Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A "Non-Hostile" murder-suicide

It's stories like this one that explain why domestic violence advocates don't like to see judges award "non-hostile" contact injunctions:

The tragedy in this case is that Tonya Warren probably thought she was "safe" because other family members were present. And even more tragically, their very own child witnessed the most unspeakable act any child could witness. This case is also a reminder that the most lethal time for victims of DV is when they're trying to leave the relationship. That's when 75% of the fatalities occur.

"Non-hostile" injunctions are essentially unenforceable by the justice system. They give Petitioners a false sense of security. After all, the judge told the parties that the Respondent, at the victim's say-so, is supposed to leave the premises if the Respondent behaves in a hostile manner (for example, yelling at the victim). What's a victim going to say to the 911 operator if they want to try to enforce the order? The other person yelled at me?

Abusers often have several tactics in their arsenal that they use to convey threats to their victims - and bystanders in the same room don't even realize that a subliminal message has transpired. For example, one abuser would ritually remove his wedding band and place it on the fireplace mantel before beating his wife. When she petitioned for an injunction and they were in court for the hearing, he calmly removed his wedding band and set it on the table in front of him, making certain he generated enough sound for her to hear and to get the message.

The message? You're going to be beaten up after this is over.

Law enforcement isn't going to arrest someone because they took off their wedding band, are they?

Judges need to stop putting victims at risk by issuing "non-hostile contact" injunctions. I know they're done to permit both parents to attend school functions and the like, but maybe it's more important for the children and the victim to be safe while the perpetrator has time to (hopefully) cool down and adjust to the separation.

1 comment:

  1. See also the Sentinel's article:,0,2309774.story