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Battered justice.


Last August in Somerville,Massachusetts, Pamela Nigro-Dunn was coming home from work and got off the bus at the stop where her mother met her each day. A man drove up and insisted Nigro-Dunn get into his car. When she and her mother resisted, he threw mace into her mother's face. Then he shot Pamela, who was five months pregnant, in the abdomen and dragged her into the car. Her body was found in a garbage dump nine hours later. She had been shot, strangled, and stabbed. The murderer was arrested three months later in Florida. He was her husband.

Roughly 1,350 women were killed by theirspouses, ex-spouses, or boyfriends in 1985. They were the victims of the most extreme form of wife battering but represent only a fraction of those who have suffered from what appears to be an epidemic of violence within marriages. National surveys have suggested that as many as one out of four married couples endure at least one act of serious violence during their marriage.

This domestic violence is one-sided: 85-95 percentof assault victims and two-thirds of domestic murder victims are women. And it usually is not an isolated event but part of a pattern of escalating violence. Where there has been murder, there has usually been a history of beating. Consequently, many killings were predictable and could have been stopped. In most cases, the victims had brought their abusers' earlier assaults to the attention of the police, prosecutors, or courts. Pamela Nigro-Dunn had been to court four times trying to stop her husband's attacks before she was murdered. She received a restraining order, but the judge refused to give her police protection. Similarly, the murder of Leedonyell Williams in Washington, D.C., this past summer was committed the day after charges against her attacker were dropped. One Minneapolis study found that in 85 percent of spousal murder cases there had been prior contact with the police; in 50 percent they had been called at least five times in the preceding two years.

Many people are aware that wife-beating is aproblem. But few are aware of the shocking way that violence is ignored by the criminal justice system. When called for help, police rarely make arrests. When they do, prosecutors rarely bring charges. And when cases are brought to court, judges too often have the attitude of Paul Heffernan, the Massachusetts judge who was sitting on the bench when Pamela Nigro-Dunn requested help.

In the first affidavit Pamela filed, just sixweeks after her wedding, she stated, "I'm a prisoner in my apartment. He locks me in and takes the phone cord out. He chocked me and threatened to kill me if I try to leave. He made me work only where he works. . . . My life is in danger so long as he is around.'

Pamela asked Heffernan to order Paul Dunnout of the apartment, but the judge refused and then asked her, "Did he demonstrate this type of behavior before you married him?' presumably reasoning that, if the husband had hit her before they were married, she was not entitled to police protection if she was beaten--however badly-- after she was married. Pamela moved out.

Five days later, she returned to court to obtaina police escort so she could return to the apartment for her clothes. "I don't think it's the role of this Court to decide down to each piece of underwear who owns what,' Heffernan said. "This is pretty trivial . . .. This court has a lot more serious matters to contend with. We're doing a terrible disservice to the taxpayers here.' Heffernan then turned to her husband and said, "You want to gnaw on her and she on you fine, but let's not do it at the taxpayers' expense.'

Pamela moved in with her parents, but afterpressure from Paul to return and promises that he'd reform, she reconciled with him for several weeks. The abuse resumed. She didn't go back to court to seek further protection. Why would she? She moved back to her parents', and her mother began accompanying her to and from the busstop because they had seen Paul circling in his car. Shortly thereafter he murdered her.

It is appalling that so many women suffer asPamela did at the hands of their spouses. But it is perhaps even more appalling that so many are further abused by the criminal justice system. Although in recent years several cities have moved toward reform, domestic violence remains at best a low priority. There are many reasons for the reluctance of police, prosecutors, and judges to handle these cases, but at the root is the belief that wife-beating is simply not criminal behavior.

Police who won't arrest

The passivity of police in dealing withdomestic assaults was made clear in a landmark case in New York City in 1976. Twelve battered wives sued the city police department and family court for failing to arrest and prosecute men who attacked their wives--simply because the victim and assailant were married. The out-of-court settlement required the police department to change its policies and was hailed as a turning point in the country's police and court treatment of domestic violence cases.

But in the four years I have represented batteredwomen in Chicago and Washington, D.C., it has become clear that little has changed since the New York case. Catherine Klein, who has worked with about five hundred battered women over the past five years, cannot recall a single arrest that happened without her intervention. Early last year, for example, the D.C. police were called by nurses at a hospital where Down Ronan*, who was five months pregnant, had gone for treatment after being kicked in the back by Jimmy Smith, her boyfriend and the father of her child. The police refused to arrest Jimmy because they hadn't seen the assault. "It's a domestic problem. We really don't get involved,' they explained to the nurse.

* Some of the victims' names have been changed.

Fearing what might happen if she continuedto live with Jimmy, Dawn moved in with his sister. About two weeks after the baby was born he found her there and attacked her in her bed, splitting her cheek open with a belt buckle, and cutting her eye with the heavy ring he wore. When his sister tried to stop him, he threw her against a dresser. The police, called in from the street by the sister, again refused to arrest because they had not "seen' the assault, even though there was a witness. Instead, they simply advised Down to go to the hospital for her bleeding cheek and eye.

Similarly, in December 1985, D.C. police werecalled to the home of Barbara Nelson after her husband, who no longer lived there, broke into the house, brandishing a razor and yelling, "I'm going to kill you and that nigger in the basement.' There was no other man in the house. When Nelson asked the police to arrest him, they refused. When later asked why, one officer responded that Barbara had seemed more excited and hysterical than her husband.

This reluctance to arrestis corroborated by studies conducted in the late seventies in Colorado and California that showed only 5 to 6 percent of domestic violence complaints to the police resulted in arrest.

Why don't police arrest these abusers? Somestates have historically prohibited arrests on misdemeanor--though not felony--charges unless the police have witnessed the crime. Many states, however, have changed the law so police can make misdemeanor arrests in domestic violence cases without having seen the assault if there is sufficient evidence of probable cause. In D.C., police concede they have always been authorized to make arrests for misdemeanors they didn't witness. They simply don't-- sometimes not even when they can see blood streaming down a woman's face.

The legal excuses often give way to the realreasons for not arresting. "They always said they couldn't do anything because he was my husband,' recalls Jean Cook, whose husband had, on various occasions, thrown a brick through her window, broken a beer bottle over her head, threatened to kill her, and lurked with a gun around the shelter where she was staying. Barbara Nelson was advised by a supportive police officer to tell the dispatcher there was "a man with a knife' when she called for help, rather than say "my husband has a knife.' Last January, another D.C. woman was on the floor being kicked by her boyfriend when the police arrived. The police told the man that if the couple had lived together at least six months, making them common law husband and wife, they couldn't do anything. The police then asked how long the two had lived together. The man said six months; she denies they had ever lived together. The police left. Yet another recent D.C. victim, who had been held hostage all of one night and hit repeatedly in the head with a hammer, was told by the police, "he's have to kill you or damn near kell you' for them to take any action.

The hands-off approach that still operates inmost police departments gained theoretical justification in the early seventies when social work alternatives to punishment were popular for a number of offenses, including drug use and prostitution. In 1970, Morton Bard, a clinical psychologist, set up a demonstration project to teach police special counseling skills for intervening in family disputes. Even though the project did not show a reduction in violence, it was hailed as a success. Other well-intended psychologists followed suit. By 1977, a national survey of the larger police departments found that more than 70 percent had implemented some kind of family crisis intervention training program.

At best, such policies help the victim. Policeshould usually be applauded for their efforts to be more humane, but it is curious, given their occupational bias toward punishing offenders, that they eagerly embrace a soft approach towards domestic violence. Unfortunately, experts in domestic violence now agree that mediation as a substitute for arrest is the wrong answer when there is violence.

D.C. police officers typically say they are reluctantto arrest wife-beaters because these "fights'--a term reflecting a belief that spousal violence is minor and mutual--"are much more dangerous for police.' They also reason that, as one said, "when people are in a relationship, I assume she could leave and avoid the man if she wanted to.'

Both reasons contain a kernel of truth. Thatpolice fear domestic violence cases is understandable, although it contrasts strikingly with their notion that such cases are trivial and not very dangerous for the women. When police respond to a domestic call, tempers are usually still hot, and often get hotter at the sight of a cop. One 1983 study by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department stated that "nationally, more police officers were injured while responding to disturbance calls than in any other type of call for service.' But recent FBI Uniform Crime Reports show that police fears are overstated and that a domestic call is one of the least likely of all calls to lead to assaults on officers or to their deaths. Similarly, Don Pfouts, a detective with the Baltimore City Police Department who has been reviewing his department's records, confirms that domestic calls are "not that dangerous.'

Nowhere to hide

Underlying police reluctance to arrest is thefeeling that domestic violence is not a real crime. The perception, shared by many people, is that women in some way consent to the violence by being in a relationship with the man. To put it crudely: "If she doesn't take it seriously enough to stay away, why should society take it seriously enough to arrest the man?'

But the assumption that women have controlover the situation is mistaken. It can be almost impossible for a woman to relocate, especially when she has children to care for or when she has no independent income. More important, many women don't leave their spouses for fear that the violence will get worse. Angela Browne, a social psychologist at the University of New Hampshire, says, "Some women who have left an abusive partner have been followed and harrassed for months and even years; some have been killed.' Jean Cook left her husband only to begin seven months of moving from shelter to shelter in an attempt to hide from him. He always found her. From restaurant to shelter, from shelter to work, to and from church, wherever she went, he tracked and harassed her. Twice, when she sought court protection he assaulted her the next day. Cook was not truly free of her husband's terrorizing until he was finally put in jail and she left the state.

In her many attempts to get away from herabuser, Dawn Ronan went to her parents', a shelter with a supposedly secret address, and the house of a shelter counselor. Jimmy Smith tracked her down each time. On the last occasion, he forced her into the car, held a knife to her neck, then thrust her head out the car window and choked her.

The legal system also makes it impossible forwomen to avoid their batterers when it enforces the man's "rights.' Even if Dawn could somehow escape Jimmy, she would still have to be in contact with him by order of the court since he has been awarded visitation rights with their baby. Many judges appear to share the opinion of Massachusetts Judge Tempone, who said, in refusing a woman's plea to deny her batterer visitation rights, "Even Dillinger could have made a good father. . . . How about Manson?'

While misperceptions about women's ability toend the violence may make the reluctance of police to arrest more understandable, their behavior in many instances indicates something far worse: an identification with the male attacker and a lack of sympathy for the woman. In the landmark New York case, a policeman who had been called to a scene where a man had stabbed his wife with a knife, said to the husband, "Maybe if I beat my wife, she'd act right too.'

Police sympathies can be more subtly expressed.Jimmy Smith broke into the shelter where Dawn Ronan was staying and attacked several of those who lived there. After three calls, a policeman came but stood outside at least ten minutes before coming in. When he got inside, a shelter worker was holding Jimmy down, but the officer, smiling, addressed Jimmy: "What's up Jimmy, what are you doing in here?' He then asked Jimmy, but not the women, if he was hurt. Then the officer escorted him out of the house and proceeded to smoke a cigarette with him, both of them talking and laughing. The officer stood silent when Jimmy said to Down, "I'm going to kill you, if that's the last thing I do.' Only when Dawn got angry did the officer finally take action: He insisted that she go inside. He then escorted Jimmy to the hospital, though he had no noticeable injuries.

There was no subtlety, however, in the responseto Tracy Thurmon, who later won a suit against the Torrington, Connecticut, police department. She had successfully prosecuted her husband in 1982 for repeatedly beating her and threatening her and their child's life. Despite a probation order barring him from further harassment, he assaulted her twice and repeatedly threatened and harassed her. The police consistently refused to respond to her calls. In June 1983, Thurman called the police again when her husband came to her house. By the time they arrived, he had already stabbed her in front of the house. While the police watched, her husband dropped the bloody knife, kicked her in the head, went into the house, came back out, dropped her child on her, kicked her in the head again, and walked around the crowd that had gathered to watch. Not until he approached Thurman a third time, as she lay on a stretcher, did the police arrest him. Thurman said the police frequently the restaurant where her husband worked and that he had boasted to them that he intended to kill her.

Prosecutors who won't prosecute

The most understandable reason police give fortheir reluctance to arrest is their belief that such cases are not likely to be prosecuted. When Michael Anthony Scott broke into the Washington, D.C. apartment of Leedonyell Williams, his former girlfriend and the mother of his two children, he held a gun to her head and sat waiting at the dining room table for her mother to come home. When she arrived, he said, he would shoot both of them and himself. Eventually he got restless and left, taking his two-year-old son and warning Leedonyell not to tell anyone what had happened or he would kill the baby.

But Leedonyell did tell the police. Becausethere was a bench warrant out on him already for failure to appear in a traffic case, they arrested Scott. The prosecutor's office decided to drop Leedonyell's charges. The reason? One prosecutor later explained, "It appeared to be a domestic dispute over child custody.' The next day Scott shot and killed Leedonyell on the stairs of her apartment. After hearing of the murder, another prosecutor said, "It's just one of those horrible, bizarre things . . .. You deal with a thousand of these kinds of cases and 999 of them turn out as you expect them to: just a domestic problem.'

Prosecutors in many jurisdictions are knownto avoid prosecuting domestic cases. In some offices special "cooling off' periods are imposed in the expectation that the woman will change her mind. In the rare case where a prosecutor presses charges, it is almost always as a misdemeanor rather than a felony, regardless of the severity of the assault.

Standards for when to prosecute are, ifanything, more vague and discretionary than police standards for arrest. When pressed for his reasons for dropping the charges in the Williams case, Joseph DiGenova, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said he was "satisfied that everything was done properly,' and that the decision had been "handled according to guidelines.' As to what those guideliness called for, he would say only "a host of factors' such as the arresting officer's "impressions' and prosecutors' "experience.'

Most prosecutors will admit that theyview domestic assaults differently. They frequently mention that such cases are hard to win. Since domestic assaults usually occur behind closed doors, there are rarely witnesses and when there are, they are usually children. Still, prosecutors often refuse to take a case even when evidence of physical abuse is strong. Denise Wiktor, a D.C. attorney, recalls on one occasion presenting a U.S. attorney with bloody clothes, two eyewitnesses, and three affidavits as corroborating evidence. The attorney still refused to prosecute, citing "insufficient evidence.'

Prosecutors most often attribute the failure toprosecute to the woman's ambivalence about pressing her complaint. "These are very, very difficult decisions to make because of the regularity with which the complainant refuses to go forward,' DiGenova told The Washington Post. In some studies, as many as 80 percent of complaints were dropped by the complainant before prosecution. Even battered women advocates agree that this ambivalence can be a problem. If a woman does drop charges, prosecutors frequently treat a second complaint as "crying wolf' and refuse to process it.

Why do the victims drop charges? Somewomen blame themselves, believing the batterers when they say they had it coming. "It'll never happen again, it was my fault,' is a common refrain heard by Vicky Vossen, an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. Frequently a batterer goes through a period of contrition after an attack, pleading with the woman to stay and promising never to hurt her again. If she cares for the man at all, it is difficult to reject his pleas and promises, and particularly difficult to send him to jail.

More importantly, women drop charges for thesame reason they don't leave their abusers: fear. It is not uncommon for abusers to sit in the courtroom and intimidate a woman into dropping the charges. Vernon Nelson, while in court, told his wife that if she got him ordered out of the house, he would burn it down. Barbara Nelson withdrew her request.

According to Lisa Lerman, an attorney andnoted author in the field, prosecutors often hide behind complainants' ambivalence. One city prosecutor in a recent National Institute of Justice report stated, "We'd file if she really wanted us to, but we knew that she'd want us to drop charges later . . . we may have even told her so. Then we sent her back home, often back to her abuser, without any support or protection at all. Sure enough, she wouldn't follow through and we'd think: "It's always the same with these cases.''

The self-fulfilling prophecy can be taken to extremes.After the police arrested Leedonyell Williams's assailant, Michael Scott, neither the victim nor her mother was told when the attorneys would review the case to decide whether to charge Scott, nor were they told that they should be present. Yet, as is common practice, the prosecutor decided to drop the charges, in large part because Williams did not show up.

The truth is, if prosecutors want these cases togo forward, they usually will. "The probability of victim cooperation is in fact better predicted by the conduct of the prosecutor than by the conduct of either the victim or the defendant,' says Lerman. In San Francisco, where a "victims advocates' program gives battered women legal and moral support, 70 percent fewer of their complaints are dropped. In Seattle, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, prosecutors refuse to allow victims to drop charges after they are filed. Complainants are then largely protected from their abusers' intimidation. Although some battered women's advocates worry that taking the decision out of the woman's hands is merely "revictimizing' her, at least one prosecutor says, "I have seen relief on a woman's face . . . when I have said, "I am sorry, I am not waiving [dropping charges].'' In Los Angeles, the result in most cases has been that defendants plead guilty.

But offices such as Los Angeles's are the exception.In most offices, domestic assault cases are simply not considered desirable or important. Chicago's domestic violence court, for instance, now ranks with the traffic court as the training ground for new judges. The low priority these cases are given within a department sends clear signals to the young prosecutor looking to move up the ranks: If they want to catch the attention of their bosses they need high win rates and "glory cases.' "You don't get promotion for prosecuting domestic violence cases,' says Ora Schub, an attorney for disabled and battered women. And, she adds, "there are no consequences for screwing up these cases. We reported some really outrageous stuff, and even though the prosecutor's supervisor was supportive of our complaint, nothing even went down on the prosecutor's record.'

Judges who won't convict

Prosecutors' attitudes are shaped in part bythose of the judges before whom they appear. In August 1983, I was an advocate in Chicago for a battered woman who wanted her abuser prosecuted for assault and an order of protection issued barring him from harassing her again. On the day of the trial the defendant agreed to one year of court-supervised counseling and a one-year order of protection. The agreement had to be approved by the judge to be enforceable. Approval of out-of-court settlements is usually little more than a formality. But not in this case.

State's Attorney Michael Balksus: We wouldlike to stress the seriousness of the crime to the defendant, and make sure that he is well aware that under the Order of Protection he cannot threaten or harass the complainant or have any sort of physical contact with her in any unlawful manner . . ..

Judge William Wood: This is a husband andwife situation?

Balksus: That is correct.

Wood: I assume they are not living together?

Public defender: They are living in the samehouse.

Advocate for Complainant, Joan Meier: Yourhonor, may I interrupt to fill in some details? The complaining witness has filed for divorce. They are living in the house together, not happily. He has threatened to kill her several times, particularly if she brings him into court. And that is why we would like a warning about threats. We do not want him threatening to kill her.

Wood: If people live together, how do youcontrol human behavior?

Meier: It is a problem.

Wood: It certainly is a problem. Now if she'sgoing to live with him for whatever reasons and then is going to ask the Court to tell him not to hit me [sic] this is ridiculous and stupid.

Meier: She would be happy to ask the Courtfor him to leave, but she understands there is an agreement being made. There is something short of that that could resolve the situation.

Wood: I'm going to give him supervision aslong as they are living together. I'm not going to enter any order like this. This is just my view. And I see you have a surprised look but I think it is ridiculous to have people living together and then you're going to have the court say, don't do this.

Meier: Your Honor--

Wood: And I would say go to divorce court;this is a criminal court.

Meier: Your Honor--

Wood: This is a criminal court, do you understand?Go to divorce court. Let them put an injunction against him. Let them look into the domestic matters. But I'm not going to take up time with this.

Meier: The law permits you to and suggeststhat you should.

Wood: Okay, and after having heard it andconsidered everything this is my considered judgment: one year social service supervision, August 23. That's it; and take that back with you.

Clerk: Order of Protection?

Wood: Order of Protection is denied.

The tragic irony of this case was that Pat Whitewanted nothing more than to have her husband out of the house. She had not requested that much relief for fear the judge might refuse, making her husband think he had license to beat her. Judge Wood's view is not unique. According to Assistant D.A. Vicky Vossen, several judges in Manhattan frequently refuse to grant orders of protection when the parties have been seeing each other.

This refusal to treat violence as criminal aslong as the woman is still in contact with the man is a strange way to apply the law. Nowhere is it written that behavior can be criminal only if the victim has done everything possible to avoid her attacker. We do not let a savage mugger go because his victim unwisely walked down a dark alley late at night. We do not expect someone who is attacked by a burglar in his own home to crawl out the back window. Yet violence against a woman in her own home is not considered a crime because she stays in the house.

Judge Wood's suggestion that the case be dealtwith in domestic relations court is also ironic in light of the refrain frequently heard by battered women from civil court judges, such as the Somerville, Massachusetts, district court judge, who said, "Hey, sister, if things are that tough, file a criminal complaint.'

Judges sometimes claim that they dislikedomestic assault cases because orders of protection, central to most domestic violence cases in both civil and criminal courts, are ineffective. Francis G. Poitrast, the chief justice of the Somerville juvenile court, told The Boston Globe that judges are frustrated with "abuse cases' because the orders are just "an empty shell. Its only enforcement is in the event of a violation.' But judges rarely express reluctance to convict a repeat burglar merely because jail does not deter recidivists from resuming their crimes.

Simply put, many judges are hostile to thesecases, and, it appears, to the victims. According to Eileen McNamara, author of the Globe series that broke the Pamela Nigro-Dunn story, Judge Heffernan's behavior was not an isolated or extreme example. Presiding Judge Henry Tempone is even worse than Heffernan, she says. For example, he told one woman, "You don't look beat up to me.' She was wearing a full-length coat. He also told the Globe that he believed that most women seeking orders of protection were lying. Judges's attitudes towards these cases may be symptomatic of a larger problem. Investigations in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and other states have found widespread patterns of judicial insensitivity to women, including stereotyping, treatment of women as property, as well as a tendency to "blame the victim' in domestic violence cases. Nor is the problem limited to male judges. Although some women judges are among the best on domestic violence issues, others are known for their impatience and hostility.

Unfortunately, the judiciary is for the mostpart invulnerable to reform, as strong peer review and discipline is rare, and judges, particularly those with life tenure, are effectively accountable to no one. The problem is worse in domestic violence cases, since the one avenue that serves as a modest constraint, appeal, is rarely taken. The prosecution cannot appeal an acquittal of an abuser in a criminal case. Although appeal is possible for protection orders, in most cases it is simply impractical. Petitioners often need emergency relief, making a time consuming appeal of little use. And since most petitioners have no attorney, they don't know how to file an appeal anyway.

The failure of judicial self-regulation was particularlyevident in the case of one judge in Massachusetts who was found in the course of divorce proceedings to have severely beaten his wife at least three times. Yet he continued to preside over domestic violence cases for two more years before retiring with an unblemished record.

Violence is violence

Slowly, things are changing. When Jean Cooknow says, "I didn't give up all my rights when I got married,' she has support of at least two federal courts. In ruling that the Torrington police department violated Tracy Thurman's civil rights, the federal district court firmly stated that a "man is not allowed to physically abuse or endanger a woman merely because he is her husband' and it held that the police cannot avoid making arrests "simply because the assaulter and his victim are married to each other.' The jury awarded Thurman $2.3 million. Suits like Thurman's have been brought against police departments in numerous other cities and states, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dollas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Ohio. All have been won or settled on terms favorable to the plaintiffs, and have required police to stop discriminating against married women or girlfriends who ask for help. Other police departments, including D.C.'s, are beginning to adopt policies that favor arrest or require that domestic violence case be treated no differently from other assault cases. When Denver recently adopted a pro-arrest policy, arrests jumped 60 percent one year and 46 percent the next.

Recently, the Attorney General's Task Force onDomestic Violence, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Institute of Justice produced reports urging that domestic violence be treated as a serious crime. Justice Department funding, although far lower than in the past, now supports eight demonstration projects to develop new policies and procedures for police and prosecutors.

A firm criminal justice response works. AfterDuluth, Minnesota, instituted a mandatory arrest program, 70 of a group of 86 women reported at the end of two years that the combined assistance of police, courts, and shelters was helpful in ending their abusers' violence. According to Dr. Anne Ganley, a psychologist and counselor for batterers, "Perpetrators tend to minimize and deny the violence and place the blame on others.' Therefore, she says, it is crucial that betterers be held responsible for their violence. As one former abuser said in the National Institute of Justice report: "It was such an extreme experience having actually been arrested and dealt with rather harshly . . . that I sought help.' Advocates frequently comment that even the slightest acknowledgment from an official that women do not deserve to be beaten can give victims an enormous boost of strength and energy to take action to end the abuse. Even if the couple stays together, outside disapproval can make both aware that the man does not have "the right to beat' the woman. Barbara Nelson's husband, who was finally arrested and jailed after ten years of violence now says, "There's nothing I want to do enough to go back there . . .. You don't have to be afraid of me; it's not worth it to go back.'

If the message is clear, the actual punishmentis less important. A study of the Minneapolis Police Department by the Police Foundation concluded that when the officer "advised' the suspect and did not lock him up, violence recurred within the next six months in 37 percent of the cases; when the suspect was arrested, even if he wasn't prosecuted later, violence recurred in only 19 percent of the cases. In Jean Cook's case, a mere warning letter from her attorney to her abuser brought a sudden halt to seven months of almost daily harassment.

Even if the evidence weren't as clear as it is thatcriminal justice intervention reduces domestic violence, it would still be called for. Society punishes behavior it finds morally opprobrious. The refusal of the police and courts to insist that domestic violence is a crime allows people to go on believing it's not so bad. It's time to teach a different set of lessons.
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Title Annotation:includes relate article on wife-beating and the rights of men
Author:Meier, Joan
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:May 1, 1987
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