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Monday, July 30, 2007

[CA] "I never thought I could survive something this hard"

...For [Angela] McConville, the most important powers A Woman's Place bestowed were information and validation...

In May of 2006 Los Banos, California Police Sgt. Condon McConville beat his wife Angela, racked himself up some felony charges, and somewhere between then and now - by his own actions - lost his wife, his job (he "resigned"), and lost the felonies someplace too. He recently walked out of court guilty of misdemeanors and Angela still has to work out being safe - from his felony capacity to harm. It's a lethal-level fear but kudos to Angela's network. She feels real support from the one-stop domestic violence shelter she has tucked under the wings of - A Woman's Place. She's still in danger, but she's not alone. That means a lot. If you have time, click the title & read the whole article. If the link becomes dead, email me and I'll share mine.

Abuse victims find sanctuary in shelter
A Sun-Star Special Report
By CORINNE REILLY creilly@mercedsun-star.com
July 28, 2007
...McConville has moved three times. Her house was foreclosed on and her car was repossessed. Two weeks ago she spent three days on the witness stand testifying against her former husband, an ex-Los Banos police sergeant... McConville counts A Woman's Place among the life rafts that have kept her afloat in a sea of troubles... For McConville, the most important powers A Woman's Place bestowed were information and validation.... In the months after McConville's ex-husband was released on bail, she began seeing him again and thought about trying to work things out. "When I was starting to let him back in... But last September, when he called her more than 50 times in one day, A Woman's Place lobbied to lock him up again... "I knew that if I called the police he'd lose his job, we'd lose the house, and that would be it"...
On the afternoon that the McConville jury came back, Almanza hurried to the courthouse. She arrived a few minutes after McConville had learned that her ex-husband would be out of jail within a few hours. The two women hugged in the hallway... Almanza asked McConville if she planned to leave the state. "I don't know yet," she replied. "We can help you change your name and your social security number if it gets to that point," said Almanza...

13 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Angela should not be shamed! Quite the contrary. She is the victim of his abuse. It is easy to figure out who committed crime(s). The reaction of, "I side with my friend cop," is simply called the
    "Brotherhood in Blue." The comment that "she vowed" to ruin his career is not true. He ruined it all by himself by committing and perpetrating abuse and domestic violence. Bottom line, when your friend is a police abuser, it is easy to ignore the truth, which show evidence of acts of domestic violence. For that, he should face consequences for his actions, unless you too think that Condon's behavior should be condoned...all because of who he is. Does power and status of being an officer afford one to be treated with privilege, as you suggest?

    Domestic Violence advocate
    Specializing in Officer-Involved Domestic Violence

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. he spent almost a year in solitary confinement, lost his family, his pension, his job and the respect of the community.... he was found innocent of all felony charges....

      Delete
    2. This 2012 article said he was found guilty.

      Los Banos police officer facing wife beating charge
      Published: June 7, 2012
      By Corey Pride
      A Los Banos police officer [Alfonso Flores] was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife... The last time someone from the Los Banos department was arrested for a domestic incident was 2006, when former Sgt. Condon McConville was accused of slamming his wife's head against a wall. McConville was eventually found guilty of two misdemeanor counts of spousal abuse...
      http://www.losbanosenterprise.com/2012/06/07/179908/los-banos-police-officer-facing.html

      Delete
    3. Ex-cop guilty of abuse toward wife
      Former Los Baños sergeant gets convicted of two misdemeanors in domestic violence case
      By Minerva Perez
      MPEREZ@LOSBANOSENTERPRISE.COM
      July 20, 2007, 01:30:50 AM PDT

      MERCED- After a weeklong trial of testimony from friends, family and police officers, a jury found former Los Baños Police Department Sgt. Condon McConville guilty of two misdemeanor counts of spousal abuse.

      At the conclusion of nearly six-hours of deliberations, a jury Wednesday convicted McConville of battery on a person who is a spouse or co-habitant, and assault by means of force inflicting bodily injury.

      He was sentenced to time served after spending nine months in Merced County Jail.......

      Delete
  3. To the first comment:

    Unless you are GOD I'd hold off on the judgement and admonishments.
    You don't know what you think you know.
    It's easier to condemn her than to face that people publicly might not be the same behind closed doors.
    From community members to close family members - people who know the accused are almost always sure it isn't so.
    That it just couldn't be.

    If life were really that simple...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Officer McConville is back on the force of the Los Banos Police Dept. He works as a plain cloths officer. It sickens me that he is free let alone working as a peace officer

    ReplyDelete
  5. Could you write me at cloud_writer at yahoo dot com
    and fill me in?
    That's important info!

    ReplyDelete
  6. AnonymousJune 05, 2008

    McConville getting his job back should come as no surprise. The "Blue Wall" has been alive and strong at Los Banos for quite a long time. McConville probably had as much dirt on the upper crust at LBPD as they did on him. So why not keep him in the fold?

    When found guilty of misdemeanor and not a felony, the writing was on the wall.

    ReplyDelete
  7. And where (oh where) does that leave Angela?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have known Condon (Jim) Mcconville for many years and remember him as a fun loving guy who loved his wife and children very much. I dont know exactley what happend as i wasnt there. I know Angela as well and wish both of them the best in life. As far as Mcconville working as a police officer, i highly doubt that. Anyone convicted of a misd. D.V. charge in this state can not carry a firearm without a waiver from the court. It is more likley he is working as an non-sworn background investigator or in some other non-sworn capacity. Either way i feel terrible for both of them and their children. I hope they both recover from this tragedy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. With Fitchie, Brizzee and Rocha running the show now ( I shudder to think), I am sure he is afforded some luxuries that most would not be given.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Abuse victims find sanctuary in shelter

    A Sun-Star Special Report

    :: Digg this story :: Save to del.icio.us

    By CORINNE REILLY
    creilly@mercedsun-star.com
    Last Updated: July 28, 2007, 03:27:29 AM PDT

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is the first in an occasional series on A Woman's Place, its work, its staff and the families it serves. To view the series in its entirety, go to www.mercedsun-star.com/awomansplace.

    Early on, Angela McConville saw the signs of rage. There was the time, before they were married, that her boyfriend shattered a mirror with his fist because she had given him a crooked haircut. And there was the time he cursed her and threw their kids' toys when he lost his car keys.

    After 11 years of marriage, her husband hit her for the first time. They were on the front porch of their Los Banos home. The next year, he slammed her head into a stucco wall.

    "It's hard to look back and admit that I let it get that bad," the mother of three recalled. "But at the time it almost seemed normal, because my reality was so far from normal by then."

    In the year that has passed since a neighbor convinced her to finally call the police, McConville has moved three times. Her house was foreclosed on and her car was repossessed. Two weeks ago she spent three days on the witness stand testifying against her former husband, an ex-Los Banos police sergeant. (On July 18, Condon McConville was convicted of two misdemeanor counts of spousal abuse and acquitted of four related felony counts. He says he never hit his ex-wife and that she abused him.)

    "I never thought I could survive something this hard," said McConville, a 39-year-old, 6-foot-4-inch blonde with bright blue eyes.

    It would have been a lot harder if she'd had to do it alone.

    Besides her family and friends, McConville counts A Woman's Place among the life rafts that have kept her afloat in a sea of troubles. For two decades, A Woman's Place has been helping local victims of domestic violence. From pots and pans for women starting life over to a phone call alerting her that her abusive partner has been released from jail, A Woman's Place aims to provide anything a victim might need — and it's all free. The nonprofit's services are among the most comprehensive in the state.

    "You have to think of everything if you really want to make a difference," says Diana Almanza, executive director of A Woman's Place. "If a woman has no way to get food when she leaves a bad situation, it doesn't give her too many choices besides going back."

    Other domestic violence experts agree. "You have to have an answer for every threat he makes and for every fear that he's instilled," said Gail Pincus, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Center in Los Angeles. "If he says, 'If you call the police, I'm going to take the kids away,' you have to be able to give that woman the legal help and the assurance that he won't be able to ... That's when a woman can leave."

    Domestic violence has become endemic in some parts of America, California and Merced County. Unlike drug abuse, gang violence and other 21st century plagues, domestic violence is an equal-opportunity offender. It crosses lines of race, class, age and even gender — an estimated 15 percent of domestic abuse victims are male. Nationally, one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime — not to mention the collateral damage inflicted on children and other relatives.

    Strategies and solutions revolve around many of the same steps taken by A Woman's Place. Yet even if effective, organizations dealing with this type of abuse are vulnerable to a common threat: a funding cutoff. Earlier this year, for instance, A Woman's Place was confronted by another local group competing for some of the same dollars it has deployed for the last decade. Although the rival group ultimately failed at capturing the funding, it questioned how its competitor spent it and how the organization was managed. A Woman's Place denies any misuse of funds.

    One-stop shop for victims

    When funding is available, counties are required to provide certain services for victims of domestic violence. In Merced, those include a 24-hour crisis line, an emergency safehouse, temporary housing and food, counseling and a drop-in center.

    A Woman's Place does all that — and more.

    It also runs a legal department to help battered women get restraining orders and custody of their children. It pairs victims with advocates who'll go to court with them during an abuser's criminal trial. And it sends advocates to crime scenes, the police department, the hospital or anywhere else a battered woman might need support and information, even in the middle of the night.

    It'll give a victim a ride almost anywhere — to the doctor, to the airport, to court or to a shelter. It also hosts a support group for battered women every Monday night, provides counseling for children and rape victims, runs a support group at the Chowchilla prison for women who've killed their abusive partners, collects clothes and household items for women who've left abusive homes, trains law enforcement officers on what to do when they respond to a domestic violence call and runs a treatment program for abusers.

    "It's rare to find a single organization that's covered so many bases," said Pincus.

    And when it comes to domestic violence services, she says, the one-stop-shop factor is everything: "Women in these situations are so busy trying to survive. They don't have time to make 10 different phone calls to line up everything they're going to need."

    For McConville, the most important powers A Woman's Place bestowed were information and validation. When her husband was arrested in May 2006, the police helped her to obtain a temporary restraining order against him. But until A Woman's Place called, nobody told her that the order would expire after 72 hours, that if she didn't get a permanent one she could be charged with a crime for taking her children out of the state to stay with her parents.

    "The police gave me the phone number to call A Woman's Place, but my mind was going a million miles an hour at that point. So I didn't call," McConville recalled. "When they called me, I was thinking, 'How do these people know me? How do they know what's happened to me?'"

    All law enforcement agencies in the county notify A Woman's Place when they respond to a domestic violence call. If the officer or victim requests it, A Woman's Place will send an advocate to the scene. Whenever a victim goes to the hospital, so does A Woman's Place. It guarantees a response time of less than 20 minutes.

    A night in the life of an advocate

    "The things we see — it doesn't get easier," sighed Camila Cortez, coming off a recent overnight, on-call shift that kept her at the hospital until 3:30 a.m.

    Cortez, a domestic violence survivor and a 10-year veteran advocate, responded to two calls that night. One call came because a 21-year-old woman had gone to church. Her partner thought she was with another man, so when she got home he beat her with a broomstick.

    The other call was for a woman who was six months pregnant. She was lying on the sofa when her husband flipped it over. She landed on her stomach, but the doctor said the baby wasn't harmed.

    Of the two, one victim chose to go home. The other went to a safehouse. "Sometimes (a victim) does go back, but at least she has information now in case she needs it in the future," said Cortez.

    A week after her husband's arrest, McConville returned to California. He had been released on $50,000 bail. She moved her children — now ages 9, 6 and 2 — into a rented house in Visalia.

    When McConville met for the first time with a counselor at A Woman's Place, the counselor walked her through what he called a lethality assessment — a series of questions that determines the degree to which a domestic violence victim's life is in danger. "I was off the charts," said McConville.

    She stared at a poster on the wall that described the typical symptoms of an abusive relationship. "I looked at it and I thought, 'That's me,'" she remembered. "Before that, I didn't think of myself as a domestic violence victim. You think you're the only one out there who has experienced this, and then you find out that your story is textbook.

    "It was incredibly validating."

    A nonprofit's history

    A Woman's Place was founded in 1986 from two smaller organizations, Friends of Battered Women and People Against Rape. Last year the nonprofit took crisis calls from 1,000 domestic violence victims. It provided one-on-one counseling to 700. It sheltered 350 women and children. It helped nearly 600 women obtain child custody and restraining orders.

    A Woman's Place employs 38 people. They're all certified domestic violence advocates. Some are domestic violence survivors. A few are men.

    The organization operates on an annual budget of $1.7 million. As Merced County's designated domestic violence services provider, it receives about $370,000 from the county. The rest comes from federal and state grants and donations from businesses, individuals and foundations.

    The organization maintains a policy of strict confidentiality. The only exceptions occur when a client reveals incidents of child or elder abuse, or threats of suicide or homicide.

    During her first visit to A Woman's Place, McConville was paired with an advocate. The advocate — who McConville now considers a close friend — accompanied her to court each time her ex-husband made an appearance, including his week-long trial earlier this month. On the days McConville couldn't get there, the advocate went alone and reported back.

    "The legal process can be very confusing and hard to navigate," McConville said. "Having someone to go with you and explain what's happening and what comes next — it makes a big difference."

    A Woman's Place also enjoys electronic access to court information that victims don't. "We can tell (a victim) when the next court date is, what the bail is or when (the abuser) is getting out of jail," said Almanza.

    An attempt at reconciliation

    In the months after McConville's ex-husband was released on bail, she began seeing him again and thought about trying to work things out. "When I was starting to let him back in (A Woman's Place) still kept in touch," said McConville. "But they never judged me for it."

    But last September, when he called her more than 50 times in one day, A Woman's Place lobbied to lock him up again. A judge raised his bail from $50,000 to $500,000. He was re-arrested on the original charges and stayed in jail for the next 10 months.

    "The one thing I really try to impose on all the staff is that you can't tell a battered woman how to live her life," said Almanza. "We can give her information and options, but we should never tell her what's best for her. Because we don't know and because that's not our place."

    McConville runs her own business processing car registration paperwork for dealerships. So when her ex-husband was forced to resign from the police department, she and her children lost their health insurance. That also nixed her plans for retirement.

    Without a second paycheck, McConville couldn't make the mortgage payment. Her house went into foreclosure, her car was repossessed and she finally declared bankruptcy. Her credit in ruins, she had to fight just to get her bank to allow her to have an ATM card.

    When money was at its scarcest, A Woman's Place connected McConville with a county assistance program for crime victims. The program reimbursed McConville for some of her moving expenses. It also paid for 40 counseling sessions for each of her children.

    McConville acknowledges that for more than a year she made excuses for her husband, forgiving him and covering for him, trying to keep their family together. It took her a long time to come to terms with all she'd have to give up — her home, her community, her children's friends and schools — in exchange for their safety. "I knew that if I called the police he'd lose his job, we'd lose the house, and that would be it."

    For women without family and friends to turn to, reporting or leaving an abusive partner can present an even bleaker horizon. "A lot of women leave in the middle night with nothing except the clothes on their backs," said Almanza. "And a lot of them don't have anywhere to go."

    A Woman's Place runs two safe houses, one in Merced and one in Los Banos. Their exact locations are never publicly disclosed. Between them, A Woman's Place can shelter up to 50 women and children at a time.

    On a recent Wednesday afternoon, just one family was staying at the modest Los Banos house. "Most of the neighbors probably think it's a foster home," said Almanza, pulling into the driveway. "We've never really had anyone ask, and we don't exactly go around introducing ourselves."

    Inside, the house smelled of spicy food. A short woman wearing grey pajamas was at the stove stirring chili sauce into a frying pan full of chicken. Her daughter was coloring on white paper at the kitchen table. "They got here last night," a shelter employee informed Almanza.

    If more than one family is staying at the shelter, they cook and eat together. A Woman's Place stocks the pantry. It also provides blankets, clothes, toiletries and cable television.

    There are no set rules about how long a family can stay. When they're ready to leave, they're often sent to the nonprofit's warehouse at the former Castle Air Force Base. Brimming with clothes, shoes, blankets, pots, pans and baby toys, the warehouse looks like a well-organized thrift store. Everything is donated, and everything is given free to women who are starting from scratch after leaving an abusive home.

    A leader's lofty goals

    Almanza started as a counselor at A Woman's Place in 1991. When she accepted the position as its executive director three years later, the Texas native harbored lofty goals.

    She wanted the nonprofit's crisis line to be staffed 24 hours a day by trained advocates, never by an answering service. She wanted to repair the organization's relationship with local law enforcement agencies. She hoped to procure a separate exam room and waiting area for rape victims undergoing forensic exams at Mercy Medical Center's emergency room.

    Thirteen years later she's crossed all of them off her list, but she's added a few new ones: more outreach, more satellite offices to reach victims in the county's rural areas, a third shelter and a program to target battered immigrants.

    Almanza is entrenched in her work. She can recall details of cases more than a decade old. It's rare that she makes it in and out of the courthouse — or even the grocery store — without stopping to talk to an attorney, a judge, a cop or a child welfare worker with whom she has collaborated on a victim's behalf.

    Almanza admits she's been hardened by the job. Twice she's lost clients killed by their abusers. She's met women who have been beaten with golf clubs and stabbed with screwdrivers.

    But she still has plenty of soft spots. If she can, she avoids counseling young victims. "That's the one thing I still can't take," she confesses. "It breaks my heart."

    Emotional toll aside, Almanza says what keeps her up at night most often is the ever-present threat of funding cuts: "I've seen how big the need is for these services. To not be able to provide them because of money is a scary thought."

    The verdict

    On the afternoon that the McConville jury came back, Almanza hurried to the courthouse. She arrived a few minutes after McConville had learned that her ex-husband would be out of jail within a few hours. The two women hugged in the hallway.

    McConville's advocate was already there. She informed Almanza of the verdict: guilty of two misdemeanor spousal abuse charges. But the jury didn't think there was enough evidence to convict him of any of the four felony charges — the only ones that could have kept him in jail.

    McConville's ex-husband was sentenced to three years of informal probation. The judge also ordered him to attend a year-long batterer's treatment program and to abstain from alcohol. For at least the next 10 years, and likely for the rest of his life, he can't own a gun. McConville's restraining order is still in place.

    In a telephone interview this week, McConville's ex-husband, Condon, said he never hit his ex-wife. Instead, he says she abused him.

    He says his ex-wife lied on the witness stand during his trial. "In the trial, they presented absolutely no evidence to substantiate the things she's saying," he said. "This was a very political case ... And she likes attention."

    His attorney, Modesto-based David Renteria, said it's important to note that the prosecution was unable to prove most of the charges against McConville's ex-husband. "Based on statements (Angela McConville) made, four felonies were filed," said Renteria. "And the jury obviously did not find her credible enough to convict him on any."

    Outside the courtroom, worry furrowed McConville's face. "At least he got something," she said. "It's not a felony, but it's something." McConville's mother stood next to her, crying.

    "I want you to come in and make a safety plan," Almanza warned. "That's the most important thing right now."

    An hour later, McConville was back at A Woman's Place, trying to absorb all the advice: Be sure to get copies of the restraining order to the kids' schools. Pass his photo around to the neighbors; they should call the police if they see him. The kids should know to call the police, too. Do the kids have cell phones? They should.

    Almanza asked McConville if she planned to leave the state. "I don't know yet," she replied.

    "We can help you change your name and your social security number if it gets to that point," said Almanza.

    The checklist of precautions proceeded, as it will for others who seek shelter from their personal storms. For them, as for Angela McConville, A Woman's Place is their home.

    Reporter Corinne Reilly can be reached at 209-385-2477 or creilly@mercedsun-star.com.

    http://dwb.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13835573p-14409599c.html

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