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Hill AFB first military base to host domestic violence conference

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Every 15 seconds across the country a woman becomes the victim of a domestic violent act — emotionally, mentally, physically or sexually.

Domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic groups, does not turn a blind eye to religion and can be found among doctors, attorneys, police officers, military personnel, politicians and every job title available, local law enforcement officers were told.

A woman will try to leave her abuser on the average seven times, said Kari Kerr, a victim advocate from North Dakota. Victims do not leave the relationship for a variety of reasons, including the instinct to survive. The most dangerous time for a woman is when she leaves her home. She increases the chances of being killed by 75 percent every time she leaves the abuser.

Kerr was one of three presenters at the four-day Domestic Violence Conference held at Hill Air Force Base. The conference began on Tuesday and runs until Friday.

About 70 law enforcement officials, prosecutors, victim advocates and dispatchers from Utah and Wyoming joined the Air Force 75th Security Forces Squadron for the free training. The conference is covering topics such as interviewing techniques, stalking technology, investigation for prosecution and the dangers of domestic violence.

Hill Air Force Base is the first military base to host the conference, said Tim Woods, director of government contracts with the National Sheriffs’ Association.

Funding for the conference, which is held five times a year across the country, comes from a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women through the Department of Justice, Woods said.

Woods said Hill Air Force Base officials asked to host the event.

Air Force Capt. Thomas Ostby, squadron commander for the 75th Security Forces, said the joint training for his officers and those off base is important because it gives them additional tools to help military and non-military families.

His officers are called to family fights that range from verbal altercation to physical fights.

His officers see an “uptick” of domestic violence calls when military personnel return from deployment, Ostby said.

“It can be difficult for military members who have been overseas for six months to reintegrate with their spouses and children,” Ostby said.

Domestic violence calls are the most dangerous calls law enforcement officers respond to, said Michael LaRiviere, a patrol officer from Salem, Mass., and one of the presenters. He also served as a member of the congressionally appointed Department of Defense Taskforce on Domestic Violence.

At least eight officers a year across the country are killed responding to a domestic violence call, LaRiviere said. That number does not include officers killed by an abuser while serving warrants or protective orders or making a traffic stop.

How officers approach a domestic violence call, how they investigate it and also the follow-up done by social workers and prosecutors could save lives, LaRiviere said.

Domestic violence cases impact entire communities, said Shannon Prescott, a presenter and prosecutor from Oklahoma.

Prescott cited cases out of California, New York and Texas where the perpetrator not only killed the victim but innocent bystanders including children.

Children do not have to see abuse happen to be impacted by it, Kerr said. Children just have to be in the home and hear it.

Kerr said officers need to check on the children when they arrive at a scene.

The adults will always say the children are asleep, “but they are not. They are hiding under their bed or in the closet or standing at the top of the stairs,” Kerr said.

Kerr played an audio recording of a woman named “Lola” who was beaten by her husband of seven years. Neighbors had called police when they heard the fight. When he was released from jail, he beat her again and threatened to kill her. Several days later she was found murdered in her apartment.

Kerr said the woman did not call police because the man said she would be responsible for her death, her children’s lives, the lives of her neighbors and the lives of police.

When police were interviewing the children, one of the children, who watched their father kill their mother told officers his father had said he would kill his mother, Kerr said.

Then the child said he had “taped the conversation on his Fisher-Price recorder” when he was under the kitchen table, Kerr said. 

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