Sunday, July 05, 2009

Your Responses to December's Survey

Way back in December I asked readers to respond to an article published in the StarPress.com of central Indiana. This article described new policies being considered by the local police department around domestic violence. The overall focus was prosecuting abusers even if the victim chose not to press criminal charges.

One proposed strategy was to penalize those who first report assault/domestic violence, and then later recant. "Those who actually recant earlier allegations of battery will likely find themselves the target of a criminal investigation, facing the possibility of charges ranging from obstruction of justice to false informing," according to this article. Also any victim who later wished to have the charges against her abuser dropped would be required to take a 10 hour class on the cycle of violence and abuse.

In the survey I asked readers to chose among these five statements which most accurately reflected their reactions (multiple selections OK).

1. This shows lack of understanding by law enforcement of DV and just further victimizes abused women.

2. This will only exacerbate the problem by reducing the number of reports of domestic violence.

3. Assault victims, even if the result of domestic violence, need to be held accountable for their use of the legal system.

4. Abuse thrives in non-reporting, and abuse victims need to do their part to end this cycle.

5. This does nothing to address the roots of abuse, and will have little effect.

And the winners are . . . drum roll, please, . . . Selections ONE, TWO, and FIVE!

Not surprising, after I realized that almost all respondents worked with battered women, or had been battered women. In other words, those who had the most experience with domestic violence or its aftermath, first-hand.

Our respondents' Other Comments offered extra articulate reasons for their selections:

"My real answer is "None of the above." I feel that abuse victims can now be bullied into recanting and are more likely to break out of the situation if law enforcement can do their job."

"Maybe it would be better to teach that 10-hour class in high schools...."

"The ONLY reason I didn’t recant my report nor withdraw my protection order was because I finally fled and had friends who supported me. They would not let me think about recanting and told me that if I did, the next time I wouldn’t get help. I was lucy that I had a safe place to go to. If I hadn’t had someone to turn to, I would still be with him, that is, if I’d still be alive by now… For some, I do not think that ‘holding the victims accountable’ wouldn’t help because they’re more scared of the abuser and how he’d retaliate if they didn’t recant."

"We know why many women recant and it's usually because they have been threatened by the abuser if they do not drop charges. My view is that we need to protect reports by having no bail for suspected domestic violence perps. Until women can truly feel safe AFTER a report, they can't be held accountable for recanting."

"Unfortunately, it appears that Indiana did not take the time to consult with DV advocates. Victims who are hesitant to report or recant are not doing that because they have changed their minds, but are doing that to be safe. The highest risk of harm for a DV victim and children is when the victim(s) are trying to get help through the system or to leave the batterer. Penalizing the victim will do nothing to stop the cycle of abuse, in fact those actions will drive the problem underground, for victims will not report if the system now holds them responible for the abuse. those of us who are victim advocates have learned a great deal in the decades that we have been addressing the issues of domestice and sexual violence. We would hope that law enforcement would see the complexity of this social issue and work closely with the experts in the interpersonal violence field. The roots of violence are nutured in the soil of silence and isolation. I encourage all of us who are victim advocates to speak out; to not further silence and isolation by inaction or anger. Take the time to connect and educate your local law enforcment on the underlying issues of domestic and sexual violence. We must all work together to end violence. "

"Having been in a similar situation, I think there needs to be more understanding of where the victim might be coming from. The danger and fear can be very real, and recanting can be self-protective."

"There are many reasons why survivors of abuse recant allegations against their abusers, including coercion from their abusers, fear of retaliation by their abusers, lack of responsiveness from the criminal legal system, and the fact that prosecution may actually not make them safer or may have other negative consequences for them. Punishing survivors for not cooperating with prosecution only further isolates them, gives their abusers more tools to control them, puts them in more danger, and guarantees that they will not seek help from the criminal legal system in the future."

"This is a huge mistake and furthers a culture that blames the victim..."if only they did this or that" Most women recant to prevent further violence. Most women call 911 because they are really in trouble. Most women who are murdered by a spouse or boyfriend know they are at great risk and have told others. We don't need to put them at greater risk. It is very tricky escaping from a violent situation in a culture that blames the victim and minimizes their experiences. YOU WILL NEVER PREVENT VIOLENCE VIA THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. "

"This once again puts the onus or responsibility on victims instead of the perpetrators of violence. Often times, survivors recant because they are being further threatened with violence for having contacted law enforcement in the first place. To penalize them for changing their minds to protect themselves and their children from further harm unduly and unjustly burdens survivors."
Thanks to everyone who submitting such great replies!

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