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Victims of abuse should choose flight over fight

Heather Haupin tried to get away. So did Gaylene Plodzien. But running didn't help.

Within the last two weeks, their ex-boyfriends caught up with them and shot them to death. The killings followed histories of threats and abuse.

If you are a woman facing violence from an ex-boyfriend, what can you do?

"Run. Get away. Run and hide," says Margaret Barile, who runs Hillsborough County's domestic violence program.

Haupin and Plodzien's cases were extreme. The measures they took didn't protect them in the end.

Haupin was shot and killed outside a concert by an ex-boyfriend who later shot himself. He remains in a coma. Plodzien and her boyfriend were killed last week by her ex-boyfriend, who then was shot and killed by deputies.

But people who work every day with many less violent domestic cases urge women, who are almost always the victims, to follow the steps designed to reduce their chances of harm. (See box, 5B)

Having a safety plan: It's important to be ready to leave if you find yourself in a situation that might get dangerous, according to Barile and others. Escaping to a women's shelter, particularly when the man has made a grave threat, can be the only option.

The experts recommend flight over fight.

"If they kill them first _ unless they are under some kind of immediate threat _ the person would have to live with the consequences," Barile said. "We would not want to encourage that."

David Adams, the director of a Cambridge, Mass., treatment program for batterers, said women face their greatest risk of violence when they try to end a relationship.

"Too often, they (the batterers) are saying, "If you leave me, I will kill you and the kids,' " Adams told the Boston Globe.

Getting an injunction: Many people minimize the value of a restraining order. Someone intent on killing or inflicting great harm, they say, would hardly be dissuaded by one. Haupin was in the process of getting an injunction when she was shot. Other victims, including Plodzien, have said they were afraid to obtain an injunction, lest it provoke their ex-boyfriend into violence.

But victim advocates don't want people to think that restraining orders and criminal charges have no value in fighting abuse. They point out that the orders often work.

"I have seen many successful cases, where putting someone in jail gives them enough of a jolt so they realize, "I better watch out or I'll end up in prison,'

" Barile said.

About 7,000 domestic violence cases are reported in Hillsborough County every year. That includes all violence reported between any two members of a household, whether they are lovers, spouses or not. In 1992, there were nine reported domestic murders.

To report or not to report? Much of the same logic applies to filing criminal charges as seeking restraining orders. No one can predict the result with certainty.

"I don't know if you can predict it, that's the scary thing," Barile said. "You're talking to someone who works in the state attorney's office. From my perspective, it will help if we can get the case before a judge. A judge can order an injunction for protection and order the abuser into counseling and treatment."

High-tech help: Bodyguard Technologies Inc. of Colorado has devised a radio wave emitting ankle bracelet to be worn by the subject of a restraining order. The person trips an alarm if he or she steps within a preset distance of a detector, carried by the person who got the restraining order.

The alarm can be routed straight to a police station. The alarm also goes off if the subject tries to take the bracelet off.

ADT Security Systems has devised a panic button women can wear on a necklace to use if a threatening person gets too close. The button sends a signal to an ADT security center, which notifies the police. The product was tried in Pittsburgh last summer.

Private detecting: Some boyfriends and girlfriends now turn to private investigator agencies for background checks on a new lover. Sometimes, for several hundred dollars, investigators locate former boyfriends or girlfriends to find out whether a person was ever violent or dishonest.

Clients "feel they're unique asking us to do it," said Dan Bachrach, an assistant at Global Investigations in Tampa. "We assure them they're not _ it's a common process."

He said his company has done about 25 background checks in the last six months, for as little as $45. But none has turned up a violent past _ perhaps because the people who request background checks are usually more careful about whom they meet.

Profile of an abuser: It's often hard to pick out the man who will turn violent in a failing relationship. They may exhibit civility, even virtue, in their other relationships. The man who police say killed Plodzien and her new boyfriend used to check on his grandmother every day because she had a bad heart.

"It's a difficult thing to predict," Barile said. "The relationships probably start like any other. In courtship, everybody's on their best behavior. But some things might put up a little red flag.

"If you find this person is jealous of their time with other people, if they find out this person has been abused himself as a child, if they talk about the fact their parents exhibited violence, if they blame others for his or her actions _ these are some common things about abusers."

Stan Jacobsen, a former FBI agent with experience in compiling psychological profiles of the criminal mind, said a typical batterer "needs control due to his own sense of inadequacy."

"They're individuals who want to be in total control," said Jacobsen, who now is a member of the Spinnaker Group, a private investigator firm.

"The beating might be because of some real or imagined experience that he's been mistreated by women or a woman in his life. Sometimes he will be contrite, say "I'm sorry, I'll never do it again.' A lot of that is manipulative on his part. To keep her with him, to prevent her from going to authorities. Some do feel contrite. Some don't.

"The bottom line is: You're dealing with an inadequate, insecure person who is trying to get control of his environment through beatings or who is acting out of anger."

Most women can take steps. But for some women, there is nothing they can do.

_ Times researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report, which also used information from Times files.

Safety plan

Margaret Barile, coordinator of Hillsborough County's domestic-violence program, recommends these points of preparedness for people who find themselves in a potentially dangerous relationship:

Have your Social Security card and other identification ready. If you have children, make sure you have their birth certificates and Social Security cards, too. The papers make it easier to get public assistance and food stamps.

Have enough cash for a motel. Consider keeping some extra clothes at a friend's house.

Have an extra set of keys, and keep them out of your purse. Barile said men think they can sometimes ground women by snatching their purse.

Once you're safely away, Barile recommends you report any violence or threat of violence to the police.

Have the numbers of women's shelters ready. In Tampa, the number for The Spring is 247-7233. In Plant City, the number is 757-3871. In Pinellas County, the number for Casa is 898-3671.

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