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Revictimizing the Victim

The trouble with no-drop policies when prosecuting domestic abuse cases

Revictimizing the Victim

I have represented many, many people that have been charged with Domestic Abuse. In a large percentage of these cases (probably much higher than 50%), the alleged victim in these cases does not want to prosecute the case. In most Oklahoma counties, the case will be prosecuted anyway, because the District Attorney will have what they call a “no-drop policy.” It is rumored, but I have yet to confirm, that these policies are a requirement of federal grants that District Attorney’s offices get to prosecute Domestic Abuse. So because the DA’s office gets this money from the government, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get them to dismiss the case.

This is very frustrating for almost everyone involved. The District Attorney will talk about the “cycle of violence” and say that it is common for there to be many prior incidents of domestic abuse before it gets to this point. And sometimes they are right. Abused women (and men) sometimes need a voice. However, when you make blanket requirements such as a no-drop policy, it ignores the realities of domestic abuse. For instance, take a typical woman involved in an abusive relationship. She is usually unemployed or underemployed. There are usually children involved. It is typically a low income household. And she has absolutely NO intention of leaving this man. She just wants the abuse to stop for that night. However, instead of understanding that most alleged victims don’t want to prosecute, the alleged offending party is arrested, charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law regardless of the desires of the alleged victim. Truthfully, at this point most people say who cares? He deserves it! but let’s take a deeper look at the issue. A typical sentence for a first time offense is a 12-18 month deferred sentence, Domestic Violence Assessment and Follow Recommendations (anywhere from a 12 week anger management program to a 52 week Batterer’s Treatment Progam), court costs, jail costs and $30 to the victims compensation fund.

Doesn’t sound terrible, right? He’s going to get treatment…he’s being punished for his offense…maybe he won’t do it next time, right?

Wrong! Guess who else gets punished under this scenario? The alleged victim and the alleged victim’s children. Seeing as they are typically from a low income household, this takes literally thousands of dollars out of that families’ pocket (bond fees, attorney fees, court costs, assessment fees, class fees). This is money that is used to clothe the woman and her children and put food in their mouths. Not to mention that there is absolutely no evidence that these forced classes make ANY sort of difference on whether the original perpetrator will continue the abuse. Instead, it creates yet another stressor in an already stressed relationship. And this is all WITHOUT the consent of the alleged victim. In fact, after being subpoenaed for court, an uncooperative witness is often told they may be arrested if they do not show up to testify against their spouse. In my opinion, the State is re-victimizing this person and further victimizing this family. Lastly, it has taught this abused woman to not call the police next time, because if she does, there goes her way to feed her family and clothe her children for the foreseeable future.

Listen, domestic abuse is a serious problem, even though it is nothing new. And when there is a complaining witness that wants to testify, they should be prosecuted justly. However punishing the victim and the victim’s family in order to look like we are being tough on domestic abuse has no place in today’s society.