Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dating, Domestic Violence, and the Law

Photo by kenfotos
By Tatiana Smotritskaya
Probably no one wants to start a romantic relationship with the intention of getting hurt. Unfortunately, abusive fights occur rather repeatedly. And in order to eliminate future violent behavior, state and local laws should not let abusers get away with it. South Carolina’s current domestic violence law offers juristic protection to only those individuals who are married or live together with their abusive companions. However, a newly proposed bill may finally change this disparity and expand the protection boundaries. It provides equal protection to all couples, regardless of their relationship status: married, live-in, or dating – it doesn’t matter. The question is will they approve the new law or reject it. However, the issue of safety in dating could be resolved only if the proposed law takes effect.
Almost all states in our country protect dating couples with their laws. But, according to Ellen Meder, in defiance of common sense, “South Carolina is one of only eight states that does not include relationships under its domestic violence codes.”  This means that only those individuals who are married or live together with their abusers can hope for full protection. As Benjamin Stevens states, “Domestic violence is not limited to bodily harm, but can also consist of sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, and psychological abuse. While only the first two are considered criminal behavior, the remaining three can have just as severe of consequences and can be psychologically crippling.” In accordance with current law, any violator may psychologically, financially, or emotionally abuse another person, and still remain free to commit other crimes.  Therefore, the domestic violence law of South Carolina lets potentially dangerous perpetrators freely walk our streets with no criminal record. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the domestic violence rates are so high in our state.
Ellen Meder reported that “South Carolina has the 7th highest rate of women killed by men in the nation and last year more than 40 domestic violence victims were killed. . . . Under current domestic violence law 60 percent of relationship abuse victims aren't protected because they aren't married and don't live together.” But the consequences from domestic violence are the same for live-in, married or just dating couples. Besides, any union starts from dating, and an unconditional requirement of a future-oriented dating relationship is feeling safe and secure. But until violators make their relationship official, they are not legally liable and so are free to continue to hurt others. Thus, while abusers face no repercussions for their actions, consequences of violence stay with victims forever. 
While it is difficult enough for the victims to come to the court and talk about the abuse, it is almost impossible if no protection is guaranteed. Rebecca Callaham, writing for The Greenville News, states, “The FBI reports domestic violence as the leading cause of injury to women. However, it is the least reported crime. Less than one-third of victims actually report their victimization.”  I personally knew a girl who was scared to get help because of a lack of evidence, and she never did. Thankfully, she is alright, but we don’t know how many more victims have to suffer until the law stops her abuser. And she is only one of many other adults that are scared.
Another solution to the problem is to make sure that abused teenagers are not hiding their problems. Matt Comer reports, “Responding to family and dating violence is made harder by the fact that many affected young people are reluctant to turn to caring adults for help, preferring to confide in friends for support. Some hesitate to tell anyone at all, and so suffer in silence.” Jim Rex, the former State Superintendent of Education, is also concerned about adolescents and says that “teens in an abusive dating relationship are more likely than non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors or suffer eating disorders, engage in risky sexual behavior, and attempt or consider suicide.” Similar to adults, teens are scared to share their problems and don’t protect themselves. But if they were assured by law against any unpleasant consequences, we would have a much healthier and more secure society.
Fortunately, the problem has been recognized by SC authorities, and, Ellen Meder states, Bill S. 539 “would expand domestic violence laws from ‘household members’ to people in dating relationships.”  This bill would let any violence victim get an order of protection from the Family Court. And, according to the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault specialists, “getting an order of protection, currently reserved for only married or live-in couples, is better for dating violence than a regular restraining order because it acknowledges that violence has already occurred and that each subsequent incident has a higher chance of being lethal.” Victim’s possession of this order allows the police to instantly take the abuser to jail, which “increases their safety because it allows for that more immediate response.” Once effective, it won’t just provide a long hoped-for guarantee of protection to SC residents, but also will decrease the number of domestic violence crimes by warning potential abusers.
Critics of the bill argue against it. Ellen Meder states, that the overprotection and a “lower standard of proof” may create some cost and time-consuming issues by increasing the chance of putting innocent people in jail and causing an overflow in the court rooms. There always will be a selfish or dishonest person willing to misuse the law in a personal vendetta. It may make it hard to distinguish between a victim in need and a lying pretender, such as a jealous girlfriend. But those who truly need  protection should not suffer because of them, and an innocent person can always prove his or her innocence. Besides, the domestic violence law already exists; it just doesn’t guarantee any protection for a certain group of people, a group that does not differ from others in protection needs and legal rights. 
We may not be capable of preventing natural disasters, car accidents, and other mortal dangers. But it is definitely in our power to protect dating couples from domestic violence, and safety must be guaranteed equally to everybody. Moreover, I consider it as an important duty of South Carolina, especially knowing that the domestic violence rates are so high in our state, and that the actual numbers might be significantly higher, because many incidents are not reported. Our state will only benefit from including dating couples in the domestic violence law. By approving the proposed law South Carolina authorities will only give everybody much needed protection, so that all the citizens can be sure they are safe while dating.

If you are in an abusive relationship, you don't have to be. No one deserves to be hurt. People are willing to help you.
  • My Sister's House: Provides free and confidential information and help to victims of domestic violence. Services include: 24-hour crisis counseling, emergency shelter, victim advocacy, legal assistance, case management, information and referral, support groups, and children's services.
  • Charleston Domestic Violence Services: Provides a direct and confidential line for survivors and victims of domestic violence. Also provides assistance with various needs, including shelter, victim compensation, explaining the criminal justice system and helping with survival tips and safety plans. Community referrals also made.
  • Mt. Pleasant Victim Services Unit: The Victim Services Unit provides help to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, harassment (stalking), and homicide. Help includes compensation, referrals, crisis counseling, assistance in obtaining restraining orders, help in finding shelter, help in understanding the court system, support groups, education about abuse and self-protection, cell phones for emergencies, and safety planning.
  • Alternative Life Improvement Center: Provides specialized therapeutic services for perpetrators of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse through nationally trained professionals and certified programs. Has programs set up to address anger management, domestic violence, and sexual abuse.

1 comment:

  1. I come this Dating, Domestic Violence, and the Law post first time. No relation can stay without love we can't manage it with violence and violent behavior. Nice to come this post. Great information. Thanks.

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