By Charles Glover, Jr.
I believe that the current US system in place for dealing with domestic violence is broken and needs to be fixed. It is a complex and at times difficult to address domestic violence, but our country goes overboard to address issues it deems serious. Can we honestly say our country is doing the best it can to combat domestic violence?
The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.”
The expansive definition of domestic violence should help illustrate the complexity of coping with such a widespread issue. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the concerns regarding the system currently in place to deal with domestic violence seem to be rising.
Another NFL player, this time New York Giants kicker Josh Brown, is in the headlines following the release of reports of domestic violence claims from his now ex-wife. The NBA regular season will start in a few days, but Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison will not be available for the first 8 games as he serves his suspension for domestic violence against his girlfriend. And as excited as Chicago Cubs fans are to be in the World Series, it is possible the last outs of the series could be recorded by their closer Aroldis Chapman, who began this season serving a 30-game suspension for allegations of domestic violence against his girlfriend.
These athletes garner extra scrutiny for their acts of domestic violence but the issue itself is unfortunately still viewed as a task too large to handle. While the question on many people’s minds is how do we put an end to domestic violence, the greater question is why don’t we treat domestic violence the way we treat child abuse and neglect?
Attorneys and law enforcement officials often assert that their greatest challenge in prosecuting alleged perpetrators of domestic violence is lack of evidence or cooperation from the alleged victims. This is an understandable roadblock, however what is incomprehensible is that the federal or state government has not found a way to circumvent this obstacle. We have countless examples in this country of people finding a way to address serious concerns.
Take for example the case of Mary Ellen McCormack. Mary Ellen was born in 1864 in New York City, but due to her father’s death and mother’s inability to care for her, became a foster child at the age of two. Her foster-mother Mary Connolly, was eventually investigated and convicted for abuse of Mary Ellen which included daily beatings, malnutrition and numerous malicious and neglectful actions. This landmark case in 1874 for child abuse was largely made possible because of laws that existed against the inhumane treatment of animals. That’s correct.
Henry Bergh and Elbridge Thomas Gerry of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) helped ensure that Mary Ellen was removed from her foster home before the trial and handled her legal case as well. After having success with the case, and having formed the ASPCA in 1866, they helped form the first child abuse and neglect agency in the country, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC).
This story highlights the struggles America has had in providing systemic protection for those in need in our country. The formation of the NYSPCC in 1874 was a positive step for beginning to deal with child abuse but it would take another century for the federal government to enact legislation on the issue with the passing of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974.
There is no disputing the difficulties associated with trying to help people dealing with domestic violence but there needs to be greater urgency in the matter. For those brave enough to seek help, they are faced with limited options. A restraining order is not accompanied by around the clock police surveillance or protection. Shelters and hotlines are helpful but they require the victims to assume all of the initial risk in seeking assistance.
There should be a statewide agency for domestic violence that is modeled after each state’s child protective services to allow the community to be better equipped to assist those in need. These agencies should investigate, monitor, and take action against allegations of domestic violence in the same manner they are supposed to for child abuse. It is clear the criminal justice system alone is ill-equipped to make the strides necessary to drastically reduce domestic violence. The time has come to move past creating awareness and start creating solutions.–OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover, Jr. is a senior writer for OnPointPress.net and aspiring author. Follow me on Twitter @GloverIsGood.