Letter: ‘Do you feel safe at home?’

Recently I went to the ER at the Culpeper hospital, afraid that the swelling from a chipmunk bite (don’t ask!) might turn into something nasty. In the course of my intake, the nurse asked me if I “felt safe at home.” I was taken aback and asked why. She said it is now procedure to ask the question during a medical screening.

I realized that the routine nature of the question reflected the magnitude of domestic violence in the country. I looked it up and learned that, according to the Center for Disease Control, 25 percent of American women are victims of domestic violence.

The question is now asked in a medical context because women have been afraid to come forward to report abuse. That could be for a multitude of reasons, not least of which is the scorn and derision with which they are greeted when they do.

Thinking that such sordid stuff happens elsewhere to other people, I was staggered to read in last week’s Rappahannock News that Timothy Merwin Overton walked out of the county courthouse with a sentence of “unsupervised probation” after having brandished a gun at his former domestic partner during an argument [“Firearm charge amended, man given probation,” Aug. 22]. Originally charged with assault and brandishing a firearm, Overton received a plea bargain, over the victim’s objections, and was charged instead with trespassing. Trespassing?

Did the victim feel safe in her home while Overton was pointing his gun at her? Why was there no reference in the article to the fact that this was obviously a case of domestic violence? Does she feel safe in her home now that it’s clear that her fear for her life was no big deal? Do other women in Rappahannock County feel safe and protected by the law in light of this case? Can they trust the system here to do the right thing when they need it to?

Virginia Liberatore

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