Responses to Domestic Violence 101

Posted on July 20, 2011


Domestic Violence, “Choosing Sides” and Community Response — Feministe. this is how you should respond to domestic violence:

As I said at the start of this entry, I have known B since I was a teenager… 13 to be precise. He’s an old, old friend, who I thought I knew quite well. I would never say “I never thought they’d do something like that!” about anyone, because I know that anyone can secretly be capable of domestic violence, but I genuinely didn’t expect this. I’m disappointed that I didn’t spot something earlier, and I’m sorry that I didn’t create a more comfortable atmosphere for this woman to disclose to me that things were not right. Still, all I can do is support her now.

this is a really good example of “batterer chatter”:

B has engaged in serious ableism in his attempts to defend himself. As well as claiming that the event was simply a misunderstanding (he claims that rather than punching her, he was trying to grab his bag off her and she just fell down. She says he punched her hard enough to knock her over. The witnesses are backing her.) he has stated repeatedly that she’s “crazy”. He has said this both as a way of casting doubt on the entire story and insinuating that she made it up, and as an explanation for the violence: she was so “crazy” that she provoked him. M does in fact have a mental illness, but a: no matter how crazy someone is acting, no-one has a right to inflict violence on them, and b: I don’t know of a mental illness powerful enough to generate witnesses.

this sounds oddly familiar to jail, and also how a lot of advocates here in hawaii view our own “justice system”:

The next court date is in about a month, and she’s very worried about it… although probably not as worried as he is. If he’s found guilty (and considering that there is a possibility of a cop as a witness, he very may well be) he’s facing an extremely lengthy gaol term. She doesn’t, and I don’t, want him to go to gaol… not because either of us wants him to get away with what he’s done and be judged “not guilty”, but because we don’t think a gaol sentence will solve the problem. Gaol does not rehabilitate violence, it worsens it. B would go into gaol someone who hits his girlfriend, and come out a hardened, violent criminal. He would be both the victim and perpetrator of violence, possibly sexual. Knowing him, he would attempt to act above his allotted place in the prison hierarchy and be beaten down for it. He would be housed with people who have committed violent crimes like his, and violent crimes worse than his. He would come out angry, resentful, and scarred. He would be introduced to other forms of crime, and more than likely re-offend. Gaol does not fix people.

The problem is, our “justice” system has no reasonable alternative to prison. Our society sees gaol as the only punitive measure: you do something wrong, you go to prison. Prison isn’t designed to rehabilitate, it’s designed to punish, and to remove you from society. The fact that it makes people into worse criminals, mentally scars them, and puts them at increased risk of physical and sexual assault isn’t seen as a bug, it’s seen as a feature. So no, I don’t want this man to go to gaol.

And this sounds like every advocate i know’s dream:

What I would like to see is a process of mediation, and some decent community response. M has also expressed a desire for mediation, however, due to the police misinforming her about whether or not she needed to be present at his first court date, she may have missed her opportunity for court-mandated mediation, and it is doubtful that B will agree to enter voluntary mediation, where his attendance is not mandatory and there are no consequences if he does not go along with the process. As for community response, I’d like to see his friends, family and community unite to tell him that his behaviour is unacceptable and that he needs to take responsibility for it, and that his community will not support him if he does not take steps to ensure that this never happens again…


some kind of reform that replaces the prison system for domestic violence offenders with a truly victim-centric community-based model that actually strives for rehabilitation as a primary goal.

Everything about domestic violence – from the act itself or the entitlement/contempt it’s bred from to how we as a community respond, the “justice” system, and every other system a survivor must navigate to achieve safety and self-sufficiency – fucking sucks.  The only way it is going to improve in a long-term way is by people informing themselves.. what is DV? What do the dynamics look like? What are some statistics on it? Check out the National Network to End Domestic Violence – there’s a lot of information and resources there, including contact information for state/territory coalitions.  It has been my experience that state coalitions do not provide direct service to survivor-victims of DV, but they do know what programs are in which places and what services those agencies/programs provide.