Saturday, August 17, 2013

Looking for New Solutions

Intimate partner violence is nothing new. According to the Colorado Bar Association:

"Women have been speaking out about the assaults that other women have suffered since 1405"... in 1848, in the United States, women spoke out about “male brutality” and later that century Susan B. Anthony helped battered women to escape from their abusers."

Our current domestic violence model emerged as part of the women's movement in the 1960s and 70s. It focused on helping female victims to flee abuse and start over. Advocates have helped many victims and undoubtedly saved countless lives. But at a very basic level we've failed. After 40 years:
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men still experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes.
  •  since 2011, total assaults increased by less than 1%, but intimate partner assaults increased by 6% (NYS DCJS)
So we've failed at ending domestic violence. Why?  Domestic violence is a unique crime. I just read an article from Law Enforcement Today that explores how domestic violence is different and why we may need to alter our approach. It covers really salient factors like:
  • Our criminal justice system is reactive; we need a proactive approach to keep domestic violence from escalating.
  • Abusers may appear more likeable or pulled together than trauma-affected victims, thus law enforcement and the courts may have difficulty relating to the victims' decisions.
  • Contrary to most victims of crime, the abuser and the victim have a unique and continuing relationship, "In a cruelly ironic twist, a victim’s physical safety may depend on her (or his—many victims are male) ability to keep the abuser happy. Calling 911 can make a dangerous situation worse, not better."
The article doesn't just articulate the problems, it proposes new strategies for addressing intimate partner violence... and they're cost effective. Maybe it's time to fund some new approaches?

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