Traci Raymond Miscavish was a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, friend and florist.
She also was a victim of domestic violence.
Her estranged husband, a retired state trooper, ended her life and then his own at her workplace in Decatur Township, Clearfield County, one year ago.
Activists and legislators say they are working to ensure that the 49-year-old Philipsburg-area woman’s legacy is a change in laws and perceptions connected with domestic violence.
At the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, Executive Director Anne Ard wants to see an evolution similar to what has happened in the wake of other tragedies.
Amy Homan McGee’s murder at her husband’s hands in 2001 brought stark awareness, not just locally, but nationally with the documentary case study “Telling Amy’s Story.” The 2007 shooting of Jodi Barone on Easter Sunday as she prepared to pick up her daughter led to the creation of the Centre County Child Access Center as a safe transition for custodial exchanges.
Ard said she doesn’t know exactly what the long-term impact of Miscavish’s life and loss will be, but she believes it will be seen soon, largely because of the determination of family, friends and the community.
Miscavish’s best friend, Sherri Farmery, sisters Tammy Schnarrs and Gina Raymond, and others are pouring their efforts into Breaking the Silence Ministries, a nonprofit outreach program dedicated to raising awareness about domestic violence and helping victims on their journeys to becoming survivors.
Miscavish could have been a poster child for the group. She took all the right steps. She decided she had enough. She got a protection-from-abuse order. She pressed charges for an attack. She filed for divorce. She was moving on with her life.
And that is where one small step might have changed everything.
State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, proposed a bill in July that would give courts an additional tool in domestic violence cases: the ability to use GPS monitors to track the movements of someone with a protection from abuse order to help enforce the restrictions.
“The two-part unit would include an ankle bracelet for the offender and a key fob-type device for the victim,” Raymond said. “Essentially, if the two GPS units came in close proximity, the victim’s unit would alert her to seek safety. If this were an option for Traci last year, it may have spared her life, or least given her more time.”
The bill is still in the House Judiciary Committee. Conklin’s office would like to see it move faster, as it has bipartisan support, including from his legislative counterpart across the creek in Clearfield County — Rep. Tommy Sankey, R-Osceola Mills.
“Changing legislation takes time,” Raymond said.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller believes there are already adjustments happening in the way domestic violence cases are being handled.
“Changes have been and will continue to be made because of her case,” Parks Miller said. “I do believe that judges think twice when a victim says they are in fear of a person, and I believe it opened up an important dialogue about the deficit of this county’s ability to monitor persons who show dangerous propensities when they are awaiting trial, pre-conviction.”
Ard would like to hear open, frank dialogue about how weapons end up in the hands of people on bail or under PFAs.
A recent report from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence said that Miscavish’s was one of 158 domestic violence-related deaths in 2013, a 10 percent increase over 2012. Of those, 107 were victims, the remaining 51 were perpetrators, many of whom committed suicide, as did Miscavish’s husband, after killing their estranged partners.
More than 50 percent of the victims were killed by firearms. Ninety percent of perpetrators died by gunfire.
While Ard acknowledges that from her perspective, the fewer guns the better, she knows that isn’t realistic, especially given the hunting and sporting culture of central Pennsylvania. But she thinks a dialogue on domestic gun violence is long overdue.
“The very least we owe her is a conversation about how to make it better,” Ard said.