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Schenectady domestic violence expert reacts to Tuesday’s shooting

Schenectady domestic violence expert reacts to Tuesday’s shooting

Lauren Jarrard said YWCA staff was ‘reeling’ from Tuesday's shooting.
Schenectady domestic violence expert reacts to Tuesday’s shooting
Police respond to Tuesday’s shooting
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY -- Tuesday’s shooting on Union Street was the “worst case scenario,” in terms of domestic violence outcomes, according to Schenectady YWCA Director of Women and Family Services Lauren Jarrard.

Two children and their mother were shot inside a home on Union Street. Deshawn Howard, believed to be the woman’s boyfriend, has been arrested. Police said the 47-year-old had an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound but added that the incident was still under investigation.

Jarrard said YWCA staff were aware of the incident, as it fit with a pattern they have seen of rising brutality in domestic violence cases, not just in Schenectady County, but in the Capital Region.

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“It’s important for people to know there are many other victims in Schenectady County who wake up and have this same fear that this will happen to them someday,” Jarrard said. “It seems like, obviously, there have been a lot of issues in Albany lately with guns. We’re seeing guns involved in a lot of cases in Schenectady.”

Jarrard said she didn’t know much about the relationship between the people in Tuesday's shooting, but preliminary details -- a man ignoring an order of protection to harm a wife or girlfriend -- are familiar.

The YWCA has been offering services for victims of domestic violence in Schenectady County for more than 40 years. It provides emergency shelters for victims. They offer counseling and economic advice for those looking to become self-sufficient after relying financially on the person who abused them. And they help victims navigate the court system.

Jarrard said the services include helping victims get orders of protection against their abusers. She said an advocate from their office will sit in court in place of the victim so they don’t have to face the perpetrator. They will then let the victim know the order is served and will work with them if the order is violated. That means keeping a timeline, working with the victim’s attorney and making sure victims know their rights.

Once an order of protection is served, though, the trouble doesn’t end; it increases the level of risk for the victim, in fact, Jarrard said.

“Sometimes, a perpetrator will only see that [an order of protection] as a piece of paper,” Jarrard said. “The victim doesn’t feel any more protected with an order of protection because they are the ones that know the perpetrator the best and whether going to jail matters to the perpetrator."

Jarrard said that, for those who have been in and out of jail for most of their lives, the threat of going to prison for violating an order of protection doesn't mean much.

Court records indicate Howard has a history of violating orders of protection. The adult victim in Tuesday’s shooting had a full stay-away order of protection against Howard, according to court records.

The YWCA has a high-risk team that monitors more than 130 cases at any given time. The team works to ensure perpetrators are held accountable. That is their ultimate goal, because Jarrard said she has seen too much leniency for perpetrators of domestic violence.

“We still see a perpetrator who goes in front of judges for violating orders of protection, and they let them out the same day,” Jarrard said. “They keep getting second chances and get slaps on the wrist. We work to make sure they are held accountable because they’re the ones that are out there committing these crimes and are out there hurting people in the community.”

Tuesday’s incident on Union Street will be something for the YWCA staff to follow and reflect on, to look for areas where they can improve, Jarrard said.

“We always reflect on what gaps there are for domestic violence victims that we can address,” she said. “Anything we can do as the county’s lead domestic violence agency, we’ll work to fill those gaps.”

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