tions for me, but I was too devastated.
“My two sons, Josh and Justin, flew in the next day. Josh said that Jess had told him she was scared of what Eddie might do. Justin said this was his biggest worry too. We all have to live with won der ing what we could have done differently.
“I know Eddie’s mother wants to talk with me. I have no hate in my heart for her—she is in worse shape than I am. One day, when I’m able, I will sit down with her. And maybe together we can figure out what went wrong. If we can do that, then maybe we can protect some one else. This had nothing to do with love—a sickness killed both Eddie and Jessica. The cruelty is that Jessica wanted no part of it. And she died anyway.”
It Happened Here…
Las Dominicanas M&M Hair Salon, Casselberry, Florida
“FOR SOME REASON, I WAS SPARED”
Last October 18, 36-year-old Bradford Baumet was due in court, where his ex-girlfriend, Marcia Santiago, had filed a restraining order against him. Instead, he headed for the hair salon where Santiago worked, wounding her and shooting to death the owner, a customer, and a worker who was five-months pregnant before turning the gun on himself. Kathy Batista, 29, was there with her mother, Gladys Cabrera.
“THAT DAY, I DROPPED MY SON AT KINDERGARTEN AND WENT TO MY PARENTS’ HOUSE FOR COFFEE. I work as an ER secretary at Orlando Hospital but didn’t have to be at work until late, so I asked my mom if she wanted to go to a salon that had just opened about 20 minutes away. Mari was the co-owner and one of my favorite stylists. My mom agreed but wanted to get her eyebrows done at another salon too. I said, ‘Fine, but let’s get our hair done first.’
“When we arrived, Mari intro duced me to her partner, Marcia. Mari was putting dye in my hair when the phone rang. An employee picked it up and said, ‘She’s here, but we don’t want any problems.’
“I saw Marcia stiffen. Mari said, ‘Just hang up,’ and then explained that Marcia was on her way to court to finalize a restraining order. That was her ex on the phone.
“The phone rang again. Mari said, ‘Kat, can you tell this man that you’re a police officer and that you’re going to arrest him for harassment?’ This sounded serious, so I said, ‘I don’t want to get involved.’
“Mari finished with the dye, and I moved to another chair. Then my mom sat in mine, her hair wet and ready to be cut. A minute later, a man entered the salon.
“I don’t scare easily, but this guy put fear in my heart. His eyes were full of rage. Mari walked toward her phone, near me, when he took his gun out and said, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ And then he shot her.
“Mari was like me, tough. I could feel the anger he had toward her.
“I started trembling and saying, ‘Oh my god, please don’t kill me or my mother.’ He screamed, ‘Shut up,’ and then ordered me to kneel on the floor with my head down. I heard him move toward me. My mother said, ‘Lord, no, not my daughter.’
“There was no screaming, just the gun being fired—bang, bang, bang—followed by the tinny sound of the shells dropping on the tile floor. I heard his boots as he was walking through the salon, shooting.
“I thought about running, but I weigh 130 pounds and he was big. Instead, I lay still. Sweat was literally dripping off my face. I thought, This is just a bad dream.
“Then I heard him leave. I looked up and saw Mari next to me, her hand limp on my foot. I locked the door and then ran to my mother, only three feet away, lying very still.
“I know CPR, so I started pump ing her chest, saying, ‘Wake up, Mom! You’re going to be okay. Please, Mommy! You have to be okay.’
“But then I saw the bullet hole in her neck. I closed her eyes and then held her waiting for the police to arrive. I was the only one left in the salon other than the four women he shot: Mari, my mother, and Noelia, another stylist, were dead. Marcia was unconscious. This monster had shot her five times in the face.
“I learned later that day that she’d survived, and he was still at large. Then, I heard he’d killed himself. That made me so angry! What a coward. Why not do that first? Why kill three people? Why my mother? She had nothing to do with him.
“I went home to shower—the whole time I had dye in my hair. All my friends came over to support me. And I kept reliving the scene. Why did I not go to the eyebrow salon first? But my older brother kept saying, ‘You cannot blame yourself.’
“So I started doing research. I learned that Bradford Baumet had arrests for domestic vio lence, assault, and burglary. I learned restraining orders often set people on killing sprees. I know it’s complicated, but I wish there were some way a GPS tracking device could’ve been installed when Marcia first filed that restraining order.
“For some reason, I was spared that day. The only way I can deal with this loss is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. My brothers and I have started an anti violence organi zation called I Am Gladys Cab rera. She is proof that we need laws to pro tect not only victims of domes tic violence but totally innocent bystanders too.”
THIS THREAT IS REAL”
Last October, Zina Haughton filed for protection from her estranged husband, Radcliffe. Despite the order, he took a semiautomatic handgun to the spa where Zina worked, killing her and two cowork ers and injuring four people before killing himself. Tami Gem mell, 34, owns the spa.
“AT 12:30 P.M., I HAD JUST LANDED IN CHICAGO FROM A TWO-WEEK TRIP. We were taxiing to the gate and I turned on my phone. It started blowing up with texts—just ding, ding, ding, ding. ‘Where are you?’ ‘Our prayers are with you.’ ‘Your sister was there. She got out.’
“I got on the phone with a friend, and she told me there had been a shooting. I started to hyperventilate, to dry-heave. I have 65 employees, 64 of whom are women. I feel respon sible for all of them. I just had to get out of that plane.
“When I finally got there from the airport, police had surrounded the building, and the witnesses were at a bank two doors down. There were public buses to provide shelter for my employees, and they were reuniting with their families. The Salvation Army was there and people from the Sikh temple. They brought water, food, tissues.
“I found my sister. She still had a towel around her head. And she was barefoot because she had basically run out of her shoes. She cried, ‘Maelyn was doing my hair when he killed her!’ He had run after my sister but had to reload. That gave her time to hide in a supply closet.
“When we learned that Rad had killed himself, there was a little bit of relief, but then you think, it’s just so pointless. He left behind a 13-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old stepdaughter who worked at the spa and witnessed the entire thing. I mean, to take their mother from them.…I don’t understand that.
“Police told me later that Zina had taken out a restraining order. She had called 911 20 times over two weeks. Officers came to her home and saw Rad had a gun, but Zina refused to press charges. Police say, well, she wasn’t cooper a tive. But that’s why we have laws to protect people who are terrorized by somebody who claims to love them. They’re not going to cooper ate. They’re scared to death.
“I guess we all knew about domestic violence, but it’s never in the forefront of your mind. You hear about these things, but it’s on TV. It doesn’t happen to you…until it happens to you. And then you’re very much thrust into the facts. And the facts are, this is a very real threat, and it’s going unchecked.”
—AS TOLD TO LIZ WELCH
When Violence Happens
Whether you know it or not, one of your coworkers is probably threatened by relationship violence. Homicide is the second leading cause of death for women at work—and the vast majority of those murders are at the hands of an ex. “Even if the abuser doesn’t know where his ex lives, he knows where she works,” notes Pam Paziotopoulos, a corporate consultant on workplace violence. The good news is, companies are realizing that “private” violence is a public-health crisis. “The most dangerous situation is thinking, It can’t happen here,” says Kim Wells, executive director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, which helps companies tackle the issue. “People in any workplace, big or small, can help prevent it.”
Join the No More to violence campaign at NoMore.org.
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IF YOU’RE THE TARGET
“In a perfect world, a victim can tell her employer she needs help,” Wells says. In the real world, this takes tremendous courage. If you can take the first, difficult step of admitting the problem, these steps come next.
1. Ask yourself, can I approach my boss and not lose my job? See if your company has a workplace policy online or in its handbook. If there’s no policy and you’re worried you won’t be supported, call the national hotline at 800-799-SAFE.
2. If you do speak with a manager, human resources, or security, start by saying: “I’m coming to you with something very private. I trust that you will keep this confidential.”
3. If you feel comfortable, let your employer know if you have a protective order, and include your work address on the order, suggests Maya Raghu, an attorney for Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence. Give your employer a photo of your ex to show security, reception, and coworkers.
4. Ask for a new phone extension. “You can also ask that your old one remain, so the perpetrator doesn’t know,” Raghu says.
5. Change your routine: Drive different routes to work; ask for a parking spot close to the entrance (or a security escort from mass transit). You might try to come in earlier or leave later, work different shifts, or even transfer to another site.
IF YOU’RE THE BOSS
The most important thing is to create an environment where victims know they won’t be ostracized or fired if they come forward. Having a domestic-violence policy helps do that, and in some states, it’s the law. Start here.
1. If you are a small business, invite a local domestic-violence service provider to come talk to your employees. “This sends a message that domestic violence is an issue you’re committed to address ing,” Raghu says.
2. Hang posters in the bathroom or on the bulletin board that say domestic violence will not be tolerated. As Wells notes, “If victims are working for you, that means batterers are too.”
3. Do a workplace-safety assessment: How easy is it for members of the public to enter and exit the building? Is the parking lot well lit? Are there hedges near the entrance where someone can hide?
4. For larger employers with human-resources departments, set up awareness trainings with your local domestic-violence organization or your employee-assistance program.
5. Finally, create a domestic-violence policy that addresses various scenarios, including what to do when an employee tells you they’ve sought a restraining order. Visit CAEPV.org or WWorkplacesRespond.orgfor ideas and sample policies.
IF YOU’RE A COWORKER
Cubemates are often the first ones to notice the abuse, but that does not mean you need to get deeply involved. In fact, Paziotopoulos says, you shouldn’t—it’s straight-up dangerous. Follow this advice instead.
1. Recognize abuse. “Changes in mood or behavior are signs a colleague is in trouble,” Wells says. “Maybe she no longer joins you after work for drinks or she seems withdrawn.”
2. You may see physical signs—long sleeves in summer, injuries she explains away. And her work may suffer, as she’s likely getting distressing calls or texts and taking sick days.
3. Approach the topic generally without making assumptions (not “Did your idiot ex just call again?”). Raghu suggests you say, “I’ve noticed you’re not yourself, and I’m here if you need anything.” It’s an invitation for her to confide in you.
4. Don’t be a hero. “No one is looking for you to be a social worker, therapist, or bodyguard,” Raghu says. Consult your job’s policy; if there isn’t one, give her the hotline number.
5. What you can be is an advocate: If your company doesn’t have a policy, ask for one. “Don’t wait for something bad to happen in order to get a work-safety policy in place,” Wells says. Walk in to your manager armed with this article.
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