News of killing likely won't deter domestic violence


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Issues regarding domestic violence are so complex that even incidents that end in death do not help prompt many people to escape situations of abuse, according to those who deal with the problems in Tuscarawas County.

On Friday, Jason L. Gordon, 40, of Dover, was sentenced to prison for the Sept. 5, 2010, beating death of his girlfriend, Gina Harper, 33.

“A tragic incident such as the death of Gina Harper, unfortunately, is not likely to change the amount of domestic violence that takes place in the county,” county Sheriff’s Detective Capt. Orvis Campbell said. “We would hope that more people would report it. However, past homicides haven’t had the effect of reducing the incidents of domestic violence, or even having more people come forward to report. Typically, there has been a short-term spike in the number of reports after the first news of someone being killed.

“But, this issue is so complex. Domestic violence victims are often lost and don’t know how they would be able, financially, to live if they leave the situation they’re in. Sadly, they hold on to the hope way too long that they’ll be the one to make their abuser stop or change, and it rarely works out that way.”

A review of the number of domestic violence-related calls to the 911 county emergency dispatch center showed little change during a comparison between Sept. 6, 2009, through June 30, 2010, and Sept. 6, 2010, through June 30, 2011. The number of reports rose from 758 during the first period to 850 for the second timeframe.

There also has been a growing increase in the number of requests for civil temporary protection orders, said Deb Baker, victim advocate and director of victim assistance for the county in the county prosecutor’s office.

The number rose from 144 in 2009 to 172 in 2010. The projected year end total for 2011 is 164.

Baker said that she personally hasn’t had any victims mention Harper recently, but that death was mentioned frequently during the first four months afterward.

“Victims would say their batterer told them, ‘You don’t want to end up like Gina,’ ” Baker said. “We don’t know if they intended to carry through, but it was mentioned. Or they would say, ‘Remember what happened to Gina,’ or ‘You remember Gina don’t you?’ ”

Baker said she’s not seeing any difference in the causes than in the past. The primary change she notices each time there is an extreme domestic violence incident or death is the increase in referrals from law-enforcement officers to her office; Harbor House domestic violence shelter; or Compass. Those are the three offices involved in obtaining protection orders.

“That doesn’t mean that criminal charges will be filed, but that law-enforcement officers are aware of a domestic situation that they refer the person to seek further guidance or assistance,” Baker said.

Harbor House serves victims and their children from Tuscarawas and Carroll counties, with no out-of-pocket costs. It is a division of Personal & Family Counseling Services in New Philadelphia.

Harbor House’s location is kept confidential for the safety of those who use it. Those seeking help can call the crisis line at (330) 364-1374, or make contact through law-enforcement agencies.

She said she’s personally seeing more victims seek some guidance “and more of them are definitely following that advice at least for the short term.”

The vast majority of cases involve women being abused by men. Baker said the average woman leaves her abuser seven or eight times before finally leaving for good. Most cases involve some type of substance abuse by either or both persons involved.

County Prosecutor Ryan Styer called the Gordon and Harper case “an extreme example of the cycle of abuse where battered women protect their batterers and refuse to leave them. It’s also an example that the most dangerous time for a battered woman is when she decides she has enough and decides to get out. We believe that she told him that she was going to leave, and that’s when Mr. Gordon went into a violent rage determined that she wasn’t going to leave him. His actions cost Gina her life.”

A new state law, which tightened criteria for arrests and focused on the primary aggressor, took effect in 1996. It resulted in more domestic violence arrests, taking some of the previous discretion away from officers responding to incidents, Campbell said.
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