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Workplace Violence Prevention News

Victim predicted her murder. Domestic violence and the workplace

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Victim predicted her murder

Thursday morning, an Orange County motel was the scene of a workplace shooting.  When it was over three women were shot and two were dead. 28 Carlene Pierre had just served her estranged ex-boyfriend with a Protective Order the night before.  The next morning he showed up at her work and killed her and her coworker.  He then drove down the street to another motel and shot a third women who was a friend of Ms. Pierre.  

Carlene's family is heartbroken...and frustrated.  There had been a long history of violence between the couple and Carlene was clearly afraid for her own life.  She detailed incidents of significant violence at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in her petition for a protective order.  Several of the acts of violence even took place at her work.  WFTV's legal analyst Bill Sheaffer, when asked about what more could have been done said "The system didn't fail the victims...there was nothing more law enforcement could have done."   As a police officer, I understand the value and usefulness that a protective order can give law enforcement as a tool to arrest a person who violates the orders.  However, as happened in this tragedy, a piece of paper will not keep you safe.  Serving Carlene's ex-boyfriend with the protective order only further enraged him.  Carlen's family did everything law enforcement suggested and reached out to for help as the violence escalated.  Carlene predicted her own murder.  Her intuition told her that she was in imminent danger from her ex-boyfriend and she tried to protect herself.  Law enforcement and the courts clearly agreed and responded with the resources and tools that are available to them. The tragic truth was that it just wasn't enough.

Is getting a Protective Order the right thing to do?

As a society we have to learn from this tragedy.  This was not a random act of violence, there were significant and sustained warning signs.  While I agree that law enforcement did all it could, as a society we did fail these victims.  I always questioned victims of domestic violence on what they believe would happen if they obtain a protective order.  Its very important to evaluate the likelihood that the abuse will continue or escalate his violent actions.   When a likelihood of continued violence exists, additional measures must be taken.  It may not be fair, but women who find themselves in these situations should consider moving to a secret location, if possible changing work locations or taking whatever steps necessary to create a barrier between themselves and their abuser.  This may be controversial, but I do not always think getting a protective order is the right thing to do.  The reality is that people who will obey the protective order are not likely to commit acts of violence.  On the other hand, a person intent on committing a violent act is not deterred by piece of paper. 

Staying safe is not always fair

The ex-boyfriend knew exactly where to find Carlene and went straight to her work the morning after being served with the protective order.  Sometimes we have to take extreme measures to keep the ones we care about safe.  Its easy to tell somebody to move, or change jobs, but there are significant and complicated financial, emotional and often legal issues.   However, the bottom line is the safety of the victim and her family.  In many cases it comes down to making some very difficult decisions, at least until law enforcement and the courts can catch up with the abuser, or the threat of violence decreases.  

Employers have a responsibility

Carlene's abuser killed her coworker as well.   Before committing his final violent act there had been several violent incidents at her workplace.  Her employers may or may not have been aware of the pattern of violence.  Domestic violence often does spill into the workplace and managers and supervisors have to be aware of the warning signs that one of their employees may be a victim.  Companies can take some very basic steps to protect their employees.   It may be as simple as giving the victim a short paid vacation, moving them to a different location or simply being supportive of their employee.   Victims of domestic violence should consider sharing their situation with their employer and/or coworkers.  If nothing else there will be additional eyes watching for the abuser to show up at the office. 

What more can we do?

Community organizations are uniquely qualified to help out in situations like Carlend's.  Domestic violence awareness and prevention groups have the experience and resources to help victims navigate the courts, find resources and often they run crisis shelters that victims and thier kids can stay in while the situation is being resolved.  As a society we also have to be supportive and understanding of victims of domestic violence. Its not at all uncommon for victims to return to their abusers, even after significant case of violence.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but simply put, victims have often been emotionally abused as severely or worst then they were physically; it takes time for them to heal from the wounds and develop the strength to move forward. 

These organization often struggle to maintain funding.  What more can be done?  Support your local domestic violence prevention organization.  Support your employees when the come to you...and if you see something SAY SOMETHING!
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