Special Reports

Advocates: Community must fight domestic abuse

It takes more than cops, courts and special commissions to stop domestic violence, members of the Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence said Friday.

Everyone - neighbors, doctors and nurses, employers, members of faith communities - needs to learn the warning signs and take responsibility for helping victims and seeing that perpetrators of violence are held accountable, they said in a news conference.

"I came here today because I'm angry, I'm frustrated, I'm just plain disgusted will all the recent violence in our community," said Ann Eft, commission director. "I feel like the predators have just declared an open season on their intimate partners."

The death of Crystal Brame, shot April 26 by her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, who then committed suicide, focused widespread attention on the issue of domestic violence. In divorce papers filed before their deaths, both partners had accused each other of physical abuse. Since then, at least two more killings linked to domestic violence have taken place in Pierce County.

On June 20, Martha Elizabeth Vaughn, 54, was stabbed and strangled as she tried to break up a fight between her son and his wife. Her 27-year-old son, Robert Ray Smith, who has a history of domestic violence arrest, was charged with first-degree murder and second-degree assault. On July 5, the body of 32-year-old Angela Marie Alden was found on the banks of the Puyallup River. Her 30-year-old estranged husband, Michael Day Alden, was charged with aggravated first-degree murder in her strangulation.

Eft said recent callers to the commission's helpline say they feel like "sitting ducks, just waiting to get picked off."

Eft and Alisa Velonis, a family violence prevention specialist with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, called for communitywide awareness and education about domestic violence.

Velonis and others are working to train health care providers to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence among their patients. Later this month, commission members will hold a training session for employers on how they can help employees who are dealing with domestic violence issues. Domestic violence advocates, clergy members and lay people in Pierce County are working together in a group called "Faith Partners Against Family Violence," Velonis said.

Eft urged not only victims, but others who know them, to seek assistance through channels such as the Pierce County Domestic Violence Helpline.

"Stopping domestic violence is your responsibility," Eft said. "Listen, watch, ask. Don't wait for the black eye or bruises."

Staff writer Stacey Mulick contributed to this report.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635


How you can help domestic violence victims

• Recognize controlling behaviors: monitoring phone calls, controlling who a partner visits, checking car odometers, destroying prized possessions, hiding car keys.

• If a relative has plans to attend a family gathering and doesn't show up, ask why.

• If a co-worker seems reluctant to go home or fearful about a phone call from home, ask about it.

• Be prepared to call 911 if you hear signs of violence at a neighbor's home.

• Call the Domestic Violence Helpline for resources.

• Do a regular check on victims. Set up a code system so you'll know when a victim needs help.

• Employers can use models already in place that help workers with substance abuse or mental health problems to offer help for both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.

Source: Pierce County Commission Against Domestic Violence

• Call the 24-hour Pierce County Domestic Violence Helpline at 253-798-4166 or 800-764-2420. Your call can remain anonymous and confidential.