Domestic violence laws

Posted on January 11, 2012


As a crime reporter, one of my jobs is to go through the police reports every day. It seems like every day I see a domestic violence charge in the stack. More often than not, it is a misdemeanor charge.

This has nothing to do with the police or even the prosecutor. By Ohio law, with few exceptions, a person has to plead guilty or be convicted of domestic violence twice before the charge can be bumped up to a felony.  I won’t get into to all the legal jargon. If you want to look up the exceptions, you can click here to go to the law.

The way laws are structured in Ohio bothers me. Granted, I’m not a lawyer, and I could be working from what I know from friends and such, but one of the things a person can do after pressing domestic violence charges is get a protection order.  Of course, when dealing with someone crazy enough to beat their kids or significant other, an order doesn’t matter much. So, the victim is victimized a second time. Then, and usually only then, is the offender taken to jail.

Not to mention, to get a protection order, a victim is required to go through a several week class, kind of like group therapy. Once again, punishing the victim as a means of protecting the person.

Just today, there was a story out of Columbus, Ohio about a man giving a 6 month old second degree facial burns with a hairdryer: Step-father accused of burning baby with a hairdryer

It was called child endangerment. It could end up being a misdemeanor.

I understand that when speaking about an abused significant other or child, it is sometimes hard to leave. Believe me, I know. However, there has to be some way to protect those who are too scared to protect themselves.

The violence is also spreading to dating violence among teens, which is nothing new. One article stated:

“In a nationwide survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.8% of high school students in the U.S. report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend. That means approximately 30 million teens are affected by this nationwide. Dating violence spreads across all racial and social lines. Same-sex relationships can also be violent.” Stop teen dating violence by Mariko Fujimoto Rooks, Asian Week, Jan. 10, 2012.

Some communities are going out of their way to help families through shelter programs:

New shelter proposed for abused women

Cleveland program helps Hispanic women and children escape violence

I personally think that putting your hands on someone, especially someone you are supposed to love, and harming them should be considered a felony the first time. There is only so much the cops and courts can do to protect a victim from their abuser. Somewhere along the line, the law has to change.

Some states are fighting to re-authorize and revitalize the Violence Against Women Act, as a way to reinforce and grow support programs in the U.S.

I could go on for hours about the depths of domestic violence. Instead, I’ll leave you with a few questions: What do you think needs to happen? Is the answer tougher laws for offenders? Should we focus our attention on education? Is it a matter of better support for victims? I’m interested to read thoughts of others on this issue.