Pam Bondi still feels connected to women's shelter

In 1992, the state attorney called upon a young prosecutor to handle her first murder case, and the details of the tragedy would leave an indelible impression on then-26-year-old Pam Bondi.

Told by a friend his wife had been unfaithful, Richard Gerald Hale confronted her with a pistol in a Palm River mobile home. Confined to a wheelchair because of a car accident and multiple sclerosis, Barbara Diane Hale had little recourse.

"He shot once to her left, once to her right and then once directly into the temple of her head," recalled Bondi, now Florida's attorney general. "Think of the agony and torment that woman went through. She didn't think she had a way out."

In her 18 years as a prosecutor, Bondi became far too familiar with the agony and torment of domestic violence victims.

It's why she continues to serve on the board of the Spring, a leading domestic violence shelter in Hillsborough County, and it's why she gave the keynote speech at the organization's annual Gift of Peace breakfast Friday morning.

The stories from her days as a prosecutor are never far from her mind on this issue.

Bondi remarked that while a judge sentenced Richard Hale to life without parole, it's often easier to win a first-degree murder case than a domestic violence case because the domestic victims often don't cooperate.

A mix of fear and shame interferes with the desire to end the violence, a point illustrated by the event's other speaker, actor Jareb Dauplaise.

Dauplaise, who said he was raised by an abusive father, received bad advice from a school counselor. If authorities learned the details of his abusive situation, police would arrest his parents and put Jareb and his two younger brothers in separate foster homes, the counselor said.

Bondi can recall similar stories both as a prosecutor and a candidate. Whenever she spoke about the issue, Bondi invariably met victims whether she stood in a posh Orlando country club or in Miami's Little Havana.

Through her office, she continues to support several initiatives, including a program that identifies domestic violence victims who are at risk of homicide and another that helps victims move to unspecified locations and use substitute addresses.

"I remember when my statewide prosecutor, Nick Cox, worked for (the Department of Children and Families), we were out in the middle of the night relocating a victim whose boyfriend had threatened to kill her," Bondi said. "I remember … using our own credit cards to put her in a hotel, then going the next day to buy her daughter school clothes."

The Spring provides safe haven to victims who don't have someone to relocate them. And just as Bondi met victims on the campaign trail, she told the audience they could meet people in need if they aren't afraid to open the dialogue.

"When you go back to your offices today, start talking about domestic violence," Bondi said. "I wouldn't be surprised if one of your staff — your office manager or one of your law partners — comes up to you and says they're a victim of domestic violence.

"You truly can make a difference."

And you likely could save a life.

That's all I'm saying.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Pam Bondi still feels connected to women's shelter 10/07/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 11:57pm]

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