Ga. ranked 12th in domestic violence

by Wes Mayer

Georgia’s 2013 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report shows the state has improved slightly over the last two years.

However, that is not saying much. In 2012, the state of Georgia was ranked 10th in the nation for men killing women, according to the report. It was issued by the Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Coalition Against Family Violence. Georgia is now ranked 12th.

According to the 2012 report, there were 128 deaths as a result of family violence in Georgia. In 2013, there were 116. Over the last 11 years, the total number of family violence deaths in Georgia is 1,300, and so far in 2014, there have already been 14, according to the 2013 report.

In Coweta County, 911 received 1,288 calls in reference to domestic violence, said Melissa Sizemore with the Coweta Domestic Violence Task Force. In 2013, the Coweta County Solicitor’s Office prosecuted 271 cases under the Family Violence Act, and the District Attorney’s Office prosecuted 75. The Family Violence Act does not consider charges such as stalking or aggravated stalking domestic violence, though, Sizemore said.

According to Sizemore, the death of Richard L. Earhart in February would be considered a domestic violence fatality. Earhart’s son, Justin Lee Earhart, 31, was charged with murder after authorities found him at the home covered in blood. In November 2012, Tasha Lynn Buchan was found dead and decomposing in a Newnan home. This is also now considered a domestic violence fatality after her boyfriend, Rodolfo Chacon Reyes, 34, pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter and concealing the death of another.

Although the victim did not die, there was almost a fatality in 2013 when David Bennett, 49, was accused of severely beating his girlfriend with two different baseball bats. After being airlifted to an Atlanta hospital and undergoing several operations, the victim, Nicole Hernane, survived. Bennett is set to go on trial this upcoming week on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping and more.

The Georgia Commission on Family Violence and the Georgia Coalition Against Family Violence listed a number of key findings from the 2013 report.

As was the case in previous studies, a large percentage — 26 percent in the 2013 report — of domestic violence homicides involved relationships which began when the victim was a teenager. With most domestic violence deaths, financial problems also played a part. Although 74 percent of victims were employed at the time of their death, they were often reluctant to leave an abusive relationship for the fear of being unable to support themselves.

The report also notes that victims are at a much higher risk of being abused or killed when they are in the process of getting out of a relationship.

Another major finding in the report was how victims and perpetrators are often in contact with law enforcement in some form in the years leading up to a fatality. In 2013, 78 percent were in contact with law enforcement in the five years before the fatality. Thirty-two percent of victims were also found to be involved in their faith community in the five years before their death.

Children find themselves victims to domestic violence as well. According to the report, in 45 percent of 2013 fatalities, the victim and perpetrator had at least one juvenile child together. This child witnessed the homicide in 18 percent of the cases.

There is a 24-hour statewide domestic violence crisis line in Georgia - 1-800-33-HAVEN (42836) - which victims, friends and family may contact for resources and support. In emergencies, call 911.



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