October is domestic violence awareness month in Maine and throughout the country. As a result, a lot of media outlets are reporting stories about how to spot domestic violence and why the issue deserves extra attention. There are certainly dangerous situations that require police intervention when serious abuse is being caused. There are also many domestic violence reports that lead to nothing or that occur because family members are having a dispute and one wants to get the other in trouble.
This may be the exception to the rule when it comes to domestic violence cases, but too much awareness can actually hurt those falsely accused of domestic violence. A Seattle political action group recently ran a TV ad about domestic violence which is now under fire for being “mostly false”. While domestic violence is a serious issue, training people to believe that any mention of the word and an offender should be locked away forever is just as dangerous.
Even some domestic violence professionals feel that arrests are not always necessary. In an interview with NPR, author Michelle Kaminsky of the Domestic Violence Bureau in New York says that:
[N]ot every case should necessarily go forward with criminal prosecution. That there's a way to work out ... the specifics of the case and see that maybe criminal prosecution isn't the right thing to be doing with that case. In terms of speaking with the women, finding out what their wants and needs are, looking at the history of abuse in the relationship. Because [in] not every case [do] you have a long history of abuse.
If a couple is having serious problems, it may be worthwhile for them to get to the root of the problem instead of having the police arrest one of them and then getting into a ‘he said, she said' competition. Domestic violence accusations can happen for many different reasons. Police should be better trained to assess if there is real threat or violence when responding to a call.