Editorial: New program may help break cycle of violence

By on October 14, 2010

According to Mutual Ground, Community Crisis Center, by the time you finish reading this paragraph, someone in the U.S. will be abused by their partner. In fact, for each paragraph you read, someone else will become a victim of domestic violence.

Many researchers believe that the current statistic, that someone in the U.S. is abused by their partner every nine seconds, is actually much more frequent, because most incidents of abuse are not reported.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in Kane County, this particular October is unique—it is the month that the Kane County Domestic Violence Diversion Program was launched. As of Oct. 5, 2010, Kane County victims of domestic violence will have a new option to help overcome the unimaginable difficulties of suffering abuse at the hands of a family member.

In a Wednesday press release, the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office described what it called “a common, hypothetical first-time domestic violence scenario:
• Defendant (husband and household breadwinner) and victim (wife) begin to argue.
• Defendant punches the victim, injuring her and causing her to be afraid.
• Victim calls police; defendant is arrested, charged with misdemeanor domestic battery. Bond is posted and defendant goes home to family.
• Couple soon realize that if defendant, not eligible for supervision under state law, is convicted, he could lose his job, the family’s main source of income.
• Defendant says he’s sorry, tells victim he loves her and promises never to hit her again, and then urges her to change her story or fail to show up for court, and then hints about how much worse it could be for her if she tells the truth in court
• She agrees to his wishes and the case eventually is dismissed because she fails to appear for court
• Two months later the defendant again punches the victim, this time in front of a small child, but the victim, left eye swollen shut, declines to call police because she believes defendant didn’t mean to hurt her and she doesn’t want him to lose his job, and because she’s afraid that he’ll beat and threaten her further if she calls 911.

The defendant isn’t held accountable, receives no counseling and learns how to play the system against the victim. By virtue of her decision to skip court, the victim has empowered the defendant to become a repeat offender and silenced her voice. The diversion program will give justice that many victims otherwise would not have had.”

What the Domestic Violence Diversion Program does is create a new potential outcome that can break the cycle of “fear—lack of accountability—repeat of incident—fear,” that exists and feeds upon itself. The program offers a deal to the defendant: in exchange for completing a one-year domestic violence counseling program, the defendant’s guilty plea is vacated and the original charges are dismissed. If the defendant fails to complete the program— which could include additional mental health and substance abuse counseling, a letter of apology, order of protection, no abuse contact order, or a no contact order; as well as $450 in fees plus a $200 donation to domestic violence shelters—the defendant would be convicted of domestic battery and sentenced to up to 364 days in jail.

According to the State’s Attorney’s Office, what this program achieves is:
“• Defendant assumes burden to complete program to get benefit of dismissal
• Defendant, victim statements remain on file if defendant reoffends
• Victim, family relieved of fear of retaliation 
• Family doesn’t face potential loss of income, rental agreements and loans, which often accompanies criminal convictions
• Defendant receives counseling, treatment necessary to modify destructive behavior.”

Essentially, the program helps resolve many of the issues that prevent a victim and the victim’s family from action, which virtually guarantees a repeat of the offense. Because each cycle merely reinforces the reasons the family did not take action in the first place, the cycle is likely to never be broken. Yet, efforts like the Kane County Domestic Violence Diversion Program give families a tool to help break that cycle.

However, this tool does not spell the end of domestic violence; there will always be a need for continued education and raised awareness of domestic violence, its red flags that indicate a relationship is moving into a dangerous place, its risk factors and how to handle a situation when you or someone you know is a victim or potential victim.

“I have no illusions. We’re not going to end domestic violence with this program. But this program will allow us to get to a percentage of these defendants and improve the situation for some victims and their families,” Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti said in his Wednesday release.

Domestic violence is not going away, not when surveys suggest that domestic violence occurs in up to 28 percent of marriages.

However, through a combination of education, raised awareness, and law enforcement programs such as the Kane County Domestic Violence Diversion Program, domestic violence can be better anticipated and avoided; and even for those devastating incidents that still occur, the situation can be better resolved and the cycle broken.

One Comment

  1. jjones

    November 7, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    While I appreciate this article and bringing awareness to the public, I think we need to also make sure that we note, not all victims are females. There are many male victims that are abused by their wives as well. Look at the order of protections in Kane County alone and you will see there are quite a few against women filed by men. Thank you.,