By Beth Morrison, HAVEN President and CEO
Yesterday I read two articles on domestic violence. One frightened me to the core. The other gave me hope for the future. Thankfully the positive article is coming out Michigan, and the frightening stone-age article is out of New Hampshire!
But, we have to be cautious and not say, “well thank goodness we don’t live in New Hampshire.” We all know in today’s environment how one state’s action can set off a chain reaction across the country. And even if these potential stone-age mentality laws on domestic violence pass in New Hampshire, it is one state too many that isn’t supporting victims and that would be wrong!
The two proposals in New Hampshire would: 1) prevent law enforcement from being able to immediately arrest an abuser who has assaulted his partner unless the officer has actually witnessed the crime take place; and 2) limit the grounds for which an officer can arrest an abuser who violates a domestic violence protective order.
Since most domestic violence occurs behind the closed doors of a private home, we all know the chilling and violent outcomes that will occur with the passage of this first piece of legislation. And with the second proposed law change, we also know how lethal the period of time is after ending a relationship so therefore not appropriately addressing PPO violations will ultimately result in more fatalities. I see absolutely no good in what New Hampshire is considering, unless of course you are a batterer and looking for additional ways to avoid accountability!
So what do we do, what is the call to action? As the saying goes, “Think globally, act locally” – now is a great time to contact your elected officials, all of them, and speak out on the crimes of domestic violence and sexual assault. Make sure all know that we are not going to stand by and accept any action that takes us back to the decades of the past.
- Reach out to your local school board members – praise those that bring prevention education into their district and insist that those that don’t to do so.
- Contact your local village, city, township officials and ask about how they address the crimes of domestic and sexual violence. Is there law enforcement agency adequately and annual trained on the topics, what are the local municipal codes on these crimes (most arrests happen under local municipal codes), are best practice protocols in place for assisting victims such as paging an advocate, etc., do they provide financial support to victim serving agencies such as HAVEN via city funds, CDBG funds, etc.
- Congratulate, in Oakland County, the County Commissioners, Sheriff and County Executive for their continued financial support of our START program, a terrific best practice program that collects the forensic evidence after a sexual assault.
- Call or visit your State elected officials. Talk about the bad legislation pending in New Hampshire and how wrong it is and has no place in Michigan. Encourage them to consider the pending legislation highlighted in the Michigan article. Ask them about their stand in making sure victims are supported via legislation as well as funding for victim serving organizations.
- Reach out nationally, to our local Congress members, let them know that they need to ensure the passage of VAWA in 2012 so we can make sure that victim serving programs here in Michigan and across the country have adequate resources to provide life saving programming.
- An election year gives us a great opportunity to challenge candidates, whether they are running for President of the United States or the local city council, on the important issue of domestic and sexual violence. No candidate is going to say they support the abuse of women and children but challenge them to talk about what their plan is to address current victim needs, batterer accountability and prevention education.
Editor’s note: Do you have any suggestions of ways to get involved? Please share them in the comments below! And thank you for taking action!