Janesville homicide brings attention to issue of domestic abuse - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Janesville homicide brings attention to issue of domestic abuse

ROCK COUNTY (WKOW) -- Domestic abuse isn't always characterized by physical violence.

Jessi Luepnitz,  the interim director of the Rock County YWCA's Alternatives to Violence Program, said it can also be mental or behavioral.

"Controlling behaviors, like asking 'Who's calling you? Can I read your email? Your texts?' those are less obvious than the black eyes and cases of broken ribs," Luepnitz said.

But verbal or mental abuse can often escalate into physical violence.

Britney Cross, a 21-year old woman from Indianford, was found dead in Janesville Monday near the Memorial Street Bridge. A man friends describe as her boyfriend, 28-year old Clayton Courtney, has been identified by police as the lone suspect in her murder.

Cross's Mom told 27 News this week that Courtney, who's currently being held in the Rock County Jail in connection with charges regarding a separate, stabbing incident, was often possessive of her daughter.

Luepnitz said the YWCA offers victims of domestic abuse legal counseling and a place to stay. Both women and children stay at the 33-bed shelter. Case workers help each family with tasks like searching for jobs.

The YWCA runs a 24-hour help line for victims of domestic abuse at (608) 752-2583. 

Luepnitz said the abused can also reach out to police.

Middleton Police Sgt. Darrin Zimmerman said police are required, by law, to make an arrest when a domestic abuse crime is committed. Zimmerman, who said crimes range from "disorderly conduct to strangulation," said the requirement takes a burden off of the shoulders of domestic abuse victims.

He said victims are often reluctant to report incidents of domestic abuse -- for instance in cases where the abuser is a family's primary money maker or has children with the abused.

"You have to convince (victims) that this isn't OK. The offender's behavior isn't OK and they're not doing anything to cause it," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said victims are presented with a list of "victims' rights" at the scene. They're also given the opportunity to take out a temporary, 72-hour restraining order against the abuser.

"Does (the victim) need to find a different place to live? Do they need time to move out?" Zimmerman said. "That's what the 72-hour restraining order is really there for."

Zimmerman said those seeking to take out a longer restraining order can do so at a district attorney's office.

Either the arresting officer or a detective also checks up on the victim the next day.

Zimmerman also said police still seek to "defuse" a domestic disturbance incident when no crime has been committed and an arrest cannot be made.

"We can get the parties separated and see if there's some place one of them can go for the night," Zimmerman said.

The Middleton Police Department can be reached at: 608-824-7300.

Both Luepnitz and Zimmerman agreed the best way to put an end to an abusive relationship is for the abused to let go.

"In most of the cases I've seen, if there's a pattern of abusive behavior it's just going to escalate or continue," Zimmerman said. "Even if (the abused) is scared, he or she has to report it. Because the behavior is not going to stop."

All conversations with police, as well as with the YWCA shelter, are confidential.

Other resources in the area for victims of domestic abuse are:

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services

YWCA of Madison

Madison Police Department

Rock County Domestic Violence Intervention Program

Family Services

Family Advocates

Hope House of South Central Wisconsin

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