A friend pointed me to YouTube’s popular “Wedding Dance” yesterday. It’s a joyous, uplifting video, and I urge everyone to watch it and feel the joy.
As it was ending, my friend also pointed out to me that the song to which the wedding party dances is Chris Brown’s “Forever.” Chris Brown is the music star who beat his domestic partner, Rihanna, and threatened to kill her.
This case will never reach a jury. Most domestic abuse cases never reach a jury.
In fact, most crimes of domestic abuse never make it in front of a judge.
Most abused people never call the cops or file a complaint.
When an abused partner does call the cops, the cops are very cautious, because such calls are notoriously dangerous. But, if the cops respond and if they manage to get someone to open the door of the “domus,” they usually “counsel” the couple to “kiss and make up.” If they’re drunk (as is often the case) the cops tell the couple to sleep it off.
- Sidebar: The cops aren’t the only ones at fault. Social services compound the problems. A Chicago-area psychologist recently told me that in cases of child abuse, local child-protective services try to keep the family intact, rather than removing the abused child to foster care. The theory is that counseling will solve the problem better than anything so drastic, especially since good foster care is rare in the area. IMHO, that’s a convenient excuse: the State of Illinois simply has no idea what to do.
An abused partner can always file a restraining order against the abuser, but that only makes sense if the abused partner moves out of the domicile, and that is almost always impractical because the abused partner is also by definition dependent on the abuser in some way – financially, psychologically, perhaps even physically as in the case of a disabled person who’s abused by his or her caregiver.
- Sidebar: A common misconception of social workers is that dependent people, such as children and the disabled, can turn to many resources for assistance. They expect school teachers to identify abused children in their classes and report the abuse to authorities. This does not happen. Teachers are afraid of lawsuits from parents. When I was teaching at an online university, a quadriplegic student confided something in me that caused me to think she was being abused by a caregiver. Because she was enrolled as a student under federal laws requiring me to extend her certain accommodations and because of my contract I could report this only to the university’s administration. After consulting with their lawyers, they concluded that I was “simply mistaken. There’s no evidence of abuse.” (That’s one reason I resigned shortly thereafter.)
In the case of Mark and Julie Jensen, I have no doubt that she was dependent on him in some way and that dependency is what kept her in the house. She may have feared she couldn’t make a living on her own. She may have feared he would be awarded the kids in a divorce settlement. She may have had serious psychological problems (and this is my believe).
Why Aren’t Cases of Domestic Abuse Treated As Crimes Against Society?
If a man beats up and rapes a woman he meets in a bar, it doesn’t matter to the law that she may have been with him voluntarily. He’s charged with assault and rape or worse. He’s put on trial before a jury. It doesn’t matter if his victim doesn’t want to testify against him. The prosecution can subpoena her and force her to testify, because it is the State v Criminal, not a lawsuit of Victim v Criminal.
The cops might be cautious about approaching the door of the hotel room from which the woman called for help, but they wouldn’t tell them to kiss and make up. (They might treat her like a prostitute, but that’s another blog post.) The man would likely be slapped into cuffs and carted off to jail.
Why don’t the cops do the same when called to the scene of domestic abuse?