DOMESTIC VIOLENCE GETS ATTENTION
By Karen L. Bune
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
, and it is designated as a time to focus on the important issues surround domestic violence.
Power and control are key components in abusive relationships, and victims can be both male and female. Though female victims tend to predominate and report such incidents more frequently, the victimization of males in domestic violence situations cannot be overlooked. Males tend to underreport violent domestic incidents, or they may not report at all, due to embarrassment and fear of ridicule as well as criticism. They often believe that if they report such abuse their sense of masculinity is diminished.
In many domestic abuse cases, the violence may ensue over time and is not brought to the attention of authorities because victims endure the violence and keep the situation hidden behind closed doors.
When the violence erupts to a point that it comes to the attention of authorities, it is imperative that protocols and procedures are in place to assist the victims in every way possible.
George’s County, Maryland has been in the forefront recently with attention focusing on some recent tragedies involving domestic violence cases, it is important to understand that because these incidents occurred
does not mean that critical attention to victims of domestic violence in the county has been lacking.
The Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office has a specialized domestic violence unit that is comprised of highly educated, trained, and skilled prosecutors and victim specialists who devote their time and resources to working with domestic violence victims. Importantly, this unit expends a tremendous amount of time focusing attention on the needs of victims and providing them the necessary support to go forward with prosecution. Additionally, the unit assists victims with the development of safety plans to reduce their risk of danger as they await trial.
Following reporting of the incident, it is not uncommon for victims to later relay their wishes that they want to drop the charges and will claim that the violence was the result of the abuser’s bad day or
bad mood, and they will emphatically insist that the abuser “loves” them. They may even get hostile and argumentative with the professionals who diligently and consistently work hard to help them.
When victims do apply for a protective order with a legitimate basis and have the order granted, they may express a desire to have the order pulled in a short period of time. Victims may be influenced by the abuser who threatens them with potential future harm or, at the opposite extreme, they may be won over by the fact that the abuser showers them with gifts and promises that no further violence will ever transpire. In either case, the ultimate outcome can be dangerous, if not, deadly.
In Maryland, the legal option of Marital Privilege that provides married couples of domestic abuse a one-time option to drop the charges against the spouse can be detrimental. Though the victim will contend
there has been no influence in making the decision to exercise this option, the abuser may have threatened and intimidated the victim to do so. Following execution of this option, the victim returns to an
uncorrected situation where the abuse recurs. Not only can this be very dangerous for the victim, it sends the wrong message to both the offender and the community.
Domestic violence predominates in every
community throughout the nation.
Though Prince George’s County, Maryland has recently been highlighted in a negative light, it is not fair to assume that the county is lax on the issue. To the contrary and despite recent events, the dedication and determination of professionals who care is unrelenting and of prime importance.
Copyright 2006 Karen L. Bune
***Karen L. Bune is a Victim Specialist in the State’s Attorney’s Office for Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is also
an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at George Mason University where she teaches victimology.
Ms. Bune is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant on victim issues. She is Board Certified in Traumatic Stress and is a Diplomate and Fellow of the Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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