More domestic abuse cases being reported in state

By Amber Barker

It’s been 23 years since 4-year-old Miranda Faith Salley was killed by her father, Charles Salley, during a court-ordered visitation.

And it’s been 23 years since mom Kris Barney has gathered the strength to make good on her promise to not let her daughter’s death be in vain.

Thanks to the non-profit organization Domestic Abuse Resistance Team (D.A.R.T.) Barney has been able to keep Miranda’s memory alive, while warning and educating people of the perils of domestic violence. While Barney has only served as the community advocate for D.A.R.T. for the past year, her ties to the life-changing and life-saving organization dates back to 1999.

“D.A.R.T. put me on a road to hope and healing. I had no choice but to pick up with my life,” said Barney. “I just could not continue to let him win. I decided I was going to fight for Miranda – the only thing I could to honor her precious spirit.”

Barney said even after restraining orders were violated, her ex-husband was still granted joint custody, which didn’t sit well with her as she struggled with the justice system and the rationale.

“I was a victim well after the divorce (which was finalized in 1997) – it was always about power and control for him,” Barney said of her ex-husband, who was killed by law enforcement after killing his ex-girlfriend and Miranda the same day.

Barney honors Miranda daily, but her story is particularly poignant during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and as the number of cases pertaining to domestic violence seem to be increasing this fall. The numbers, however, are tricky as overall the state is improving, but more incidents are also being reported.

“I can say in Louisiana we are doing better; it’s the third year in a row running that we are fifth in the nation for domestic violence homicide – we were number two prior. Things are improving,” she said.

A greater focus on listening to and believing victims, as well as a heavy emphasis on continued education are a couple of reasons Lincoln Parish Sheriff  Stephen Williams thinks crime numbers revolving around domestic violence are trending upward this fall.

Domestic abuse battery by strangulation cases have jumped from 20 to 90 over the past year, while domestic abuse battery reports have gone from 46 to 48. Although the year isn’t over, there are some areas currently lower, such as battery of a dating partner with 26 compared to 36 last year and violation of protective order down to 19 compared to 29 last year.

“I believe our – all law enforcement – response to domestic violence is getting better through improved training,” Williams said. “And I also believe victims are coming forward and filing reports because they believe something will be done.”

Barney’s experience is one she discusses openly. Since moving out of Louisiana in 2002 and returning in 2019, she has refused to remain silent, noting education is key. That’s why her passion for D.A.R.T. sits at the forefront.

D.A.R.T. provides help to domestic and dating violence victims and their children in North Central Louisiana; provides leadership in educating its communities about domestic and dating violence and its consequences and creates and implements programs to prevent domestic and dating violence.

“The abuse and cycle start early. Younger women between the ages of 16-23 are the highest risk of dating and domestic violence. It’s very important we get into our schools and educate our young people,” she urged.

Whether it is providing legal services, counselors, weekly children’s groups, or refuge at a shelter at a secure location, help through D.A.R.T. is available.

“We can get people to safety as soon as they need it,” she said, adding services are not only free but private and confidential as well.

And although many of the services are used by women and children, Barney noted men, who generally do not report when they are being abused, are also welcomed to take advantage of the services.

She pointed out several red flags to look for when it comes to recognizing if someone is a victim of domestic violence, including but not limited to: physical markings, controlling behavior, isolation from friends and family, and sometimes being told what to wear and where they can/can’t go. She added having to account for every penny spent, as well as mental and emotional abuse, are also signs.

“My ex-husband used to threaten to kill me and himself all the time,” she said. “And gaslighting – when the victim knows something happened but he’s telling her it never happened, or you never had that conversation. That was huge with my ex-husband making me feel really dumb.”

Often the shame of what others will think and say factors in as well.

“It took me a long time to come forward…I just couldn’t take the abuse any longer. There’s always the stigma of the shame and having to tell people; a lot of people place shame on the victim and ask, ‘why didn’t you leave?’ instead of asking why the abuser is abusing,” she said.

“Of course, it’s still happening, otherwise D.A.R.T. would be out of business. But it’s getting proper education and training. There’s hope on the horizon.”


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