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IN-DEPTH: Community needed as Lexington sees record domestic violence homicides

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Posted at 8:52 PM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 20:52:38-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — If you are a victim of domestic violence you deserve to be supported: Greenhouse 17’s 24-hour crisis hot-line is answered every day of the year. You can speak to a compassionate certified domestic violence advocate who wants to support your specific needs at 800-544-2022.

As the Lexington Police Department works to mitigate a rise in violence across the city, domestic violence is complicating that and putting more people in harm's way.

From January to the beginning of September, there have been 11 domestic violence-related homicides, accounting for one-third of murders in the city in 2022.

Mayor Linda Gorton says it’s alarming. The city has had more domestic or intimate partner violence this year than it has in the past 5 years on record.

“This is disturbing,” said Gorton. “This has never happened."

This summer, after the deaths of children Deon and Skylar Williams, Gorton called for the creation of a domestic violence and mental health work group. The group of various stakeholders, including judges, law enforcement, and industry experts had their first meeting in July.

“For me, it was kind of a call to action to put some folks with knowledge and expertise together to try to address these -- maybe have different ways to look at what other cities are having success with,” said Gorton about the idea.

Gorton describes the trend as a shift that should disturb everyone and a problem that needs collective effort.

“We realize it's not an easy fix, but we're going to do everything we can to support folks who have a domestic violence situation,” said Gorton.

2022 murder victims that we confirmed were domestic violence related are:

  • 10-year-old Landon Hayes
  • 18-year-old Darian Webb
  • 13-year-old Deon Williams
  • 5-year-old Skyler Williams
  • 54-year-old Leslie Bates
  • 65-year-old Lisa Wilson
  • 42-year-old Bryonny Wilson
  • 38-year-old Bronwyn Wilson
  • 35-year-old Ashley Stamper

Lexington's Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition has started doing fatality reviews again, for the first time in five years.

Members plan to have their second fatality review in October to look at Landon Hayes's case.

Stephanie Theakston, the Program Coordinator for Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Prevention, says the four-hour meetings are thorough and take months to plan.

"We take a deep dive into a domestic violence-related murder and see what and when the people involved with that survivor touched what agencies in town and try to lay out a timeline. And the purpose of that is to see where, perhaps in the future, we could change our intervention or add more intervention to be able to prevent fatalities," said Theakston.

Theakston says the group talked about doing reviews for every domestic violence fatality that occurs but aren’t at that capacity yet.

“It takes time to get all the record information from the agencies. They have forms to fill out. We just want to make sure we’re being as thorough as we can,” said Theakston.

Theakston says advocates who have worked with victims, the Commonwealth's Attorney, and an internal committee decide which cases to review. It’s a closed group for confidentiality purposes.

The group, which is a smaller subgroup of the coalition, will share its recommendations publicly so the community can use them to work on solutions.

Here's their first set of 2022 recommendations: FNFRT Recommendations 2_22 full.pdf (lexingtonky.gov)

A nationally recognized violence prevention program, Green Dot, teaches people how to safely intervene as a bystander. They shared with us their three D’s:

  • Direct – Say something to the person doing the harm, or to the person being harmed to address the impending red dot (e.g. “That’s not appropriate” or “Do you need help?”)
  • Distract – Create a silly (or not so silly) distraction to divert people’s attention away from the red dot (e.g. press the panic button on your car keys if your car is near by – it works!)
  • Delegate – Seek assistance from or bring the situation to the attention of someone better positioned to intervene (e.g. outgoing friend, party host, law enforcement, teacher, etc.).

"It's really important that our community believes survivors when they say that they are being harmed and look at the behavior of the perpetrator rather than the victim,” Theakston said.