When most people think of domestic violence (DV), they view it as a crime—as well they should. It is a crime to cause harm to another person in any setting, and especially among partners or family members. However, looking at the numbers, DV is more than just a crime; it's an epidemic.
Statistics reveal that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will suffer some form of domestic abuse in their lifetimes. That's more than 10 percent of men and at least 25 percent of women! Estimates also show that, on average, 20 people per minute are abused by an intimate partner—and given the recent spike in DV reports during the pandemic, those numbers are probably even higher at the moment. Even with many states increasing the criminal penalties for domestic violence, these rates are startling. In fact, the Pennyslvania Department of Health recently suggested taking a fresh approach to the problem. Rather than just prosecuting it as a crime, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine recommends viewing and treating domestic violence as a public health issue—to the point of including DV screenings as part of every person's preventative health care.
Lasting Effects of Domestic Violence
For many generations, people seemed to “wink the eye” at domestic violence, suggesting that physical altercations are simply part and parcel of some marriages. Even today, some people view DV as an “argument that got out of hand.” In reality, most DV victims suffer from a repeated pattern of abuse and control from their partner, and the impacts can be far-reaching both for the survivor and the perpetrator. Here's just a partial list of the common long-term effects of DV:
- Physical injury and/or death
- PTSD, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues
- Physical symptoms of trauma, which may include chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, shaking, changes in sleep patterns, sexual dysfunction, etc.
- Substance abuse
- Dissociation from friends and family
- Fragmentation of the family unit
- Perpetuating the cycle of abuse (some abuse victims, especially children, grow up to be abusers)
Considering all these lingering and harmful effects, we can see why some people want to dig deeper into the root causes of domestic violence rather than just penalize it as a crime.
A Novel Approach?
While the idea of treating DV as a health issue may seem innovative, it's not the first time someone has suggested such an approach to something we view as a crime. For example, drug abuse is considered a crime, but a growing number of nations are now treating drug addiction as a sickness rather than a crime—and they're seeing good results from that approach. While no one would deny that domestic violence should be viewed as a crime, the fact that it continues to be an issue suggests that looking at it only through a criminal justice lens may not be enough to fix the issue. Both perpetrators and victims of DV seem to deal with underlying issues that culminate in violence; by taking a different approach, some experts believe we may be able to do more to prevent DV rather than simply punish it.
Perhaps you've found yourself in the undesirable situation of getting arrested and charged with an act of domestic violence. If so, your primary goal beyond dealing with the immediate legal challenges is to find a way to move past this terrible situation and prevent it from happening again. For the present moment, you need compassionate and experienced legal counsel, and the Lento Law Firm can help. For more information, call 888-535-3686.