only the knowledge and resources we have today, most domestic
violence deaths, injuries, and trauma can be easily prevented.
This isn't our dream at Women's Justice Center, nor is it a pipe
dream, nor any dream at all. It's a fact, now well established
in at least a half dozen U.S. cities. Cities as diverse as San
Diego, CA, Quincy, MA, and Nashville, TN, in just a matter of
a few years, have reduced their domestic violence homicide rates
by as much as 60% and more.
The key to these dramatic
successes is the same in each locale. The remedy is simple enough
to apply anywhere. Women's lives are saved by aggressive and thorough
law enforcement response to domestic violence at the misdemeanor
level. It is the one and only remedy yet proven to work, and it
works dramatically well.
The mechanism for this
success is also plain to see. Once there is violence or the threat
of violence, the only segment or our society with the authority
and power needed to control a violent offender is law enforcement.
Moreover, unlike the
unpredictable homicides that result from a robbery suddenly gone
bad or a fight erupting on the street, domestic violence homicide
rarely erupts from the blue.
conditions in an abusive relationship generally escalate to lethality
over a long period of time. During that development, there are
flare-ups and warnings along the way that are almost always brought
to the attention of authorities. It's at those times that if police,
prosecutors, and courts intervene with by now firmly established
procedures, the violent offender is put under control, and the
course to lethality is stopped. It's proven fact.
Tragically, proof of
the pivotal role of law enforcement is still all too often demonstrated
in the reverse. Investigation of the path leading up to domestic
violence tragedies that have already occurred more often than
not reveals a history of law enforcement failures to act properly,
or even to act at all.
If domestic violence
were a disease, the dramatic successes that have been duplicated
in various cities around the country would be hailed as a miracle
cure, and physicians everywhere would be rushing to apply the
remedy. The question is no longer what can be done to prevent
lethal consequences in a violent domestic relationship. The question
is why do so many in law enforcement still continue to defy the
procedures and laws that have been proven to save women's lives,
and what is it going to take to make them change?