After long wait, Violence Against Women Act renewal heads to Obama's desk

“After over a year of legislative limbo, the House passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Thursday, ending the partisan bickering that has plagued the bill since it expired in September of 2011.”
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Domestic Violence Among the Wealthy Hides Behind ‘Veil of Silence’

“Domestic violence has ticked up since September 2008—and not only among the financially strained. Eliza Shapiro reports on the hurdles rich abused women face, from disbelief by peers to ‘legal dream teams.'”
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Miami-Dade human trafficking unit gets first conviction, sentence

A Miami Beach man who forced a slew of women into prostitution in South Florida and Nevada will spend 15 years in prison for beating and strangling one of them.
A judge on Tuesday sentenced Robert Burton, 34, who had been found guilty of domestic battery by strangulation, deriving support from prostitution, kidnapping and interfering with parental custody.
His conviction at trial was the first for Miami-Dade prosecutors’ Human Trafficking Unit, said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. She said many of the victims are homegrown runaways.
“It’s very much like domestic violence. It’s control. It’s terror. It’s beating,” she said. “It’s affection — with torture.”
At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Burton forced at least six women into prostitution all while fathering several children with three of them. He faced similar charges in Nevada, but was not convicted in that state.

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Women dance at New World Center and FIU campus against abuse

Miami Beach police detective Traci Sierra has seen a lot to anger and confound her in the 13 years she has worked in the violent crimes and domestic violence unit. Women who stay with husbands or boyfriends through years of beatings and abuse. Women who call police for help and then attack the officer arresting the man who was hurting them. Women afraid to stay, but even more afraid to leave. Women killed because they believe the man hurting them will stop on his own.
But Sierra takes heart from her occasional successes, like the young woman with a 2-year-old son who finally left her boyfriend after he beat her head against the floor so hard he split her forehead open. Sierra sat with her for two hours before the girl broke down crying, saying “I have to do something.’ ”
“You have to come to a breaking point,” Sierra says. “You have to say enough is enough. If no one takes a stand it continues. Until they address the situation and take control of their lives nothing’s going to change.”
On Thursday, Sierra and hundreds of other women in Miami-Dade will take a symbolic stand at the New World Center and Florida International University campus to say enough is enough. They are doing so as part of a global campaign called One Billion Rising, which aims to get a billion people — the number of women the United Nations estimates will be raped or assaulted in their lifetime — to take action with flash mobs, protests and dances.

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Closing Arguments in the Rilya Wilson Murder Case

Friends puzzled by the disappearance of the little girl. State child welfare administrators stunned at the vanishing of the 4-year-old foster child. A slew of police investigators dispatched to work the case.
A pathetic shell of a woman, cowed by an older lover into keeping her silence. Three prison inmates — one an eccentric con with a long rap sheet — who said they learned the truth about the crime while behind bars.
For eight weeks, these were the witnesses who testified against Geralyn Graham, who is accused of murdering foster child Rilya Wilson more than a decade ago. And on Tuesday, their photos adorned an eight-foot-long timeline poster board, suspended from the ceiling by chains of paper clips as a Miami-Dade prosecutor weaved each of their stories into a chilling. if circumstantial. narrative.
Graham, driven by festering hatred for little rambunctious Rilya, smothered the girl with a pillowcase, disposed of her body and for years concocted a web of “fanciful” tales to hide the crime, the state said.
“Lies, deceit and coverup,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Joshua Weintraub told jurors during closing arguments.
The arguments come more than a decade after Rilya disappeared, a case that rocked the Florida Department of Children & Families, which for 18 months did not realize the girl was missing. Authorities never found Rilya’s body.

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Fla. man bites off girlfriend's thumb during fight

Police in central Florida say a man bit off his girlfriend’s left thumb during a fight while he was driving her to work at Taco Bell.
Florida Today reports that hospital officials called police after the woman arrived for treatment Wednesday.
Palm Bay police spokeswoman Yvonne Martinez says 35-year-old Ricardo Marquis Davis confessed to biting off the thumb and spitting it onto the floorboard. He told police she had pushed his head while they were in the car.
Martinez says doctors were not able to reattach the woman’s thumb. She says police victim advocates are working to help her.
Davis is being held in the Brevard County Jail on aggravated battery charges.

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DCF in the News Again

The goings-on in front of six young kids at 647 NW Third Ct. in Hallandale Beach — the dope smoking and drinking, the yelling, cursing and threats — was so disturbing to an observer that she called the state’s child abuse hotline.
“It is just terrible,’’ the woman told the hotline operator just after the New Year. “Horrible.’’
Four days later, the 21-year-old mother of some of those children, Brittney Sierra, would be arrested for child neglect, which could be the least of her problems.
Investigators dug up the remains of an infant in a nearby yard on Friday. They might be Sierra’s son, Dontrell Melvin. If they are, Sierra, 21, could be charged with murder along with the boy’s father, Calvin Melvin, 27.
The scene at the house Sierra and her children shared with her mother, Renee Menendez and her children, shouldn’t have been a surprise to child-welfare workers, considering how many times they’d been there.
Department records indicate 30 contacts with Menendez, a KFC manager in her 40s who was raising four children ranging in age from 8 to 11 — Sierra’s half siblings.
Like her daughter Sierra, Menendez has now lost all of her children. Department of Children and Family workers moved them to a state home over the weekend.

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