Guest column: Linda Oberhaus ... Setting record straight on domestic violence issue, comment

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Guest commentary

Effective advocacy is never about one person. It’s rarely about one agency, either. While this advocate is incredibly grateful for the attention that this newspaper has given to the efforts of her agency, a bit of clarification is overdue at this time.

The Shelter for Abused Women & Children is just one part of an extensive team that has come together in the quest to end domestic violence in our community. The Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office, the Naples Police Department, the Collier County School District and Legal Aid Services are but a few of the partners joining in and committed to this effort.

Despite our interdependence upon each other, the shelter has never shied away from urging any of its partners to pull harder if it has found a team member’s effort to be lacking.

Occasionally, these calls to action have taken the form of letters to your editors, following stories in your paper that have highlighted certain deficiencies.

One such letter last year captured the attention of your editors and even led to the singular honor of this advocate being named “Person of the Year” by editorial page editor Jeff Lytle.

Unfortunately, some recent references to that old letter have forced me to acknowledge that its call to action was inartfully crafted and has missed its intended target entirely.

Despite the references to law enforcement in my letter, my concern there did not center around the investigation performed by sheriff’s deputies in Konnie Bedell’s case. They appear to have collected and documented all of the information they could regarding Konnie’s abuser’s actions, turning this information over to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

My concern then, as it is today, is that too many of these cases are still being dumped under the convenient heading of “uncooperative victim,” despite there being a law on the books that makes a victim’s cooperation legally irrelevant. This just makes sense: What really is the difference between prosecuting domestic violence with an uncooperative victim and prosecuting a domestic homicide, where the victim is dead? Ironically, we give our best effort in the latter scenario, but not the former.

The Sheriff’s Office has demonstrated time and time again its commitment to zero tolerance for domestic violence in this community, but deputies don’t prosecute cases and they can’t ultimately hold offenders accountable. This is what prosecutors must do, and we hope this call to action will be clear, and will be heeded.

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