EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSDOMESTIC VIOLENCE
from Eyewitness News Online
Half Of All Domestic Violence Cases Witnessed By Children
Reported by: Leslie Rubin
Videographer: John Tincher
Web Producer: Leslie Rubin
Reported: Mar. 5, 2012 10:41 PM EST
Updated: Mar. 5, 2012 10:56 PM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
In the midst of the tragic story of an 11-year-old boy killed by a car while trying to flag down help for his mother who was allegedly being beaten by her boyfriend, some are wondering if it could have been prevented.
Prosecutors say it's a situation that's seen all too often. Victims, often women, filing domestic violence protective orders against their significant others, only to not show up for court and have the case dropped. Many times, leaving children to witness the abuse all over again.
"Basically the epitamy of a case where the child is affected, and in this case, this child lost their life. This is probably the saddest story that I've heard," said Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants.
Jahlil Clements, 11, is said to have been caught in the middle of an abusive relationship. Losing his life, trying to save his mother from domestic violence.
Ethan Chic-Colbert, 20, is in jail facing four counts of child neglect creating risk of injury or death. One for every child that was in the car when he was allegedly beating his girlfriend, Lynitrah Woodson, so badly she had to pull over on Interstate 77.
This isn't the first time the couple has had domestic problems. Court records show in February 2011, Woodson filed a domestic violence protective order against Chic-Colbert. The case was dismissed about she didn't show up to court.
"In the end, if the victim's don't show up, then we don't have evidence to prosecute the case," explained Plants.
"Anytime a victim, male or female, doesn't show up to court, the abuse is not going to just end on it's own," said Elizabeth Crawford, director and counselor for the Domestic Violence Counseling Center.
Crawford says about half of all domestic violence is witnessed by children.
"It has the same impact on them emotionally and mentally as actually being the victim," she said.
Essentially putting them in line to fall victim to the cycle of abuse, she says. Either by becoming the abuser, or a victim of domestic violence themselves.
"If they don't think about themselves, they need to think of the children, how this is harming the children," said Crawford.
Jahlil's family hopes his story will send a message to others who think they're trapped in an abusive relationship.
"Some young lady that decides to move a man up in their household, and not listen to, you should do this or...maybe their child won't have to go through this," says his grandmother, Thomasina Clements.
Plants says Chic-Colbert will likely face more, and more serious charges when the case goes to a grand jury, including child neglect resulting in death, and domestic battery.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, and need help, call the Domestic Violence Counseling Center at 304-342-7752.
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