Domestic Violence Agencies Need New Protocols for Fund Allocation
With the most recent death of Hollywood star Amie Harwick to domestic violence, the spotlight re-shifts to how domestic violence agencies fall short when it comes to protecting victims. It’s also a reminder that domestic violence reform needs to be reconstructed and distributed, so fewer lives are lost.
On February 16th, 2020, Amie Harwick was strangled and thrown off the balcony of her own apartment complex by her ex-boyfriend Gareth Pursehouse. The restraining order Harwick had against her ex had expired a few weeks prior (CNN, 2020).
Amie had run into Pursehouse at an event in January, and that seems to be the catalyst that renewed his obsession with Amie. A friend recounted that “Amie told me after the incident that she was scared he would show up at her home. She went to the police, but they did not take it seriously. He was really obsessive over her, controlling.” The authorities had no comment (The Cut, 2020).
The fact of the matter is that if there was GPS monitoring of victims in place in conjunction with a restraining order, then Aime’s death may have been preventable. Perhaps if Pursehouse had been court-mandated to wear GPS monitoring, Amy would still be alive.
76% of women murdered by a former intimate partner are stalked before their death (National Center for Victims of Crime).
Currently, domestic violence agencies are not securing the needed funds necessary to ensure GPS tracking. Nor are they pursing steady available funds for direct service. In the state of Massachusetts, a Mom’s life is intact due to GPS tracking. Theresa had obtained a restraining order against her husband, but he repeatedly violated it. He would show up at her Son’s school and beat her and her Son up in front of whoever was watching. Her ex-husband was then court-ordered to wear a GPS bracelet, resulting in Theresa feeling safe for the first time since getting divorced (The New York Times, 2009). “It’s a way of making the criminal justice system treat domestic violence as potentially serious. By detecting any escalation in the behavior of a batterer, GPS can prevent these unnecessary tragedies” (Diane Rosenfeld, Harvard Law).
At least 13 states have laws enabling judges to order the GPS tracking bracelets. According to the Colorado Electronic Monitoring Resource Center, as many as 5,000 of the devices are being watched across the United States (Good Morning America, 2009).
In the year 2007, Mary Babb was shot and killed by her estranged husband in the parking lot of the Morning Sun newspaper where she worked. Mary’s Law now requires defendants to wear a GPS tether that will alert a stalking victim when the defendant gets too close. The proposal was introduced in the state Legislature after Babb’s death and became state law (Morning Sun, 2013). Concurrently , Alexis Moore, who is a world-renowned stalking expert, worked to help expand Mary’s Law to Texas, Oklahoma, Maine, Vermont, and California.
Presently, Alexis is being informed by the state of California that there is no funding available for GPS tracking. And, that the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV) has no plans to work at acquiring funds. This decision is being made despite data that shows the benefits to GPS tracking in conjunction with a restraining order, and how successful their use has been.
In North Carolina, in 2019, there was a bill proposed that would enact GPS tracking of domestic violence offenders. The Pew Public Safety Performance Project reports, “[t]he number of accused and convicted criminal offenders monitored with electronic tracking devices in the United States increased 140 percent between 2005 and 2015. That’s up from approximately 53,000 to more than 125,000” (North Carolina Criminal Law, 2019).
From January to February, Alexis Moore herself reached out to Twenty-two agencies/persons that are in place to help victims. None came through with support for her despite each agency existing to help battered women. After Alexis sent the below e mail, Ruth Glenn immediately took to Twitter to defend why she should never have to provide direct support to victims.
Even more troubling is that the majority spoken to did not offer Alexis referrals about where to turn to next for help. One exception to that was the National Center For Victims of Crime (NCVC). Alexis received two references from them. Of the two referrals, one never answered the phone, and Alexis was eventually disconnected. The other was a hotline designed for precisely this situation. It was a recording with the hours open, and no one available to take the call. When a battered woman finally reaches out and asks for help, the opportunity is fleeting and life-altering. If they don’t get the help and support within that moment, it gets harder each time to reach out again.
The current model of agencies such as the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (FCADV) is not working. The same is true for the similar ones profiting and reaping the benefits, that being executives, not victims. A perfect example of this is Tiffany Carr from the FCADV and her dereliction of duty to clientele. There must instead be GPS monitoring with restraining orders funded uniformly and nationally. Additionally, there should always be money allocated only for domestic violence and stalking resource centers that provide direct support to victims.
According to Alexis, the lobbying budget has never enabled the Violence Against Women Act to get signed on time, since its inception. For this reason, Alexis feels strongly that any lobby person should also not be part of the agency fund reallocation. That would then allow the saved money to be put where service is currently lacking the most. Alexis has done more as a volunteer with legislation nationally with GPS, for example, than any paid lobby person. At the domestic violence agencies, Alexis knows first hand with sixteen years experience as an advocate, how badly the funds for lobbying need to be with-held if anything is going to change. Most importantly, the lobbyists don’t support GPS monitoring either — not the state domestic violence agencies or national-level agencies. The reasoning behind that is because they don’t want to lose any funds for the inflated executive’s salaries. The result? Funds are being stolen from victims under misleading pretenses and the victims are again left helpless and revictimized.
Alexis feels if things are going to dramatically improve for the domestic violence industry, that there needs to be a National Stalking Homicide Prevention Center. Ideally, it would open in 2021 solely with funds always available for direct service providers working with victims to help prevent homicide. The existing domestic violence hotline systems staffed by volunteers that try to rely on restraining orders and police investigations are epic fails. When we try to sift through the evidence after a daughter, mom, sister, or aunt have already lost their lives, it’s too late, especially in the age of cyber warfare.
Please contact your legislators and ask them to enact GPS monitoring legislation as soon as possible. The life-saving benefits have been clearly established and stand the test of time.