Tragedy in Mississippi

By Barry Goldstein

May 31, 2017 | Feature |

The Quincy Solution Saves Women, Children and Police Officers
In the batterer program I teach in, we have often discussed how different the world would be if society treated assaults on women with the same priority we treat assaults on police officers. This would substantially reduce crimes against women and reduce the number of women (and children) murdered by abusers. It turns out these good practices would also save the lives of many police officers. Attacks on police officers are prevented because criminals know they will be caught because of the high priority the response to such assaults creates. The same was true in Quincy and other communities that made prevention of domestic violence a high priority.
The present problem and failure was illustrated by a horrific crime spree by a domestic violence perpetrator in Mississippi. Willie Godbolt had a long history of crime, violence and domestic violence when he went to speak to his estranged wife in an effort to take his children to his home. The ensuing argument was severe enough to cause a neighbor to call the police. Godbolt responded by killing eight people in three different locations. The victims included two children, two of his wife’s sisters, three other relatives and Sheriff’s Deputy William Durr who was responding to the domestic violence call.
Many of the news stories and statements from public officials referred to the murder of a deputy and seven others, reflecting society’s priorities. The murderer blamed the call to the police rather than his actions. Contrary to the stereotype of abusers acting in the heat of the moment, he committed the murders in three separate locations so he had plenty of time to consider his actions. Interestingly, the story received substantial media attention when Godbolt first committed his heinous crimes, but little follow-up since. It seems that the media, like public officials treat these preventable tragedies as if they are inevitable and rare. The reality is domestic violence abusers commit a majority of mass shootings, but can be stopped by the proven practices in the Quincy Solution.
The Quincy Solution Because Prevention Works
I am confident that most of these mass shootings, domestic violence murders, child murders in custody disputes and murders of police officers can be stopped because of the success of communities like Quincy, San Diego and Nashville. In Quincy, a county that averaged 5-6 homicides each year enjoyed several years with no murders. The communities decided to take domestic violence seriously and made it a priority to prevent these tragedies.  Implementing best practices that prevent the kind of tragedies we see in the media has the additional benefit of preventing other tragedies that aren’t considered news but ruin people’s lives.
The Quincy Solution is an updated version of the successful practices in Quincy and other communities that decided to take domestic violence seriously. The original practices included strict enforcement of criminal laws, protective orders and probation rules together with practices that made it easier for victims of leave and a coordinated community response. At first glance it might seem like this response would add to an already excessive prison population, but the reality is different. Abusers are able to control their behavior so when they learn a community has made stopping domestic violence a priority they realize there would be unpleasant consequences for their crimes so they stop committing their abuse at least in communities with effective practices. Children who are saved from witnessing domestic violence are less likely to commit crimes when they grow up which further reduces the prison population.  I have updated the successful practices with new research and technology like GPS.
Many people are unaware of the success abusers have in undermining domestic violence laws by manipulating custody courts. Domestic violence custody cases are the most dangerous cases courts handle. Every year dozens of protective mothers and their children are murdered by fathers involved in contested custody cases. Most court professionals do not understand the abusers’ motives and in many cases the courts gave the murderers the access they needed to kill the mothers and children. Many women stay with their abusers out of fear they could lose their children in the broken custody courts.  Some of the mothers do not survive this decision. The support the courts unwittingly provide to abusers encourages their sense of entitlement which contributes to an increase in assaults and murders.
The Quincy Solution seeks to make the custody courts safer for protective mothers and their children because we cannot stop domestic violence as long as abusers can use the family courts to undermine efforts to prevent abuse. The Safe Child Act would make family courts safe for the children.  It would require courts to make the health and safety of children the first priority in all court decisions. The proposal would force courts to integrate current scientific research like the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and the Saunders’ Study from the US Justice Department.  The Safe Child Act would also encourage a more multi-disciplinary approach that would include experts in domestic violence and child sexual abuse when those issues are raised.  The old approach of using mental health professionals for all issues is the equivalent of relying on a general practitioner for patients with cancer or heart disease.  The legislation would also require an early hearing limited to abuse issues so that cases that now take many months or years can be resolved in a few hours.  The Saunders’ Study found that domestic violence advocates have more of the knowledge courts need in DV cases so the Safe Child Act would provide funding for advocates to take a greater role in training court professionals and serving as expert witnesses.
The case in Mississippi is another example of responding to avoidable tragedies by shaking our heads, mourning the loss and continuing on as if nothing happened. The one thing we know for sure is that these cases are not exceptions. Society has a choice. They can close their eyes, maintain their ignorance and accept these frequent tragedies as the price of accepting male supremacy and tolerating domestic violence. Or we can implement the proven practices in the Quincy Solution and prevent most domestic violence crimes.  Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. I know I am sick and tired of seeing these horrific stories and knowing there are eight more people who could be enjoying their lives if only we took domestic violence seriously.
Barry Goldstein

Barry Goldstein

Research Director

 
Barry Goldstein is a nationally recognized domestic violence author, speaker and advocate; he has written some of the leading books about domestic violence and custody.
 
 
 
 
Authors express their own opinions which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Stop Abuse Campaign. 
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