Jessica Chavez’s tragic death is inspiring friends to push for change in the way the legal system handles domestic violence perpetrators.
Chavez was killed Wednesday, shot in the head by her ex-boyfriend, Gil Ramos. Ramos had been booked on domestic violence charges, but bailed out of jail one day before killing Chavez. Ramos later turned the gun on himself and was found dead on Friday.
Now, a Change.org petition started by a friend of Chavez aims to prevent similar deaths. The petition, titled “Stop domestic violence offenders from being released on bail without house arrest,” requests that laws be altered to require alleged perpetrators of domestic violence to be evaluated by a psychiatrist and put on a minimum 72-hour hold. The petition also asks that offenders be put under house arrest for 30 days, and that emergency response teams be made available to help victims when their abusers are released from rail.
“There are a lot of protections that could be there for victims,” said Beth Hassett, WEAVE Chief Executive Officer. WEAVE is a Sacramento-area non-profit that provides crisis intervention services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Hassett seemed skeptical that the petition’s specific proposals would be enacted, but said that more could be done to help victims.
“Ultimately if somebody is bent on killing somebody, they’re going to find a way to do that. I think we always have to weigh the individual’s rights with the danger they’re putting someone else in,” Hassett said. “I’m just inspired by her friends wanting to change the laws, and I hope they’ll talk with their elected officials because that’s who can actually change these laws and put protections in place.”
Paul Durenberger, the assistant chief in charge of family violence with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office, said the proposed minimum hold and the house arrest proposal would be unachievable.
“Everybody has the right to bail and you have the right to bail faster than 72 hours. Trying to hold all domestic violence abusers no matter what level of abuse or threat is probably not going to pass Constitutional requirements, but there are things to do to help victims to ensure they’re protected,” Durenberger said. He applauded programs like Community for Peace in Citrus Heights, which sends out victim advocates to crime scenes to help them develop safety plans.
Hassett said WEAVE offers similar services to victims, and provides a safe house for victims at serious risk from their abusers.
Many of Chavez’s friends said they knew her ex-boyfriend was abusive towards her. Hassett says it should serve as a reminder that friends and family can play an important role in protecting women who are being abused.
She said friends and family should talk to the victim alone and urge them to get help. The worst thing, Hassett said, is for friends and family to cut off ties with a person being abused if they don’t leave immediately.
“Often somebody leaves six, seven or eight times before they are actually ready to say, ‘I’m done with this relationship and understand the danger I’m in,’” Hassett said. “The more people say, ‘I’m done and not going to help you anymore,’ the more isolated the victim gets and the more power the perpetrator has. Nothing is worse than a victim saying, ‘I have no place to go and no help, so I’m going to stay right here.’”