October is domestic violence Month, and domestic violence assaults have been in our media more than ever in the last few months. We all heard about the Ray Rice incident, but what do we know about domestic violence? Seattle Seahawk Quarterback Russell Wilson has apparently declared himself the spokesperson for anti-domestic violence.
However, before we all start climbing on our soapboxes, let’s figure out what domestic violence is, and what are some of the misconceptions. I am going to focus on the misdemeanor domestic violence charges because they are harder to recognize. Also, I will be focusing this article on Washington State domestic violence laws.
What misdemeanor crimes can be tagged as Domestic Violence? The following are considered domestic violence when committed by one family or household member against another.
1. Assault in the fourth Degree: an intentional touching of another personis harmful or offensive regardless of whether any physical injury is done to the person. A touching is offensive if the touching would offend an ordinary person who is not unduly sensitive.
2. Reckless endangerment: recklessly engages in conduct not amounting to drive-by shooting but that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.
3. Coercion: by use of a threat he or she compels or induces a person to engage in conduct which the latter has a legal right to abstain from, or to abstain from conduct which he or she has a legal right to engage in.
4. Trespass in the first degree: knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building
5. Trespass in the second degree: knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another under circumstances not constituting criminal trespass in the first degree.
6. Malicious mischief in the third degree: Knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to the property of another, under circumstances not amounting to malicious mischief in the first or second degree.
So, in Washington other things than punching, strangling or beating your spouse can label a person a domestic violence offender. Domestic violence is an incredibly wide net. The next thing that makes the net even wider is the definition of “family member or household.”
“Family or household members” means spouses, domestic partners, former spouses, former domestic partners, persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time, adult persons related by blood or marriage, adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past, persons sixteen years of age or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship, persons sixteen years of age or older with whom a person sixteen years of age or older has or has had a dating relationship, and persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren.
Therefore breaking your ex-college roommate’s annoying Dave Matthews CD could be domestic violence. Let me be clear, I am not attempting to minimize domestic violence. I also want to point out that, the way the current laws are written just about any “crime” can be domestic violence. The other thing that is apparent is that according to the definition just about everyone has been a victim of domestic violence and probably just about everyone has committed an act of domestic violence.
Another huge misunderstanding regarding domestic violence is that women are the primary victims. Just as women need protection by law, men do too. However, there aren’t many that exist. In my experience, society and juries do not take male domestic violence complaints seriously. Please see the video Social Experiment the ‘Double Standard’ of Domestic Violence
The next thing to be addressed is the domestic violence laws being used as a sword opposed to a shield. Too often have men or women “cried wolf.” I have seen numerous times in reports where man or women report domestic violence, but there are no injuries and the stories don’t match up. The threat of calling the police and reporting a domestic violence
crime just to hurt someone is very real. One example is the Marshawn Lynch story.
What can be done about domestic violence? First and foremost, prosecutors and police should investigate more before charging. Like I said, people use the domestic violence laws as a weapon too often. Society does not benefit from wrongly convicted citizens. Also, more focus on the real problem, which in my experience is usually alcohol or drugs opposed to anger management. There is no simple solution, but currently in my opinion the domestic violence laws cast too wide of a net and should be focused in on the real violent offenders. I also, think in regards to Misdemeanor domestic violence, there should be mediation, which could help save families and keep the court out of certain family matters. More about domestic violence