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In The News

Jun 11, 2009

NATIONAL – President Barack Obama has chosen Dr. Eric Goosby to be the U.S. State Department’s Global AIDS Coordinator and Ambassador at Large, and to lead the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). An initiative begun by President Bush, PEPFAR has won bipartisan support for helping contain the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide and treat those infected, but has been criticized because the Bush Administration did not allow PEPFAR funds to be used to purchase or distribute condoms and support other forms of contraception. Advocates hope that PEPFAR guidelines will include family planning programs going forward, because they give women more options in avoiding HIV/AIDS. Dr. Goosby is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco and has more than 25 years of experience working on HIV/AIDS.

MILITARY – The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Inspector General will conduct a national review to determine whether veterans are being inappropriately charged for treatment related to military sexual harassment or sexual assault. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) requested a review of military sexual trauma-related billing after receiving a letter from a veteran who discovered she was being inappropriately charged for her care. Under existing law, veterans are entitled to free VA treatment, including counseling and prescription drugs, for conditions related to military sexual trauma. The review will be made public when it is completed, possibly in October.

DC – The District of Columbia is adding new facilities for victims of domestic violence. On May 13, Mayor Adrian Fenty and representatives from the Office of Victim Services and the Department of Housing and Community Development announced the opening of two new housing facilities that will serve as safe emergency and transitional housing for victims of domestic violence. The two new facilities will add an additional 59 units to the city’s existing 49 units for domestic violence victims. Fenty aims to produce 200 units of safe emergency, transitional and permanent supportive housing for victims of domestic violence within the next five to ten years. “The creation of these two facilities provides a great service to victims of domestic violence,” he said. “My administration will work as hard as humanly possible to ensure we develop, increase, and improve services that are provided to victims of violent crime.”

IL – Former police officer Drew Peterson pled not guilty to murder charges in the drowning death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, the Chicago Tribune reports. Peterson gained notoriety after the disappearance of his fourth wife, then 23-year-old Stacy Peterson, and for his behavior – including joking with reporters before and after court appearances. Savio and Peterson were in the process of getting a divorce when Savio was found dead in a dry bathtub; her death was initially ruled an accident. Savio’s family had long voiced suspicions about Peterson’s role in Kathleen Savio’s death. They claim Savio told them she was afraid of Peterson and that if she died, it would not be an accident.

MD – Governor Martin O’Malley signed legislation last month requiring a judge to confiscate firearms from people who have protective orders filed against them. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown led the charge to get the legislation passed after his cousin was shot and killed in Montgomery County by an estranged boyfriend last year. “This is probably the single most important step that we have taken as a state to reduce the number of homicides, to enhance the safety for victims of domestic violence, but it is not enough,” Brown said at the bill-signing ceremony.

MA – Popular classified advertising web site Craigslist removed its “erotic services” category in May after several violent crimes in which the victims made contact with the alleged perpetrators using Craigslist. Authorities arrested Boston University medical student Philip Markoff, the so-called ‘Craigslist killer,’ in April for terrorizing one woman who advertised erotic services on the site and for the murder of 26-year-old Julissa Brisman. Police linked Markoff to Brisman through his computer’s IP address, which was identified from a series of emails confirming a massage appointment. Investigators are pursuing leads that Markoff may also be responsible for another crime linked to Craigslist, the armed robbery of a prostitute in Rhode Island, the Boston Globe reports. A new category, “adult services,” replaces “erotic services” and Craigslist says it will closely monitor it for illegal activities or postings that violate the site’s guidelines, the New York Times reports.

ME – In an unusual case, Laureen Rugen was sentenced to seven months of jail time already served after stabbing her abusive husband more than two dozen times in 2008. After his death, the long-time abuse she suffered at his hands came to light. The 25-year history of abuse was documented in police reports from Florida and Maine, in statements from friends and co-workers, and even in photos of bruises on Laureen Rugen’s body that were taken by her husband. Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese told the Portland Press Herald, “This case is another lesson that people who feel trapped in abusive relationships need access to education about how to get out before the problems reach a breaking point.”

SC – State representatives voted to bar any mention of homosexual relationships in a new program designed to curb teen dating violence in middle and high schools. State Representative Greg Delleney proposed an amendment excluding gay and lesbian students from the bill’s prevention efforts, changing “dating partner” to “a person involved in a heterosexual dating relationship with another.” The sponsor, Representative Joan Brady, told Associated Press, “Traditional domestic violence occurs in a man-woman, boy-girl situation.” Ed Madden, the President of S.C. Equality, wrote a column for The State in May which said, in part, “The gender-neutral language of the original bill would have allowed schools to address dating violence as violence, in whatever way seemed appropriate. In fact, sexuality only would have been addressed, I imagine, where it was specifically part of the context. Now, sexuality is the issue. Straight teens are targeted with education, policies and prevention, and gay and lesbian teens are explicitly excluded from the same education, policies and prevention.” The House is expected to take up the issue again next January.

TX – U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent was sentenced to 33 months in jail for lying to judges that were investigating him for sexually harassing his secretary. In a deal, Kent pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges and admitted that he had groped his secretary and case manager, touching their genitals against their will – reversing his previous position. Kent is the first judge to be indicted on suspicion of a sex-related crime and only the fourth judge this century to be convicted of a felony, the Houston Chronicle reports.

WA – Hispanic/Latina, African American, American Indian and Alaska Native and Asian and Pacific Islander women were victims of intimate partner homicide in Washington state at rates two to three times higher than white women, a study from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) finds. “Our findings did not tell us that violence happens more often in communities of color, but rather that victims from these communities faced significant barriers to getting the help they needed,” said WSCADV Fatality Review Coordinator Jake Fawcett. “It was not about race. It was about a lack of culturally appropriate services, interpreters and economic resources.” The report finds that many homicide victims filed for Protection Orders but did not receive potentially life-saving advocacy services. Read the complete report, Now That We Know: Findings and Recommendations from the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review, here.  

JAPAN – The number of domestic violence cases the police handled rose 20 percent over last year’s total, Kyodo World Service reports. The National Police Agency, the group conducting the survey, attributed the increase to a January revision of the domestic violence prevention law. The law now allows for protection of current or former spouses, partners and children from not only physical violence but also other threats including harassment through repeated phone calls.