What our reporters found in an in-depth investigation into domestic violence is not pretty. It will be difficult for many of you to read.
A collection of local resources related to domestic violence in Springfield and Greene County.
Living in Fear Part I: Black eye for Greene County
Domestic violence is a black eye for Springfield and Greene County. It affects thousands of lives here every year — yet a major obstacle to addressing it is that many people still don’t believe it’s widespread or much of an issue.
Data gathered by the Springfield Daily Citizen confirm the persistent belief by some that the city is the state’s hotbed of domestic violence — while others say the numbers don’t necessarily prove domestic violence is more common here than in other major cities in Missouri.
Strangulation is one of the most abusive and lethal ways to demonstrate power and control in domestic violence situations. It is also among the most common. In local cases from 2022 reviewed by the Springfield Daily Citizen, about one-third of defendants were accused of strangling the victim.
Springfield Daily Citizen reporters Steve Pokin and Jackie Rehwald rode with separate Springfield police officers on Easter — Sunday, April 9 — to observe officers Jeff Hook and Landon Hugo respond to emergency calls of domestic violence.
Over the past five years, there have been at least 16 homicides or murder-suicides in Springfield that investigators say were domestic assaults.
Springfield police use what is called a “danger assessment” or a “lethality assessment” as a tool to quickly determine how likely it is a victim of domestic violence will be killed by their intimate partner.
Living in Fear Part II: Obstacles to leaving
When Missouri legislators changed family law in 2016 to prioritize co-parenting and focus on “frequent, continuing and meaningful contact” by both parents, critics say they opened a door that gives hardcore abusers the opportunity to continue the cycle of domestic violence.
Domestic violence usually continues or increases during pregnancy, according to in-depth studies and local prosecutors.
Podcast: Behind the scenes of Living in Fear
Daily Citizen reporters Jackie Rehwald and Steve Pokin join Tom to discuss their investigation of domestic violence in Greene County. While abuse affects thousands of lives here every year, many people still don’t believe it’s widespread or much of an issue. LISTEN HERE.
Fear, and pressure not to snitch, often lead domestic violence victims to clam up — and charges to be dropped
Prosecutors say charges are often dropped in domestic violence cases because the victim declines to testify. Victims decide not to cooperate as often as 80 percent of the time after charges are filed.
After a recent courtroom experience, Reporter Jackie Rehwald says she better understands that victims of domestic abuse are reluctant to cooperate with prosecutors — they are genuinely afraid for their lives, and for their children’s lives.
Domestic violence does not always just manifest itself in physical abuse. Victims often fail to realize all of the ways their abuser is exercising power and control over them.
Experts say growing up in a home with domestic violence can lead to a cycle of abuse in which that child becomes a victim, or a perpetrator, later in life. This is just one of the many negative impacts domestic violence can have on children.
Abusers often use pets — including acts of cruelty — to control and abuse their victims, according to those who work with victims attempting to flee.
Living in Fear Part III: Systemic issues
People found guilty of domestic assault in Greene County often are placed on probation with one of the conditions being they attend a batterers intervention class instead of going to jail or prison. Yet, no one in Greene County has compiled hard data that could determine if these programs actually reduce domestic violence.
Instructor tells batterers they can change how they view relationships: ‘You are capable of being good’
Austin Boon’s task is formidable: it is to lead a group of men to a fundamental change in how they view their relationships with women — by meeting 90 minutes a week for 26 weeks.
Those running batterers programs in the Springfield area apparently have made little or no attempt to learn from — or collaborate with — the people and agencies that deal directly with victims.
Halloween murder-suicide is case study in how system is unable to keep domestic violence victims safe
Melvin Parrow was on house arrest due to felony domestic assault charges. He was given an ankle monitor and under court order to stay away from his wife, Torie Parrow. Instead, he showed up at her home, shot and killed her before killing himself. Her 8-year-old son was waiting in the car outside, hoping to…
Balancing act: Misdemeanor assault charges resolved more quickly, but critics say it makes abusers believe conflict ‘was no big deal’
Since most domestic assault charges filed in Greene County are misdemeanors — the least serious of the four domestic assault charges — critics say that may reinforce the abuser’s belief that the conflict was never a big deal in the first place.
“Domestic assault” charges were created across the nation as the movement to fight domestic violence grew.
Case study: What happens when a zealous abuse victim runs up against a perpetrator who knows the system?
In a system where victims fail to cooperate with prosecution up to 80 percent of the time, Malea Klusmeyer was unusual for her zealous involvement and her support of the criminal charges. Her abuser was an unusual defendant. Not only was he a lawyer, but he worked for a firm with deep ties to Greene…
Living in Fear Part IV: Searching for solutions
Several changes in state law, better use of existing laws and stronger efforts to enforce potential federal penalties against abusers are among the top nine solutions offered in the course of interviews with 55 sources contacted by the Springfield Daily Citizen in its six-month investigation into domestic violence.
The good news about filing for an ex parte order of protection in Greene County is that since February you can find the form online and for the first time submit it via email. The bad news is that the form is confusing, poorly organized and poorly written
A Missouri law approved in 2021 allows for lifetime protection orders if the judge determines it’s appropriate. This generally means cases where the offender continues to stalk and/or pose a danger to the victim.
Roundtable: Ugly truths about culture, desire to keep things ‘private,’ are factors in domestic violence
The impact regional culture has on the prevalence of domestic violence and other ideas about the causes and solutions to the issue were part of a roundtable discussion convened by the Springfield Daily Citizen.
Religious beliefs often play a role in how couples respond to domestic violence. That’s why advocates for victims say it’s important that faith leaders are trained to know the signs of abuse.
A Springfield Daily Citizen analysis of domestic abuse charges in 2022 found that a disproportionate number of Greene County defendants were Black. Of 150 court cases, 22 percent of the defendants were Black — 3.5 percent of the county population is Black.
Dispelling some common stereotypes: Domestic violence is not limited to the poor, or those abusing drugs and alcohol; nor are men always the abuser.
If you suspect someone is being abused, or if you want to donate or volunteer, here are agencies in Greene County to contact.
Living in Confidence: A survivor’s story turns to healing and advocacy for victims of domestic violence
First as a witness to abuse as a young girl, then as a victim in two different relationships, Kai Sutton escaped, made a new life in the Ozarks — and now is an outspoken community leader, and a model for others.
Christina Ford and In Our Town Host Tom Carlson discuss her experience with abuse and how her Rebound Foundation helps women get back on their feet. LISTEN HERE
I’m not someone who fits the idea you might have of a person who’s experienced any kind of intimate partner violence. But looks can be deceiving. It can happen to anyone.
Preparing for the photo reporting for the “Living in Fear” series presented an unusual set of obstacles.
previous daily citizen coverage on domestic abuse
With Domestic Violence Awareness month just around the corner, Harmony House — Greene County’s only shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children — is again putting the issue in peoples’ faces with its eighth annual iCare campaign.
Lisa Saylor, a domestic violence survivor, recalled going to her pastor years ago and telling him about the abuse she suffered at home. “The pastor asked about specifics,” Saylor said. “I didn’t hide anything from him. And so, in his knowledge which was very limited, he brought my abuser — my husband — into the…
Harmony House, Greene County’s only shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children, has been operating at reduced capacity the past two years to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Despite having to turn more victims away, the staff at Harmony House discovered they are now able to increase and improve the quality of services…
We welcome your feedback on our Living in Fear series. You can contact Steve Pokin or Jackie Rehwald through information included with each story, or you can email Chief Executive Officer David Stoeffler at email@example.com or phone 417-837-3664. Or consider writing a letter to the editor to share your views.