Wednesday, March 26, 2008

From valor to domestic violence in a few short weeks

I've recently been researching the phenomenon of domestic violence as it plays out in rural America, and as it may differ from urban places. One striking statistic is that "place" is a strikingly good predictor of intimate homicide. That is, the more sparsely populated and remote from a metropolitan area, the more likely a homicide is to be committed by a member of the victim's family. Various factors may account for the higher incidence of deadly domestic violence in rural places: spatial isolation from sources of assistance; lack of law enforcement and social services resources; lack of anonymity which deters reporting and which may bias police, prosecutors, and courts; dearth of economic opportunity for women to support themselves in the context of undiversified rural economies where women earn $.55 to the male $1 (compared to $.77 to the male $1 nationwide).

It was with that on my mind that I read a shocking story of domestic violence in my hometown newspaper, The Newton County Times (AR), this week.

Because the link is likely to go away, I'm pasting the story here:
03/20/2008

Two hospitalized following domestic disturbance report
By the Times Staff

JASPER - Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape said two people were hospitalized after a shooting/knifing/arson incident at Rock Creek on Wednesday night, and one of them was also under guard as a suspect in the incident. According to Slape, Paul Stuart, 36, and his girlfriend, Ida Bates, had been involved in a domestic disturbance Wednesday night.

She apparently had gone to a neighbor's house about 100 yards away.Slape said Stuart was waiting outside that residence where Darby and Vonda Hustead lived and when
Bates walked out on the porch, Stuart shot her in the face with a .22 caliber gun.Stuart then allegedly went in the Hustead's house with the gun. They were able to disarm him, but he had a knife, Slape said, adding that they suffered superficial wounds for which they were treated and released at North Arkansas Regional Medical Center.

Slape said Stuart then went back to his own residence, barricaded himself in the trailer and set it on fire. However,  he soon fled the trailer and surrendered to authorities. Slape said both Stuart and Bates were airlifted to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Springfield, Mo.  Stuart, he added, suffered smoke inhalation.

A hospital spokesman said neither Stuart nor Bates were listed in their directory, but Slape said he was told she is in "stable" condition and he was being guarded. Slape said Stuart faces charges of attempted capital murder, arson, being a felon in possession of
a firearm and two counts of aggravated assault.

Stuart also was being held on a parole violation from a murder conviction in the 1990s. Records show Paul Stuart was sentenced to prison for the 1995 first-degree murder of his
brother, Jerry Stuart.Slape said Paul Stuart was released from prison after serving a portion of his sentence.

Ironically, it was just two weeks ago that Bates and Stuart were featured on the front page of the Feb. 28 Newton County Times in a dramatic story headlined "Miracle on Rock Creek." Bates,nine-months pregnant at the time, was swept off a low-water crossing on Rock Creek in her Geo Metro. Her car overturned in the rising water, but Bates was able to pull herself out of the window of the car.  Stuart, who had come to the
crossing because he was concerned about his companion being able to get home safely, helped pull her out of the high water.
The news story makes no mention of their infant child, but word in the community is that he and 5 other minors were in the home when the violence broke out.

Is there any good news in this? Well, Bates survived. And, there is now a domestic violence advocacy group in the county which can fund one night in a local motel until a victim can be placed in a shelter in a neighboring county. (The county briefly had its own shelter house for a few years, but it has since closed due to loss of funding). I'm reminded of a statistic I recently read about the availability of such resources in rural America: 30% of rural counties have no domestic violence shelter; for those places, the average distance to a shelter is 36 miles.

1 comment:

Kibbe said...

This is a terrible story. However, the most terrible part of it is that it is all to familiar to me as a domestic violence prosecutor. I see violence on a level that most could never imagine....and should never have to imagine. With that in mind, I do not think Domestic Violence will ever cease. However, I think that the single most important link to drastically reducing the violence is support groups. Prosecution is simply a reactionary measure that focuses on the offender for a short period of time. Victim advocates are the people who can make a real change because they maintain lasting relationships with victims of Domestic Violence. Therefore, my question would be, do incidents of repeated Domestic Violence diminish where there is a victim advocacy group readily available?