Individuals' beliefs, values and opinions underlie and direct the systems' views and outcomes. Few people will argue that family violence is acceptable. As the slogan says: 'there's no excuse for domestic violence.' While a majority agree with this position, it is in the individual's application, interpretation and adjudication where divergence from this position can occur and excuses are made:
"He's just trying to keep his family together" (As an excuse for overlooking TRO
"She deserved it."
"It's biological, men are just going to blow up from time to time...98% of the time
he's a great guy."
"That happened a long time ago...he won't do it again."
Family violence, child abuse, incest, dating violence, spousal abuse and elder abuse combined represent a large proportion of local government services and expenditures. When individual patrol officers, deputy district attorneys and judges begin to make exceptions to "there's no excuse for domestic violence," variations in acceptable outcomes and personal discretion intercede to diminish the "no excuse for abuse: philosophy. Thus, the man with a gun holding his family hostage is later adjudicated with a minor sanction - community service, counseling, probation. Neighbors, witnesses, and victims, lose confidence in the system, and calling the police or using the criminal justice system to protect themselves from a violent loved one is viewed as futile. Nobody is in favor of domestic violence, but the violent end result is often the outcome of all the excuses.B. Values Conflicts
Some of the difficulties in the systems' responses are caused by a clash of values over the right balance of punishment, family preservation, and issues of civil liberties, both victim's rights and constitutional due process for the perpetrator. In our legal system, the accused has a constitutional right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. In domestic violence cases in particular, this standard poses a much higher potential for harm than in other criminal situations. This is because: "If we wait until after a trial to conclude that the abuser is not acting in good faith, we have waited too long. The victim may be dead. If a cop is to intervene effectively in these cases, he cannot use the existing dignity theory. His behavior will have the unintended side effect of encouraging the abuser to go on with his abuse." --Nancy Rourke, Center for Legal Reason
We do not advocate dispensing with this constitutional provision. Rather, we aim to point out that the practice on the part of the criminal justice system to automatically focus on the rights of the accused perpetrator may have higher personal and societal costs than in other crimes.
The AG's report points out the differing perspectives on the priority law enforcement and the District Attorney's office places on domestic violence (III.G) by various advocacy groups. The report rightly puts the emphasis on performance improvement versus blame: "When mistakes are made by anyone working in the system, it is the duty of others in the system to work with the entity that made the mistake to ensure that the mistake does not recur".
|Recommended Actions: Attitudes & Values Conflicts||Accountable Parties|
|A. Community leaders will teach, advocate and preach that there is no excuse for family violence; violence in a relationship is a crime. Part of their leadership responsibility involves standing as an example, a role model for the community.||Community Leadership|
|B. Domestic violence will be a high priority, and this will be reflected in the allocation of community resources.||Board of Supervisors and Other Governing Bodies|
|C. Ongoing task forces will be established at three levels: a)administrative/procedural, b) case review, c) community education, to insure that the system's responses to and practices regarding domestic violence are consistent with a value of zero tolerance for domestic violence.||Sheriff's Dept.and Other Law Enforcement, District Attorney, Courts and Other Service Providers|
|D. An ombudsmen position or committee, reporting to the Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee, will be established to assist victims in negotiating the system, particularly as problems arise.||Board of Supervisors|
While there is a system of advocacy in place, i.e., organized and institutional support systems for victims of domestic violence, there is a need for much greater community volunteerism to support these advocacy efforts, in particular a need for multi-cultural advocacy services. Nonetheless, volunteers do not replace the inherent responsibility of our criminal justice system to protect and serve victims of domestic violence.
We are also concerned about reports that the victims' advocates of choice have been selectively excluded as they moved through the criminal justice system.
"...Finally, we have to take personal and vocal responsibility for the
welfare of each other, pressing for the truth, and staying involved with
neighbors, friends and family so no one feels alone with the problem of
domestic abuse..." --Quincy Report
See Community Task Force recommendations B4 & 6.
|Recommended Actions: Community Involvement and Advocacy||Accountable Parties|
|A. An ombudsmen position or committee, reporting to the Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee, will be established to assist victims in negotiating the system particularly as problems arise.||Board of Supervisors|
|B. A long-term, coordinated community and school based education campaign will be initiated to foster awareness, understanding and personal commitment to eliminating all forms of violence. Specific attention will be given to providing youth with education on positive relationships and gender equity. Local media will increase the amount and quality of reporting on domestic violence issues. Service organizations (Rotary, Lions, Boys/Girls Clubs, Scouts, etc.) will be surveyed for their information and ability to provide ongoing education, assist with distributing anti-violence literature and participate in making a difference.||Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, County Board of Education, Human Services Coordinating Council, Child Care Providers, School Districts, SSU and PTAs, Service Organizations|
|C. Leadership in educational systems (pre-school through postsecondary) will become involved in the Domestic ViolenceCoordinating Council.||Domestic Violence Coordinating Council and County Board of Education|
|D. Community oriented policing, neighborhood watch and gang task force programs will be expanded to ensure a focus on eliminating family violence.||Law EnforcementChief's Association,Sheriff's Dept. and Other Law Enforcement Agencies|
|. More advocacy services will be made available and the District Attorney and law enforcement agencies will insure that victims have the right to the advocate of their choice, and will not in any way interfere with that right.||Board of Supervisors, Courts, district Attorney, Law Enforcement Agencies|
|F. Employers will adopt zero tolerance policies on workplace violence and accommodate workers who are dealing with domestic violence issues by providing release time for court appearances and preventing harassment at the workplace.||Employers|
|G. The courts will take the stance that domestic violence is a community issue. This is the State of California versus the abuser, not just a personal issue. All courts will reflect this position in how they operate.||Courts|