Right in the middle of Domestic Violence Awareness month, Topeka, Kansas just decided that due to budget cuts, they can’t continue to process misdemeanors, which include domestic violence cases.

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9QANQQG1.htm

Essentially they are saying they don’t have the time, money or energy to deal with these cases and this sends a message to victims that they spoke up and it didn’t matter. To perpetrators of domestic violence, it says, ‘Go ahead, beat the crap out of your partner, we don’t care, at least not enough to say it’s wrong.’

They’ve legalized domestic violence.

Domestic violence can be between women and men with women being the perpetrator, between men in a relationship with one of the men being the perpetrator, between women in a relationship with one of the women being the perpetrator, or between men and women with men being the perpetrator. There is no doubt in my mind that the majority, if not all, of these cases that are being dropped have women as the victims of the violence and men as the perpetrators.

This is just another example of women’s lives and safety being discounted.

Domestic violence is often charged as a misdemeanor because there is no known weapon involved- if it was an assault with a weapon, it would be charged as a felony. In the United States, a misdemeanor is considered a crime of low seriousness, and a felony one of high seriousness. Misdemeanors are typically crimes with a maximum punishment of 12 months of incarceration, typically in a local jail (as contrasted with felons, who are typically incarcerated in prison).

As a social worker, I have worked with survivors of domestic violence/ intimate partner violence and have seen that perpetrators push, slap and punch their victims, but they also use weapons and those often don’t come up. Like electrical cords, or belts. I knew a woman who’s batterer stuck her head in the oven. Another who slammed her up against the wall, using the wall for leverage to hold her by her neck. When does the oven go from being a oven to becoming a weapon? When does the wall become a weapon? Does it ever? It’s being used as one, to further injure the victim. I think the solution is to make the charges heavier, not do away with the crime.

Are the cases different for domestic violence than for other misdemeanor charges. Absolutely. Domestic violence is a pattern and therefore somewhat pre-meditated. Odds are that if it has happened once, it’s going to happen again. Random misdemeanor assaults not in the category of domestic violence might be a bar brawl, someone having a joint in their pocket, graffiti-ing under a bridge, or being drunk in public. Um, a pattern of violence against someone that may also affect children and pets versus public drunkenness or disorderly conduct. Not the same thing.

Couldn’t they have said we can’t process misdemeanor charges right now except domestic violence cases? This is an assault by the legal system against women. Even if unconsciously, the thinking goes: Women don’t matter. Why are they in the situation in the first place? It’s their fault for not leaving. Who cares?

I’m sure there was no other way to figure this situation out in this great justice system of ours. Hmm. WTF!

We have to keep looking at the laws that allow men to treat women badly and rather than blame or punish the victim, start shaming and blaming the perpetrator.

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