October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: a time when advocates, survivors, friends and family of domestic violence speak out and speak up in an effort to help alleviate one of the most prevalent and most dangerous crimes in the United States today.
In order to understand why DV is such a scourge on our society, it’s important to understand how and why it has become so prevalent. In most states, our justice system either outright condones it or turns a blind eye to it. There are numerous examples to be found in news stories across the nation. Women reach out for help from the courts in the form of protection orders, only to have them denied. In far too many instances, they are murdered shortly thereafter by their abusers. Many times, women are punished for defending themselves. When police arrive on scene and both parties have been involved in a physical altercation, even if the woman was defending herself, police will question them separately to determine the “primary offender.” Of course the man will tell a different story, so police are faced with making a decision based on physical evidence. It sometimes happens that the woman is arrested and the man is not.
Why? How can this happen? Women are often smaller and weaker. She might pick up an object. I did in one instance. When police arrived on scene, I was covered in blood – his! Thankfully, police believed my story. However, that is rarely the case. Police arrive, the man has a worse wound, the woman is determined to have been the primary offender. She goes to jail. (He sees this as a “win” and revels in the victory?)
Even in cases where the man is arrested, domestic violence penalties are weak and prosecuting attorneys are quick to make deals. In my case, my abuser was charged with three felonies for attempted murder. He got six months’ probation, 48 hours’ community service and compulsory “counseling” with an ex-con domestic abuser therapist who taught his court-mandated counseling clients how to circumvent temporary protection orders (TPO’s) to get back in the homes where they were forbidden to be without being caught and prosecuted again.
Domestic violence is a plague on our society. It is perpetuated by our criminal justice systems that fail the victims by either arresting the wrong people or imposing insouciant penalties that are further degrading to the victims. We live in a society where domestic abusers are empowered and emboldened because they are not held responsible.
Our homes should be a place of safety and love, not violence and abuse. Domestic Violence Awareness Month should be a time when we become keenly aware that those who commit heinous crimes against their families and cohabitants should meet the stiffest penalties.
Instead, on October 21, Montana District Judge John McKeon defied the recommendations of prosecution who had procured a deal with domestic abuser and serial rapist Martin Blake, who admitted raping his 12-year-old daughter repeatedly. Judge McKeon handed down a 60-day sentence instead of the recommended 25-year sentence. He will likely serve no more than 43 days in jail. This is repulsive. It is a gross miscarriage of justice.
However, the most important lesson from this judge’s sentence will be this: the value of that girl’s completely destroyed life is reduced to 43 days. How must that girl feel? I can tell you exactly how she feels. I’ve lived it myself.
I implore you, as a domestic abuse survivor and as a human being, to help me in my quest to shine a light on this problem. Help raise awareness, first of all, so that we can hopefully ameliorate it, at best, and eventually reduce its prevalence. I’m not so optimistic that I believe we can ever completely eradicate it, although that would be ideal.
We must all be beacons. Please join me. Not just during October, but all year long.
Also published on Medium.