Saturday, September 30, 2017

Domestic Violence, the efficacy of Protective Orders and obtaining justice for victims

Domestic Violence [DV] isn’t bound by social or economic classes, race, education level, population density, or even gender. Rather, it appears to be a construct of a society that encourages and promotes the concept that “might is right” which then tolerates violence between parents.

Yet, we do have a framework of laws intended to punish those who perpetuate violence against a household family member or intimate partner and is intended to protect the targets of their violence. Targets of DV may obtain a Domestic Violence Protective Order [DVPO] which is intended to bring about a cessation of or the threat of violence. But as violence and intimidation continue this method of addressing DV must be questioned.

I question today whether DVPO’s protect or, worse, magnify the violence or threat of violence, and if those laws and court involvement are all just efforts, resources, and time wasted. I use a recent case in Lebanon, Indiana as an example.

A perpetrator follows the other parent to a location at the opposite side of town and initiates a physical attack. The target returns home. Subsequently a unit from the Lebanon Police Department arrives there and the target is again threatened but the perpetrator is restrained by the officer. The perpetrator is arrested and charged with numerous counts including domestic battery.

Contingent upon release from custody is the issuance of a No Contact Order on behalf of the attacked parent and the infant who was also battered by the perpetrator. The parental target also obtained a DVPO. Child Protective Services sought to establish and facilitate parenting time between the perpetrator and the attacked infant. The prosecutor objected but eventually supervised visitation was established. Upon returning the infant from the first visitation session - which was in August - the perpetrator left two handwritten notes directed to the other parent tucked in the diaper bag of the infant. The No Contact Order was still in effect at that time.

The perpetrator has since been observed following the targeted parent and screaming an obscenity at him. Also at one point was videotaped burglarizing the home of the targeted parent. Additionally, for the past month the perpetrator has repeatedly sent text messages to the phone of the targeted parent including at one point when the phone was physically in the hands of a law enforcement officer.

Complaints were made to the Lebanon Police Department and the Office of the Boone County Prosecutor. Yet the perpetrator remains free to further harass and torment the other parent and get to see the child.

Part of the stipulation of being released on the perpetrator’s own recognizance is the requirement to refrain from illicit drug use and to submit to drug tests. Yet the perpetrator has subsequently tested positive for methamphetamine and refused to submit to further screenings.

Finally, at one hearing in the Boone Circuit Court, which issued the DVPO, Magistrate Sally Berrish ordered the targeted parent to sit next to the perpetrator.

So the question becomes should one even bother obtaining a DVPO or is it just a waste of time? To do or not to do; that is the question.

The outcome in a situation like this is easy to predict. It is basic psychology that we should not want to be our practice but others have incorporated with their children. The child breaks a rule and is threatened with punishment but the punishment never comes even as the rule is repeatedly observed being broken. From the child’s viewpoint there is no consequence to his unruly behaviour. Thus, it is likely to continue and increase in severity.

So what if a DVPO wasn’t issued? Again, we go back to children. The child who hasn’t been caught violating a rule may still do so but will likely do so cautiously. There may be trepidation from the feeling of “next time I may get caught”. Or the unruly behaviour may cease as a result of “I best quit while I’m ahead”. There is clearly a different dynamic at play in the mind of one who has been repeatedly caught but not faced any consequence and one who has repeatedly not been caught.

As the actions of the perpetrator become more hostile and brazen the targeted parent has expressed a fear of remaining in this town.

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