Murder of Andrea (Suzanne Meisenzahl)|
President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
Welcome New Members
Correction - Gun Control
Important: Local Five Vote Count (Arlene Ellis)
Report of the Nominating Committee
Cynthia Thielen Honored
HI Clean Legislative Report (Laure Dillon)
The Murder of Andrea
Could We Have Done More?
My heart sank on February 10th as I read the morning paper and learned the news of Andrea Delcina-Dequito's death. Separated from her husband Allen Dequito, she was gunned down in her own home the previous night. Mr Dequito fired his gun numerous times wounding the police officer that had been called to the scene and killing both his wife Andrea and himself.
Later in the day I learned that Allen Dequito had been convicted as recently as 1998 for threatening Andrea with a gun. At the same time he was also convicted on a 709-906 abuse of a family or household member. I felt fear in the pit of my stomach. What had her life been like in that last year?
Next came feelings of frustration. How could these deaths have been prevented? How could we have at least lessened the odds? League has worked on this issue for a number of years. Could we have done more? There were many questions raised at the time we issued our two reports on domestic violence. Many still are unanswered. We ponder them. Now that pondering has another name and another face and another child.
On Saturday morning I read the Advertiser and their latest story about the case. The headline read, "Ewa man feared losing daughter." In the article there was an apology from the family of the batterer. They asked that we remember him not for this tragic event but for the fact that "most of all, (he was) a very good father to his daughter Allyson." How can a "very good father" beat and murder a child's mother?
In 1997 League brought Bonnie Campbell, the Director of the Violence Against Women Office in Washington D.C. to Honolulu to keynote a panel of community leaders discussing violence and safety in our community. One thing that Bonnie Campbell called for and the League supported, was a death review committee to review all the domestic homicides and learn from them. Last years death review legislative bill ended up as a resolution calling for key members of the community to produce a report identifying gaps in services to domestic violence victims and to determine the need for a death review committee.
During the news reporting, when asked to comment on this sad event, one domestic violence expert said that women need safety plans. Yes they do. The question that won't leave me is why didn't Andrea have a safety plan? Is this one of the gaps in the system?
We do not need another study to tell us there are gaps. We know there are gaps. Crime scene intervention, crisis counseling that include lethality and risk assessments, safety planning, and long term case management are among the gaps. When the police were called to Andrea's house on nights other than the fatal one - what happened? Was an advocate available to her? Did the advocate have any priorities for the victim, such as a safety plan? Which gap did Andrea fall through? Did Andrea Delcina-Dequito die because of a gap?"
There are so many questions. To its credit, League has asked these questions in its domestic violence reports.
1. The prosecutor's office and its victim witness unit. Andrea must have been in touch with the prosecutor's office. What happened there? What is their role in making sure that Andrea and other victims are informed about the dynamics of domestic violence and provided with domestic violence advocacy? Allen was convicted. Did she assist in his prosecution? One of our observations in the court monitoring project was "many alleged victims, who would be complaining witnesses at a trial, will not participate in the proceedings." Did she? If she did, we know what kind of courage she must have had. We noted as we observed the courts that few of these victims present at court were provided with advocacy, making their acts that much more courageous. One of the major dilemmas we found when monitoring the court was the fact that victims frequently did not appear in court to testify. Fear, lack of good advocacy, and many other things weigh in here.
2. Advocacy. Did Andrea have a good advocate? It's a crapshoot out there. When the police were called in other incidents when did Andrea first have benefit of an advocate? We know that the best time to reach battered women is within the first 24 hours of a violent incident. What happened to our DART (domestic abuse response team) programs? Are minimal services in Waianae and Kalihi filling the gap?
3. TRO. Why did he have a restraining order against her? Did he really need it? Was he truly afraid of her? Who helped him obtain the order? It wasn't Andrea who was arrested 5 months later for physically abusing him or threatening to kill him with a gun. It also wasn't Andrea who shot him dead in his own home. Is there a movement afoot making this issue a genderless crime? We know that there are a few male victims out there but they make up a very small percentage of cases. All reliable research validates this fact. Are our service providers trained to assess primary aggressors? Have batterers learned how to turn the tables on their victims and make a system established for battered victims become one more tool to use against the victim? One can only imagine how demoralizing and humiliating it must be to have the very system that is supposed to protect you, turn against you.
4. Anger Management. According to one news article his discharge report says he "appears to understand the dynamics of domestic violence and appears to have general ability to recognize low levels of anger and use anger management skills". Where did he go to anger management class? What are the standards of that class? Are they universal amongst other classes? How are the batterers held accountable for their actions? How are programs which profess treatment judged and evaluated? One expert working in a leadership position with shelters and batterers programs said that their programs are held accountable to the funders and that was adequate. One of the big funders is the judiciary. At a domestic violence conference that I attended the judge who then headed up the adult criminal misdemeanor court was asked how those programs worked. He said that he had never sent anyone to an anger management class that wasn't accepted to the class. Is that what matters? Do anger management classes help batterers to change their abusive ways or do they just teach them how better to manipulate the system?
5. Sentencing. Is a 5-day jail sentence what our system considers adequate to hold Mr. Dequito accountable for his behavior? Would a coordinated domestic violence court help to ensure that judges are aware and informed regarding all aspects of the defendants standing before them for sentencing?
6. Victim DataBase. If this case pushes League into a more proactive role on domestic violence issues will we now be able to access the victim data? We funded this project with the first VAWA funds. Is it true that the computer hardware sits in service providers offices around the state still in their cardboard boxes being used as end tables? Why do we tolerate years of delay? The director of the Hawaii State Coalition on Domestic Violence was quoted last week saying in reference to Andrea's death, "it's a very very sad outcome". And what else? Another voice in the domestic violence community says as long as guns are around this will happen. Are we just supposed to sit here and be sad?
7. Probation. Allen was on probation for a year. Was there a red star beside his name because he had threatened her with a gun? Was his lethality assessed? Did the police follow up in any way to see if Allen's threat to use a gun had any substance?
8. Health Care Providers. Was Andrea ever taken to a hospital with wounds suffered from battering? How was her case handled? Was there an advocate at the hospital? Should there have been? What happened to our HOPE (hospital outreach) program?
It is time to grieve. A silent march was held for Andrea on February 15, 2000 at Honolulu Hale. We celebrate her life because we know she was brave and deserves to be lovingly remembered this way. But she also deserved to live. We celebrate and remember all the people who have died from domestic violence, who were killed by people who claimed to love them. We remember them as victims of a crime common and widespread. Whose daughter is the next victim? Whose mother will die next time?
Even before we are done grieving, lets get some answers. Not to the question of who will die next, but to the question why do women have to die this way at all.
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