By Dave Emanuel
The common view of domestic violence, spousal abuse and child abuse is that they exist almost exclusively in families plagued by a lack of education and low income. However, as noted author Carole Townsend points out in an insightful podcast, domestic violence and abuse transcends all socio-economic levels.
Having experienced abuse personally, and having seen extent of the problem through her work as a volunteer with non-profit organizations that provide assistance to abused and battered women, she knows whereof she speaks. And it isn’t just the direct victim of abuse who suffers; other family members also become victims.
Although women are most commonly the victims of abuse, men aren’t excluded. And irrespective of gender, victims will often stay in an abusive relationship because they fear for the safety and well-being of their children or other relatives. That’s the primary reason law enforcement is often powerless to help- the victim won’t press charges for fear of future consequences.
Even if a victim seeks refuge by separating from an abuser, there’s no guarantee of safety; restraining orders are often ineffective. Local police agencies can provide assistance, but obviously can’t provide 24/7 protection.
Unfortunately, there’s a strong emotional component to domestic violence, so there really isn’t a legislative solution. Were the legislature to elevate simple battery and simple assault to felonies (they are currently misdemeanors) it might result in abusers being sent to jail, rather than allowing them to pay a fine. However, upon release, they might well become even more abusive.
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) lists numerous laws aimed at protecting victims and punishing abusers. Sections 19-13-3 and 19-13-4 deal specifically with protective orders, which a court may issue without contacting the alleged abuser. A formal family violence protective order lasts for one year and may be extended to three years or made permanent. Violation of a protective order is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000, a year in jail or both.
In spite of laws, and the existence of over 50 non-profit organizations offering help, instances of domestic violence are all too common. And the violence amounts to much more than a slaps or punches. According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, from 2003 through 2015, 1,550 Georgia residents were killed as a result of domestic violence. Delving deeper into the commission’s statistics reveals more of the frequency of occurrence, and the pain and anguish caused by domestic violence:
In 36% of the cases studied by Georgia’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project, children witnessed the domestic violence homicide.
In 2014, law enforcement officers responded to 65,529 family violence incidents in Georgia
In 2014, there were 21,993 protective and stalking orders issued in Georgia
Georgia was recently ranked 17th in the nation for its rate of men killing women.
In 2014, there were 21,993 protective and stalking orders issued in Georgia.
In FY 2015, there were 44,317 crisis calls to Georgia’s certified domestic violence agencies.
In FY 2015, 5,998 victims and children who were provided 292,634 nights of refuge in a Georgia domestic violence shelter.
In FY 2015, 2,554 victims made a request for shelter but their request was not met due to lack of space.
Statistics tell only part of the story. Ms. Townsend’s personal experiences, both as a victim, and as a mentor to others adds depth and emotion to the cold, hard facts