Domestic violence can be described as any form of deliberate coercion, bodily harm, sexual assault, or any other form of violent behavior committed by an intimate partner. Domestic violence has plagued all walks of life despite the age, race, religion, or background. Violence against an intimate partner is frequently followed by psychological abuse and controlling behavior relating to the methodical blueprint of power and control. Domestic violence comes in many forms but not always seen by the naked eye. Domestic violence constitutes forms of physical abuse, psychological abuse or even death that can be seen by other family members possibly causing a continuous cycle of abuse for generations to come.
Facts and Statistics
It is hard to grasp the notion that somewhere in the world every nine seconds a woman is being beaten or assaulted. On average, 85% of victims of domestic violence are women and 1 in every three women will endure some form of domestic violence in their natural life. Sadly enough only one fourth of all victims who have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner will actually report it to the police, implying that official statistics will never justify the full scope of the problem. The average age of a female victim who is at the greatest risk of harm by an intimate partner is between 20 to 24 years old. Domestic violence is the primary source of harm to a woman over all other possible harmful circumstances she will encounter.
As if domestic violence isn’t already difficult enough for women to endure in an intimate relationship, if she has a male child who witnesses these assaults he is now two times more likely to abuse his partner or children as an adult passing along the cycle of abuse for our future. Statistics have shown that 30% to 60% of intimate partners who assault also assault their children. Intimate partner homicides that are reported to police make up approximately one third of female homicide victims and 70% to 80% of those victims had a previous assault history. A very small amount of victims actually seek medical treatment after an assault but yet a vastly larger number of approximately 18.5 million victims seek mental health treatment following an assault. Separation isn’t always the ultimate solution to the problem. Over 70% of women who were injured during a domestic violence assault were assaulted after the separation (Safehorizon, 2014).
Often time’s victimization in cases of domestic violence is conducted behind closed doors causing law enforcement to become the first line of defense for victims of domestic violence. If the response of the police is extremely insufficient it has a negative impact on the victim making them less likely to use the criminal justice system in the future. There are typically three types of police responses to domestic violence: non-intervention, mediation, and arrest. The initial typical police response to domestic violence was the non-intervention way as police felt that domestic violence was a private matter best kept at home. The second approach is mediation which promotes crisis intervention including separating both parties, reconciliation, or social services referral. This method was designed to keep domestic violence out of the criminal justice system however, it proved to be ineffective. Now a more practiced policy to domestic violence is the arrest of an offender as a presumed or mandatory response.
Domestic violence cases are different in the sense that the offender can be taken into custody under a warrantless arrest as these types of misdemeanors do not have to occur in the officer’s presence. Legal changes have been made where officers now arrest the primary aggressor instead of the old dual arrest practices affecting the victim more than the offender. It has been shown that an officer is more often than not the victim’s last resort to alleviate the problem as they typically chose other routes as to not affect their livelihood. In all domestic violence situations officers shall make an arrest when an offense of violence has been presented, treat these acts of domestic violence as criminal, never disregard protection against domestic violence based upon race, religion, sexual orientation, immediately report all cases of family violence, and receive training on domestic violence required by law (Erez, 2002).
Due to the fact that domestic violence affects a large number of people, it is plausible to say that leaving the abuser is not as easy as people may think which would ultimately stop the abuse. Since this is true, law enforcement must approach domestic violence as serious as they approach any other significant crime by providing time, resources and attention. Given that law enforcement is spending a ton of time focusing on domestic violence, it is important for these agencies to establish a domestic violence policy that indicates reports will be completed on each domestic violence call regardless of whether or not an arrest was made. The most significant and respected service a law enforcement officer can provide to a victim is an arrest of their abuser (Klein, 2009).
Prosecutors play a very important role in the prosecution of abusers within the criminal justice system in hopes of providing harsh judgments preventing reoffending and better protection of victims. If prosecutors fail to prosecute the bulk of domestic violence cases conducted by law enforcement an internal examination into their practices, policies, and priorities should be conducted providing an explanation as to why fewer prosecutions are being processed. They should not allow victims who are unwilling to prosecute their abuser stop them from proceeding on with the case. If a vast number of victims are willing to sign an affidavit of non prosecution, it is certain that prosecutors and law enforcement must come up with a better a way for victims to trust them so more cases are prosecuted. For prosecutors to gain a more successful prosecution rate, they must enhance victim cooperation and involvement by concentrating on the victim’s fears of being abused again or testifying in court without fear of retaliation.
In the event that a defendant possesses serious risk to the victim during trial, prosecutors must take all measures to protect the victim to effectively prosecute the case. It has been insisted upon by the judge that prosecutors report to the court any defendant’s negative actions such as reoffending, threatening or intimidating the victim so that potentially other charges can be added while the original case is still pending. While still being compassionate towards the victim, prosecution must base it case on the law and penalties of the law versus the individual preferences of the victim as they tend to become more lenient during the course of the trial fearing retaliation in the future. Prosecution must also notify the defendant of this process so they don’t believe this is based upon the victim’s requests.
Prosecutors must work hand in hand with law enforcement to obtain all the evidence associated with the case as well as identify and include all witnesses involved. Domestic violence can be deterred if prosecution sufficiently concentrates on the abuser risk by inflicting harsh sentences such as supervised probation and incarceration while revealing the defendants prior criminal and abuse history in hopes to prevent reoffending (Klein, 2009). The ideals that lawmakers had on prosecution or adjudication for domestic violence is consequently not being enforced.
Legal representatives may become doubtful about the irregularity of violent behavior, or disbelieve the seriousness of the complainants, can either enforce the law firmly for prosecution purposes, or at the same time be understanding of the physical aggression that could be considered efficient punishment for the victim’s marital infidelity. Legal representatives are prone to characterize domestic violence as a civil matter for a ruling in divorce courts versus criminal courts. The prosecution and adjudication phases are substantial for offenders ultimately deciding their guilt or innocence, establishing a criminal record and providing a punishment. These phases are significant for the victim as well as they begin to trust the criminal justice system again (Erez, 2002).
Judges can ultimately be the final step in the adjudication process of domestic violence abusers so their role is extremely crucial in the protection of the victim. Merely handing down a guilty verdict does not guarantee reoffending of the abuser so judges should concentrate more on invasive sentences that include incarceration especially for those who are repeat offenders and those with an extensive criminal history. Even though judges should be open-minded when it comes to the views of the victims regarding punishment, he must enlighten all parties involved that he is compelled to hand out the most appropriate sentence pertaining to this case regardless of whether or not the victim agrees. Regardless whether the defendant turns himself into the court for a domestic violence case, he should be treated as seriously as the offender arrested on scene as it has been shown that the typical offender flees the scene of the incident prior to officer’s arrival where a warrant is later issued for their arrest.
Judges should hand down sentences that reflect the offender’s prior criminal history as those are signs of possible reoffending regardless if it reflects prior domestic violence offenses. In the event a defendant offends while pending another court case for domestic violence, judges may take that into account for purposes of bail, civil orders, and sentencing. Affidavits filled out by the victim don’t fully describe the abuse suffered by the victim or the fear of future abuse as this document is solely based upon the incident at hand.
It is extremely valuable for the judge to further investigate this case by asking the victim more questions as well as examining the prior arrest history of the offender to have a better grasp on the whole picture relating to the abuse. Judges may issue protective orders to the victim but unfortunately this is only a strong piece of paper and it does not prevent abusers from reoffending. Judges should make every effort to house a user friendly courtroom, safe environment for all parties involved, be compassionate to the victims, and yet stern with defendants once some sort of abuse has been brought forward. When judges are able to represent the courtroom in this manner victims concerns are validated and the defendant’s behavior is shown to be unacceptable (Klein, 2009).
Most people are in agreement that someone should step in when an abusive domestic violence situation arises, but they don’t agree on what their involvement should be, or the responsibility of the victim to reduce the violence by removing themselves from the abusive relationship. Even though people have the same opinion about domestic violence being a criminal act, they are not essentially on the same page that police should regularly arrest the offender or use other corrective authority versus using other alternatives.
This apparent apprehension may be the outcome of people’s uncertainty concerning the applications of criminal sanctions. One theory is they believe offenders warrant the penalty of arrest or jail, yet another theory is they are often practical about the efficiency of the punishment actually putting a stop to the aggressive actions or the probability the penalty will ultimately protect the victim. A more promising effect is possibly that of rehabilitation and victim or community focused changes. Nonetheless, such changes like offender treatments, education, and victims ultimately leaving the relationship continue to be a rare result (Carlson, 2002).
Recent reform within the prosecution and adjudication process of domestic violence includes the issuance of protective order as well as special legal defenses for battered women who have killed their abuser. At one time civil protection orders were only obtainable through a pending divorce, recently they have been pushed through legislation for battered women who are not currently involved in a divorce proceeding. The main objective of domestic violence reform has been aimed at the prosecution process as it has been found that too many cases, misdemeanors, were falling out of the criminal justice process during different stages. Through the years, domestic violence has become one of the most talked about policies and is in constant reform as ideals are continuously changing. Historically very little action by the police and prosecutors has been done regarding domestic violence and without a more serious offense, prior record of offender, possible weapon use, injuries, or physical evidence most cases won’t see the inside of a courtroom.
The most effective way to present a domestic violence case before the court is to have the victim’s cooperation but yet most prosecutors predict that victims will sign an affidavit of non prosecution ultimately dismissing the case altogether typically causing prosecutors to hesitate before filling a case. Prosecution efforts should be based upon the victim’s safety not the conviction of the offender. It should also be an approach to getting the word out to the offender that the abuse is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Prosecutors have recently found a way to prosecute domestic violence offenses even when the complainant does not want to pursue charges. They have implemented victim advocacy programs within the prosecutor’s office in hopes to boost victim retention within the process. Another approach is the evidence based prosecution, which is the idea of gathering all significant evidence to build a case against an offender without the victim. Many people believe these practices take away from the victim’s freedoms of determining their course of action (Erez, 2002).
Another reform is that of the battered woman syndrome which has been employed in hopes of fixing past practices of disregarding the difficulty battered women face when she wants to defend herself in court, or the necessity to apply principals of law, or self defense that were not particularly appropriate for issues relating to abuse. This tactic has been used as a legal defense for women who battered or killed their abuser after they have suffered many years of abuse and responded by causing harm or death to them.
Often times these cases are from battered women who harm their abuser without first being irritated due to the psychological state of mind the victim has suffered for many years (Erez, 2002). Domestic violence has plagued all walks of life despite the age, race, religion, or background. Without the constant fight by all stakeholders within the criminal justice system for the victims of domestic violence, no real solution to the problem can come of this resolve. Constant and continuous reform is necessary to maintain the safety and security of all victims preserving their trust with the criminal justice system.