Ojeman, who prosecutes only such cases, said they comprise one-tenth to one-third of the misdemeanor case docket in the county. But she cited statistics showing the problem is not unique to Upshur.
“One in four women is a victim of some kind of domestic abuse, although 5 percent of victims are males, Ojeman said. “Domestic violence happens every 12 seconds in the United States.”
What constitutes such violence is diverse, she pointed out. It ranges from hair-pulling (for which one man received 220 days in Upshur County Jail) and spitting to strangulation, the speaker said.
The law refers to strangling as “occlusion” as “it can make you unconscious within eight seconds,” Ojeman said. Other forms of violence or abuse, she added, include pushing, holding someone against their will, slapping, biting, kicking, backhanding, pinning someone against a wall, burning a person, taking car keys so the person can’t leave, and exerting control by threatening suicide.
“Family” cases aren’t confined to blood relatives, she said, since they can involve such situations as dating relationships or roommates.
Ojeman, whose job is financed by a governmental grant, has been with District Attorney Billy Byrd’s office for six years, handling such cases as felony aggravated assault, misdemeanor assault, stalking, etc. She said she looks at “victim safety” and offender accountability.
A domestic violence prosecutor in Houston before moving here, Ojeman said the year before her arrival, 65 domestic violence cases in Upshur County were dismissed, while only 34 resulted in either convictions or deferred adjudication probation. (Defendants receiving deferred adjudication have no final conviction on their records if they successfully complete probation.)
Her first year here, Ojeman said, 128 such cases resulted in convictions or deferred adjudication, while only 58 were dismissed. Now only 23 or 24 a year are dismissed, she said.
“We may want to see the guy (the offender) under the jail,” Ojeman said, but he may be the source of income for his household and “she (his victim) may love him.”
In addition, the prosecutor noted, females are the accused parties in 10-15 percent of her cases, although such cases may involve a girl attacking her mother.
Young girls in abusive situations should “contact a trusted adult - a teacher, a counselor,” she said. Domestic violence victims can also call hotlines, or contact the Women’s Center of East Texas in Longview, which provides shelter, she said.
Hotlines include the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE). and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (1-800-252-5400). The number to Ojeman’s office is 903-843-2498.
Violence must be ongoing to obtain a protective order, Ojeman said. Police can issue an emergency such order, but the district attorney’s office can procure one which is good for two years, she added.
Cherokee Rose member Madaline Barber introduced the speaker during the meeting at Gilmer Country Club. Also speaking to the group was Amanda Garrett, author of the book “Eye of Storm.”