Sunday’s tragedy shines bright light on domestic violence

By Jodine Basterash

Pictured above is a scene from Basterash’s theatrical stage play, “Shattered, But Not Broken” based on domestic violence related events from Basterash’s own experiences. The play debuted at Humphrey Scottish Rite Theatre (790 N. Van Buren St.) on Sat., Oct. 13, 2012. In this scene the husband Ray (Maurice Pulley), the abuser, getting ready to assault his wife Jodine. Photo by Robert A. Bell

Tragedies like the fatal shooting of Zina Haughton by her husband Radcliffe Haughton that occurred on Sun., Oct. 21, are what drives me as a domestic violence survivor and freelance advocate. This should have never happened. It has been noted that Zina Haughton clearly stated “I’m afraid of what would happen whether or not I have a restraining order’”. She even testified that he had become angrier than any time in their 20 years together.

Reportedly, there had been several recent situations in which domestic abuse was evident, based on Zina Haughton’s torn clothing and bruises. There was a documented history of domestic violence in the relationship starting as early as 2001, and on October 8, she wrote in her petition for a restraining order that his threats terrorized her every waking moment. He reportedly said that he would kill her if she left him or ever contacted the police.

Of course there were times she lied about the incidents or wouldn’t go into detail even refusing domestic abuse paperwork because she was afraid for her life. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what the truth of the matter is and our authorities should be educated with situations such as these so that they can take matters into their own hands. In this particular case, one could understand if this had been an isolated incident and the authorities did not know who to believe. However, it wasn’t. The police were called to the home on too many separate occasions regarding domestic abuse and Mrs. Haughton was no longer retracting her statements. There was a history and pattern of abuse. Wisconsin law requires officers to arrest domestic violence suspects under certain circumstances. Officers must make an arrest if they have grounds to believe someone has committed domestic violence and the abuse is likely to continue or if there is an injury. There were times that abuse was evident on Zina Haughton based on her physical appearance, regardless of her willingness to cooperate.

Victims are often reluctant to be cooperative because the risks outweigh the benefits. I myself went through domestic violence for 12 years. I was able to call the police on very few occasions, though there were a few phone calls made by neighbors on my behalf. When authorities arrived at the scene, nothing was done except an attempt at counseling. Therefore, why get the authorities involved when they’re not going to do anything, especially if it’s going to make matters worse between you and your abuser?

Jodine’s daughter Tasia who was affected by domestic violence 3 hours before the first event of the Speak Your Peace weekend festivities started, along with her granddaughter TaNiyah

Within the last two weeks, my oldest daughter was assaulted by her ex-boyfriend. He gained entry to her apartment building, then proceeded upstairs to her apartment, kicked in her door and assaulted her leaving her with a broken finger and bruises. The police came. Not only did they not make sure her apartment was secure before she left the premises, they never offered her medical attention nor did they take pictures of her wounds or the crime scene. When she went to speak with the district attorney the next business day, she told him about threats that were made by him and how she feared for her safety because he had a history of following through on his threats. The D.A. indicated that there was nothing he could do about it unless she could prove it was him if something were to happen to her. Not one time did he offer any advice, just an ‘oh well’ attitude. When I went to the police station to ask about the “general procedure” for a situation such as this one, I was refused any type of information. Now keep in mind, I didn’t ask specifically regarding my daughter’s situation because I do understand confidentiality. I inquired about the general procedure and the law. Situations like these make it very difficult for a victim to feel protected by anyone. If there are suppose to be procedures and processes put in place, why aren’t they followed? As a victim, the system seems to fail you. Before my daughter was assaulted, this same guy was stalking, threatening and antagonizing her and on one occasion, even took her cell phone so she could not call for help. Fearing for her safety, she got out and was able to run about fifteen blocks to a friend’s house. I went with her to file for a restraining order and she was refused. She was told that she had to file for a harassment order. Once again, where is the protection and help when a victim fears for their safety? It’s sad that everyone wants to step up and get involved after a tragic situation. It should have never took for my daughter to be injured before she received a restraining order. I know this situation too well from my own personal experience with domestic violence. It’s sad that a victim feels that there is no way out and the abusers know this. Once they see that nothing is going to be done and how far they can go, some of them will ride that game and continue on the path of destruction. Why should they stop? Nothing is going to happen. It’s there word against the victims. The people who are supposed to help, too often don’t, so why suffer a harsher beating or consequence?

Domestic Violence and Statistics.

Domestic violence, sometimes called battering, is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. Domestic violence can include physical, emotional, economic, and/or sexual abuse. Abusers use threats, intimidation, isolation, controlling finances and other behaviors are used by the batterer to gain and maintain power over their victims. It tends to escalate and become more severe over time.

Warning signs can include any physical force such as slapping and kicking, name calling, constant criticism and humiliation; threats of harm to the victim, their family or pets; isolation, mind games, destruction of victims’ property, stalking, controlling or withholding your money, interfering with your job or school, rape, forced prostitution and the list goes on.

According to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in 2011, there were 40 deaths associated with domestic violence in Wisconsin. In 2010, there were 58; in 2009, 67 deaths. According to the City of Milwaukee’s Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, nationally an average of 1,200 victims are killed annually, three a day, by a domestic partner. Domestic Violence does not discriminate, meaning violence occurs in every community, and can affect anyone regardless of income, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. Statistics show that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Domestic violence also occurs in same-sex relationships, and men can be victims as well. Community Advocates states that in 2010, Wisconsin had nearly 30,000 domestic violence incidents reported to authorities. Society doesn’t take heated arguments seriously. Sadly, unhealthy relationships have become a way of life; they have become the norm because people don’t understand what constitutes a healthy vs unhealthy relationship. Sometimes people don’t want to get involved because the victim is only going to defend the abuser and stay in the relationship, when in reality, victims want someone to care because they’re helpless and afraid for their lives. So they hope and pray that someone else gets involved to rescue this monster from their lives. And some victims think the way they are being treated is normal, it’s acceptable.

As we saw this past weekend, Domestic Violence doesn’t just happen at home. It impacts the lives of millions of working women and men every day. It also affects the companies for which they work and the communities where they live. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund’s workplace guide for Employers, Unions and Advocates, domestic violence costs U.S. businesses nearly $6 billion annually in aggregate costs, including more than $4.1 billion in direct medical and mental health services and $1.8 billion in productivity losses.

According to a survey of Workplace Violence Prevention, Bureau of Labor Statistics (Oct, 2006), more than 70 percent of United States workplaces do not have a formal program or policy that addresses violence in the workplace. Domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking are workplace issues and impact the workplace even if the incidents occur elsewhere. Workplace policies can provide clear guidelines on how employers will prevent and address these dangerous and damaging forms of violence in the workplace.

On September 25, 2007, Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV) released a survey on corporate executives and employee awareness of the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. The survey showed that a significant majority of corporate executives and their employees from the nation’s largest companies recognize the harmful and extensive impact of domestic violence in the workplace, yet only 13% of corporate executives think their companies should address the problem. The attitudes of executives differ dramatically from an overwhelming majority of employees (84%) who believe that corporations should be a part of the solution to addressing domestic violence.

The Answer.

We need to become more serious about spreading domestic violence awareness just as much as we do for breast cancer, diabetes, and other health threats. Early intervention and preventive education is so crucial in stopping the cycle of domestic violence. Regardless of the reason why a victim stays in the relationship, we have to teach everyone to love themselves first and to develop zero tolerance for emotional, verbal or controlling behaviors. Abuse is abuse no matter how big or how small.

We have to be willing to help those that may be affected by domestic violence, but we also have to be careful that we’re not putting the victim at further risk. Sometimes the best one can do is be available at anytime. Everyone from the community, schools, churches and even the workplace need to have preventive education on domestic violence awareness so that you know the warning signs and the proper steps to take to help a victim.

There needs to be better laws in place and adhered too. Victims need to be able to trust the system, and speaking from personal experience, they don’t.

Due to the horrific case of Zina Haughton, I am teaming up with another advocate, Kathleen Rodgers from Loving Me First, who is also a survivor, to offer ‘domestic violence in the workplace’ training to prepare employees to respond to domestic violence situations, how to recognize its signs in the workplace, and how to respond appropriately and sensitively. Through education and training, research, public awareness, and innovative initiatives, tools will be provided to recognize, respond accordingly.

Unfortunately violence against women still doesn’t attract the same public attention as Breast Cancer research and treatment, but I am on a mission to change that.

The Mission

Jodine Basterash is a survivor of domestic violence and a leading community organizer. She is also the creator of the annual “Speak Your Peace” domestic violence awareness weekend that is held every October. Now in its second year, this months festivities included a program with speakers who are survivors, former abusers and poets with a fashion show that included women who are currently attending programs at Sojourner Family Peace Center.

There was also a domestic violence awareness walk and a charity basketball game. She also teamed up with Sojourner Family Peace Center holding a mother daughter weekend retreat with empowerment workshops for mothers and daughters.

Last year, there was only a program for one night. But this year, she stepped out on faith and planned a variety of events for people to attend in hopes that she would reach a broader audience.

“Too often, when people go through things, they keep it to themselves,” says Basterash about her experience with domestic violence. “Now that I am healed from these experiences, I feel that I am obligated to give back and help others who may be going through similar situations that I encountered.”

In its second year, “Speak Your Peace” has become one of Basterash’s largest endeavors. The event which started modestly has now become one of the city’s major domestic violence awareness events. With the exception of the “Souls of my Daughters Mother Daughter” retreat, all of these events are self-funded by Basterash, but she is determined to bring awareness to the cause no matter the cost. “There are lives that need to be saved,” says Basterash.

The centerpiece of the “Speak Your Peace” weekend events was using her life story as inspiration bringing domestic violence to the stage in theatrical form based on Basterash’s life story of her popular book (Your Ruby’s Worth, October 2011) written by Anaja Enterprises, Annette Jackson, in the play called “Shattered, But Not Broken.” The play debuted at Humphrey Scottish Rite Theatre (790 N. Van Buren St) on Saturday, October 13 at 7pm. The storyline brought tears to your eyes while holding on to the edge of your seat in anticipation, fear, empathy and for some, memories. The storyline put something on the attendees minds as they left the theater in amazement of the reality of domestic violence and what Jodine encountered. Many say one night was not enough and it must be brought back!

After the release of Basterash’s popular book “Your Ruby’s Worth,” there were many asking for the opportunity to produce the dramatic interpretation. Her relationship with Jackson made the decision easy for Basterash. “I’ve had a few individuals approach me about wanting to take my book and turn it into a movie or stage play,” said Basterash. “Because Jackson is already familiar with some of my life story and is a playwright, I felt more comfortable allowing her to write the script.”

The emotional telling of Basterash’s journey as a survivor of domestic violence has been sentimental for both women. Written by Jackson, this was a sensitive project for the playwright. “Over our five year friendship I witnessed her go from victim to victory and I rode all the waves with her,” said Jackson who codirected the play with Basterash. “I knew that her pain and struggles would provide hope to someone else. It challenged my writing abilities because I was so close to the person and the issue. At times it was so emotional for both of us to journey back into those periods in her life where she was hurt the most.”

Basterash and Jackson took a cooperative approach to developing the script, Jackson allowing Basterash to give feedback and input every step of the way. “Because we are such good friends and like-minded, the writing process was surprisingly smooth,” said Jackson. “I would write a scene to make sure I captured the emotions during the timeframes in her life and she would read it and edit it if necessary.”

Basterash had a simple objective when developing the play, a concept that is also the theme of the Speak Your Peace weekend. “I want the audience to walk away feeling educated and empowered,” said Basterash. “Educated in the sense that they will self-analyze themselves or have the awareness in case they know someone else that may be going through it, they can help. That it will give the mindset of ‘if she went through it, and made it out successfully, I can too.’”