DV victims say courts, law enforcement too lenient on abusers

DV victims say courts, law enforcement too lenient on abusers
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Domestic violence victims say they're facing a challenging disconnect between the Tennessee courts and local law enforcement.

Victims say the courts seem lenient on domestic violence, and that some laws contradict one another.

One Mid-South woman says she's lived in fear for seven years. She did not want give her name because she feels in danger.

She left after her ex beat her in front of their son.

"It's not as easy as they say to get away," said the victim.

She says police know her husband has guns, even though Tennessee law prohibits convicted abusers from possessing firearms. Law enforcement can only seize weapons if they believe a criminal domestic abuse offense has occurred, and they can only confiscate the specific firearm used by an abuser while threatening the victim.

Gun enthusiasts say domestic violence and the Second Amendment right to carry firearms are two different issues, calling guns "equalizers" for the victims.

This woman decided to share her story after a man with a domestic violence history killed his estranged wife outside her job last week.

Despite a track record of domestic violence, Hunter Rodriguez was able to hold onto his gun permit because he received a lower sentence and diversion, and his wife never got a restraining order against him.

Last December, Scott Bondzio held police at bay for 13 hours outside his estranged girlfriend's car dealership job with a gun to his head. He was never charged, despite his girlfriend saying he threatened her life, because there were no witnesses.

"A protective order is nothing but a piece of paper," the domestic violence survivor commented. "It does not do anything to protect a person."

However, all laws hinge on victims documenting their situation.

"It may seem like a piece of paper, but it's an important piece of paper," said Family Safety Center Executive Director Olliette Murry.

The Family Safety Center, founded in 2009, opened two years after this mother's abuse began. The center hopes she'll use their resources to get an individual danger assessment and safety plan.

"One reason the Family Safety Center was designed was so we could do a better job with information sharing with multiple agencies," Murry explained.

Meanwhile, groups across the state are working to end the legal contradictions that keep victims in fear.

"We all need to stand up and say we're not going to take it anymore," said the victim.

If you need help, even just for a safety plan, contact Family Safety Center at 901-222-4400.

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