Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Senator Constance Johnson of Oklahoma says a bill she's filed will help fight domestic violence in Oklahoma.

The Gadfly On His Soapbox
By Mike McCarville

No disrespect to the senator, but I'm doubtful this particular measure will do much, if anything, to stop an abuser.  I'll be happy to change my mind if someone can produce evidence that this kind of law stopped abuse.

Senator Constance Johnson
Senator Johnson's idea:  Senate Bill 502 would add domestic violence to the list of crimes requiring registration under the Mary Rippy Violent Crime Offenders Registration Act. The registry was created in 2004 and is maintained by the Department of Corrections. In other words, abusers would have to register like sex offenders and predators.

I suppose there are some who believe that's going to stop an abuser. I don't believe it will, just as victim protection orders do nothing to deter abusers, just as new anti-gun laws do nothing to prevent crime.

 “Given the high rate of death from domestic abuse in our state, a useful step to take is to make people convicted of domestic violence register with law enforcement just like sex offenders and perpetrators of other violent crimes," the senator said.

"The public, and in this case women, deserve to be aware of who these individuals are.”

No argument here that victims, and the general public, have a right to know where abusers are located.

Said Johnson: “This bill will help give individuals, especially women, a way to check out possible partners before they get involved in a potentially dangerous relationship. It’s extremely hard to get out of an abusive relationship as was evidenced by the more than forty percent of Oklahomans who were killed in 2009 in domestic violence cases while in the process of leaving their partner." I believe a woman is going to check out a man she's just met? I think not.

According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, there were 25,189 reports of domestic violence in the state in 2009, an increase of just over 14 percent since 2000. The state saw a nearly 18 percent increase in domestic violence murders in 2009 with a total of 60 deaths.

The Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board found that nearly 55 percent of the victims were female and just over 70 percent of the perpetrators were male. Over half of the victims were current or former intimate partners, and there was evidence of prior domestic violence in nearly 80 percent of the cases. 80 percent of cases, there was evidence of prior domestic violence. So how does this support the notion that a registry will somehow stop an abuser or help a victim identify an abuser in advance? Seems a logical way to stop abuse in these cases is for the abused to separate herself and seek help from police or social services agencies. And victims have to take responsibility for defending themselves; in these cases, police are almost never present and when they do arrive, they are nothing more than report-takers.

There needs to be a renewed recognition that violating a VPO, harassing someone, and stalking someone often are precursors to attacks and should be treated as much more serious crimes than they often are.

Senator Johnson's bill, I'm certain, was filed with the best of intentions and it can't hurt as we struggle with spousal abuse. But it will likely be ineffective in helping stop it.

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