Friday, January 29, 2010

Mom held hostage by dad backs DV reforms: Stop giving bail to abusers (Hartford, Connecticut)

When you start a blogging project like Dastardly Dads, you always end up wishing you had tagged certain pieces of information for future reference. I now wish I had tagged "bail." Because I can't even count how many times somebody got seriously hurt or killed after Daddy got out of jail on bail for child abuse and/or domestic violence, only to go home and "finish business." If I can find the time, I'll have to go back and tally the ones I can locate by memory or other means.

As you see in the cases mentioned below, dad RICHARD SHENKMAN and another UNNAMED DAD both abused their bail status to inflict more violence on their families.,0,3639207.story

Woman Held Hostage By Husband Backs Domestic Violence Reforms

Nancy P. Tyler's Remarks At Press Conference Hosted By Domestic Violence Coalition
1,592 estimated family violence incidents in Connecticut year-to-date, based on 2007 data.


The Hartford Courant

January 28, 2010

HARTFORD — - Since escaping from the clutches of her estranged husband, who police said kidnapped her, held her hostage, and then set fire to their home in South Windsor in July, Nancy Tyler has largely tended to the business of healing.

She went on two national news shows in the aftermath of her 13-hour ordeal and spoke out in court about Connecticut's bail system because her husband, Richard Shenkman, had been, at the time of the South Windsor attack, free on $500,000 bail after he was charged with setting fire to the couple's house in East Lyme in March 2007.

Otherwise, she had been publicly silent for months, drawing strength from her son, 20, and daughter, 24.

On Wednesday, Tyler, a lawyer in downtown Hartford, spoke out again.

She chose as the forum a news briefing by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence on its legislative agenda for 2010, a slate of reforms being presented at a time of both increased violence against women in Connecticut and heightened media attention on the issues.

She invoked a recent case — a Jan. 16 murder-suicide in West Haven, in which the husband, charged in his second family-violence case in five months, posted bail, allegedly returned to the house, and shot his 25-year-old wife to death and then killed himself. Their two sons, one 6 years old, the other 7 months, were inside the house at the time.

"Most people have no idea what it was like for that woman, trapped in her home, with her husband threatening to kill her, begging for her life. But I do," Tyler said. "It happened to me." Her estranged husband is in jail, facing charges that include kidnapping, arson and attempted murder.

Tyler spoke Wednesday before a cluster of TV news cameras from behind a lectern in a legislative hearing room, flanked by victim advocates, state lawmakers, and the top prosecutor in Windham County, all of whom were there to support the coalition's agenda.

"I can imagine her last moments and I pray none of you will ever be forced to live through moments like those," Tyler said.

She said domestic violence respects no boundaries.

"Who will be the next victim?" she asked. "It could easily be someone you know. A colleague. A neighbor. A friend. Even a family member. Domestic violence cuts across all economic, ethnic, religious, cultural, educational and age barriers."

She said that unless state lawmakers act to strengthen prevention programs and crisis services, "make no mistake about it, these deaths and the family destruction will continue, life by life."

Tyler said that when she speaks publicly about family violence, it is for two reasons: To protect her family, as in seeking reform of the way that the state's bail system treats those accused of domestic violence, and to try to help other women who face dire situations. She said that she felt a strong connection to the coalition's legislative slate.

"I am here because I am a victim of domestic violence," said Tyler, 58. "This occasion really makes a difference for me."

The coalition's agenda focuses on crimes against immigrant women; toughening statutes on criminal threatening; increasing funding for shelters for battered women; teaching children as early as kindergarten about healthy relationships and mutual respect; and pressing for workplace allowances for victims who need time off to relocate, attend court hearings, receive therapy or heal from injuries.

Erika Tindill, the coalition's executive director, said that it would take $3 million a year in state funding to enable all 16 of the shelters for battered women under the coalition's umbrella to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now, only seven of the shelters are staffed around the clock.

Windham State's Attorney Patricia Froehlich said that more funding is needed to ensure that prosecutors in courthouses throughout the state can continue to be assigned exclusively to domestic violence cases — which invariably are complex matters that require time and attention.
Both these issues and others, including the call to elevate the charge of second-degree threatening from a misdemeanor to a felony, have been brought up to the legislature before, without success.

With respect to shelter staffing, "the fight always is, where are we going to get the money?" said Tindill. "Well, we're going to have to make some hard choices. ... At what point does a community say, 'Enough.' How many 6-year-olds have to see their mother killed?"

This year, though, the advocates and some of the legislators are saying that the General Assembly will likely be more receptive than in the past to toughening laws, closing gaps in the criminal justice system and expanding services to victims of domestic violence.

A legislative task force, appointed in November in response to large increases in the volume of domestic violence cases coming into state courts and of women requesting crisis services, will announce its package of proposed reforms on Feb. 8.

The panel's chairwoman, state Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said at Wednesday's forum that she expects "significant overlap" with the coalition's legislative agenda. "We hope, in this legislative session, that we can make real progress," Flexer said.