Domestic Abyss
Westword has provided a very valuable public service with its June 11 report on domestic violence, "Hitting Them Where They Live." But you didn't stop there: The domestic-violence stories were also good (if depressing) reading, told with the usual Westword flair. Congratulations are in order to all involved.

Sheila Fox

I hope you can find it in your articles on domestic violence to tell both sides of the story. There are so many people being falsely accused of this very serious crime, and they are considered guilty until found innocent. Maybe $5,000 or $10,000 later, justice is truly served--after people's lives are already ruined.

Bruce Werschke
via the Internet

As a survivor of domestic violence and of stalking, I just wanted to say that Mike Newell, profiled in Steve Jackson's "Falling Through the Cracks," is a hero. I wish I had had him on my side during my ordeal. Betty was very lucky to have his support and protection in a situation where the victim is often vulnerable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The world needs more people like him.

Rhiannon O'Byrne

I am a former perpetrator and also a victim of abuse in the drama-triangle called domestic violence. My hat is off to you and your team for an amazingly accurate and balanced representation of the topic.

Too bad I was so biased, ignorant and narrow-minded in my first marriage. Both my former spouse and I were outrageously abusive. The situation was made much more complex by those who are personally gaining in the $16 billion martyr/victim perpetuation "business," a monster that we've created that rarely caters to those of male gender. Thus, we lose the opportunity to eliminate the root cause and elect instead to treat the symptoms. The family system in which I thrived was sick and, thank God, is doomed to failure.

I consider myself very lucky to be here and now in a co-creative partnership with a self-liberated woman (totally equal) who likewise sees through the sacred veil and likewise was deeply scarred by "the system." The deepest of all our pain comes to us when we see the damage we have perpetuated upon our own children, how they mimic and emulate what we erroneously taught them, and how they have no interest in learning about the wizard behind the curtain.

Name withheld on request
via the Internet

Thank you, thank you. As a survivor of an abusive marriage, I cannot tell you how important it is to educate people about domestic violence. While it is true that programs and laws dealing with it have improved over the past twenty years, the basic problem of abusive men remains a constant.

Jeri Ryder

I read your articles on domestic violence with great interest. I was dragged into the sewer of the DV program by an ex-girlfriend who had worked in the court system for years and played it like a harp. After wracking up $20,000 in attorneys' bills, having my house burned to the ground and being accused of child abuse, assault with Uzis and stalking, I ended up "beating" all of the charges except the one where I confronted the new boyfriend. After amassing a huge list of false accusations over two years, the county finally filed stalking and other charges against her, but they called her to warn her that the charges were coming and she fled the state.

The list goes on, but so do I.
Michael McGee
via the Internet

Steve Jackson's "A Quick Ride on a Fast Track" correctly points out that domestic-violence programs have come a long way since even five years ago. However, in giving a glowing report to Jefferson County's Fast Track program, the possibility that the program needs to be better is not even mentioned.

I have been through the Fast Track program and was extremely dissatisfied with how my case was handled. First, the offender was arrested even though there were no prior incidents of abuse toward me; there was no damage other than a painless red mark I wasn't even the first to notice; and getting a conviction was likely doubtful because of the lack of damage.

Second, I was issued a restraining order and told how to handle it by the police officers (who couldn't have been any better in handling all this), but I was not told that the offender had an assault rap sheet a mile long. This was vital information and if he had chosen to come after me, it might have meant the difference between health and serious injury. I was not told by the victim/witness center, even though there was ample time to do so.

Third, I was ill-prepared for the trial. I was not told who the prosecutor was until a few minutes before it was to begin, which was a full year after the "assault." I called the center many times to ask questions about my case, but none of my calls were ever returned. The prosecutor chided me in recess for adopting a less-than-friendly tone with the defense attorney when the guy insinuated that the whole thing was my fault--actually chided me for being "too combative."

To add insult to injury, I was never called back after the trial to either follow up on the case or even find out what the verdict was. To this day I don't know if he was convicted or acquitted, and I know any calls I make in that matter will not be returned.

If this is indicative of the way women are treated in the Fast Track program, then it needs to be changed, and fast. Just because a program is in place doesn't mean it works, and every domestic-violence program out there needs to treat every victim with respect, dignity and confidence. Jeffco seriously needs to work on its considerable problems before it can ever call itself a credit to domestic-violence awareness. Keeping victims in the dark does not help.

Name withheld on request

Thank you for covering the heretofore hidden social issue of domestic violence. Although your articles presented both sides, a few very important points were missed. First, even a misdemeanor domestic-violence conviction, under the Brady Bill, completely trashes an individual's constitutional right to own and bear arms--forever. This alone makes a domestic-violence accusation a serious matter.

Second, in Adams County, and specifically in Westminster, one even accused of domestic violence loses all future equal protections under the law, as also supposedly guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States. Following an initial accusation, Adams County authorities (and presumably others) refuse to even take a complaint from a so-called perpetrator against the same so-called victim. In essence, the accused no longer has any police protection against any outrageous acts of harassment, threats, etc. the so-called victim cares to commit following the initial accusation. This enables a person using a fabricated domestic-violence accusation to thereafter further use it to inflict even more punishment upon the falsely accused victim and to do so with virtual impunity. Adding this to the information Westword gave with respect to the growing tendency for domestic-violence complaints to be used as a proactive weapon in child-custody disputes, the lesson is clear: Don't be the second person in a disintegrating relationship to bring a domestic-violence complaint, especially where children are at issue.

Lastly, if one is falsely accused of domestic violence, all is not lost simply because the police and the criminal courts refuse to protect you. The civil tort of malicious prosecution is available to all falsely accused persons. What's more, if the current abuse of this system is to be stopped in its tracks, civil action may be an individual's only realistic tool for recovering damages to which he is entitled under the law. This tort action is available to all in Colorado, including those in a marital relationship.

I speak from personal experience: I was falsely accused by my mate. I fought and was acquitted. I followed that with a successful malicious-prosecution civil lawsuit. Although I'm an attorney, I became so fed up with this aspect of the criminal justice system that I elected not to practice law. But after reading in Westword how much worse things have gotten in just the last few years, I've decided that in good conscience, I can no longer stand by without putting my skills and training into this justice-system insanity. I will accept domestic-violence cases and will make my services available pro bono to those who cannot afford a legal defense. I'm also actively looking for constitutional test cases to bring some semblance of balance and rationality back into the system.

Stephen Nicholas Lancaster

Ticket to Ride
Regarding Tony Perez-Giese's "Free Rides," in the June 11 issue:
When it comes to minority groups and discrimination, there is one group, and only one, of which any of us can become a member through no choice or fault of our own. We can all become handicapped through disease or injury. Fortunately, the laws have finally given acknowledgement to the need for handicapped access. Unfortunately, there are many people who take advantage of the ease in getting handicapped placards. Unfortunately, many people park in handicapped spaces who don't belong there. Unfortunately, many businesses are reluctant to enforce handicapped-parking restrictions in their own lots. Unfortunately, the Denver police place a very low priority on responding to calls about handicapped parking-space abuse.

Kudos to Joyce Foster. It is about time someone did something about this. I constantly see young, able-bodied people parking in handicapped spaces and having the proper placard. You know it isn't theirs; it belongs to a family member or is stolen. But how do you prove it? There should be heavy fines for misusing a placard, at least $200 for the first offense, with increases for each succeeding violation. There is simply no excuse for using a handicapped space if you are not entitled to it. The ultimate truth is that the rights of the handicapped are everyone's business--because any one of us can become handicapped at any time.

One time I confronted a big, fat, self-important woman who parked her Cadillac illegally at a Safeway. I said, "You are parked in a handicapped space without a proper plate or placard." She replied, "I'm a businesswoman. I don't have time for this. Besides, I'm from Texas." I replied, "Now, there is a handicap."

Brian Kelly

The Morals Squad
Regarding Eric Dexheimer's "The Bong Goodbye," in the May 14 issue:
I'd like to know what it is that the concerned citizens of Alamosa are trying to accomplish with their crusade. It's obvious that Mr. Primavera wasn't breaking any laws and that this is more of a moral battle than a legal one. What does forcing your morals on someone else accomplish besides making that person dislike you? All a person has to do is look around to see that there are a lot different versions of wrong and right, and any one person's version is no more correct than another person's. Maybe someday people will realize that they are not right and every one else is not wrong 100 percent of the time and stop treating the rest of the world as if they're morally superior. Then maybe we can actually try to get along for a change and let each other decide how we want to run our own lives. But I'm sure that would be immoral by someone's standards, and they'll make sure we can't do it for our own sakes.

David Simpkins

A Modest Error
While I greatly appreciated Michael Paglia's mention of Rebecca Vaughan's current exhibition in Gallery Van Go ("Rebels With Causes," June 11), I must point out one major factual error. Paglia stated that the van gallery is owned by "artist Joe Miller." This is incorrect. I am a newspaper editor and freelance art critic. Calling me an artist severely cheapens the term.

Joe Miller

Tilting at Windmills
I was disappointed that Jim Lillie's review of the Denver Center Theater Company's Don Quixote ("The Impossible Dreck," June 11) underestimated the production and the significance of less traditional theater in general. Lillie's statement that this production "only serves to confuse spectators who thought they were making the trip downtown to see a classic tale" gives the impression that theatergoers can passively sit back amid their cushions of expectations as they do while watching a sitcom on TV. I don't believe that theater is a one-way exchange that frees the audience of any creative responsibility.

I feel that Lillie's attitude that this production was simply a "lame experimental attempt" or only "on-the-job-training" for the company members is dangerous. It fails to acknowledge the audience's responsibility in experimental theater and, consequently, does not urge spectators to stretch their artistic limbs in synch with the theater artists in this new endeavor. I wholeheartedly support the Denver Center's newest attempt at experimentation. What could be more important than finding the theater of today, of this very moment? Just as Lillie acknowledges the artist's right to test and obliterate boundaries, I urge the audience to play its part in testing and obliterating its own expectations to become an equal partner in the creative theatrical experience.

Maiya Murphy
via the Internet

Letters policy: Westword wants to hear from you, whether you have a complaint or compliment about what we write from week to week. Letters should be no more than 200 words; we reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity. Although we'll occasionally withhold an author's name on request, all letters must include your name, address and telephone number. Write to:

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Missed a story? The entire editorial contents of Westword, dating back to July 1, 1996, are available online at www.westword.com/archive/ index.html.


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