Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2005

Domestic violence board long overdue

April 28, 2005

In September 2004, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius telephoned me and said, "I want to bring you back to public service and have you chair a Governor's Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board." Without hesitating I accepted the offer, and when the governor and I finished our conversation, I looked out the window at the heaven above and said with a tear in my eye - "This one's for you, Mom."

I am briefly relating the suffering of my mother as a victim of domestic violence so all of those concerned will know that this is not just another committee to me but a cause and concern that has followed me all my life.

I have never been able to shut out the horrible beatings my mother received at the hands of my father. Even in my sleep, I often have dreams that bring back the awful events.

When I was a child, on one occasion my father started beating my mother in the house and dragged her into the car. I hid in the bushes until he returned. She was unconscious and he carried her into the house. On another occasion the police came and my mother was pitifully lying on the couch, black and blue from a beating and yelling, "He is going to kill me." These types of events occurred over and over.

During one violent episode when I was 7 years old, I ran out of the house and climbed up a tree. I fell but only got the wind knocked out of me. At first I thought I was going to die and I was glad.

Finally, after 20 years of living hell, my mother said enough was enough and divorced my father. He was a friendly man but an alcoholic, and when he got drunk, he was as mean as anyone on the face of the earth could be.

There has been too little progress over the last 50 years in regard to assisting victims of domestic violence. There is still a lack of empathy and understanding by the public, the law enforcement community, the judiciary and our lawmakers. Domestic violence is a brutal crime hoisted on the defenseless, and we must do all that we can to stop it.

I believe the creation of the board is long overdue, and I look forward to working with the talented group that the governor has assembled to serve on the board. The board's goals are to continue informing the public about the insidious nature of domestic violence and motivating the public to find solutions to end domestic violence; and identify systemic changes within all the organizations and agencies that work with domestic violence victims, offenders and families to learn new ways of reducing the number of fatalities by better identification of risk factors and improvement in the coordination of services that Kansas provides.

There is a statewide toll-free number to assist victims of domestic violence. If help is needed, please call 1-888-End Abuse (1-888-363-2287).

- Bob Stephan, chair of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, is a former Kansas attorney general.

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