As a child, Mark Wynn tried to kill the violent stepfather who filled his home with terror. Now, Wynn, a Nashville police sergeant, is leading a domestic violence initiative that has sharply cut his city's family murder rate.
"We're getting in front of crime for the first time" with a 33-person police unit that is aggressively investigating family violence - even catching stalkers in the act, Wynn told an American Bar Association hearing Saturday.Wynn was joined by other experts on domestic violence, corporate leaders and even a former college football star who shared ideas on how to keep people from physically abusing or killing the ones they love.
Byron Hurt, a former Northeastern University quarterback, is part of the university's Mentors in Violence Prevention program, which uses sports jargon to show young athletes that "real men" don't hurt women or let their friends do so.
"Most guys have never been approached by two men to talk about the issue of violence against women," Hurt said.
He said he asks students to think about a woman they care about - their mother, sister, aunt or friend - and then picture someone harming her and someone else standing by and doing nothing. Using a guide based on sports terms such as "illegal motion" and "unsportsmanlike conduct," Hurt said he then discusses different approaches to stopping such violence.
Wynn said that when he was 11, there were no shelters for battered women and children, so he and his younger brother tried to kill their stepfather by poisoning him with bug spray. It didn't work.
Later, when he was in the police academy, he was taught that the proper response to domestic violence was "you're not going to believe it - arrest avoidance."
The good news, Wynn said, is that Nashville's new emphasis on preventing and prosecuting such violence has cut the domestic murder rate by 70 percent during the first half of this year.
Police officers talk to community groups about violence prevention, and misdemeanor cases are prosecuted aggressively to keep people from returning later as felons. There are counselors for victims, and the police work closely with Legal Aid to help get people out of violent households.
"We're stalking stalkers, which is the most fun I've had in I don't know how long," Wynn said, adding that police are using techniques previously employed in drug-trafficking cases.