Jail Calls in Domestic Abuse Cases: How Children Are Affected

Children are often manipulated over the phone by their abuser, who calls from jail.


For many people who are not familiar with domestic violence, they tend to assume that once the abuser has been arrested, the problem goes away. In truth, many abusers continue to dominate, manipulate, and frighten their victims, even while they are behind bars, by way of the jail telephone. How is that possible, you ask? Let’s take a look at this phenomenon.


Even the Supreme Court has acknowledged the fact that witness tampering often continues in domestic violence cases, after an abuser is detained and awaiting trial and sentencing. The primary method for this, they say, is through telephone calls from the jail. According to a study performed in 2011 by Amy Bonomi, Professor and Chair of Human Development and Family Studies at Michigan State University, and David Martin, Chair of the Domestic Violence Unit at King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, witness tampering via jail calls is common in domestic violence cases.


Since then, Bonomi and Martin have released new information, expanding on their earlier study, and providing case studies to support their findings. They analyze jail calls between arrested domestic abusers and their victims and reveal exactly how abusers manipulate their victims into changing their stories or recanting their testimony, in order to lessen impending criminal charges.


Three examples are provided in the research, from three cases where someone accused of domestic violence had contact with their victim, and their children, over the phone. In all three cases, the contact directly affected the outcome of the case. Also, in all three cases the children were used as tools to manipulate the victim in some capacity, and cause them to change their story.


The first case:

In the first case, the abuser beat and strangled his wife while she was trying to breastfeed their newborn baby, because he suspected that she was cheating on him. The woman’s teen daughter heard the struggle and called the police, at which point the abuser was arrested and taken to jail. During numerous calls made to the victim from jail, her husband repeatedly ordered her to tell the police whatever she had to in order to get him released. The reason he gave for this was because she had no other income besides him, and he was the only one who could provide for the family. The victim later recanted, and told the court that she couldn’t remember what had happened.


The second case:

In the second case, the abuser assaulted his wife at a nightclub because he claimed he was ruining his fun. Police arrested him at the scene, but his wife denied the event, despite her broken nose. In later calls to the victim from jail, the abuser accused his wife of wanting to be hit, and also manipulated their child. When speaking to the child on the phone, the abuser said that the child’s mother was “mean and evil” and that he was in jail because she hated him. He also threatened suicide, at which point the victim caved and agreed to get the abuser out of jail.


The third case:

In the third case, the abuser assaulted his partner, and was arrested and jailed for the harm he caused her. However, once behind bars he had contact with his victim by phone calls, where he repeatedly pointed out that her job as an exotic dancer was embarrassing to their child. He also insisted that problems in the family could be attributed to her career choice. In this way, he shifted the blame for their predicament onto her, and was able to make her feel guilt and shame as a victim.


The summary, according to Bonomi and Martin, is that domestic abusers use their children as tools to advance their own causes. Here in Michigan, judges order that the accused have no contact with their accuser. Sometimes the defendant follows that order, and sometimes not. However, when the court order is violated through phone calls from the jail, the judge or prosecutor is notified because all Michigan jails record all inmate phone calls. Which means that defendants only dig themselves in deeper when they violate a judge’s orders.


We would like to remind all of our readers that it is very important to follow a judge’s orders. In domestic abuse cases, that means absolutely no contact, directly or indirectly, with the accuser. Violating a judge’s order will be a costly mistake for a criminal defendant!


If you have been accused of domestic violence, or abusing a member of your own household in Michigan, contact the experienced family law and criminal defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm. Our skilled family defense attorneys have spent decades helping the people of Michigan fight charges of abuse and neglect. Our phones are answered 24/7 at 866 766 5245. We are here to help you.



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