Sunday, January 23, 2011

Indiana Senate Bil 564 Domestic Violence Classes for NCP

Senate Bill 564 was read first time and referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary on January 20, 2011. The synopsis of this bill is as follows;
"Provides that a county domestic violence fatality review team shall review cases in which a person who committed suicide was a victim of an act of domestic violence. Permits a court to require a noncustodial parent who has been convicted of certain crimes of domestic violence to require the parent to attend a batterer's intervention program certified by the Indiana coalition against domestic violence as a condition of receiving unsupervised visitation time. Adds additional crimes to the definition of a "crime involving domestic or family violence", and makes a person convicted of a Class D felony that is a crime involving domestic or family violence ineligible for alternative misdemeanor sentencing. Requires that a batterer's intervention program to which a court may order a person to attend must be certified by the Indiana coalition against domestic violence."

This bill is sponsored by Senators Vanessa Becker, Joe Zakas and John Broden.
I have two concerns about this bill. First, it specifically names the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence [ICADV], a private non-profit corporation, as the deciding authority for the batterer's intervention program.

If this organization changed names or ceased to exist at some point in the future the law would effectively become a nullity. Also, although adult victims of Domestic Violence [DV] or Intimate Partner Violence [IPV] are nearly equally represented by both genders this organization is directed entirely by women and states "We believe patriarchal values and attitudes support and perpetuate violence" while at the same time claiming "ICADV is committed to the elimination of domestic violence".

Their failure to acknowledge nearly half of the crime victims and implement strategies targeting all perpetrators will not achieve the stated desired goal. I believe this failure in policy and pervasive public attitude that men are the perpetrators and not victims of DV creates a power imbalance wherein men may feel they have no institutional support. This could actually induce further acts of DV by perpetrators who feel they have no power outside of physical aggression.

It only took until the next day for an opinion of a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals involving DV to be issued. In the unpublished opinion of Paternity of B.W., D.W. v T.P. (In Ct App 2011) Father appealed the modification of joint legal and physical custody of the parties child in favour of Mother.

Father obtained an ex parte civil order for protection against Mother on August 21, 2007. No hearing was held on the protective order, but the evidence presented at a later hearing established that Father sought the protective order after an altercation that occurred at his apartment when Mother came to pick up a child support check.

During the hearing Mother denied attacking Father. Mother testified that she did not call the police because she did not want Father to get into trouble. Father, however, did contact the police and ultimately obtained a protective order, which Mother did not contest.

Mother was also charged with criminal mischief and battery arising out of the same incident. She eventually pleaded guilty to criminal mischief, and the battery charge was dismissed thereby avoiding a DV conviction and the statistical support that demonstrates that women do commit DV crimes. Prosecutors often do not charge women with DV crimes because of the public perception that women are victims only or that the man deserved it which makes obtaining a conviction more difficult. This is why the reporting and conviction rates cannot be relied upon to accurately measure acts of DV.

If, as she testified, that she did not attack Father and then admitted to the elements of criminal mischief she may have technically avoided conflicting testimony but it becomes clear that she did commit an act of DV.

So, it is established that women do commit acts of DV. I do not see the connection between "patriarchal values and attitudes" that caused this woman to physically attack their child's father. She took property belonging to him, he demanded its returned and her response was to physically attack him. I simply do not see demanding the return of stolen property as a gender issue and certainly not "patriarchal values and attitudes".

I am extremely reticent to support any legislation that will allow a private organization to determine state policy. Especially when that organization directs fault for all acts of a particular crime against a single gender. The gender of which none of their directors represents.

Instead, I would suggest that the language be changed from "certified by the Indiana coalition against domestic violence" to "approved by the court" and leave it to the discretion of the court.

My second concern is purely a technical issue related to this section of the bill.
13 FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2011]: Sec. 1. (a) A victim shall
14 provide to and maintain with the agency that is responsible for
15 providing notice to the victim a request for notice on a form that is
16 provided by that agency. The form must include a telephone number,
17 electronic mail address, and mailing address for the victim. If the
18 victim fails to keep the victim's telephone number and address current,
19 the agency may withdraw the victim's request for notice.
20 (b) A victim may restore a request for notice of subsequent
21 proceedings by filing, on a request form provided by an agency, the
22 victim's current telephone number electronic mail address, and
23 mailing address.

For continuity I suggest adding "contact information including," after 'include' on line 16 then striking "telephone number and address" from line 18 and inserting "contact information" in its place. The same could be done for lines 22-23.

I do believe the intent of the legislation is well-founded. However, allowing a private entity to dictate state policy is a very disturbing prospect. I would no more want the Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates being the authoritative body to certify the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines or the Indiana Libertarian Party being the authoritative body to certify the Indiana procedures on election advertising.

My son and I were both victims of DV while I was married. Many times I was threatened with a gun and was helpless to protect my son or myself. She would point the gun at our son and threaten to kill him as a means of ensuring that I would succumb to her demands, using my love for my son as a means to force me to act against my own will.

My efforts at getting police assistance were fruitless. I will never forget the words from the officer's mouth when I asked if there was anyone who could help us. I was told, "Come on, you're a man" in a tone that I perceived as though I should take care of it myself and not let a woman push me around.

I am always in favour of any efforts which will help reduce or eliminate all acts of DV but not ones that seek to create a further gender power imbalance. I don't believe this legislation, as written, will reduce DV and may, because of the clear bias against fathers, increase acts of DV.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments to make about this legislation or would like to testify if it gets set for hearing.

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