Scarlett Johannson Speech Inspires Law Suit Against Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Actor Scarlett Johansson’s Women’s March speech inspired Florida abuse victim Amy Ballon to file suit against the state agency for employee sexual misconduct. Prior to being glued to the T.V. in her Florida home watching Scarlett Johannson speak, Amy Ballon was reluctant and fearful to come forward with her story. Amy shared that “It was if it she was speaking directly to me through the T.V. It was at that moment that I realized I needed to do something — I could no longer remain scared silent.”
To understand the background of how Amy Ballon became part of the #MeToo movement, we need to go back to October 27, 2014. Amy Ballon’s nightmare began when she was attacked in a domestic violence incident by her ex-husband.
Amy ordered her batterer to leave the condo they shared because she was fearful for her safety. Amy tried to get his keys so he could never come back, when he pinned her to the ground against the floor in a police hold. At the same time, he was holding the side of her neck down so she couldn’t move. When her batterer threw her phone off the balcony, Amy fled from the condo and ran to the lobby to phone the police.
While Amy was in the lobby calling the police, her batterer came down the stairs bleeding from his arm and yelling that Amy had stabbed him. It was his left arm that had the knife wound but Amy had only a little bit of blood under finger nails from her fake nails coming off during the physical altercation. No blood anywhere else on her was present. A forensics expert later concluded that if Amy had stabbed him, the wound would have spurted blood all over her clothes.
The officers arrived and asked Amy what had happened. Her batterer made sure to tell the police officers that he was an ex-cop before any questioning began.
The knife was not fingerprinted, no DNA swabs were taken, no DNA testing was done on the knife, and Amy was not offered any medical attention. The police did take crime scene photos, but not photos of where the crime scene itself had occurred. None of the officers involved bothered to determine that Amy had also called the police five days prior to this incident. When Amy was away in Los Angeles, the batterer crowbarred the door to her condo after he refused to accept Amy had changed the locks. There was never any resolution from that incident as the batterer charmed the police officers that answered the call and convinced them it was all a huge misunderstanding.
The police arrested Amy that night despite the fact that she also had bruising on her neck and knees from being held down and was obviously visibly shaken. The police department chose to believe her batterer who used to be a police officer in Daytona Beach for five years. He stands over six feet tall and weighs 100 pounds more than Amy, but they believed he was stabbed by Amy, who is 5"4 and 115 pounds. After hearing her version of the story, they proceeded to arrest her for assault and aggravated battery. All told, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department violated twenty-three procedural policies that must be used when answering a domestic violence call.
In the state of Florida, Mandatory Arrest laws are at the officer’s discretion and mutual arrest is discouraged. “Under Fla. Stat. Ann. § 741.29 (3) and 4(a) and 4(b)An officer may arrest whenever the officer determines upon probable cause that an act of domestic violence has been committed. Mutual accusations to be evaluated separately; mutual arrests are strongly discouraged, policy of determination of primary aggressor” (American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence).
In this case of Amy’s arrest, the determination of the primary aggressor was misjudged and there is a strong possibility that may have been due to the culture of Police protecting and believing one of their own instead of the victim, otherwise known as preferential treatment.
The Violence Against Women’s Act, enacted in 1994 by then President Bill Clinton is currently still a United States Federal Law. It is up for renewal in September of this year. Even if VAWA is reauthorized, the act may never be effectively implemented and may also be a shell of what it was before. “White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that President Trump’s new budget fully funds VAWA, but the president is known for flip flopping on every position” (The Hill 2018). Despite that law in place, Amy, who was victimized that fateful night, was arrested for having abuse inflicted upon her and essentially being framed by her batterer.
Amy took a lie detector test in June of 2015, and passed. Beyond that, it was proven forensically that the injury to her batterer did not fit the altercation. Further, the only latent fingerprint extracted was unreadable. The record has shown that if Amy stabbed Mike, she would have been covered in his blood. The only blood on Amy was from her fake nails breaking off and shards of glass from batterer’s cell phone breaking. The police never tested the blood on Amy or they would have learned it was not the batterers.
After being arressted and spending the night in jail, Amy’s record was expunged, but her mug shot remained online. Prior to this incident, Amy was a very successful businesswoman and loving mother with no prior arrest record. She felt victimized by a system that was suppossed to be there to serve and protect her. Amy reached out to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence(FCADV) and cyber expert Steven Bradley for help.
The FCADV is the most heavily funded non-profit DVC agency in the US with a fifty million dollar annual budget. Some notable donors of the Foundation include Verizon, All State, Governor Jeb and Columba Bush, AT&T Florida, and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. All donors should stop giving until the time at which this case gets resolved.
Instead of getting the critical support when Amy was at her most vulnerable and in the worst kind of emotional turmoil, she was instead victimized by a cyber expert and employee of the Florida FCADV. He preyed on Amy’s weakness by engaging in an inappropriate sexual encounter with her. Instead of being professional and advocating for her, he victimized Amy at what was one of the lowest points in her life. The FCADV provided Amy with an employee who is an abuser and predator, the very situation she had sought escape from.
Violence against women is rampant “A person is abused in the United States every nine seconds. On average, three women are killed by a former or current intimate partner each day in the United States”(Center for Family of Justice Statistics).
The actor Scarlett Johannson’s speech at the Woman’s March sums it up for Amy and millions of other women that were in the audience that night “My mind baffles: how could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault, while privately preying on people who have no power?”(The Schmooze, 2018).
The aforementioned employee, Steven Bradley, took it even further by using his cyber expertise to abuse the sytem. He tried covering up his egregious online behavior and wrongdoing with Amy Ballon, which in turn caused her to lose more faith and increase her distrust in the legal system. That also points to guilt as if Steven had done nothing wrong why was attempting to cover his online tracks?
Steven Bradley also further exacerbated Amy’s symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is common when victimized in this manner. It’s also a widely known fact that consent means nothing when the victim is a domestic abuse survivor and too vulnerable and emotionally unstable to legitimately give consent to sexual relations. An analogy for this circumstance would be a male psychologist having sexual relations with a female client looking for guidance and support. Advocates working with domestic violence abuse victims are generally trained not to prey on the victims seeking respite from circumstances they are attempting to flee. Worse yet, although Steven Bradley was terminated from the FCADV, this sexual predator remains in his role as Cyber expert and victim advocate gainfully employed at another unknown agency in Florida. That limits Amy from being able to utilize any other services in the area as she doesn’t know where he might be employed, meaning he could pop up at anytime.
I spoke with Dr. Ashley Hampton , the owner and founder of LLC and Psychology, Consulting, & Evaluations, and also a PTSD Trauma expert. According to Dr. Hamptom, in the instance of Amy’s situation, “Amy could exhibit angry outbursts, an exaggerated startle response, negative emotions like sadness and anxiety, feelings that the world is a bad place, problems with concentration, problems sleeping due to nightmares, flashbacks, and hypervigilance. She further stated that because the trauma was related to interacting with others, these symptoms could manifest both in a workplace and in a romantic situation.” Dr. Hampton also told me it’s very probable that Amy will struggle with PTSD as a lifelong condition. There is also no medication available to treat PTSD, which further complicates the condition.
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Since this incident took place, the Florida Coalition and their employees conduct business no differently. There is a high probablity that this issue was not a new one in the agency. The difference is that Amy is the first victim to ever file suit and speak up.
As a result of all that has occurred so far, there is a notarized complaint against the FCADV.
There are four very distinct points made in the complaint:
- There appear to be crimes related to the unauthorized access of Ms. Ballon’s accounts by a staff member of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
2. The staff member abused his role working with victims and engaged in an improper relationship while working in his official capacity.
3. The Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted an investigation but failed to retrieve critical evidence proving potential crimes.
4. The Coalition Against Domestic Violence should have reported a criminal complaint upon being informed of the misconduct.
In answering the charges filed against them, the Coalition stated that “Defendant asserts that Plaintiff voluntarily exposed herself to the alleged dangerous condition, which caused the injuries complained of, if any, and for which Defendant had no duty to warn and is not liable.” In other words, they are placing the blame solely on Amy stating she was culpable for engaging with the employee.
Of what has transpired, Alexis Moore, who is a Violence Against Women Expert, a leading cyberstalking expert, attorney and founder of the nonprofit Survivors In Action has this to impart: “There’s no amount of money sufficient to compensate a victim for the egregious abuse of power perpetrated by the FCADV employee. This case needs to serve to set precedent to ensure no other victims experience this horrific abuse of individuals in power and positions that are supposed to be there to serve and support them.” Ms. Moore is speaking as an authority that is one of the top three violence against women experts in the world and also an attorney.
When speaking with Alexis Moore she also expressed that “The Attorney General and Florida officials, need to keep a watchful eye on this case. They need to address this issue head-on as they do with other professions- there’s to be no sexual interaction with victims when your role as a worker is an advocate for victims. It’s sad that we live in a day and age that we have to put these sorts of guidelines in writing, but this must happen or victims will continue to be re-victimized like Amy Ballon in this case.”
Since this event, Amy has decided to seek legal redress to encourage other fearful abuse victims that may have been re-victimized to also come forward. She wants to ensure that no other woman has to go through this heinous experience again especially at the mercy of a non-profit agency founded to help victims. Amy has also poured her heart into helping other innocent victims. She started Raising Awareness for the Innocent to provide a platform for people’s voices to be heard. In essence, It’s a community of people supporting people. Additionally, She got very involved in working to raise money for the Innocence Project of Florida, an organization to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. Amy now has 55,000 dedicated followers on Facebook, all of whom are people she has helped. For the Innocence Project of Florida Raising Awareness work she’s done, Amy won the People of Distinction Humanitarian Award. Recently, she was nominated for the DOJ Offices of Victims of Crime Advocacy Award. Amy is also writing a book about the events that transpired, timeline for publication is not set yet.
When asked what Amy would say to Scarlett Johansson if given the opportunity, Amy answered “Thank you so much for giving me the courage to speak up and #MeToo.”