Domestic Violence Innovations
Domestic violence has been with us since the first person realized that if he, or she, was bigger and stronger than their intimate partner, they could use that size and strength advantage to control them. It is with us today, and will be with us until we, as a society, come together, and using the tools we have, 3 of which are the topic of this article, make it stop.
Domestic violence (DV) affects every man, woman, and child in the world, not just the one out of 3 women who will be physically abused at some point in their lives, but everybody. It should be noted that DV exists within all kinds of intimate relationships, regardless of gender, gender difference, race, economic status, or religion. We should also note that it is intergenerational in nature. We learn how to treat women from our fathers, how women should be treated from our mothers, and how any intimate partner should act from our exposure to intimate relationships.
When you buy a Coca Cola, the price is apportioned over the various production costs that go into its manufacture, such as labor. When a victim of domestic violence has a black eye, she/he frequently will not go into work where she/he will have to explain what happened, and weather the storm of questions that purport to be supportive, but all translate into telling the victim “there is something wrong with you”, (“why don’t you just leave?”, “what did you do?”, “was he just angry?”). Absenteeism drives up labor cost. Emergency room visits drive up insurance costs. Coming to work with injuries reduces productivity. All of these increases in production cost are passed on to the consumer. Everybody is affected in large, or tiny ways by DV, but we all ARE affected.
The intent of this article, however, is not to address the dynamics of DV, but to outline a 3 point response that, where applied, has been proven to reduce the incidence of DV.
The first point of the response is in the Court system. In Arkansas there are 3 vehicles by which the Courts can restrict DV, and they are frequently misunderstood, even by many attorneys who regularly practice in Circuit and District court.
First is the Civil Order of Protection as provided for in A.C.A. 9-15-101, et. seq., the Domestic Abuse Act. This is a narrowly focused remedy designed to afford the victim of DV an avenue to obtain protection from physical abuse prospectively, when there is no other judicial relief readily available to them in a relevant time frame. A criminal prosecution takes time, and to get a temporary hearing in a divorce, if the parties are married, can take weeks or months.
In an Order of Protection proceeding the Court can either grant an Order of Protection, or deny the Petition. There is no other remedy afforded under the act. In some jurisdictions well intentioned attempts have been made to fashion “mutual no contact” orders, and other types of “no contact orders”, for which there is no legal basis.
These “orders” cannot be entered into ACIC, and cannot be enforced. There is even a line of decisions from the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission that suggest a judge who issues some type of ‘hybrid’ order for which there is no legal basis, may be subject to sanction. The provisions of the Domestic Abuse Act must be strictly adhered to substantively and procedurally, or the effect is counterproductive.
The second vehicles for judicial response are No Contact Orders (their effect is noted in ACA 9-15-212, however no additional “no contact order” is created by the reference). No Contact Orders are provided for in the criminal code (A.C.A. 16-85-714, 5-71-208, 5-71-208, 5-71-209, 5-71-229), and the rules of criminal procedure, (Rules 9.2, 9.3, 9.4), AND are available remedies only in criminal cases; usually as a condition of bond. For certain enumerated offenses there is a requirement that a defendant SHALL be served with such an order upon his release, (frequently this has been ignored, to the detriment of the victim), they are also available post-conviction.
These legitimate no contact orders are frequently confused with OOP’s, and this confusion causes much trouble. The differences between the two are clear, however, and no attempt should be made to blur them, or to create new types of orders unsupported by the law.
Third is the Restraining Order, which can be entered in many different types of cases and is enforceable by the contempt power of the court.
Enforceability by law enforcement is crucial to the effectiveness of judicial orders relating to DV. Orders that have no basis in the law, although well intentioned, cannot be enforced and contribute to the feelings of frustration experienced by law enforcement, which perpetuates the perceived cycle of inability to address the problem, with all the negative effects that flow from that perception. “It’s just a he’in and a she’in thing”, and there is nothing that we can do about it. No, it is not, and yes, we can.
These 3 remedies, when properly applied, provide a framework within which an effective judicial response can be made. A response which has been shown across the nation to quantitatively reduce the incidence of DV.
The second point of our 3 point response is the creation of Community Oriented Coordination Councils, which bring together all the service providers, agencies and individuals affected by DV (everybody), and provide a forum for an ongoing conversation about how the community as a whole can meet and address the issue.
In the late ‘90’s such a council was formed in Faulkner County. In the first year of its existence there were 4 DV related homicides; 3 the second year of operation; 2 the next year, then 1, then another year with “just” 1, and then 2 years with none. Due to many factors unrelated to the Council, the numbers crept back up after that, but this track record is strong proof of the efficacy of the Community Oriented Coordination council concept.
The third and last leg of the approach is the easiest and the cheapest. Whenever a man or a woman hears another talk about physically abusing a woman, or a woman talking about being abused, (this will be true regardless of the gender of the abuser or victim), speak out. Say that it is not okay with YOU for a man to hit, punch, choke, slap, or push down a woman, nor should a woman believe that it is okay to BE hit, punched, choked, slapped, or pushed down. An intimate partner may spend all of their partner’s money, run around on him/her, be a bad cook…….the partner feeling that they are wronged gets to leave. He/she does NOT get to use physical force in retribution or as punishment. That is the bright shiny line we must recognize, and point out to each other at every opportunity. If we consistently do this, that line will become more and more clear, and with time, we will reduce the incidence of DV more and more.
We must hold fast to the concept, and never forget that there is NO excuse for domestic violence.