In 2012, the fatality review reported no domestic violence-related homicides for Bartow County for 2009 through 2012, with seven deaths listed for 2003 to 2008. Forty-three counties reported homicides last year, with Bartow County tied for seventh with Jackson and Chatham counties, which also had three each.
Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said he was familiar with two of the deaths reported — that of Angela Player, 37, and Danny Lamar Gravley, 47. It is unclear whether the state is counting the death of Robert Brazell, 42. Brazell shot and killed Player at her job following their January 2013 divorce before committing suicide.
For law enforcement, domestic violence continues to be one of the most frequent calls.
“Domestic violence dates back to ancient days, and it seems that as the population grows so do the incidents involving domestic violence,” Rogers said. “Domestic violence is not controlled by status, sex, marital situation, race, location or any other factors. It can and does happen in the wealthiest areas and in the poorest areas. It happens to the married and the unmarried.
“Ultimately it comes down to being a societal issue. Agencies involved can only continue to do their best to minimize chances for future occurrences through community resources and uphold the current laws when they are violated.”
According to BCSO reports, fewer domestic violence-related calls, on average, have been made in 2014. Rogers said the county received 1,181 reports with 551 resulting in arrest for 2013. For 2014, there have been 198 domestic violence reports through midday Friday with 87 resulting in arrest. The BCSO averaged 98.42 domestic violence calls per month in 2013, compared to the 79.2 per month so far this year.
Georgia ranked 12th in the nation for men killing women in single-victim homicides, most of which are domestic violence murders, according to a study conducted by the Violence Policy Center. Over the past 11 years, a press release stated, the fatality review has recorded the deaths of over 1,300 Georgians due to domestic violence.
In 2013, 116 Georgians died due to domestic violence — 15 fewer deaths than in 2012, the release stated. However, at least 14 people have already lost their lives this year due to domestic violence.
Temporary protective orders are one option available to domestic violence victims. Temporary protective orders, typically good for one year, are granted by a superior court judge and are listed on a national registry, making them accessible to any officer checking the driver’s license of either victim or offender.
Although a TPO is not fail-safe, the order can direct a party to refrain from committing acts of family violence or stalking; grant to a spouse possession of the residence or household of the parties and exclude the other spouse from the residence or household; require a party to provide suitable alternative housing for a spouse, former spouse, or parent and the parties’ child or children; award temporary custody of minor children and establish temporary visitation rights; order either party to make payment for the support of minor children or support of spouse; and order a party to refrain from harassing or interfering with the other.
Orders may be granted regardless of whether the victim has filed a report with police. In Bartow County, the process begins by scheduling an appointment with victim's advocate Terrie Southerland.
“Terrie will meet with you and assist in filing an application for the TPO. Terrie will also present the application for the order to Bartow County Superior Court,” Rogers said. “Once a TPO is issued, it goes on file at the sheriff's office. If there is another act of violence or violation of the TPO, deputies will investigate and any violation against the TPO could likely result in an aggravated stalking charge. Once a party is charged with aggravated stalking, the Magistrate Court will not set bond — only a superior court judge will set bond.”
Under state law, the victim does not prosecute criminal violations involving family violence. Law enforcement or the state becomes the prosecutor of the case.
“This means if law enforcement is on the scene where a violation of law occurred, they will make an arrest and the victim has no authority to drop the charges or stop the seeking of a warrant. Georgia enacted this prosecution to protect victims who may be afraid to ‘press charges’ or seek their own warrant,” Rogers said.
Domestic violence includes “intimidation, throwing items, pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting, grabbing, kicking, biting, attempt to strangle, or the threat with or use of a weapon,” he added. “Domestic violence can also mean an ‘ex’ threatening you or coming to your home without permission.”
Some of the main findings of the fatality review include:
• Children are often the silent victims of domestic violence, a fact which can perpetuate the cycle of violence in families and communities. In 45 percent of reviewed cases, the victim and perpetrator had at least one minor child together at the time of the homicide and children witnessed the homicide in 18 percent of the cases.
• Many relationships ending in homicide started when the victim was in their teens. In reviewed cases, 26 percent of victims began their relationship with the person who eventually killed them when they were between the ages of 13 and 19.
• Limited financial resources can be the single greatest barrier to leaving an abusive relationship. Seventy-four percent of victims were employed at the time of their death but many felt unable to support themselves outside the abusive relationship. For victims who were employed, they were usually not allowed to be in control of their finances.
• Domestic violence victims and perpetrators often have contact with the criminal legal system, a fact which holds great potential for increased safety. Unfortunately, homicides still occur when lack of accountability and coordination among systems leave victims at increased risk.
• Victims are in contact with law enforcement at much higher rates than domestic violence programs. In reviewed cases, 78 percent of victims were in contact with law enforcement in the five years before the homicide.
• Faith communities are often a leading source of support in the lives of victims. In reviewed cases, 32 percent of victims were actively involved in their faith community in the five years before the homicide.
“Many victims of domestic violence feel isolated or alone in their situation,” Rogers said. “Please know that there are resources and helpers in our community ready to help out whenever you need them.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call 911 immediately. An officer will respond and provide assistance in obtaining medical attention; arrange transportation to a shelter or safe place; explain your legal options; accompany you to your residence and stand by while you remove personal items; or execute warrant to prosecute the offender.
Georgia residents may also call 1-800-33-HAVEN (voice/TTY), the toll-free, statewide, 24-hour hotline, for a confidential place to get help or find resources.
For information about the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, visit www.gcadv.org and www.gcfv.org.