VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: Stop Domestic Violence
Every year about 1,500 women are murdered by men they know. This is about equal to one Newtown massacre every week of every month of every year, or two San Bernadino mass murders evey week, week in and week out. Millions of other women live in constant fear. This is a civil rights problem and the current situation is not acceptable.
Prevention is largely a matter of public education, teaching women and girls to recognize abusive men early, before they become entangled with them, and how to get away from them. Men and boys also need to learn that real men respect women and girls, to recognize when they or their peers are becoming abusive, and to get help.
However, the fact is that many women end up in abusive relationships. Why don’t they just leave? In many cases they don’t leave because there are children involved and they will have to share custody with an abusive father. They will not be there to protect their children from that father.
As an attorney, I recently represented, in an appellate case and at no charge, a mother who was held hostage at gunpoint by her husband in their bedroom. Wisely, she left him. Nonetheless, a family court judge later awarded primary custody of her two children to that father. When I appealed, the decision was upheld by a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal.
In case you are wondering what kind of mother she was, she had no arrest record, no child protection record, no drug or alcohol issues, went to church every Sunday, and was a teacher at a church school. Her real problem was that she, like most women in this situation with limited funds, had no lawyer in the family court proceeding.
We need federally-funded legal assistance for women and children who have been the victims of domestic violence. Considering the vast scope of this problem, this would be money very well spent protecting the lives of the vulnerable. We can’t have a Newtown every week due to domestic violence.
We also need some changes to federal child custody law. While child custody is mostly a state law problem, federal law comes into play. When those mothers take their children and flee states that will not protect them from those abusive fathers, federal law returns those children to those abusive fathers. There are cases reported where girls were returned, even by federal authorities, to fathers who were molesting them. We need federal protection for those mothers and children.
Please support your local domestic violence shelter. In San Jose, you can support Next Door Solutions and in the Bay Area, the Advocates Against Domestic Violence In The African American Community. You can also support legal services for domestic violence victims in California through the Family Violence Appellate Project and nationally through the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project.