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Is the Justice System Failing Domestic Abuse Victims?

On an average day in the United States, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women have been a victim of some form of physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, and one in four women have suffered serious physical injuries. These numbers only grow in size when put into a global context. Of those who are hurt in these domestic disputes, only 34% receive medical care for their injuries. The emotional pains, however, can linger even longer. Studies suggest that there is a relationship between intimate partner violence and depression and suicidal behavior.

Battered Women’s Justice Project is a charity completely oriented around the safety and wellbeing of female victims of domestic abuse. BWJP offers technical assistance and training in domestic violence-related issues and advocates for change within our legal system. Its mission: “to [promote] systemic change within the civil and criminal justice systems to ensure an effective and just response to victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV), and the children exposed to this violence.”

The Project analyzes and advocates for effective policing, prosecuting, sentencing, and monitoring of perpetrators of domestic violence. Cases of abuse that are taken to trial often do not get the just responses we would expect due to several factors.

In 1824, the Supreme Court of Mississippi acknowledged that a husband had the right to use physical means to chastise his wife. Such toxic ideologies are deeply and systemically ingrained into United States history. While laws can and have changed, it can be difficult to change people’s hearts, minds, and the overall conversation around domestic violence and gender. Last year, a bill attempting to add domestic violence to the list of grounds for divorce was killed by GOP lawmakers in the same state. Cases like these illuminate why many women do not feel protected enough under the law to prosecute their abusers.

Battered Women’s Justice Project also works specifically with National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women to assist battered women charged with crimes and victim incarceration. The National Clearinghouse gives assistance to the defense teams of victims of abuse, and provides education on legal rights, parole opportunities, and counseling for those who are already in prison.

This organization has the potential to help women like Tondalo Hall, one of the many battered women who populate United States prisons. She and her boyfriend were charged with the abuse of their three children after Hall, who was also a victim of her boyfriend’s violence, had discovered bruises on them and took them to the hospital. Although the boyfriend was released after just two years of his sentence, Hall is still serving a 30-year sentence for permitting child abuse. A victim of abuse receives harsh punishment while her actual abuser roams free. A prosecutor on the case stated, “He definitely should have received a more significant sentence, but because of her minimizing and continuing to protect herself and protect him, that had a real impact on what we were able to do with him in the jury trial.” The partnership of BWJP and The National Clearinghouse seeks to eradicate cases like these.

Featured Image by Helga Weber on Flickr
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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