South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Domestic violence reaches more that wives, girlfriends


Domestic violence was the featured topic at last week's Upper Knoxville Block Watch meeting, with guest speaker Lee Kiburi, community educator with the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

District Justice Anna Scharding and city administrative assistant Bill Fry were also in attendance.

The Women's Center & Shelter deals with women who are victims of physical abuse from a husband, boyfriend, or intimate partner, including of the same sex. The Hotline number is: 412-687-8005.

Homeless and drug-addicted women may stay at the shelter if they meet the domestic violence criteria.

Women may also house their children with them at the shelter. While residing there, women have access to all the center's services, and may look for a job or seek medical treatment.

While the average length of stay is 30 days, some women have remained for months. The center also offers non-resident services.

Kiburi said domestic violence touches many people beyond the abuser and the victim. For example, when he told seventh graders at Allegheny Traditional Academy about a man who shot himself and a woman in the head, killing himself and wounding her, a student raised his hand to say the woman was his aunt.

Each time he told the story at three other schools someone raised a hand to point out a connection between themselves and the man who died or the woman he shot. So there's a lot of hidden victims, Kiburi said.

One way women can protect themselves from an abuser is obtaining a PFA, or protection from abuse order, which is designed to keep parties apart. In Pennsylvania, PFAs can be obtained against blood relations or present/ex- intimate partners for commiting physical harm or threatening violence.

A PFA works when the man doesn't want to go to jail, so he stays away from the filer. But if the man doesn't care about anything except losing control of the woman, the PFA is useless. It may even enrage him, making him more hostile.

So women are encouraged to think out whether to seek a PFA, said Kiburi.

Scharding said some PFAs are misused. One area woman obtained one every time she broke up with a boyfriend. Other women, unfortunately, won't seek a PFA despite the harm done them.

Men can also be physically abused by a woman, and may seek a PFA.

Within the past year in Pittsburgh, a woman hit a man with a crowbar she suspected of cheating, and chained him in her basement. He escaped, but didn't want the incident reported in the newspaper because he was embarrassed.

In most cases, a smaller-sized woman is dependent on the man not retaliating, as men are taught since boyhood never to hit women. But sometimes, a woman with superior skills and strength can overpower a man.

To a question of when women's shelters were founded, Kiburi said it began in the early 1970s during the early days of the women's movement. When women decided they wanted a place of their own to socialize, like men had, they formed a women's center. When the founders discovered some women didn't want to go home at the evening's conclusion, they asked them why, and learned they were being abused. From that, the center evolved to include a shelter.

To another question of why women stay in abusive relationships, Kiburi said it's “very different for each individual involved,” citing factors like needing money for themselves and their children, or a religious belief in the sanctity of families.

While children can be a motivation to remain in the relationship, they can also be a reason to get out for a mother could fear they might be abused next.

In neighborhood business, block watch president Mary Ann Bennett read a list of reported crimes in Knoxville from April 10 to May 11. They were: 4 auto thefts, 6 accidents, 9 burglaries, 1 citation, 14 criminal mischief, 2 domestics, 1 DUI, 8 general incident, 2 fire, 8 harassment, 3 narcotics, 3 prostitution, 1 protection from abuse violation, 6 robbery, 1 sex offense, 8 simple assault, 2 threats, 8 thefts, and 3 unauthorized use of vehicle.

The distribution of the 90 total reports in the areas covered by Knoxville's three block watches are: 30 in Upper Knoxville, 45 in the 30th Ward, and 15 in McKinley.

Of the 30 in Upper Knoxville, the breakdown by streets/blocks is: Orchard Place: 2 in the 100 block and 1 in the 400 block; Jucunda St .: 1 in the 100 block, 2 in the 200 block, and 3 in the 300 block; Charles St .: 4 in the 100 block, 1 in the 200 block, 3 in the 300 block, and 1 in the 400 block; Zara St .: 1 in the 100 block, 1 in the 200 block, 2 in the 300 block, and 2 in the 400 block; Rochelle St .: 1 in the 100 block; Sylvania Way: 1; and Knox Ave. from Jucunda St. to Bausman St .: 4.

Bennett also reported she heard gunshots at the corner of Beltzhoover and Warrington avenues on May 16 about 12:40 a.m.

In other news, the St. John Vianney Parish Festival will be held on June 7—12 on Allen St. at Climax St. in Allentown. Dinners will be served at 5:30 p.m., followed by entertainment and rides at 7:00 p.m. daily.

Scharding said she feared for seniors attending the festival because of the recent rash of purse snatchings. If police are called, there's a 30-minute to one hour wait until an officer arrives.

Fry said a battle is underway to rehire 14 police officers, with Mayor Murphy opposed. He said it appears the mayor wants to keep the city looking as if it's in a state of distress to spur action from Harrisburg. But the plan isn't working.

“And they wonder why young people are moving out of the city,” commented an attendee.

To a question of how effective will be proposed legislation making landlords responsible for tenant problems, Fry said it's as far as the city can go right now. But it's a means of exerting pressure on legislators and judges to take action.

Hopefully, the city will someday acquire the power to lien personal property, said Fry.

The next block watch meeting will be on June 15. State Rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr., and a representative from the police department will be invited to speak.


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