Domestic abuse cases alarm Pa. officials

January 22, 1998

Domestic abuse cases alarm Pa. officials


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Barely a month into the new year, Franklin County, Pa., already has had its share of violent crime.

Two of the incidents, a murder-suicide in Quincy, Pa., and an attempted murder-suicide in Waynesboro, Pa., also indicate what some see as a disturbing trend in Franklin and Fulton counties - an ongoing increase in domestic violence-related crime.

According to the annual report for 1997 released by Women In Need Victim Services of Chambersburg, domestic violence is on the rise in both counties and more victims are seeking help.


"We tend to think we live in a nice, quiet area. What's happened here is shocking to us, but it's happening here locally as well as state and nationwide," said Alecha Cauffman-Sanbower, education coordinator for Women In Need.

On Jan. 12, Shannon Shockey, 20, of Quincy, was shot to death by her boyfriend, Jay Stouffer Jr., 30, of Smithsburg, Md., who then killed himself.

On Jan. 18, Jessica Baker, 25, of Waynesboro, was critically injured when her boyfriend, Gordon Howell, 27, of Mont Alto, Pa., shot her in the neck and then committed suicide.

Last year, four women were shot and killed by their husbands or boyfriends, accounting for half of eight fatal shootings in Franklin County.

Two of those were murder-suicides and one an attempted murder-suicide.

Another fatal shooting last year on Feb. 16 was domestic-related, but the ex-boyfriend, William Barbour Jr., was shot and killed before he reached his ex-girlfriend.

According to the annual report, the victim advocacy group reported serving 1,080 new adults who were victims of domestic violence last year, up from 983 in 1996, and 971 in 1995.

Dating violence among teens is also up in both counties, Sanbower said, with 230 children and teens served last year who were either victims of domestic-related abuse or whose parents were victims.

That number is up from 144 served in 1996 and 112 in 1995.

The number of protection-from-abuse orders filed through Women In Need also went up last year, with 278 filed in both counties in 1997, up from 181 filed the year before and 139 filed in 1995.

"I'm alarmed by the numbers we're starting to see, and I'm alarmed and concerned at the level of violence ... I don't see any tapering off. It seems to be getting worse," said Chambersburg Police Chief Michael DeFrank.

But whether the numbers are going up or more people are reporting such incidents remains to be seen, said Edwin J. Donovan, assistant professor of administration of justice at Penn State University and a former New York City police officer for 17 years.

"It's been with us for centuries," Donovan said.

The once-unspoken issue that was kept behind closed doors has become accepted as a societal problem that has generated more awareness, stronger laws and better-trained police forces, he said.

Donovan doesn't dispute the numbers and said domestic violence is a problem that affects people at all socioeconomic levels.

Most agree that domestic violence is a result of someone in the relationship exercising total control.

"In most domestic violence situations, men act out continuously to control just about everything in their lives," Donovan said.

The combination murder-suicide cases are examples of relationships that have deteriorated over a period of time, said Linda Williams, director at Crisis Intervention Services of Cumberland Valley Mental Health Center.

"Most suicidal cases with adults show an eroding of their coping mechanisms," she said.

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