The Heartsick Judge
12/5/2014 9:48 AM
Judge Amy Holmes Hehn was presiding over a contentious child custody and parenting-time
case when, On Nov. 10, Ian Elias kicked in the door of the home of his ex-wife,
Nicolette Elias, and shot her to death with a handgun. He took their two young daughters
to his home where he ultimately stepped out into the back yard and shot himself
in the head in front of police. Judge Hehn describes everyone involved in the case
as ‘heartsick’. The legal system, even when it is working ‘right’, can’t prevent
these tragedies. It takes community involvement. Judge Hehn’s perspective, coming
from 27 years of dealing with domestic violence has lessons for us all.
The judge’s insights fall into two groups. One group has to do with ongoing ignorance
concerning domestic violence and its impacts. In her piece, she addresses several
- We should never again ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”
- With rare exceptions, domestic abusers, including those who murder their partners,
- Domestic abusers don’t have “anger management problems”.
- Some of the worst domestic violence isn’t physical; it’s verbal, emotional and psychological.
- Domestic violence isn’t something that just happens to “those people”.
While these points are well known to those who have educated themselves about the
issue, they are common misconceptions among the general public. The very best way
to address such ideas is in conversation with your brothers and sisters. So, don’t
be afraid to speak up. There’s plenty of discussion of these and other misconceptions
in the section of our site called
The other group of the judge’s insights are recommendations for action:
- Men need to start standing up to men about domestic violence.
- We need to put money where our mouths are.
- We need to talk about guns.
- Everyone needs to educate themselves about domestic violence.
- If you see or hear abuse happening, call 911.
These are the kinds of changes that require more than just educating yourself about
the issue and speaking up about it. We need to work with others, to team up to build
the public will that results in the kind of ongoing, consistent, long-term action
to change our communities. Judge Hehn’s article covers a lot of territory. As she
points out, it can be easy to be discouraged when dealing with an issue that continues
to have such heartbreaking consequences. Of course, we all have lots of other commitments
– but the point is that all of us can do something – and doing what we can always