SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. – Elected officials, law enforcement and local organizations are coming together to highlight the resources available for domestic violence survivors in Vermont.
On Wednesday night, a community forum at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School featured a panel discussion on domestic violence. South Burlington, like many Vermont municipalities, has seen tragedy related to domestic violence in recent years. In May 2018, Anako “Annette” Lumubma was allegedly killed by her domestic partner. Law enforcement is still looking for the suspect, Leroy Headley.
“We know that domestic violence incidents are underreported,” said Chief Shawn Burke of the South Burlington Police Department. “We know that domestic violence does not understand any one neighborhood or demographic.”
Primary resources include but are not limited to Vermont’s toll-free 24 hour hotline (1-800-228-7395), the Steps to End Domestic Violence hotline (802-658-1996), and the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.
These resources are vital for survivors, especially because there could still be danger even after an alleged abuser is taken into custody. Lt. Gregg Jager of the South Burlington Police Department said releasing suspects with their paperwork for a court date after an arrest is a difficult part of his job.
“A few hours after a violent incident, we have to let this person go,” Jager said. “That is simply an inadequate amount of time for the victim to pick up the pieces and find some place to go. That is the biggest problem we have.”
Victims of domestic violence aren’t assigned a public defender in civil cases, which would make it easier to get a restraining order. These cases go to family court, and in many cases, the alleged abuser may have an attorney.
Last year, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said he wanted more discussion around the restraining order process for domestic violence victims.
Gretchen Gundrum, a survivor of intimate partner violence and an educator, said the status quo is unacceptable.
“No victim should be going to the courthouse by themselves to sit in front of a judge for a restraining order hearing on their own,” Gundrum said. “Let’s make change now, let’s not wait for one more reason why.”
One in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Almost one out of five murder victims in the U.S. were killed by an intimate partner.