Assistant State Attorney Drake talks on domestic violence
Assistant State Attorney Teresa Drake refers to her job as “homicide prevention.” Drake, county court division chief for the Eighth circuit, spoke at the Levin College of Law on Oct. 31 about her experiences prosecuting domestic violence cases, stressing the importance of attorneys handling such cases with both delicate care and fierce advocacy.
“Control issues in a relationship are the hallmark of a batterer,” Drake explained.
The mechanisms that abusers use to control their victims, according to Drake, are varied and include social isolation, monetary restriction, verbal attacks, physical attacks, and threats. Many abusers also use children to communicate threats, send messages, and manipulate their victims.
According to Drake, 73 percent of all emergency room visits and 70 percent of all calls to law enforcement occur when victims are attempting to leave their abusers. Additionally, most domestic violence abuse victims who die at the hands of their abusers die after they have left the relationship — the abuser’s answer to losing control over the victim.
In order to help protect victims once abuse has been reported, Drake works closely with Peaceful Paths, a Gainesville-based domestic abuse help network, and Three Rivers Legal Services, which helps provide legal assistance to underprivileged clients. Drake praised the Gainesville area for having such strong programs to aid domestic abuse victims.
Help being available, however, does not necessarily mean that victims will seek it.
Drake addressed several of the complex reasons why victims are often unwilling to come forward. One reason is that many victims do not even realize that they are victims, because the image of a woman with a black eye or a broken nose has been burned into society’s collective consciousness as what a domestic abuse victim must look like.Instead, Drake explained, most victims will have either less-visible injuries or no injuries, and victims will often not identify an occasional shove or push as abusive. Similarly, many victims of emotional abuse do not identify themselves as victims since they also lack the physical traits of abuse.
Just as not all abuse victims will have bruises, Drake noted that not all abusers seem abusive and are often highly charming masters of manipulation. She also addressed the issue of providing legal representation to a batterer. While many shudder at the thought, Drake pointed out that batterers also need an attorney who will have the best interests of any children in mind and will direct the abuser to appropriate outlets to work toward stopping the abusive behavior.
In determining if a potential client is in fact a potential batterer, Drake identifies three warning signs: minimizing, denying, and blaming. She added that the batterer will often make unsubstantiated accusations against the victim, deflecting fault from themselves.
By assisting victims of domestic abuse in escaping from an abusive relationship, and by prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence, Drake hopes to break the cycle of abuse in relationships that otherwise could have ended in tragedy.
For more information about types of domestic violence and help available to victims in the Gainesville area, visit www.peacefulpaths.org.