Gravity of Abuse (Chapter Four: Three Strikes)

Non-Fiction | published in Real Change on May. 30th, 2012

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The shelter

At Harborview Medical Center, CT scans revealed no fractures or dislocations in Brandy’s face or jaw. She received a prescription for 800 mg of ibuprofen. But the pills only touched the physical pain. To address emotional well-being, an ER social worker speaks to all assault victims. Brandy told her social worker she wanted to go to a domestic violence shelter.

In King County, at least 20 agencies or shelters assist women facing domestic violence. Every shelter the social worker called was full. A shelter in Snohomish County, north of Seattle, had space, but it didn’t take clients at night. Still, she gave Brandy a list.

Brandy was tired, sore and frightened. Travelling in a taxi with Ian, she rode to the only place where she knew she could stay: Apartment 21.

Francisco told her she could stay as long as she wanted ... but the rent: They had to cover the rent. The day following the assault was Friday, payday, so Francisco got Richard’s check, and Brandy signed it — she’d done it before — and used the money to help out.

But on top of the $1,050 rent, there was still a security deposit to pay off. Brandy contributed some of the money she received from the federal program TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. She used her food stamps to feed herself, Ian and Francisco.

Sometimes she also fed their new roommate, a guy Francisco had invited to move into the apartment to help with the bills. When Richard had lived there and he’d fought with Brandy, she’d locked him out of the bedroom — so Richard had removed the doorknob. Brandy now felt a little uncomfortable in the apartment, with a man she didn’t know and no lock on her bedroom door. Maybe, she thought, it was best to move. But where?

She could only think of one place: Hope Place, three blocks away. Before she’d first moved into the apartment, Brandy and Ian had stayed in a room there. That’s why she had run to the shelter the night of the assault. It felt safe.

She interviewed with Hope Place staff to ask about living there again. In June, six weeks after the assault, she and Ian moved back to the place where she would finally put the abuse to an end.

The case

But the end of the violence marked the beginning of a court case: The State of Washington v. Richard James Duncan.

After booking him, officers transported Richard to the King County Jail. At his arraignment on May 12, Richard heard the initial charges against him: assault in the second degree – domestic violence, for the alleged strangulation of Brandy; and felony harassment, for a drunken outburst Richard made to officers in the squad car. At a subsequent hearing, bail was set for $150,000.

As the case developed, a state prosecutor realized the attempted April 29, 2010, strangulation of Brandy wasn’t Richard’s only assault against her: in mid-August 2009, he’d been arrested for domestic violence assault in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor, that occurred in a Seattle motel when Brandy was eight months pregnant; three months later, he committed another assault in a Renton transitional housing unit but he had evaded police. That equaled three assaults, two of which had occurred when a no-contact order was in effect, which required he stay 500 feet away from her. Along with those assaults, he had two outstanding arrest warrants.

And the prosecutor discovered more. Richard’s criminal history from Nevada included convictions for assault with a deadly weapon in 2005, possession of a stolen vehicle in 2002 and a domestic battery charge in 1998, plus others.

The prosecutor felt if the court released Richard, he’d commit another violent offense. At a subsequent hearing, the prosecutor asked for increased bail. The judge agreed.

The court raised Richard’s bail to $500,000.

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