Tracking domestic violence

Tracking domestic violence

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Domestic violence related deaths are on the rise in Georgia.

So far this year, we've had 27 more deaths compared to last year. In 2014, there were 71 domestic violence homicides. This year there have been 98.

Those who have survived domestic violence say there's a need for a national database system, much like the sex offender registry, to track serial abusers.

WTOC's Elizabeth Rawlins has been investigating how some believe a domestic violence registry holds the key to driving down these numbers.

Several victims of domestic violence say they were shocked to find out their abuser had a history of domestic violence, but it was also reassuring to them to know that they needed to get out. "

"If only I had known." That's what many victims of domestic violence are wondering.  

"There were numerous other women, at least five or six," said one victim.

Victims we spoke to had no idea their abuser had targeted other women. One victim says she found out the hard way, tracking down old police records and court documents.

But is there a way to make it easier for someone who is trapped in an abusive relationship?

"If you're a sex offender, you have to register and if you don't register you will go to jail. So they should have a database," said another victim.

A national database for domestic violence, much like the sex offender registry, does not exist to track convicted abusers which is why victims say the system is flawed when it comes to connecting the dots.

"The police will step in when someone is killed and that's too far," said one victim.

Specifically in Chatham County, it wasn't until Lauren Smart and Mandi Kaiser were murdered that it came out their abusers had a long history.

Lauren Smart was beaten to death in her home in the summer of 2014 and Norman Smart was convicted of her murder.

During the trial, we found out he had a long history of domestic violence in Ohio before Lauren was in the picture.

Earlier this year, Willie Moore was charged with killing his fiancé Mandi Kaiser in her apartment on Apache Avenue.  In our research, we found out he's been arrested at least 27 times and was a convicted abuser before ever even meeting Mandi.

Safe Shelter's Cheryl Branch wonders if these women had known about their abusers past, would it have made it easier for them to get out. Would it have saved their life?

"That shock effect that you're not protecting a good guy. This is the way they have relationships," said Branch.

Right now, every state tracks domestic violence differently. In Georgia, all shelters use a program called Apricot to collect information about victims and their abusers.

It's mostly so the state can keep track of the data and statistics, it's not designed to alert shelters when an abusers name is entered into the system more than once; indicating that others have gone to a shelter in Georgia to get away from the same person.

"If that abuser came from Atlanta and actually abused another victim, then we would have that information readily available and then we can make the necessary steps to protect that victim," said Doretha Rice, Safe Shelter Program Manager.

Georgia's shelters have only been using this system for less than a year and Branch is hopeful that until there's a national database, Georgia will refine the way they track abusers.

"Where is it weak, where can we tweak it, where can we do more , where can we add more customized fields," said Branch.

And some say a system to track these serial abusers can't happen fast enough.

"I think it's a good idea because that way they can cut down on the deaths, the injuries, the trauma and mental abuse," said one victim.

One of the biggest problems with creating a national database is that every state does not define 'domestic violence' the same way. Many non-profits around the country have attempted to create their own database but it's not consistent.

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