October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. It is also the beginning of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) for 2005 wherein federal employees and military personnel are solicited by qualified charities for contributions.
The Equal Justice Foundation (EJF) joined the Combined Federal Campaign throughout Colorado for the first time this year. For the past two weeks we have been going to some of the local military bases, Fort Carson, the US Air Force Academy, and Peterson Air Force Base as part of the Pike's Peak region CFC kickoff events together with anywhere from 50 to 150 other charitable organizations at each event.
These events gave us a chance to meet with a broad range of military and civilian support personnel. We spoke with men and women from virtually all ranks, from Private First Class to a 4-star General.
As the EJF is one of the very few organizations providing help and support for abused men, our banner advertising Domestic Violence Against Men drew considerable attention. We heard from many men, and quite a few women about the problems the military is having with domestic violence and abuse charges in El Paso County, Colorado, where all these bases are located in one of the largest concentrations of military forces in the United States.
Demographic data make it quite clear that at least two-thirds of the restraining orders and domestic violence charges in El Paso County are an abuse of process. State court data show that El Paso County has 3 1/2 times the number of domestic violence cases as comparable jurisdictions in Colorado.
The impact of these false allegations, and the accompanying persecution by the local district attorney with her Fast Track program, were all too painfully well known to the military and civilian personnel we spoke with.
An Air Force Master Sergeant had been stabbed by his raging, alcoholic wife. When he called the local police they came and arrested him. Although an Air Force investigation found that he was the victim, the local DA persecuted him for over six months. The civilian charges against him were only dropped when his wife died as a result of her alcoholism. We were extremely pleased when he told us that he'd found our DV against men web site a couple of months after being stabbed and how much it had helped him.
An Army Sergeant First Class spoke to us about the violence of his ex-wife and the hell he went through before he could finally escape, and how no one would believe him, nor were there any support groups like the EJF for him at the time.
An Army Sergeant, wearing a Combat Infantry Badge with a unit that got back from Iraq last spring and is being deployed again in March 2005, found his wife was having an affair. When she came back after being gone for 2 1/2 days he was naturally angry and they were apparently arguing in her car. Instead of letting her simply drive off he pulled on the emergency brake. Eventually she left to return to her lover. Eight hours later she called the police. The local DA has now charged him with menacing, false imprisonment, and child abuse (their child was present during the argument). As we see all too often, his incompetent attorney is recommending he take a plea bargain. Of course that would end the sergeant's military service and destroy his life and child but the attorney would rake in an easy $1,500 bucks and the DA would have another win. Only the sergeant and the nation would lose while the local DA prosecutes and persecutes one more man for his wife's adultery. Roughly 50% of the hundreds of married men the EJF has heard from are charged with DV after they find their wife was having an affair. Though it must occur, we have not yet heard of a case where the husband became violent. The worst we hear of is the husband threatens the wife's lover, e.g., see the Emerson case, which is considered to be menacing for which the husband is to be punished.
Another Air Force Master Sergeant told us of being falsely accused of domestic violence and having gone through three attorneys who all tried to sell him down the river with a plea bargain. Only when he found a fourth attorney, one the EJF recommends (Ted McClintock of the Liberty Law Center) was he able to get the false charges against him dismissed and save his career.
Virtually all the command officers and NCOs we spoke with had one or more troops under their command in trouble with restraining orders or DV charges. Typically the troops in trouble are NCOs or junior officers, lieutenant through captain: the warfighters.
To date the Equal Justice Foundation has directly helped military and civilian support personnel in eleven states at seventeen separate commands, as well as numerous veterans. However, this was our first chance to meet so many of these people personally. Obviously we are extremely pleased that our work is so well received and meets real needs of our military.
Conversely, while we were abstractly aware that the persecution of our military men and women by local law enforcement was occurring, we were appalled to be confronted directly with so many cases of patently false accusations of domestic violence against military men among CFC key workers and others who attended these kickoff events. These men and women were but a tiny fraction of the local military commands.
El Paso County and the 4 th Judicial District will get a new district attorney in January. He has promised change and it is certainly to be hoped that the blatant persecution of military personnel promulgated under his predecessor will cease. The present administration has made a practice of punishing the innocent and freeing the guilty. There are real problems of domestic violence and abuse in our community but overwhelming the system with false allegations, marital quarrels, covering up adultery, and lover's spats does not fix the problem.