Welcome to the Power Against Violence and Abuse website. Power Against has been formed to bring awareness and forge support for violence and abuse victims through the strength sport community: powerlifting, strongman and bodybuilding. We have initiated this awareness group because our lives and hearts have been touched by the victims of abuse. You may have come here because you too know someone who is in an abusive situation, are a victim yourself or would like to learn more.
Jennifer Burkey says the memory of a night three years ago still terrifies her.
That’s when her live-in boyfriend, she says, threatened her life, chased her around their Fort Ann home and then choked her until she was unconscious.
“I don’t know how long I was out, but when I woke up he was standing over me,” Burkey told me. “When I tasted blood, I realized what was going on.”
Burkey fled the house and ran to a neighbor’s home, she says. There, she called police, who arrested the boyfriend.
He was charged with criminal mischief, menacing and unlawful imprisonment. But a year later, under a plea agreement offered by Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright, he pleaded guilty only to disorderly conduct. Burkey was upset about the plea deal, which she considers far too lenient. But the agreement came with a consolation: A judge would issue an order of protection that would shield her from contact by the boyfriend, who had moved from the house. It wasn’t much. But it was something.
There was just one problem. The two-year order of protection was never served on the boyfriend. And later, when he allegedly barraged Burkey with text messages and repeatedly called her, the order wasn’t in place to protect her.
“I feel like I’m really lucky to be alive,” said Burkey, who asked that the ex-boyfriend not be named in this story. “But what does it take for the system to do right by a crime victim?”
The order, which bars the ex from any contact with Burkey, was issued by Granville Town Justice Donald Parker, who has since retired from the bench and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Normally in such a case, the judge will send the order to the sheriff’s department, which then makes sure it’s served on the defendant. But the Washington County Sheriff’s Office says it never received the order and, thus, never served it. That inconvenient fact went undiscovered for many months, as there was no attempt at contact by the boyfriend after his plea.
But text messages and phone calls began earlier this year, Burkey says, and they scared her. One night in June, she received 32 text messages from the boyfriend between 1:22 and 1:37 a.m., she says. She showed the phone records to the sheriff’s department. She also taped a phone conversation with the boyfriend — seemingly more evidence that he was ignoring the protection order, which bars all contact with Burkey.
The sheriff’s department moved to arrest the boyfriend for criminal contempt. And that’s when it discovered the problem, says John Winchell, the undersheriff in Washington County. So no arrest was made .The boyfriend’s attorney, believes that was the right decision. If the order was never served, then there were no specific terms his client could violate. Now, of course, it’s the district attorney’s office that’s supposed to look out for women like Burkey. From my point of view, the district attorney has responsibility for ensuring that a order of protection is properly in place.
But Kortright, who was first elected district attorney in Washington County in 2005, laid the blame with Parker, the former judge from Granville. Kortright said he doesn’t have the manpower to ensure that orders of protection are delivered. “I don’t know of a (district attorney’s) office that can check on every order to make sure they’re served,” said Kortright, who described the judge’s apparent error as “kind of a shock to our system.”
Kortright defended his handling of Burkey’s case, noting that his office met frequently with her to gather evidence and hear concerns. Kortright said the disorderly conduct plea offered to the boyfriend was appropriate for a first-time offender who seemed unlikely to cause additional trouble. Burkey, of course, disagrees.
The 43-year-old is the program director for Washington County’s Head Start program, and she has served previously as a counselor to children in the courts. More than most non-lawyers, I think, she knows how the legal system works.
She was actively and bravely involved in her case from the get-go. And this summer, when it was revealed that the order of protection was not in place, she pushed and pleaded for aggravated harassment charges against the ex-boyfriend. But neither the sheriff’s department or the district attorney’s office decided to pursue such charges.
So here’s a question: If Burkey can’t get an order of protection properly executed, if she can’t get the scales of justice to tip in her favor, then is there hope for women who aren’t willing to be so public and aggressive?
Burkey’s take on the system’s failure: “It’s kind of like being a victim all over again.”
What we strive to provide with this site as a collective resource for all instances of violence and abuse, an opportunity to educate and platform to expose the abusive. A modern society should no longer accept intimidation and violence. Those subject to it need a way out; those guilty of it need exposed; and everyone needs to be aware of how prevalent it is, because there is NO excuse.
From one of our first supporters:
On October 5, 2012, Gene and Ame Rychlak created the campaign “Power Against Violence and Abuse”. Their mission is as simple and complex as powerlifting itself: to confront all forms of abuse. Abuse, by definition, is an act of violence that takes place between asymmetric players: an adult against a child or an elderly person, a man against a woman, a human being against an animal, anyone against a disabled person. We could grow this list and consider racial violence (asymmetric relations between people from different ethnic origins), harassment at the workplace (asymmetric relations between people at different levels of a working hierarchy), etc.
It doesn’t matter: they are all cruel, unacceptable and they leave irreversible marks. An abused person most frequently develops post trauma stress disorder (PTSD), may see other darker disorders be triggered in them, may become victims of drug addiction or even suicide. Whatever happens, don’t fool yourself into believing that “forgiveness erases the wound”. It doesn’t.
The first objective of the Rychlaks’ campaign is to raise awareness and this is exactly how we need to face issues that are historically swept under the carpet. It is hard to get people engaged in a cause if the problem is invisible.