Category Archives: Service / Advocacy

Women and IPV in Pinellas County: What Can We Do?

by ZontaDoris

Do you know anyone with IPV? Many people do not know the acronym even though IPV is a serious, preventable public health problem in our community. IPV is short for Intimate Partner Violence, a reference term for aggressive behaviors that occur between partners in life such as husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or gay/lesbian couples. The two people have to reside together or have cohabited before but not necessarily be married to each other. Most of the time, it is a male (87%) who abuses his partner.

According to an abstract summarizing data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published in 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, slightly more than one out of five women (22.3%) reported severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Severe physical violence by an intimate partner might include “being hit with something hard, being kicked or beaten, or being burned on purpose.” This statistic does not include other IPV behaviors that may be physical, sexual, economic or psychological in nature.

In Florida Statutes Chapter 741, issues involving intimate partner violence are labeled Domestic Violence (DV). The terms seem interchangeable to laypeople like me but depending on the context in which they are used, one or the other is preferred or required. It’s domestic violence in the court systems. Victim advocates referring to the wide variation of DV often use Intimate Partner Violence.

This distinction is one that I learned since I started attending the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force a year ago. Donna Lancaster and I committed to be the connectors for Zonta Pinellas with the PCDVTF. We attend their bi-monthly meetings as active listeners and learners, often thinking about how we in Zonta can ally with the Task Force to prevent violence in the home, support domestic violence survivors and their families, and educate others–including policy makers–about the nature of domestic violence challenges in our county. We can all help in some way!

from the 2017 St. Pete Pride guide found at

from the 2017 St. Pete Pride guide at

For instance, we’ll help DV victim advocates from law enforcement agencies and the Family Resource Center staff the DV Prevention Tent on June 25, Sunday, at the St. Pete Pride Street Festival. We’ll interact with children and adults to encourage the development of peaceful behaviors.

I am tickled to see outstanding examples of community-led, trickle-up collaborations to help improve our quality of life in Florida. We don’t need state mandates as much as we need people to come together as advocates, caregivers, parents, educators, law enforcement, counselors, and DV survivors to find solutions that lead to coordinated community care for DV victims and their families and accountability for the batterers.

Look at the Coordinated Community Wheel below to get a sense of the intricacy and power of various systems working in unity to help DV victims and survivors.


Developed by: Domestic Violence Institute of Michigan PO BOX 130107, Ann Arbor, MI 48113-0107 (313)769-6334 Inspired and adapted from the “Power & Control Wheel” developed by the Domestic Violence Intervention Project, 202 East Superiour Street , Duluth, MN 55802 (218)722-4134

When we don’t know something, we tend to simplify it to what we do know. But as the above wheel attests, social service providers–such as CASA and the Haven in Pinellas County–are a valuable but singular entity working to reduce IPV and serve IPV victims. It takes many systems, independently constructed, led and managed, to coordinate their activities to identify and prevent IPV, as well as serve IPV-stricken victims and their families, and push for batterer accountability when home violence occurs.

I saw this wheel in the recently published Pinellas County Intimate Partner Fatality Review Report for 2016. The Task Force, comprised of representatives from the above systems to coordinate and regularly improve service delivery to help IPV victims thrive in life, has a Fatality Review Committee that studies IPV situations resulting in death in Pinellas County. They examine what happened in each situation, whether the victim or batterer had interacted previously with social services, health, or justice systems, and whether family members or friends were aware of the potential for violence. All these bits of knowledge and contact could show missed opportunities and, therefore, ways to prevent abuse from happening in other households in the future.

The Fatality Review Report for 2016 also gave me these important points.

IPV including the ultimate harm–death at the hands of another–can happen to anyone. Race, age, sexual orientation, religion, gender and socioeconomic status do not insulate women, or men, from IPV. The eight IPV victims who died in 2016 in our county ranged in age from 22 to 87 and represented all walks of life. One was a 58 year old man knifed to death by his girlfriend.

Three factors prevent women from leaving abusive situations: fear, finances, and children.

The breadth of what domestic violence centers do in Florida. Not only do they provide safe residence for a small percentage of IPV victims, they also offer “safety planning, relocation assistance, counseling resources, and assistance with filing injunctions for protections” to stop the harm from happening again.

When guns are in the house, IPV victims and their abusers are more likely to die. Guns were used 44% of the time in IPV situations involving victim death.  Guns were used  in 89% of the IPV homicides/suicides in Pinellas County in 2016.

Court-ordered anger management counseling for batterers is not the same as, nor is it as effective as court-ordered and monitored Batterers Intervention Program (BIP) participation for  abusers. 


from the 2016 Pinellas County Fatality Review Report

The sad news is that from 2000-2016, the courts did not require or refer batterers to BIP in 90% of the cases. BIP is the only treatment shown by research to lower recidivism by IPV abusers. So we are missing two opportunities to lower the frequency of IPV.

The Fatality Review Committee’s recommendations, on pages 7 & 8 in the report, for action by law enforcement, the State Attorney offices, and Clerk of the Court to improve services and accountability could be done fairly easily. The Domestic Violence Task Force endorsed the Fatality Review Committee’s recommendations for adoption. Some of these recommendations can be achieved locally while others require state-level policy or budgeting changes. One recommendation speaks to the media’s responsibility to change its coverage to include more methods for preventing IPV and promoting victim safety.

Take heart…and action. Advocates must work together to inform and encourage local and state policy makers to strengthen our systemic responses to Intimate Partner Violence.  We have the power as citizens to make things different.

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Picture of woman from Pixabay

Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb

Wear Orange on June 2-3 to Honor Gun Violence Victims and Spark Change

by ZontaDoris

Have you heard? 

National Gun Violence Awareness Day is Friday, June 2.

Kathleen McGrory, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, recently interviewed Michelle Gajda, Florida chapter leader of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Gajda explained that the national Wear Orange campaign is intended to end gun violence and save lives.

McGrory reported that “Florida will host more Wear Orange events than any other state — a deliberate attempt to ‘highlight the magnitude of the gun violence epidemic.'” (Gajda)

A horrifyingly high percentage of deaths from Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)/Domestic Violence (DV) happens when assailants shoot their partners. From the 2016 Fatality Review report by the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force (which we will feature later in June in this blog), we learned that

FIREARMS were the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH in Pinellas County IPV/DV cases 44% of the time, which is far more than knives (used 30% of the time) or strangulation (12% of the time).

In IPV/DV cases in 2016 involving a homicide/suicide in the home analyzed by the Task Force, an OVERRIDING MAJORITY–89% of the Pinellas County homicide/suicide cases reviewed by the Task Force involved a firearm.


Additionally, the report notes that while:

“Federal Statute prevents anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing or purchasing a firearm, in Pinellas County, many people charged with domestic battery are placed in a diversion program which does not qualify as a conviction, thus allowing them to possess firearms.”

WHAT IS THAT ABOUT? The net impact is that while we try to hold batterers accountable and help them learn better ways to manage their anger and behavior in domestic relationships, because they are not charged with a crime, THEY CAN KEEP THEIR GUNS CLOSE BY, thereby increasing the likelihood that if they lapse and abuse their partner again, death could result for the person they abuse and anyone else who happens to be present. 


Wear Orange events in Tampa Bay will be held on June 2 and June 3  as follows:

  • June 2, Candlelight vigil, Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive, Tampa, 8:00 PM
  • June 3, St. Pete Wear Orange Party for Peace, Gladden Park, 3901 30th Avenue N, St. Petersburg, 10:00 AM
  • June 3, Orange KISS: Keep It Safe & Smart, The Portico, 1001 N. Florida Avenue, Tampa, 2:00 PM

The Zonta Club of Pinellas County supports the Wear Orange goals.


We will participate in our customized orange T-shirts to honor IPV/DV victims and show our support for IPV/DV survivors and our bonds with Zonta Club members in Macedonia and Albania. They held their event early in May to stop violence against women.



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Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb


A Little of This, a Little of That…but Never Whatever

by ZontaDoris

I wanted to learn to make things that tasted good. So I asked for and received precise instruction from talented cooks in my family. (Yeah…right!) The reality is that I picked up tips from incredible culinary artists close to me, however, they were seldom exact. It was mainly “put in a little of this, a little of that.” That mixing formula has worked pretty well for me in life. So it is this week with the blog post–we’ll report on a little of this, a little of that…and hope it works to inform and intrigue.

Human Trafficking Meeting on March 20

Donna Lancaster and I went to the “Salon Talk” workshop arranged by staff at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and hosted at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center. The purpose of the meeting was to help salon and barbershop workers recognize potential human trafficking victims and learn how to build rapport with them without endangering themselves or the victim.

Bethany Gilot, Director, DJJ Human Trafficking Initiative, Tallahassee

Bethany Gilot, Director, DJJ Human Trafficking Initiative, Tallahassee

Attendees were coached on how to follow their intuition when a situation doesn’t seem right. Maybe the older person with the potential victim is very controlling. Or he/she (because the pimp can be a woman) is taking multiple calls on a cellphone and/or displaying expensive jewelry and tattoos. A concerned cosmetologist might ask a couple casual questions (“Oh, you have your dad, your uncle, your aunt…with you today?”), gather contact information (“Hey, what’s your phone #? My manager pushes us to get customer numbers…we are running a special next month–could save you a lot of money…”), or discreetly look outside to see the car model, color, and license plate as the customers leave. Salon workers are well situated to see sex trafficking victims because victims need regular cosmetic touch-ups to please their pimp and paying customers.

Bethany Gilot, Director of Human Trafficking at DJJ in Tallahassee, overviewed human trafficking, giving risk factors for exploitation starting with poverty, runaway and neglected youth, and those who might be homeless and suffer from other lacks–too little education, family support, and work opportunities. A wonderful panel of local anti-human trafficking practitioners from legal aid, St. Petersburg police legal advisor Sasha Lohn (featured here with Donna), and service providers, led by Dottie Groover-Skipper, also spoke to the group of about 80

Sasha Lohn, Legal Advisor, St. Petersburg Police, and Donna Lancaster

Sasha Lohn, Legal Advisor, St. Petersburg Police, and Donna Lancaster

folks. Sasha encouraged folks to use the Department’s Facebook page to make anonymous reports & see profiles of missing children, or call 411 to share tips anonymously on worrisome situations.

Domestic Violence Task Force on March 21

Zonta is in the house!

I am joining Donna at bi-monthly Pinellas County DVTF meetings to show that Zonta cares and wants to help DV survivors. We are getting involved in more activities such as the Advocacy Committee for me. Sherry Clester, Advocacy Committee Chair, is a remarkable advocate for elder victims of domestic violence and continues to lead initiatives for the DVTF. They are starting a bi-annual newsletter modeled after one in JAX for the Tampa Bay area-wide domestic violence community.

Donna, and our own Sandy Bricker, I was told, are helping the DVTF Primary Prevention Committee members do “Your Peaceful Place” discussions in the community and schools.

Bobbie Hodson, DVTF Chair, and Frieda Widera, long-time DVTF leader, welcome us as partner-advocates at every meeting. I asked several questions at the last meeting that they warmly responded to. One inquiry led to the TF Chair drafting a letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times to remark on the recent Alisa Summers case. (I have read the draft and suggested edits.) Readers may recall that Summers was denied a protective order last Fall, only to be further abused and finally kidnapped by her estranged husband early in March. I like the open-mindedness of the TF members to pursue all avenues to educate and engage the community on behalf of DV victims and survivors.

CASA_Onsite_Pet_Sheltering_Cover_2017-03-23_1724The Word is Out

Donna, Paulette, and I joined the CASA Pet Shelter Committee on March 1. Since then we assisted the Committee by gathering information on how domestic violence centers in Florida are doing onsite pet sheltering. We spoke to terrific advocates around the state, all of them eager to help us and CASA enable DV victims to leave home sooner with their pets, rather than later.

The good news is that we quickly became very knowledgeable about pet sheltering onsite and are eager to advise the Committee on how to move forward. We want to decide new forms and protocols for CASA to get its pet shelter admitting canine and feline clients, and maybe other pet species, too.

Local People of Interest to Zonta

I admit it. I read junk magazines at the grocery check-out line. But I seldom buy any… except this time as I was riffling through the magazine, I saw “Violence Victim Marries Her First Responder.” Could it be? Yes, it was, Melissa Dohme, that is, marrying Cameron Hill earlier this month. You can get more information on the romance in numerous places online including “People” magazine. Melissa if you’ll recall was the headliner at East Lake High School for Zonta and the Haven in December.

Finally, Let’s Show What Women Do Routinely So Well

Have you all seen the video of the man who was an expert on North Korea being interviewed by the BBC when his two children padded into the room?  It is hilarious and has prompted a remake featuring a woman below. See how she handles not just one but many interruptions.

In closing, it’s been a little of this, a little of that, hope this blog post delivers on its promise to inform and intrigue and never defaults to whatever–the most annoying word in 2016 according to a NPR report.  The default use of “whatever” irritates me. What nettles me more is its meaning: indifference. Thankfully, Zonta members are not indifferent to empowering women, never have been, never will be!

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Featured image of spices in spoons from Pixabay

Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb