I'm not entirely sure what to say about this. What I'm not going to engage in is some knee-jerk Midwest-bashing. I lived in the Midwest on two occasions for a total of over 8 years of my adult life -- long enough to know that every part of the country has good people and bad ones, and most are a mix of both, just trying to get by. But still... on first reading, all I could do was make inarticulate noises in the back of my throat. And even on deeper thought, I'm going to be unable to form a coherent essay with a thesis statement (other than this). So here are my bullet points:
- Budget cuts are bad. Our public resources are strained. But is telling a person who has been brutally beaten by her or his spouse or partner that such conduct is no longer prosecutable where they live really the most sensible way to save money?
- Perhaps Topeka is trying to use this as a lever: "Budget cuts have forced us to immediately release batterers, who statistics show will most likely repeat their behavior. We don't want to do this. This is putting human lives on the line. So we need more resources, or we need counties and the state to step up. We're sending a political message on behalf of women!" But in the real world, messages don't mean shit when you're living in constant fear in your home, if you're not in a hospital bed or in the ground.
- And of the many things that counties and states have shoved off on municipalities (just as the federal government offloads its responsibilities onto the states), why is it women* whose bodies are being put on the line?
- That was a rhetorical question.
- Poverty and frustration with long-term unemployment increases the incidence of domestic violence (especially male-on-female domestic violence). There are complex cultural reasons for it tied up with American notions of masculinity. But the point is that the same massive long-term recession that is behind this move to decriminalize domestic violence is simultaneously going to cause rates of domestic violence to double or triple. So protections for women are disappearing at a time when they are likely to need them more than ever.
- The Topeka mayor assures his constituents that anyone who thinks that decriminalizing domestic violence means that said violence will go unpunished is "dead wrong." How, precisely, will punishment be effected if it's no longer a prosecutable offense in the municipal code, and if the D.A. has already taken a pass?
- Why the actual fuck is domestic battery only a misdemeanor? Here's an idea, Topeka: go ahead and save money by refusing to prosecute misdemeanors (not an ideal solution, granted), but legally bundle that decision with another one to reclassify domestic battery as a felony.**
Enough. The upshot is that the Topeka city council is seriously considering making it no longer a prosecutable offense to beat somebody up… as long as it's somebody who lives under your own roof. This is making me sick.
UPDATED: I've just written a professionally-worded e-mail to the Topeka City Council. Their general contact info, as well as contact info for the mayor and individual council members, can be found here. I encourage people to get involved however you see fit. As a suggestion: bear in mind that the most effective political communication is concise, to-the-point, and avoids ad hominem attacks. (So, yes: I wrote them under my real name and took out the swears...)
*Yes, I know that women are not the only victims of domestic violence, and I know that men are not the only perpetrators. But since 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at were female, I'm gonna go with the argument that women are the ones being treated as expendable here.
**Joel, who knows about such things, notes that the power to do this does not lie with the municipalities. Fair enough. But I still maintain my original outraged question: Why the actual fuck is domestic battery only a misdemeanor -- in Topeka, or the state, or anywhere, for that matter?