DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BY STRANGULATION
The Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force tracked down Steven Smitherman charging him with domestic violence by strangulation. Major Anthony Lowery with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office told FOX10 News, “Essentially on April 13 he beat and choked a family member and was subsequently charged with that.”
POWER AND CONTROL
Kathy Wood, a Court Advocate for domestic violence victims, says strangulation is an insidious form of domestic abuse that gives an abuser almost total power over a victim. “It basically debilitizes you,” Wood said. “You can’t breathe, you can’t call out for help. It is the ultimate control.”
UPGRADE TO FELONY
A couple of years ago, an abuser could take that control with little consequences but a recent upgrade to the law changed that. The law that made strangulation a felony was passed in 2011 and it now carries real jail time anywhere from 2 to 20 years. “Now it’s a class b felony – you can go to prison. That’s a little bit different than just being put on probation, like I said a slap on the wrist,” Wood told us.
Wood said felony domestic violence charges are already making an impact. “They are prosecuting cases and I think it sends a message to the victims and I think it sends a message to the defendants,” Wood said. “We’re all in it for the same reason. It’s for the protection of the victim.”
As for Smitherman, he is out of jail on a $25,000 bond.
[to see the full video, take the above link to FOX10tv.com]
But in the long term, education may be the best way to reduce this type of violence. Parents must take the lead in demonstrating to their children how to treat one another. School and community programs, including recently enacted anti-bullying programs, can help teach at-risk children how healthy relationships work.
Harsher penalties for violent offenders also are needed. Increasing mandatory sentences for repeat domestic violence offenders would be a good start.
And most important, residents in our communities should develop a zero-tolerance attitude toward domestic violence. Turning a blind eye to it is not an option. If you suspect abuse, report it to the appropriate authorities.
Domestic violence is no longer a secret household evil; it is a fire-breathing, society-menacing dragon that must be slain.