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Domestic abuse survivor’s ongoing story sparks criticism of justice system

Jun 28, 2017

Stories like that of Nicole Beverly, whose abusive husband is set to be released from prison in August despite alleged threats to kill her and her children, are nothing new for Barbara Niess-May, executive director of SafeHouse Center in Ann Arbor.

“Her story is common, in that there are many survivors who find themselves needing to relocate because of the assailant,” Niess-May said. “What’s uncommon is the fact that she has gone public with her story.”

If law enforcement had investigated how Niess-May believes they should, she said, a public campaign to relocate Beverly and her two sons wouldn’t be necessary. But the authorities have decided not to pursue further charges.

“Survivors of domestic violence should not have to displace themselves and their children because of assailant behavior, and that is exactly what is happening here," she said.

If you or someone you know is suffering abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at its toll-free, 24-hour hotline: 800-799-7233.

Law enforcement agencies are not committed to holding assailants accountable. That culture doesn’t exist across much of the state, Niess-May said. Often authorities don’t take survivors seriously, or simply say their hands are tied. In Beverly’s case, the authorities didn’t believe the credibility of reports from fellow inmates that her husband was looking for someone he could hire to kill Beverly and her two sons.

With the August release of Nicole Beverly's ex-husband imminent, authorities have yet to issue any type of restraining order or legal protection, despite alleged threats to kill her and her family.
Credit Stateside Staff / Michigan Radio

Even after initial arrests or convictions, Niess-May sees a lack of persistence. She points to the 2013 case of Shandar Turner, a Washtenaw County woman whose partner stabbed her to death in front of her twin sons.

He had been released from prison four days earlier.

Niess-May said Turner had warned police about threats to kill her, but it made no difference.

“When assailants continue to assault and hurt and threaten survivors, there isn’t the decision to say we are going to continue to hold them accountable,” Niess-May said.

In Beverly’s case, Niess-May wants clear assurances that authorities thoroughly investigate any potential threat. Has he gone through any programming while in prison to educate him on abusive behavior? Does he show remorse for his actions in the past? Does he have a positive plan for his future?

“[Beverly] has had no communication and no support from the system,” Niess-May said.

Michigan is one of 14 states that don't have an address confidentiality program, which allows survivors to use a neutral address in public records without revealing their actual location. Niess-May believes instituting one would make a big difference in sexual assault or domestic abuse cases.

We reached out to Attorney General Bill Schuette's office. A spokesperson said they are looking into Nicole Beverly's case and are unable to comment further at this time.

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