Domestic violence and its degrees of deviance happen as a result of society turning a blind eye to the insidiousness of it consequences. Working with families recovering from violent behavior, I have observed the culprit to this menace—it’s society’s need to label someone the “bad” guy. Judges, social workers and police officer aren’t qualified to determine the psychopathy of abuse and often they get it wrong. Knowing innately they aren’t qualified to make an accurate assessment, they are often apprehensive and don’t want to arrest people. They understand the consequences can be devastating (i.e., lose or struggle with employment, restricted from seeing kids and housing). As a result, many professionals are forced to make one of the two guilty and make judgment calls based on their own perspectives. Unfortunately, in the quest to select a victim or a perpetrator they often miss the mark. In a course for people convicted of family violence, I found high percentage of those mandated to class had information that suggested they were not the primary aggressor. When questioned as to where their partners were many stated they weren’t required to get the education. Unlike many family advocates, I believe educating both partners is how we stop abuse. Domestic/family violence is a pattern of behavior that left unchecked leads to more deviant behavior as it escalates. When you require both partners to get treatment in the earlier stages of abuse (i.e., the FIRST time it has drawn attention) then people figure out how to make healthier choices. But let the behavior slide by ignoring or guessing wrong, you set the family up to fail. My grandfather once told me that when something happened he’d consequence all eight kids rather than try to figure out who did it. He said this way he knew he got the right one. Creating healthier families means everyone has to get educated. People who’ve been violated often tell me they do NOT want to be referred to as victims as it implies they are stupid for staying. They mostly want to stay with their partners but they just want to abuse to stop. Imagine how much court time we could save if the first step was education BEFORE conviction? Make education an opportunity and barriers could be broken down.
I am a proponent of education over incarceration but the problem lies in denial due to fear of losing everything. With this latest round of abuse allegations at the White House, the key issue is that Rob Porter denies what he has done. If there had only been one accuser one could assess that the incident is a he-said-she-said and proceed with an investigation, but when three women come forward the allegations cannot be overlooked. I had a Top-Secret clearance and I know the drill…ANY information that suggests you could be blackmailed in the future makes you ineligible for a clearance as it jeopardizes national security. This case demonstrates that Mr. Porter should have never been in such a high position. Now, had he admitted he violated his significant others and he had been given the chance to seek appropriate treatment, perhaps he would have understood it is against the law to beat people. But because he got away with it, he was emboldened to continue his bad behavior. With each assault, it increasingly becomes easier to rationalize the aberrant behavior—and makes the behavior justifiable. If people, like Rob Porter and now accused David Sorensen, could get the education without being labeled for life, maybe they could gain the tools they need to be better. This comes, however, from getting EVERYONE education because those who are battered have an increased risk of finding the same kind of partner but with a different face. If they believe that abuse is normal then they won’t see the signs. The tragedy here is there are children watching and learning to repeat the cycle. My challenge to the justice system is to put everyone identified as a potential victim or perpetrator in treatment/education. If someone then chooses not to comply, they get contempt charges. My experience shows that when someone wants out of a violent relationship they would do just about anything to maintain their children but those who can manipulate the system simply use the courts as a weapon to continue victimizing.
In summary, we could reduce court backlogs, we could get families assistance sooner, we could promote healthier behaviors, people could maintain their jobs, homes and families, and children could witness how families should work. I also teach a court-ordered parenting class and the majority of people enrolled when give the chance to use better more healthier skills they use them. They often don’t know what they don’t know.