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The hidden half of domestic violence

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Shelters for battered women


     Erin Pizzey demonstrated quite clearly and convincingly the need for shelters (refuges in the UK) for battered women when she opened the first one in the world in 1971 in Chiswick, London, England. Pizzey's efforts led to worldwide recognition and such shelters now exist in most of the civilized world.
     Clearly the need for such shelters is as great today as it was in 1971. But human problems are never simple and Erin quickly recognized that "...62 women out of the first hundred women who came to the refuge were as violent or more violent than the men they left. Also many were prostitutes taking refuge from their violent pimps." She further noted that such violent women abuse their children as well. And such problems persist.
      Further, shelters today operate under a veil of secrecy and, like any publicly-funded agency whose operations are not open to public scrutiny, corruption has crept in. In some cases, such shelters have become bunkers from which Redfems wage war on men. In other cases, instead of helping battered women, the shelters have become one-stop divorce shops. In some places child abuse within a shelter has been covered up to the point where children have died.
      In some communities, good intentions, and most are, are simply not up to the management demands of running a shelter. In too many others, however, there is a  a long history of financial disarray, weak accountability or outright fraud, criminal charges, lawsuits, mass resignations, sexual politics, and vicious infighting that have plagued crisis centers and battered women's shelters. Donna Laframboise has documented cases of such abuses in shelters across Canada. We have now found stories of similar abuses of the public trust in Massachusetts, Virginia, California, and Arizona as well.
      While the need for women's shelters remains, and is clearly recognized, the need for reform and public scrutiny of the operation of these refuges is essential. Such scrutiny must be free of feminist ideology and based on the clearly defined requirements of abused women. Today, many abused women cannot find lodging in the existing shelters because the available accommodations are filled by women who are only there while they get a divorce, are illegal immigrants, are hiding out from the law, or other uses for which these shelters were not designed or funded. We also hear from women who are denied residence because they won't consent to required secrecy agreements, or are driven out by men-hating ideologues within the shelters.
     Such abuses, if uncurbed, undermine the public trust and willingness to support these needed facilities.
      Clearly, the support and operation of shelters for battered women are both necessary and of broad concern to our society. Therefore, the information we have has been moved from the Colorado-centric Domestic Violence Against Men site to the parent Equal Justice Foundation site with the hope that  systemic abuses can be curbed and these shelters operated in the fashion Erin Pizzey advocates for.


Demographics of domestic violence in Colorado


     In examining any human problem one of the fundamental tools available is the demographic distribution of parameters associated with the society and the perceived problem.
      For some years now I have been collecting demographic data produced by the Colorado courts, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and the Colorado Springs Police Department. As an aside, Colorado Springs was one of the seven cities where mandatory arrest for domestic violence was tested between 1991 and 1993.
      Unfortunately, I've been presenting the demographic data, which has been collected piecemeal, as rather a hodgepodge of tablesm and in a rather scattered fashion, throughout the DV against men site. I've now organized the data into a single chapter with the court data presented by individual years. We currently have eight years of incident data for the police agencies of Colorado and five years of demographic data for the courts. The data encompass a population of roughly 4 million people.
     Also, thirteen years, 1990-2002, of police data from Colorado Springs is reviewed. That data dramatically show the deterrent effect DV laws have, not on the crime, but on citizens in need of help, who now fear the police more than they do their partners. As the following bar chart clearly shows, after passage of the 1994 DV laws in Colorado, the number of 911 DV calls dropped radically (red bars). In 2002 there were the same number of 911 domestic disturbance calls to CSPD as in 1990 despite more than a 30% increase in population. As the yellow line shows, all other 911 calls increased linearly and in proportion to the increase in the Colorado Springs population (data included in Table 19).

    Apparently mandatory arrest, "no drop," and the panoply of draconian domestic violence and abuse laws do not serve to protect women but only to deter those most familiar with them from calling for help.
    Having waded laboriously through a mass of statistics, what else have we learned? For the years during which consistent DV data are available, currently 1995 to 2002 for Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) police data, and 1999 through 2002 for court data, the following trends are clear:

* The number of domestic violence incidents reported by police agencies is clearly declining on a per capita basis (Table 21).

* Inexplicably, the number of court cases for domestic violence is increasing both in total number and on a per capita basis (Table 21).

* There are consistently more than twice as many court cases of domestic violence than DV incidents reported to police in Colorado (Table 25).

* The number of civil and criminal DV restraining orders has increased from 62 per 10,000 citizens in 1998 to 74 in 2002 (Table 17). There is no basis in police reports for such an increase.

* The draconian police response mandated by the 1994 DV laws primarily acts to deter citizens from calling 911 (Table 19).

* The mandatory arrest law is a failure. By 2010 arrest rates for domestic violence will be indistinguishable from pre-1994 rates (Table 19).

* Only about one half of the police incidents of "domestic" violence involve couples living together.

* Males have been the victim in 21-22% of the DV incidents reported to police in Colorado since 1999 (Table 21).

* Available data show no correlation between high rates of DV court cases and divorce cases.

* False allegations and perjury are virtually never punished (Table 26).

* There is no consistent correlation between other problems in the society, e.g., offenses such as theft, harassment, fraud, drug use, and underage alcohol use, and domestic violence in most judicial districts (Table 22).

* The finding by Dugan (2003, p. 299), based on National Crime Victimization Survey data, that 0.5% of households suffer an incident of criminal domestic violence in a given year correlates well with the number of incidents reported to police in Colorado (Table 21 and Table 25). Conversely, court data do not correlate with either the police data or the NCVS estimates.

* Violence against women in a domestic relationship, i.e., married or common law, is quite rare. CBI data show about 2,900 married women a year in all of Colorado are reportedly victims of "domestic" violence. With approximately 475,00 married women currently living in Colorado at most 0.6% are in any danger from domestic violence, and for 80% of these cases the peril is limited to simple assault. However, the actual number of DV assaults of married women is much lower than 2,900. It is known that a substantial number of such incidents reported to police are false allegations.

      Thus, current laws, police practices, and court policies neither deter offenders, protect victims, or fix the problem of family violence, but quite clearly deter citizens from calling 911 in a domestic disturbance.

It should be self evident that if a law is passed and the problem appears to become worse then the law is not the solution. The law and courts are however, part of the problem as available data clearly show.

Clearly the justice system is far more of a threat to a family and their children than is their partner.
Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A.


The Equal Justice Foundation is a member-supported, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

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Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A.
President, Equal Justice Foundation
455 Bear Creek Road
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906-5820
Telephone: (719) 520-1089
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