Heidi L. Shank-Bridges
Domestic Violence is a problem of epidemic proportion in the United States. It affects everyone whether they are the victim, the batterer, or a member of society. Domestic Violence comes in the way of multiple forms and has expanded outside of the husband and wife arena, as in years past to now include violence between boyfriend and girlfriend, parent and child, and violence between siblings. In some states domestic violence is defined as violence between a boyfriend and girlfriend who do not live together but do have a child in common. Domestic violence affects every community. Largely affected are the law enforcement officers who are at risk of prospective danger by responding to a domestic violence call. Domestic violence is affecting younger children in grades as low as elementary school through high school. Domestic Violence shelters are available to assist victims; however, while shelters appear to be a capacity for the most part, there is a greater concern for the underutilization of shelters and why, when shelters are available, are they not being used? Is there a cure for this growing problem?
Keywords: domestic violence, shelters, victims,
Domestic violence was at one time thought to be a personal family matter, but it is now considered an issue affecting entire communities both socially and fiscally primarily due to the higher rates of physical health problems received from violent acts from assault, rape and the stress of living in such an environment. The cost of health related affect due to domestic violence is very close to $6 million per year and the cost affect due to a loss of employment and productivity is close to $1.8 billion per year (Martin, 2011). Although many states have some type of accountability for the abuser/batterer, whether it result in an arrest, whether it be handled in accordance to the mandated laws, or the police discretionary judgment is used there will always be a bigger concern than just the safety of the victim, there is a concern for public safety as well. Domestic violence has no age limit, no gender limitations, no economic limitations, and no religious limitation. Therein the question lies, does location of a victim matter? In a study completed in 2010 by Andrea Hetling and Haiyan Zhang, both of the State University of New Jersey says yes, location matters. Their study states that community has a large percentage of risk factors where domestic violence is concerned. After extensive research it was determined that victims who suffer from economic disadvantages on a community level are at a higher likelihood of experiencing domestic violence (Hetling, A., 2010). Law enforcement across the country has seen an increase in domestic violence calls. Law enforcement officers, in general, have reported feeling vulnerable when they are dispatched to a domestic violence or a domestic dispute call. The calls are so unpredictable when responding to a domestic dispute. Mandatory prosecution requires that prosecutors move forward with or without the victims on board. Pro-prosecution policies favor prosecution over allowing victims to drop the charges, which was common practice at one the time. There is little known about how these changes affected victims’ willingness to use services. Although there is a mandatory policy regarding how to proceed in a domestic violence call, most law enforcement officers still take into consideration the victim’s request before they proceed with making an arrest. It is the belief of law enforcement that the victim knows or should know the batterer better than the law does and they will or should know how to defuse the situation without creating a more volatile environment (Horwitz, 2011). There are factors that police take into consideration when making a determination to initiate an arrest in a domestic violence case...