Pam Bondi speaks out against domestic violence

10/07/11 Janelle Irwin
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October is domestic violence awareness month. The Spring of Tampa Bay held their annual Gift of Peace breakfast this morning to raise funds to help victims break away from violence. Attorney General Pam Bondi was the event’s keynote speaker.

Bondi is a board member of The Spring. She didn’t experience domestic violence until she began her career as a prosecutor – she thanked her mother in the audience for that – but the cases she handled sparked her interest in becoming an advocate.

“Richard Hale. His wife was disabled, in a wheel chair. He shot once to her left, once to her right and then once directly in the temple of her head. Think of the agony and the torment that that woman went through. And she didn’t think that she had a way out.”

According to a press release from The Spring, one in four women will experience violence in her lifetime and every day three women are murdered by a husband or boyfriend. Bondi says many victims don’t come forward until it is too late.

“It’s often easier to win a first degree murder case than a domestic violence case because often the victims don’t cooperate.”

The Spring also claims that as many as 10 million children witness domestic violence each year. Jareb Dauplaise has appeared in television shows like Monk and The Sweet Life of Zach and Cody. But behind his success is a childhood of abuse from his biological father.

“My mother went to Publix and I guess she was gone to long. And I was asleep in my bed and he decided to come in the room and grab my hands above my head with one hand because he’d done construction his whole life. It wasn’t that difficult for a six-foot-one, 250-pound guy to hold down a four year old. And with his other hand he smashed my rib cage in.”

Dauplaise eventually reached out to a guidance councilor for help, but was told by authorities that his mother would also be arrested for neglect. He chose to stay silent.

“It’s hard to hide from the man who controls the entire family. Where do you go when the man who makes all the money, has all the bank accounts, and has the cars and the homes? Where do you turn to? You look to your family for support. In this day and age, in these hard times – economics where we are – think about if someone showed up at your house and said will you help raise my three kids, and myself.”

And domestic abuse isn’t always just about physical violence. Emma Ikharo said she endured eight years of emotional abuse from her ex-husband before he ever hit her. She added the abuse was so common she came to not only expect it, but justify it.

“My cooking was criticized, the laundry, caring for the two children when they were born, my driving – I always had to get permission to use the car – I was told when to go and return even when I was taking the children to their God parents because he didn’t want his children around a hen-pecked man.”

Bondi said when she saw first hand how prevalent abuse in relationships was when she hit the campaign trail. It also shocked her to find victims in wealthy communities.

“Everywhere I go, especially to women’s groups, but pretty much everywhere I went, I would talk about domestic violence and how important that is. Little Havana, Little Haiti, South Florida - Every time I spoke, a woman came up to me and said, thank you, I am the victim of domestic violence. I then went to Jacksonville and spoke – fancy country club – same thing happened.”

The Spring of Tampa Bay is a shelter for victims of domestic abuse and their families. The organization has also formed partnerships with law enforcement to identify instances of abuse and intervene in cases where victims are at high risk of murder.

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