Courts, law enforcement must address domestic violence

Published 12:41 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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District Attorney General Steven Finney in recent days has addressed the ongoing problem of domestic violence and repeat offenders in our community and court system, especially Washington County and Johnson City. However, domestic violence is a problem in all communities.

The district attorney has appealed to Washington County and Johnson City law enforcement authorities to make an effort to get repeat offenders in front of a General Sessions Judge as soon as possible.

Domestic violence is an ongoing problem in our communities. Statistics tell us that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence in their lifetime. There are 16,800 homicides and $2.2 million worth of (medically treated) injuries due to intimate partner violence annually, which costs $37 billion.

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The scourge of domestic abuse is difficult to address because it is deeply ingrained in our culture. In early Roman law, a man could beat, divorce or even murder his wife with impunity.

In early America, English law affected the colonies’ response to domestic matters. In the 1800s, laws allowed a man to beat his family. It wasn’t until the 1870s that states began to ban those “rights.”

Prior to the mid-19th century, American law often accepted or ignored a husband abusing his wife or girlfriend. It was commonplace to see a husband toss his wife over his knee and “spank” her for some random offense in movies and eventually on television.

Domestic violence is also often passed from one generation to the next, resulting in a cycle of trauma and violence that scars children trapped in situations they cannot escape. Being in an abusive home can lead to juveniles who take to crime, drug abuse or violent relationships.

It’s time to change the narrative and address this vicious cycle. There’s a belief that only women care about domestic violence and that needs to end. As a nation, we should address this shocking behavior.

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma to admitting that one is living in a violent situation. Because domestic violence typically happens behind closed doors, it is often a dark secret no one acknowledges. No one wants to talk about this issue, but those conversations need to take place.

Domestic violence is most often equated with battered wives or girlfriends, but it is so much more than that. It is not about the relationship. It is about power. Control. The ability to make someone do something or to cower in a corner when they are guilty of a perceived wrong.

Domestic violence can happen between partners who are supposed to love and respect each other. It can happen between an adult and a child. It can happen between anyone in a household who wants to hold the reins and any other person who has to fear their pull – or their lash.

While violence is often equated with a punch or a kick, domestic violence is often more subtle. It may be a sharp word instead of a slap. It may be the choking grip of emotional abuse. It can be sexual or psychological. It can be restrictive or economic. It can be about blame for the abuser’s faults or making the victim feel incompetent.

And there is no single face to those who are suffering. They are male and female, straight and gay, rich and poor. The same goes for abusers, who may be the loud drunk at the bar or the pastor in the pulpit.

What we do know is domestic violence is almost never an isolated event. It grows like an invasive plant, with a single sprig becoming roots and vines that tie a victim tighter and tighter, especially when children are involved.

There are laws regarding domestic violence, but offenders must first be charged and brought to court where they must face their crime and punishment, and find help for their problem.