Native American

Native American

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Are you kidding me?

So the primary law in this state with regard to domestic violence opens with a preamble that says, among other things: 

"It is the intent of the legislature to provide a civil remedy for domestic violence which will afford the victim immediate and easily accessible protection. Furthermore, it is the intent of the legislature that the official response of law enforcement agencies to cases of domestic violence shall stress the enforcement of laws to protect the victim and shall communicate the attitude that violent behavior is not excused or tolerated."

SOUNDS good, doesn't it?  I'm sure the people who drafted that language continue to feel proud of their work toward eradicating domestic violence.  As they should.  But what do those words really mean?  Forget the semantic, philosophical discussion ... ask a victim how the law helped him/her.  Or ask someone who was unjustly accused how the law DIDN'T help him/her.  It's not enough to capture a lofty goal in words -I don't deny it's an important start - but if that's where it ends, then it accomplishes nothing.

For instance, what does FREEDOM mean to most Americans?  The word singularly defines the U.S.,means?  Anybody want to weigh in?   Because I have to tell you - I'm of the opinion that most of us wouldn't - and don't - recognize freedom, even as we consider it our defining characteristic among other nations and governments.  But I digress ...but do we know what it

In spite of the well written legislation, the reality of many victims of domestic violence in this state is "more of the same", but kinda worse since, much like the Miranda Warning (you have the right to remain silent ... yada yada yada), which was heralded as a huge step toward protecting an individual's constitutional rights (because the written decision by the US Supreme Court which essentially created the warning said it was) in fact eroded protections against coerced confessions and brutal - or at least dubious - interrogation tactics by law enforcement personnel.  I grew up learning, through my community and as depicted on TV, that Miranda was a "trick" used by crafty defense attorneys and criminals to get off "scot free" (what does that mean, anyway?).  If you study the history leading up to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966),  however, you start to realize that the joke is on all of us, and by "us" I mean those of us who really do want to continue to live in "the Land of the Free".  Or maybe I'm the victim of too narrow a perspective on the issue.  Life has taught me however, that talkin' isn't walkin' and just 'cause you say it's so, don't make it so, contrary to popular belief.   But, once again, I digress. 

As for the domestic violence law in this state, those lofty ideals embodied in the preamble create an illusion of zero tolerance to DV, but the reality still tends to blame the victims, and make " immediate and easily accessible protection" nothing more than a taunt. 

Remember the mom from my last blog - the one that went to the courthouse "too late" to get a protective order and was told to come back the next day?  Well, she did go back the next day.  Got there just as the courthouse opened, and filled out all the paperwork.  She was then told that, in a courthouse with more than 10 divisions, there was not a single judge available to sign her TRO (the order that would provide - on paper anyway - the relief she was seeking), could she please come back later?  Maybe around noon? 
Well, does she have a choice?  And chalk the "please" up to poetic license ... please.

So she goes back home, and waits, though she's exhausted and still in pain from the beating she took when the father of her children beat her and stole her kids from her a week ago, and she can't really rest. 

Nearly 8 hours later, the court calls to tell her the judge has signed her order, granting all the relief she's requested, including an order directing law enforcement assist her in getting her children.  Guess what time it is? 3: 20 PM.  Can you see where this is going? 

By the time she gets back to the courthouse, which is about 25 to 30 miles from her home, it's 4:00 PM.  On a Friday afternoon.  But, she thinks, this time, all she has to do is pick up the paperwork and walk right over to the sheriff's office in the same building.  5 minutes - tops, and done! Right?  Did I mention it was Friday afternoon? 

Yeah, so, even though she gets there before 4:30PM, and the Sheriff's Dept. is still "open" (?!??) there are no deputies available, so could she please come back Monday morning?  Except without the "please." 

Are you kidding me?

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