DV Fatality Review Team presents their fourth report

The Mecklenburg County Domestic Violence Fatality Prevention and Protection Review Team (DVFRT) presented their fourth annual report entitled “Until Death Do Us Part” to the Board of County Commissioners in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, NC) on Tuesday night.

DVFRT report at BOCC 100714District Court Judge Ron Chapman, who is the current Vice-Chair with the help of Helen Lipman, DVFRT Liaison presented the report at the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting in the Chamber of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

North Carolina legislation created the DVFRT on June 1, 2009 as a pilot project in Mecklenburg County. The legislation provides the needed legal protection to make it easier for agencies to share case information in a full review. The DVFRT has reviewed 16 dv-related homicide cases since that time.

Community Support Services, a Mecklenburg County department that includes the Women’s Commission, is the lead agency for the effort.

The DVFRT report has four themes including; access to firearms, behavioral health issues, exposure of children and youth to domestic violence, and systems integration.

The report includes a number of recommendations including expanded trainings for police and probation officers, as well as judges, in regards to access to firearms. In 10 of the 16 cases reviewed a firearm was the killers’ weapon of choice. In 7 of those 10 cases the firearms were obtained illegally.

The DVFRT, in concert with the DV Community Leadership Team, also recommends that a pilot multi-disciplinary team be developed to actively monitor selected repeat violent DV offenders to reduce repeat incidents. Similar initiatives have shown positive results in other North Carolina communities, including the City of High Point.

DVFRT report at BOCC 100714 HelenA number of accomplishments are also noted such as the Supervised Visitation & Safe Exchange Center opening later this year, which was a priority identified by the DV Community Leadership Team for 2014-16. This facility and program will provide a safe environment for victims and children when child custody comes into play in abusive relationships.

The entire DVFRT 2014 Report is now available online.

For more information on the effects of domestic violence in our community, call the Mecklenburg County Community Support Services Women’s Commission at 704-336-3210 or Safe Alliance’s 24-hour DV Hotline at (704) 332-2513.

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship outside of Mecklenburg County, please call the National DV Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). They will help you get connected with a shelter, programs and services in your community.

Okay Roger… Now what?

Commissioner GoodellListening to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference multiple times now, I find myself still looking for some things to solidly get behind. From my perspective there are a couple of great moves. There are other missed opportunities.

It is great that the NFL has connected with the National Hotline (www.thehotline.org) and it appears the league is committed to helping them with staffing and resources. This is in response to the fact that the hotline missed a huge number of calls by victims due to an 84% increase of calls last week. This is a great initiative for victims. I can get behind that.

I’m glad to hear local domestic violence resources were provided to teams. This is also a good start in the awareness and education process needed for team owners, team personnel and players.

Other than these two new initiatives, everything else were things we already knew.

goodell riceThere were a lot of apologies for how the Ray Rice situation was handled, the lack of a heavy enough penalty for Rice’s actions, and Goodell admitting the mistakes began with him. I truly appreciate his leadership and the fact that he is owning the responsibility for fumbling this case.

In the NFL’s defense, I think this issue caught them by surprize. One of the best things to come out of this mishap is we are now participating in a nationwide conversation. My guess is there are lessons that corporate America can learn from how the Commissioner and team owners are trying to get their heads around this. There is a very good chance that alot of businesses, professional teams and college atheletics didn’t have this issue on their radar before now.

Goodell did say they are going to rewrite the Personal Conduct Policy and cited a new committee being formed to help with this policy. His goal is to have a new policy in place by the Super Bowl (02/01/15).

More than once he stated he invited former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to lead an “independent” investigation on how the league handled the Rice case. And that is good. More than a few times he talked about “getting our house in order.” That is important too.

What I was hoping he would say is, “Any player arrested for domestic violence would immediately be suspended until an investigation is completed,” but he didn’t. Instead he dodged the questioning about consistency of charges like a high stakes lawyer.

Right now the NFL is still floundering with a consistent approach to players caught in a criminal incident. Regardless of their guilt or innocence.

Ray Rice has been suspended by the league and terminated by the Baltimore Ravens.

Carolina Panther’s Greg Hardy is on the “Exempt List.”

jonathan dwyerArizona Cardinal Jonathan Dwyer has been put on the non-football injury list, and San Francisco’s Ray McDonald is still playing meaning three out of four of these cases the player is still getting paid.

Granted, we do need to respect the legal process. Ray McDonald has not been charged yet. He was arrested last month and accused of assaulting his pregnant fiancée. A number of former players including Hall of Famer Jerry Rice think the 49ers should remove McDonald from the field.

Another DV case in the NFL?

quincy enunwaAnd what about New York Jets’ Quincy Enunwa? (NFL investigating case, ESPN) Mr. Enunwa was arrested on September 4th for allegedly pulling a woman off a bed at a hotel near the Jets training facility, injuring her head and finger. Why have we not heard anything about his case Mr. Commissioner? Will the new NFL Domestic Violence Policy that was immediately implemented on August 28, 2014 apply in this case once he is charged?

It begs the question, is the NFL simply turning a blind eye to the illegal activities of its players? (NFL Player Arrests, USA Today). Could Commissioner Goodell be trying to protect his bosses’ investments?

There is a ton of great work being done by current and former NFL players in the communities where they live. Men that understand their role as a positive role model. Men that know what they do instills a lasting impression on children. Especially young boys.

By not addressing these cases of potential abuse the NFL is sending the message to these youngsters that it is okay to own an arsenal of firearms. It’s okay to minimize women. It’s okay to view women as sex objects. Did you know, Mr. Commissioner, this lack of action of addressing these issues has proven to eventually lead to abuse (Miss Representation Project)

How about this for a strong message to victims and women in general?

janay knocked outWhat I did not heard during the press conference or at any point before now is a conversation on what the NFL is doing for Jayna Rice, Nicole Holder or any of the other victims abused at the hands of current NFL players facing charges of domestic violence or child abuse.

There was no apology. No words of concern to their well-being. No initiative toward assuring victims’ safety, which could easily apply to players being abuse by their intimate partner too.

We all know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL has done more awareness of this issue than possibly any corporation in history. The players will pink and purple ribbonbe wearing pink accessories to their uniforms all month and a pink ribbon will adorn the 50 yard line in most (if not all) NFL stadiums throughout the month. This is fantastic knowing that one in eight women have personal experience with breast cancer.

Did you know that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month and that one in four women have experienced abuse in a relationship? What message can Commissioner Goodell send in support of women in general, which happens to be 44% of their fan base? (NFL fan base, USA Today)

Here is one tangible way the NFL can show they care. Ask every NFL owner to designate one home game within the month of October where $1 per ticket (or seat) would go to their local domestic violence shelter. Then the league could match those funds to go to the each State’s Domestic Violence Coalition. (This of course, would be over and above what the league has committed to the National Hotline.) This type of demonstration puts their money where their mouth is. All the while making a serious difference in the lives of abused women and possibly saving a life or two or more.

This just may help the PR nightmare they now are facing as well, with a move toward a commitment to victim’s safety which we all can solidly get behind.

Are you looking for ways you can help raise the banner against domestic violence during DV Awareness Month? Check out Mecklenburg County’s DV Calendar of Events or Domestic Violence Awareness Month for some ideas or how you can help.

What Is Our Best Response to Ray Rice?

goodell riceThere are a lot or responses to the Ray Rice travesty.

I wonder if divorcing the NFL is the answer.

I wonder if throwing Commissioner Goodell under the bleachers is a real solution.

I wonder if a ban of the NFL really helps.

Our better response may be to educate ourselves on this issue. Domestic violence is a rampant problem in at least one of every four relationships based on reporting to the National DV Hotline. Right here in Charlotte, NC we had more than 9,300 criminal incidents of domestic violence last year. Break that down, that is nearly 25 cases per day where someone communicated a threat to the one they love or they assaulted them to the point of physical harm or somewhere in between.

The NFL may not have responded as quickly as we all would have liked (especially now that we know what we know), but where Ray_Rice_052314_PRwere the whistleblowers two months ago when Ray Rice held a seven minute press conference apologizing to everyone but his soon to be wife? (05/23/14 > http://youtu.be/WJBkG_kyqxI). Mr. Rice spoke for more than 6:30 of that time giving his fiancé, Jayna a mere 30 seconds to share.

Our challenge with intimate partner violence is a lack of accountability. Victims are re-victimized every day in our court system, in our workplaces, and yes… in the media.

I did a segment on ESPN Radio yesterday I was asked, “Why did Jayna defend him and call out the media?” Well, it’s pretty simple. She is probably scared for her life and feels she had no other choice in order to survive.

We all need to look at this issue a bit differently. Watch the May 23rd press conference again and see if you can count how many times Jayna had the confidence to look up let alone hold eye contact with the camera. It appeared to me that she was afraid to even look at the man “she loves.” Commissioner Goodell made the same mistake that Pastors and professional Counselors make every day in every city in the country. Couples counseling in these volatile relationships does not work. The risk in this practice is the victim (male or female) has to go home with their abuser. It doesn’t matter if they said anything in the session or not. A simple roll of the eyes or a sigh to something the perpetrator said is enough to get the victim a beat down later.

Instead of us all banning the league and pointing the finger finding fault elsewhere, we may be better suited to gain some understanding of what we are dealing with.

first offense NFLPersonally, I applaud Commissioner Goodell and the NFL for their swift and firm response once they saw firsthand what took place in the elevator. Their stance sends a loud and clear message to all of professional sports that players abusing their wives and girlfriends will not be tolerated. Let’s wait and see what happens to Ray McDonald (San Francisco 49ers) and Greg Hardy (Carolina Panthers) when their cases are heard before a jury of their peers. If those cases prove to be as heinous and nothing happens then let’s call out the league.

I wonder if our anger toward this situation is not better suited toward our law makers for not instilling firmer penalties. Did you know that in North Carolina it is a heavier penalty for dragging your dog down the street? Animal cruelty is a felony. Dragging your girlfriend behind your truck is a misdemeanor. Maybe we should recruit every NFL fan to call their Legislator to pass the Violence Against Women’s Act long before it’s status is in jeopardy.

For me, the finger in this situation needs to be unanimously pointed firmly at Ray Rice. Not his wife. Not the NFL. At Ray Rice!

Ray Rice is lucky he is not facing a murder rap. We see countless numbers of domestic violence related homicides every year where the victim died from blunt force trauma. Cases when the killer didn’t mean to hurt her, but their choice to lay hands on her put leaving is dangerousher head through a wall. A seemingly harmless push can be enough for a victim to lose their balance and slam their head on an island in the kitchen.

Jayna Rice is lucky to be alive and clearly is doing everything she can to survive.

Our rage toward this issue needs to address how we might potentially save her life.

If you need help or know someone in an abusive relationship call the National Hotline at 800-779-SAFE (7233). Ask them about a safety plan.

If you want a better understanding of what domestic violence is go to http://CSS.CharMeck.org and click on the Women’s Commission.

http://www.Twitter.com @MikeSextonNC

So now what?

So the Easter holiday has come and gone, lent has passed, and my bracket is done. Now what?

Well it appears to me that all of those are simply opportunities to get spiritual. They heighten our awareness of what we perceive is important to God or they replace God with religion or a worldly passion. Instead of Living On Target. (by Pastor Kelvin Smith > http://tiny.cc/vkzuuw)
For me, going to church on Sunday is like half time of the big game. It is time to regroup, get built back up, and be encouraged to go out there and do it again. For me we are called to be “the church” every day; all day. Why? Because “we are the church” and we are here to help all in need around us, not just a select few.

Now, I have a personal relation with Jesus. You can too. God doesn’t want us to come by for a visit. He sent His son to die for us because He wants to spend time with us. He created us to be in relationship with Him. He is my friend, my helper, my Deliverer, my Savior.

We are not designed to go it alone. The world tells us “we can do it ourselves if we put our mind to it.” When you ask Jesus into your life, the wall between you and God comes down and the promise of Jesus is your’s. He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Religion cannot alleviate your loneliness. Beliefs can’t do it either. Only a person can do that; a person who will never leave you, never forsake you, no strings attached. That person is Jesus Christ.

We might like to think that our lives are all about us, but the reality is that all of our choices in life influence not only us, but the people around us. In the end our lives (and deaths) speak loudly of our love for, or rejection of, God.

Having troubles? God, our Father is standing there ready to help as only He can, but we have got to release any bitterness that is making our burden so much heavier. Why carry that load? Your Father wants to trade your troubles for His grace.

Yes, it’s a lonely world out there. And yes, you may walk on Lonely Street again? But the day you come to Jesus Christ is your last day alone. God never looks away from us or ignores us. He is always there watching over us and working things out in accordance with His plan. You may even feel that He is chasing you. He is, because He loves you and He wants you. He doesn’t need you. He wants you.

Once we come to know Jesus, it becomes all about Jesus and not about us. “Us” gets us in trouble. We are our own worst enemy in many cases. When you make choices with Jesus in your life He intercedes and helps you make those tough decisions. Remember, He will never leave you.
Easter is the greatest day in a Christian’s life. Without His resurrection we are ALL lost. When we invite Jesus into our hearts, repent of our sins (and we all sin), and surrender our lives to Him, we are assured life… not death. By simply believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead, we are guaranteed eternity with Him in heaven.

Won’t you consider giving your life to Him and begin living every day… all day with peace and harmony? If you are willing say this prayer. Either aloud or quietly in your heart. Be open and honest and say…

“Jesus, I am lost without you. I am sorry for my sins and want to follow you. I believe you God that you sent your son to die for my sins. I surrender my life to you and ask that you live in my heart. Change my heart. Thank you Jesus.”

If you prayed this, know that you are now a new believer in Christ. Your past is your past. That means it is behind you and there is no need to look in the rear view mirror.

Now, get connected with a local church. Remember, we are not wired to go it alone. There are people that God wants to connect you with all day… every day.

May His peace be with you and I’ll look forward to seeing you in heaven if not before.

In fact, maybe I’ll see you at half time. Go Saints!

Where was Jesus on Holy Saturday?

Sometimes I wonder when the Bible has gaps in time and isn’t very clear what really took place. Like Jesus’ childhood between His visit to the temple at age 12 (Luke 2:41-51) until His ministry started at age 30.

So what actually took place on Holy Saturday? (the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday)

Was this a day of rest for Jesus where He lay in a tomb? Or was He in a fight with Satan in which He clearly defeated death?
The only biblical reference to what happened on the Saturday in between Jesus’ death and resurrection is found in Matthew 27:62-66. After sundown on Saturday—the end of the Sabbath—the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pontius Pilate and asked that a guard be placed at Jesus’ tomb to prevent His disciples from removing the body. They remembered Jesus saying that He would rise again in three days (John 2:19-21) and wanted to do everything they could to prevent that. We know from the succeeding accounts that the Roman guards were inadequate to prevent the resurrection and those who returned to the tomb Sunday morning found it empty. The Lord had risen.

What is your take?

Reference > http://www.BibleGateway.com (pick your translation of choice)

V-Day 2013

I get asked a lot if I like my job. I always reply with an emphatic “Yes!”

Once in awhile we all have experiences on our jobs that make us feel good. Because of the nature of what I do I am really lucky to have a gig that makes me feel that way a lot.

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. For us guys that generally means an excuse to get our wife or girlfriend flowers or candy or both. Valentine’s Day is also a great opportunity to share your emotions with her, which she loves.

For women, Valentine’s Day is very important. This annual tradition recognizes her as the beauty that she is. We validate the importance of her existence in our lives. We remind her that we cannot live without her (or at least we admit we would be a mess without her).

Yesterday was also V-Day. What is V-Day and why is it significant? It gives women (and men by supporting women) an opportunity to stake a claim and have their voice heard. (http://www.vday.org/about)

In 1994, a play called The Vagina Monologues, was written by playwright and activist Eve Ensler. This ground breaking piece of political theater offered the world a piece of art like nothing it had seen before. Based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women, the play addressed women’s sexuality and the social stigma surrounding rape and abuse.

Today, V-Day is a global activist movement that supports anti-violence organizations throughout the world, helping them to continue and expand their core work on the ground, while drawing public attention to the larger fight to stop worldwide violence (including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), sex slavery) against women and girls.

V-Day exists for no other reason than to stop violence against women. (http://www.vday.org/about)

One Billion Rising cites that one in three women and girls on the planet are raped or beaten in her lifetime. (http://www.onebillionrising.org)

On the 15th Anniversary of V-Day, a goal was set to have one billion women and those who love them participate in events to walk out, DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. One Billion Rising is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, “Enough! The violence ends now.” One Billion Rising asked every community to coordinate a Break The Chain event where local women (and men) could gather to RISE UP.

The Charlotte effort was lead by Brandy Stephens with Safe Alliance in partnership with the Mecklenburg County Women’s Commission (that’s where I come in). Brandy and Barbara Patterson lead the charge getting coaches, sound equipment and motivating their folks to come out and be one of those one billion women to rise. I helped by securing the location, Freedom Park, and getting the word out through email and social media besides just being a general support.

I work a lot with Safe Alliance (http://www.SafeAlliance.org) and other domestic violence service providers and advocates in efforts like this to raise the banner of “zero tolerance for violence against women and girls.” For me, any way we can get a life line out to a victim in the form of resources is a good thing. So many victims are held captive in their own home while being fed the lie that they are all alone and no one really cares about them. Well, I’m here to tell you that we are ALL here to help.

In the United States, we know that 95% of the reported cases of domestic violence or “intimate partner violence” it is men that are beating their wives or their girlfriends. (What is Domestic Violence? http://bit.ly/ovwvdn)

Did you know that on average; almost 500 women a day are raped or sexually assaulted in the United States. In other parts of the world it is much higher. For example, India reports one rape every 18 minutes.

From my perspective, we can save victims from their abusers all day long getting them to shelters or services. But if we do not address the men that are perpetrating these crimes we just promote another victim by letting him move on to another relationship.

Our problem men, becomes a need to learn how to speak up for ALL women and girls by calling out our brothers when they are inappropriate instead of ignoring it. Our silence is just as deadly because it condones their actions.

There is a myth out there that all men are the problem. If you account for our silence that may be in the neighborhood of the truth, but in reality it is closer to 20 to 35%; depending on who you listen to. What that tells me is that at least two out of three guys are not abusing their wives and girlfriends. We need to help those two men gain their voice as well. On a promising note, there is tangible evidence that more men are stepping up to the plate. That’s good.

Yesterday for me was awesome from a couple of fronts. One, I felt I was in my element.

Do you ever feel like you are right where you are supposed to be? So often I feel that God has placed me right in the middle of this issue supporting all women to simply bring a male’s voice to the table. It felt great yesterday to support those women and be able to apologize to them for all of the abuse they may have experienced at the hands of the men in their lives. (Not taking the blame for their abuse, but simply representing the two out of three that don’t abuse)

BTC Charlotte Yesterday I discovered that another role for me is to share my story. This is a challenge because it requires me to be vulnerable. That is not a very comfortable place for a lot of men. Looking back though, I can now see how God has personally exposed me to different types of abuse which has instilled the compassion that I now I feel for all victims.

I grew up in a very large family of eleven kids. Seven of them are sisters so I learned how to stand in line for the bathroom pretty early.

When I was ten, one of my sisters was 13 and in the 7th grade. She was coming into her own and getting out in her new Junior High School world. Her natural beauty radiated an air of sensuousness around her.

My parents were connected with the local Catholic diocese and invited a maintenance guy from the Catholic University to our house to help with a couple of projects needing repair. While he was working at our home he found an opportunity to take some liberties with my sister and clearly took advantage.

This was frightening for her and very confusing. Due to my parents’ inability to speak with their children about sex in a healthy way, they responded completely off base causing her even greater confusion. Instead of taking this guy out back and beating him within an inch of his life, they blamed my sister for being “too promiscuous” saying she brought it on herself. WOW!

How often do we hear examples of this still today? It seems constantly that victims are being re-victimized by the system with the burden of proof being placed on them instead of holding the abuser accountable for their actions. In like fashion, my dad did not have a clue how to hold this guy accountable so he didn’t confront him. It was easier for dad to react unjustly to my sister because her sensuality represented something or someone that scared him.
rebecca-schaeffer Twenty years later, another glimpse of abuse came when I was working in the TV and Film industry in the form of stalking. My very first job at Warner Bros. in Burbank, CA was as a Production Assistant on a show called My Sister Sam. It was a sitcom starring Pam Dawber and Rebecca Schaeffer as her kid sister. The show only ran for two seasons.

Shortly after the series was canceled, Rebecca Schaeffer became a spokesperson for Thursday’s Child, a charity for at-risk teens. Later that year her stalker appeared at her door posed as a flower delivery driver. Twenty minutes after signing an autograph for him she abruptly told him she was busy. He took it as a personal affront and pulled a gun from a brown bag he was carrying and shot her in the chest. She died on the pavement in front of her new Hollywood apartment. It became apparent later that her killer had been stalking her since the inception of the show in 1986. Tragic!

All of us (men and women) need to address abuse in hopes of turning the tide of violence against women and girls. Will you help?

Please consider getting involved in your local communities. There are programs and service providers helping victims in shelters, court rooms, hospitals, in your neighborhoods, and in their own homes. There are so many forms of abuse that you can help raise awareness of whether it be domestic violence (“intimate partner violence”), sexual abuse, sex trafficking, or exploitation.

If you are one to pray, ask God to reveal where you may be needed. If you don’t know what you are called to do, He will help you figure that out too. If you think I can help you get connected somewhere, somehow then please send me a message on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MikeSextonNC or send me an email to Michael.Sexton@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov.

If you are being abused in your relationship please call for help. The abuse does not have to be physical to be criminal. It always starts with verbal and emotional abuse. Please find out what you can do to protect yourself and get to a place of safety in case it gets real dangerous.

HOTLINES: The National Hotline is 800-799-SAFE (7233). They can connect you with services anywhere in the country. In Charlotte call the Shelter For Battered Women 24-hour hotline at 704-332-2513.

The Women’s Commission can help you with understanding what you are dealing with, assess how lethal your situation may be, and help you set up a safety plan. You can reach them Monday through Friday, 8AM to 5PM at 704-336-3210.

For me, God’s greatest command on our lives is to love one another. When wearing those lenses the answer to this issue is an understanding that we are here to lift each other up. It is not about tearing each other down so we feel better about ourselves. In the simplest terms, that means we are here to help each other.

God has shown me that when I am stepping out in faith with Him, I cannot lose. With His guidance and protection, and my obedience to what He is asking me to do, He insures me that I am right where He needs me to be.

With that focus every encounter has a purpose. Every conversation is a divine appointment and that always makes me feel good.

For me, this gig is more than a job. It is my calling.

My Buddy Max

I have been back to work for nearly a week now after a world wind trip to Nepal and Bangladesh and I’m still dragging. My weariness is partly due to jetlag and mostly due to lack of sleep caused by a common cold and nagging cough.

My dog Max though reminded me this morning that my condition could always be worse. You see Max is a 16 year old toy poodle weighing in at eight pounds soaking wet. He is nearly blind due to cataracts, cannot hear a thing, and has to deal constantly with 12 pounds of constant terror in the form of a puppy named Ollie.
puppy 2
Just coming in the back door, Max has to negotiate getting past Ollie who has assumed the pounce position. Any opportunity to maul his older brother is fun for Ollie.

All the while, Max just does his thing. He waits until Ollie gets bored and flies past him before Ollie realizes he missed.

Max has not been the brightest bulb over the years. His brother Niko (who we lost last November) used to hide his own treats and then come steal Max’s. Niko used to let Max fetch whatever was hurled across the room only to have Niko take it from him just before returning it to the hurler.

Just the same, Max would just do his thing.
Puppy 24
What is Max’s thing? He is patient and he is a cuddler. Of all his personality quirks, Max’s greatest gift is his love. He gives it away like a bee makes honey. All he has to do is a few butt ups for a back scratch and the opportunity to snuggle. He waits and waits and waits. Then he just nestles alongside you insuring he has contact somewhere with someone.

How does this help me in my state of fatigue? Max reminds me that all God asks from us is to operate out of the gifts He has given us.

Max does that every day.

All day.