Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Story for Advocates to Consider

Ex-Murder Suspect Says Domestic Violence Groups Overlooked Her Claims
Originally printed at http://www.keyt.com/news/local/47243887.html
Ventura, CA-- An ex-sheriff's deputy who was exonerated last week in the stabbing death of her lover in self-defense says, domestic violence advocacy groups abandoned her in her time of need.
Claudia Valenciana claims several groups would not help her when they found out she may be facing murder charges.
KEY News Bureau Chief Tracy Lehr joins us from our ventura county bureau with more.
For more information about domestic violence advocacy you can log onto www.icfs.org and the Coalition to End Family Violence at www.coalition.org
Statement of Claudia Valenciana:
Thank you everyone for coming. I asked for Ron to have everyone here so I could make a statement because I think it’s important for others to know a little of my story to hopefully prevent anyone from experiencing what I had experienced for the better part of two years.
I am a victim of domestic violence. I was abused by the man I loved over a majority of my relationship with him. I suffered both physical and mental abuse. Nobody wanted to believe that a woman like me could be abused. I know I did not’t want to believe it, so I understand why my friends, family, and my employer did not want to believe it.
I was embarrassed about being the victim of abuse, believing that as a police officer, a person who prided herself on demonstrating a strong image and personality would allow herself to be abused. I realize how it’s hard for others to understand how a woman in my profession could be a victim of abuse, I didn’t understand it myself. After this incident, when I sat down and actually talked about the number of times I had been hit, threatened, thrown down, kicked, and humiliated I was shocked at what I accepted. It is hard to explain to those around me why I would tolerate such behavior, but for the longest time I thought he would change, that his promises to stop would be kept, that I could be happy with a man I thought I loved.
My employer ignored the obvious signs of abuse, and when my abuser tried to segregate me from my friends and my family, my employer attempted to segregate me from colleagues. My employer was aware that police were called to my house on a report that I was being attacked. They were aware that officers contacted me and that I said everything was ok and there was no need to come in my house. Terrified, I said this with my abuser standing just a few feet away from me, knowing that the officers would take my word for it because I was a fellow cop. Had I been anyone else the officers would have demanded entry into my house, completed a follow up investigation to make sure I was safe, and spoken to JR.
My employer ordered me to first leave my abuser. When I could not, for like most victims of domestic violence I felt trapped and helpless, my employer attempted to prevent me from working in my profession. By telling me I could not work and ordering other officers not to speak to me, my employer effetely helped my abuser segregate me from some of my closest friends my fellow officers. I was paralyzed with fear, knowing even if I left JR he would never let me go. He would find me.
I of course fought my employer’s attempts to terminate me. However, even at that time I could not admit what was truly happening. In going through that process I realized how important it was for me to keep JR’s secret. I felt compelled not to tell anybody that he was an abuser, and that I was his victim and that compulsion cost me my job.
I have also realized through my recent experiences that those who claim to be advocates for victims of domestic violence only advocate for victims who they perceive can be victims. When I attempted to reach out to some of these advocates for help and advice local advocacy groups told me that there were not interested in helping me; apparently thinking that a woman who appeared capable of defending herself from her attacker could not be a victim of domestic violence. Maybe now they will realize that women who appear strong on the surface, women in professions that are traditionally male dominated, like police officers or firefighters can be abused. I hope those so called advocates of abused women realize that all victims of domestic violence deserve their help and the effectiveness of their advocacy.
I know many of you are here to hear what I have to say about the day of the incident and what actually happened. I will speak to that now for the first time publically. The weekend prior to Monday March 2nd, I was attacked by JR both in my home and at a hotel out of the county. I attempted to end my relationship with JR that weekend, and when I took a strong stance on that he made it clear that he would not allow me to leave him. He first attacked me on that weekend at a hotel in Long Beach. A security guard came to our room and asked if I needed help That security guard may have saved my life. When I returned home, JR came with me and would not leave. He proceeded to keep me in my house, his prisoner throughout the night of March 1st and through the early morning of March 2nd. I attempted to defend myself but I was no match for him. I began to fear and then believed that I was not going to survive this attack.
JR left my house early on the morning of March 2nd, and I believed he was going to report to his probation officer. I believed at that time that his probation officer would notice the scratches I had left on him when I was attempting to defend myself. He was on probation for domestic violence so I believed that the probation officer would notice the marks and arrest him for violating his probation since he had no plausible explanation for why he had visible scratches on his body.
To my shock JR returned to my home that morning after his probation appointment. He was just as angry as he was the night before, and when I tried to prevent him from entering my house he overwhelmed me and forced his way into my home. He then attacked me. I knew at some point that I was not going to survive this attack. I am a trained officer, have practiced martial arts, and have even boxed professionally, but JR’s size and strength was too much for me. He was enraged and he made it clear that he was going to hurt me, and I feared he was going to keep his word and that he would actually kill me. He often told me that if he could not have me nobody could. At that point on that morning all I could think of was that I wanted to live, that I needed to do everything I could to see my son again. I will not give specific details, but I will say I fought for my life that morning.
When I saw JR bleeding, I was the one who called 911, even though JR begged me not to do so saying his probation was going to be violated for this. When we were waiting for help to arrive, JR told me what to say to the police and like always I told the police what JR told me to say. I am now aware that it was the same statement that JR said to one of the people who arrived to render aid.
I still mourn JR’s death, which I know is hard for people to understand. Even though he was the person who physically abused me, I did love him. As hard as it is for you to understand that and until recently it was even harder for me to understand it is a fact of my life. I am grateful to my doctor who has assisted me through therapy with dealing with the trauma leading up to and including March 2nd and also the affects of long term abuse. I am starting to understand what I experienced and more importantly how I can help others prevent it from happening to them.
I was fortunate that much of the abuse I reported to my lawyer and his investigator that occurred during the course of my relationship with JR could be corroborated; I was surprised at how many people had seen so much. I do realize how difficult a decision it was for the District Attorney to find that JR’s death occurred during an act of self defense. I realize that if my history of abuse at the hands of JR could not have been corroborated by the investigators on both sides of this case, and if Investigators ignored or missed some of the evidence found in my home that the DA may have reached a different conclusion. What I have learned through this case is that a good investigation is not one motivated by a desire to convict a suspect it is motivated by a desire to find the truth. I will take that lesson back with me when I resume my career in law enforcement.
I want to thank all of my family, friends, and fellow Officers who expressed their support and offered me help during this time. I want to thank Ron and the people of his office for their guidance and advice and Ron’s investigator Gene Thayer for his efforts in investigating my case. I put a great deal of trust in these people and I am grateful for their support.
As for the future, I will attempt to get my job back. I will do so by attempting to educate my department on the effects of domestic violence and how they can do more to help employees who may be victims of abuse. It is also my desire to be the voice for other women who are suffering at the hands of their abusers, and maybe I can play a small part in preventing other women from suffering what I have experienced. I plan on helping others who are silent victims of abuse, to let them know that there are people who will listen, and that they can break the cycle of violence by getting help.
Once again thank you for coming, I am sure many of you have questions but on the advice of Ron with my pending hearing coming up I will not be answering them. I will leave you with Ron and hopefully he can answer any of the remaining questions you all may have. Thank You

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