Monday morning, a young woman was murdered in her office by her ex-boyfriend. She’d moved, changed her phone number, obtained a restraining order, posted pictures of him around the office so co-workers would recognize him… She’d done everything, in fact, that she could do short of changing her identity or going underground.
And Rebecca Griego died anyway. (ABC News)
Although Griego moved, changed her cell phone number and posted his picture around her office, Rowan violated the order and verbally threatened Griego twice in the weeks before he killed her.
University of Washington police were told about the threats, but they did not put her under surveillance or provide an escort.
“Would we like to be there for every person who has a protection order? Of course,” said Ray Wittmier, the deputy sheriff of the UW police. “But unless we have thousands of officers, it’s not possible. In general, we don’t do surveillance or provide an escort. Here in King County last year, there were 5,000 protection orders issued and I can guarantee that every one of those people was fearful of who they obtain an order against. The challenge is to pick out the person who’s going to go over the edge. It’s almost impossible to predict.”
Unfortunately, much of the responsibility rests with the individual being harassed, Wittmier said.
“Typically, the petitioner has to change what they do, where they live, the way they commute to work. But that other person typically has some mental health issues and trying to get them to change their behavior is a lot harder.”
Typically has some mental health issues??? Does this man mean to imply that sometimes, emotionally stable people stalk and threaten? That’s absurd — but no more so than waving a piece of paper at one of these maniacs in the hope that it will deter him.
In Massachusetts, 28,760 orders of protection were issued during the calendar year 2005. In about 15 percent of those cases — 4,347 adults — defendants were arraigned for violating those orders. Almost 88 percent of the violators were male.
“Studies have shown that they’re pretty effective,” said Kenneth J. Theisen, who runs Bay Area Legal Aid, which has served 14,000 orders since 1984.
According to an independent study of its clients, 69 percent said that violence had stopped altogether, 19 percent said that violence had decreased and 11 percent said that it had stayed the same or had increased.
So — 11% is nuts. What are you supposed to do if your problem-stalker falls into that rather significant figure? Worse yet, how do you know if you’re in this unlucky percentile?
“That 11 percent needs someone to help them enforce these orders — [district attorneys] and police officers,” Theisen said. “What else can they do? In those rare cases where someone is killed, most were due to some failure in the system.”
Obviously, the police can’t provide personal protection for everyone who’s threatened, and since most folks aren’t on Forbes’ Richest People List, private security’s out as an option, too. Would she have been safer if she’d been armed? Maybe — and maybe not. Certainly Polimom would have been carrying a weapon in this situation, but that wouldn’t necessarily keep an intent, homicidal freak like this from coming up from behind, or going after my family.
There’s a reason domestic violence shelter locations are kept secret…. so what’s a woman to do? Go underground and hide indefinitely? Arm herself and watch over her shoulder every time she leaves the house? Ridiculous! Outrageous!
And above all, incredibly sad.
I cannot imagine a more blatant violation of one’s personal rights than being told to move, or change jobs because some pathetic excuse for a man can’t handle rejection.
But it happens every day. All over America, women are trying to escape violent domestic situations. Sometimes, they succeed, and sometimes they don’t — and when they end tragically (like this time), we’re all left shaking our heads, confounded and worried.
I don’t know whether anything could have saved Rebecca Griego and those in her situation, but I do know that this is a massive societal problem. Googling the term “domestic violence“, for instance, brings over 7 million hits — an overwhelming number that underscores the magnitude of the issue.
Nobody should have to live in fear in a free society, but there are small ways we can, as individuals, try to help. Rebecca’s tragic story reminded me that I’ve been meaning to get some things over to the Houston Area Women’s Center.
I think I’ll call them today.
Sounds like a classic failure of police procedure in the case you mentioned. Unfortunately, all too often clear threats are discounted or even flat-out ignored by the authorities in a “domestic dispute” case, while the same threat, uttered by a student in a public school, would result in a full-blown SWAT deployment, with an accompanying perp-walk parade through the streets of downtown.
I don’t know exactly *why* it is that police don’t want to act on domestic disturbance calls, though I have heard reports that they are worried that the victim will turn on them, and side with the abuser, when they respond (and, strange as it may seem, I have witnessed this type of behavior first-hand.)
I suspect that, ultimately, we won’t see the light at the end of this particular tunnel until the authorities begin to respond to this type of call, and treat it with the seriousness it requires.
As far as resources go, it is not so much the number of officers available as it is how long are you supposed to be protected personally? Forever?
When a school is threatened, it lasts a day, maybe a week at most with heightened security. For a restraining order against someone, the victim will be fearful of the abuser for years. When exactly would be a good time to turn the the victim and say time’s up?
Jack – the point I was making was that, in the case of the threat made by the student at school, the police would respond – and make an arrest right then and there. OTOH, many times they simply don’t respond to ‘domestic disturbance’ calls – and if/when they do, they are as likely to take an action which compromises the victim’s safety (e.g. seize all firearms in the victim’s residence, as a ‘precautionary measure’) as they are to take action against the abuser.