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Melissa Jeltsen
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Entries by Melissa Jeltsen

National Teen Birth Rate Plummets To All-Time Low

(0) Comments | Posted April 28, 2016 | 1:43 PM

The national teen birth rate has fallen to a record low, according to a new analysis released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

From 2006 to 2014, the teen birth rate declined 41 percent. In 2014, there were 24.2 births for every...

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Mississippi Fails To Add Domestic Violence As A Legal Reason For Divorce

(0) Comments | Posted April 26, 2016 | 10:21 AM

In Mississippi, a person can get a divorce if their spouse is a habitual drunk, commits adultery, has an incurable mental illness or is naturally impotent.

But if their spouse beats them? That would make things more complicated. As it currently stands, domestic violence is not among...

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NFL Should Focus Attention On Domestic Violence, Not ‘Deflategate,’ Massachusetts AG Argues

(0) Comments | Posted April 25, 2016 | 4:09 PM

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey criticized the NFL for wasting resources on the "Deflategate" legal saga on Monday, instead of focusing on more critical issues, such as domestic violence.

"My view remains that the NFL spent way too much time and...

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8 Family Members Dead In Mass Shooting In Ohio, Authorities Say

(0) Comments | Posted April 22, 2016 | 12:16 PM

At least eight Ohio relatives, including a teenager, were shot to death Friday in killings that authorities said specifically targeted the family.

The killer or killers were on the loose, but Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said there didn't appear to be a threat to the community.

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The Inside Story Of How 4 Courageous Reporters Freed More Than 2,000 Slaves

(0) Comments | Posted April 20, 2016 | 3:46 PM

On a remote Indonesian island village, the reporters discovered them: grown men, held against their will in a rusty cage. They were fishermen, many of them hailing originally from Myanmar. But now they were trapped. They were forced to fish for...

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She Was Acquitted Of Murdering Her Abusive Ex After Years In Prison. Now Comes The Hard Part.

(0) Comments | Posted April 12, 2016 | 3:13 PM

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Cherelle Baldwin was technically free.

It had been nine days since her release from York Correctional Institution, Connecticut’s only prison for women. She spent almost three years there, waiting to stand trial...

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Joe Biden Explains How He Helped Expose America's 'Dirty Little Secret'

(0) Comments | Posted April 4, 2016 | 10:17 AM

He's called it a "public health epidemic." A "stain on the moral character of a society." An issue that "cuts to the very core of how we measure ourselves."

We must, he says, "change the culture." 

Vice President Joe Biden has spent more than...

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Woman Accused Of Murdering Her Abusive Ex Goes Free After Almost 3 Years Behind Bars

(0) Comments | Posted March 31, 2016 | 9:22 AM

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Twelve jurors found Cherelle Baldwin not guilty of murder on Thursday in the death of her ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey Brown. 

Baldwin collapsed to the floor in tears as the verdict was announced. 

"My baby," she cried. "My baby will have his mommy back."


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Jury Begins Deliberations In Trial Of Woman Accused Of Killing Her Alleged Abuser

(0) Comments | Posted March 29, 2016 | 4:27 PM

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A jury has begun deliberations in the trial of Cherelle Baldwin, a young woman accused of killing her allegedly abusive ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey Brown. She maintains that she was acting in self-defense.

The tiny courtroom was packed with family members of both the victim...

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Woman On Trial In Ex-Boyfriend's Murder Testifies He Was 'Controlling, Abusive'

(0) Comments | Posted March 22, 2016 | 4:54 PM

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Cherelle Baldwin held back tears Tuesday as she told a jury how her ex-boyfriend Jeffrey Brown whipped her with his belt and then wrapped it around her neck as her 19-month-old son cried nearby.

Brown sent a rash of threatening texts just before the early-morning...

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This Woman Is On Trial For Killing A Man She Says Tried To Kill Her

(0) Comments | Posted March 20, 2016 | 9:37 PM

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — As she awaited her day in court, held on $1 million bail, Cherelle Baldwin missed milestones. Her son’s second birthday, then his third, then his fourth. His first day at preschool. Her younger brother’s college graduation. Her father’s 60th birthday. Funerals for...

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3 Women Are Killed Every Day By Their Partners. Here Are 59 Ideas On How To Stop The Violence.

(0) Comments | Posted March 20, 2016 | 10:44 AM

Did you know that in the U.S., more women are killed by intimate partners -- their boyfriends, husbands and exes -- than any other type of perpetrator? 

On average, that works out to three women dead every single day.

Last month, The Huffington Post...

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Donald Trump Is Successfully Conning The Entire Country

(4) Comments | Posted March 16, 2016 | 9:18 AM

On a recent episode of "Last Week Tonight," comedian John Oliver shared an unsettling encounter he’d had with Republican presidential front-runner and reality TV star Donald Trump.

Trump declared last year that he’d turned down an invitation...

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Wave Goodbye To Harsh Tennessee Law Targeting Pregnant Drug Users

(0) Comments | Posted March 15, 2016 | 3:29 PM

A controversial Tennessee law that explicitly makes it a crime to use drugs while pregnant will officially die this summer.  

In 2014, when the state passed the so-called fetal assault law over vocal opposition by medical health professionals, it included a built-in expiration date.

On Tuesday,...

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Domestic Violence During Pregnancy Doubles Risk Of Premature Birth

(0) Comments | Posted March 9, 2016 | 2:48 PM

Women who experience domestic violence while pregnant are twice as likely to give birth to a premature baby or a baby with low birth weight, according to a new study. 

Researchers from the University of Iowa performed a meta-analysis on 50 studies that looked at the effects...

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When Domestic Violence Becomes A Workplace Issue

(0) Comments | Posted March 8, 2016 | 4:30 PM

The two deaths came in quick succession, shocking the close-knit community of health care workers at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

First, in August 2013, an administrative assistant was fatally shot by her estranged husband while she was helping her...

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Tennessee To Decide If It Will Keep Criminalizing Pregnant Women For Drug Use

(0) Comments | Posted March 8, 2016 | 9:00 AM

In 2014, Tennessee made national news when it became the first state in the country to pass a law specifically making it a crime to use drugs while pregnant.

Several leading medical organizations opposed the legislation and cautioned that it would have a negative public health effect...

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How The NRA Is 'Making A Killing' Off Women's Lives

(0) Comments | Posted March 1, 2016 | 10:52 AM

It was Oct. 8, 1984, and Americans across the country were glued to their television sets for the premiere of "The Burning Bed." The made-for-TV movie starred Farrah Fawcett, everyone's favorite pinup girl, as a battered wife who kills her husband by burning him alive after suffering years of brutal abuse.

Based on a true story, "The Burning Bed" was an instant hit. Over 30 million households tuned in, making the drama more popular than that year’s World Series final game. Suddenly, domestic violence -- long considered a private matter that should be kept behind closed doors -- was being discussed out in the open.

"I felt the story was important and, at that point, not one we had ever seen before," said Robert Greenwald, who directed the movie. "Groups around the country used the film to mobilize and to take this issue out of the closet."

These days, Greenwald is no longer making Hollywood blockbusters, and is better known for his work as a liberal documentary filmmaker. In the past decade, he’s taken on the political influence of the Koch brothers, Walmart’s treatment of low wage workers, and how the Bush administration misled Americans on the Iraq war.

Now, thirty years after directing "The Burning Bed," he’s returning to the subject of domestic violence.

In his newest documentary, "Making A Killing: Guns, Greed & The NRA," Greenwald investigates how the lucrative firearms industry and the NRA are putting people's lives in danger by opposing common sense gun reform -- all in the name of turning a profit.

"The NRA is a lobbyist for the gun companies, and there's a significant profit motive at stake," he said. "All of us are in greater physical danger because of this."

The film pivots around five stories of gun violence: mass shootings, unintentional shootings, suicides, the impact of gun trafficking and domestic violence shootings. 

As Greenwald rightly recognizes, it's difficult to properly illustrate the impact of gun violence on Americans without grappling with domestic abuse.

To start, the majority of mass shootings in the U.S., defined as those in which four or more people are killed, are related to domestic violence. 

More often than not, when a woman is fatally shot in this country, the person wielding the firearm is someone she dated or married. Most women who die in gun homicides in the U.S. are killed by intimate partners or other family members. A U.S. woman is fatally shot by a romantic partner or ex every 16 hours, according to a recent analysis.

For every woman who is gunned down in a domestic violence homicide, countless others are seriously injured in non-fatal shootings.

One such survivor is Kate Ranta, a Florida woman featured in the film who police say was shot twice by her estranged husband in 2012. Her father was also shot multiple times, and her son William, who had just turned 4, was present in the room when the bullets began to fly.

"One day, over a year after I left him, he showed up unannounced at my new apartment while my father was visiting me. I could feel something was off and frantically tried to lock the door. He pulled out a gun... and shot me twice," she told The Huffington Post. "One bullet exploded my hand. The other went through my left breast, just missing my heart. My father was also shot twice. My son witnessed the whole thing."

Her ex has yet to stand trial. 

"Why should anybody who's been an abuser ever have access to a gun? Robert Greenwald

In an especially emotional scene in "Making A Killing," Ranta's son recalls begging his father not to shoot his mother. Ranta said William now suffers from PTSD and anxiety. 

Greenwald said that William's testimony had a profound impact on him.

"I've filmed drone survivors in Pakistan, I've filmed in Afghanistan. ... There was something about Will's talking that had me just choking up," Greenwald said. "You feel the depth of the experience on this child, who is going to hold it forever as part of him." 

Greenwald said that when it comes to public perceptions of domestic violence, the country has come far since "The Burning Bed" premiered. 

"People accept it's a substantive problem, which I don't believe they did before," he said, "It was more like some horrible, disgusting version of she asked for it."

Yet, when it comes to guns, he said, there's still plenty of progress left to make. 

"There are many who are not taking sufficient steps to take guns away from abusers, and some of that goes back to the legislators, to the morally and financially corrupt elected officials," Greenwald said. "Women are getting killed and shot. Why should anybody who's been an abuser ever have access to a gun?" 

He said he hopes that the film will inspire people from all across the country to get involved in the anti-gun violence movement. 

"The NRA are doing enormous damage to so many people's lives around the country in the interest of a very, very small group of people's greed, and money and ideology," he said. "I hope and I sincerely believe that the tide is shifting."

"Making A Killing" will premiere the week of March 14th in cities throughout the country -- and be available to use for free for local screenings and house parties. To sign-up to screen the film, visit Brave New Films.


Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and other issues related to women's health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.


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It’s Time We Listen When Women Say Their Boyfriends Are Dangerous

(2) Comments | Posted February 26, 2016 | 12:21 PM

Cedric Ford was at work at an Excel plant in Hesston, Kansas, on Thursday afternoon when he was handed a piece of paper: The Harvey County Sheriff’s office had served him with a restraining order. 

Ninety minutes later, authorities say Ford opened fire,

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Domestic Abusers Take Their Fight To Own Guns To The Supreme Court

(3) Comments | Posted February 25, 2016 | 2:46 PM

In 2009, an anonymous tipster contacted authorities with a hunch: A bald eagle had been shot and killed, and they knew who did it. 

A Maine man, Stephen Voisine, was arrested for the crime. He turned over his rifle to...

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