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One Beating Would Lead to Another, Under Wisconsin Proposal
By Joanne M. Haas
May 02, 2001
Madison, Wis. (CNSNEWS.com) - People who abuse their wives, girlfriends, or other family members may get a taste of their own medicine, under a bill introduced in the Wisconsin legislature.
The bill provides a new defense for the crime of simple battery, when simple battery is committed as retaliation on behalf of domestic violence victims. For example, if a husband beats his wife and is then beaten in return by the wife's brother - the brother would be allowed to claim retaliation as a defense against simple battery charges.
The bill covers cases of simple battery only, which Wisconsin law defines as causing bodily harm to another person, with intent and without consent. Right now, Wisconsin law excuses battery only in cases of self-defense.
While the proposal has raised a few eyebrows from those wondering if such a proposal would actually reduce domestic violence, the bill's author insists it will help.
"The fact of allowing family intervention without penalty may help reduce the acts of domestic abuse," says Democratic Rep. Marlin Schneider, whose nickname in the state legislature is Snarlin' Marlin. "If the abuser thinks he or she may be subjected to the same actions that he or she has caused, they may think twice about it."
Schneider's bill calls for acquittal of simple battery charges in cases where someone is retaliating on behalf of an abused relative or in cases where stalking is involved. According to an analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau, the simple battery defense could be used by parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and first cousins.
The day before Schneider introduced his bill, Wisconsin Congressman Tom Barrett, also a Democrat, announced that Wisconsin was in line for a $2-million federal grant that would be used to prevent violence against women. The federal funds are provided under the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which Congress passed last December.
Barrett said the money would provide law enforcement and victim's service organizations with the resources they need to help victims and to develop a coordinated community response to abuse and assault.
But Schneider, who attended the police academy himself after his own life was threatened about 20 years ago, stands firm in his belief that family intervention might help both the victim and the overburdened court system.
He points to Department of Justice records showing that of the nearly 30,000 domestic abuse cases reported in 1998, there were more than 22,000 arrests. Wisconsin has a mandatory arrest policy in cases of domestic abuse. "Our court system doesn't need to spend all the time, effort and money it has to dispense with these cases," Schneider said.
Schneider's bill has not been slated for a hearing, and observers predict it may never make it to the floor of the Republican-controlled Assembly.
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(NOTE: Would this bill allow for a husband beater to be beaten also? This would set a very dangerous precedence.
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JUNE is Domestic Violence Against Men Awareness Month