• Dennis McCaslin

Domestic assault and abuse often a vicious cycle stymied by intimidation, lack of victim cooperation

On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

One in four women and one in nine men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.

But domestic violence is not limited to just intimate partners. Elder abuse, the abuse of children and stepchildren in a household and acts of violence against incapacitated people are often committed in homes of the poverty stricken all the way through the elite, upper class.

In the past, the American criminal justice system did not perceive domestic violence as a crime, not even a problem. Even with the women’s rights movement in the late 1800's, women continued to be abused by their husbands, fathers, and boyfriends, however it became socially unacceptable.

In later years, society began to view domestic violence as a problem. After World War II, studies linked growing up in an abusive home with the likelihood of criminal behavior later in life. Most domestic batterers showed a consistent pattern of violence and manipulation for the purpose of power and control.

During most of the 1900's, domestic violence was acknowledged, but treated as a private family matter. Family violence became an issue with the influence of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1960's and 1970's. As the years progressed, domestic violence in American society began to be seen as a violent criminal act.

As the attitude toward family violence began changing so did the criminal justice system. Two major events identified as bringing about this change included the development of professional police standards and the implementation of the Law Enforcement Education Program

Today domestic violence is acknowledged as a serious, violent crime and part of society that harms women, increases child abuse, reduces medical resources, and endangers the lives and welfare of officers. The pursuit of methods in treating and reducing violent behavior by abusers has stretched from counseling agencies, to law enforcement, to the courts, and to corrections agencies.

However, despite the changes in attitudes towards such crimes in the past three decades, too often victims are not really protected and justice sometimes does not get done. Some domestic partners gravitate right back into the violent relationships time and time against. Many times arrests are made but the victim refuses to cooperate with law enforcement, either out of fear or because of intimidation, and the cycle of abuse continues.

Arkansas will charge you with domestic battery in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor, if you cause any type of physical injury to a person you have a “domestic” relationship with. However, many cases end up being dropped or dismissed due to witness intimidation or the continued acceptance of the abusive relationship by the victim.

For example, in 2019 alone dozens of cases were dismissed in Sebastian County District court after the victim refused to cooperate and testify in their cases.

Other states will not automatically charge a felony offense unless a person has been previously charged with domestic abuse two or three times within a certain time period. However, if you have been charged with domestic battery of any kind within five years, the second charge will automatically be upgraded to a Class D felony.

Because many misdemeanor cases in Arkansas get dismissed for the reasons stated above, those abusers will continue to assault domestic partners and family members without any real repercussions.

And sometimes the felony charge only comes after someone dies at the hands of their abuser.

The statistic are chilling:

1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (e.g. slapping, shoving, pushing) and in some cases might not be considered "domestic violence."

1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.

1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.

1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.

On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.10

Domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.

19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.

Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.

Only 34% of people who are injured in domestic violence situations receive medical care for their injuries.

If you are, or know of someone, who is a victim of domestic abuse you can call your local authorities or contact the Women and Children First hotline at (501) 376-3219 or toll-free (800) 332-4443.

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