Domestic violence conference educates on the risks

Kit Gruelle, a domestic violence activist and former victim of domestic violence, speaks during the Domestic Violence Conference on Friday.

DALTON, GA. — It began as a normal conversation between two separated parents about their child, the weather, other family members.

And then, in an instant, you hear the confusion in the woman’s voice and then the increasing terror as she realizes what the man plans.

During the next half hour or so, the man would tie the woman up, Taser her, rape her and kill her before killing himself.

The woman had caught it all on tape.

“He’d repeatedly violated a protection order against her. She’d called 911 many times and it never seemed to do her any good,” said Kit Gruelle, a domestic violence activist and former victim of domestic violence who played the tape.

She said the woman had begun carrying a pocket recorder with her at all times trying to capture his threats against her. She ended up recording the attack against her.

“What did he say while he was doing this?” Gruelle asked. “He said, ‘I love you.’”

Gruelle was one of the speakers Friday at the 10th annual Domestic Violence Conference, sponsored by the Conasauga Family Violence Alliance and hosted at Rock Bridge Community Church’s Stage 123 in Dalton.

This particular session was on law enforcement training. Gruelle spoke of the importance of training law enforcement officers in the use of a lethality assessment protocol, a series of questions that can identify those domestic violence victims who are most at risk of homicide or serious injury and trying to immediately connect them with domestic violence services.

She said there are five risk factors that put a domestic violence victim in the high-risk category: if the abuser has ever used or threatened to use a weapon against the victim, if the abuser has ever choked the victim, if the abuser has ever forced the victim to have sex, if the abuser has ever threatened to kill or seriously injure the victim and if the abuser is violently or morbidly jealous.

Gruelle said no one person or agency can stop domestic abuse alone. She said there needs to be cooperation between domestic abuse services, law enforcement, the courts and prosecutors, jails and 911 dispatchers. And she recommended “cross training” among all those agencies, by, for instance, having victim advocates ride along with patrol officers and law enforcement officers attend abuser intervention classes.

“We all need to understand what everyone else does and the role everyone plays in stopping domestic violence,” she said.

Katora Printup, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center, said the conference was an important way for the community to find out more about domestic violence.

“It’s always great to learn more about what we can do to stop domestic violence, and it’s great to be able to hear survivors tell their stories,” she said.

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