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Chopping Block: Topeka Considers Decriminalzing Domestic Violence To Save Money

Domestic violence is a scourge on this society. Most victims are women, but men are victims too, and of course, children. Calling it a misdemeanor instead of a felony is pretty outrageous to me anyway, but deciding not to prosecute it because of

Domestic violence is a scourge on this society. Most victims are women, but men are victims too, and of course, children. Calling it a misdemeanor instead of a felony is pretty outrageous to me anyway, but deciding not to prosecute it because of stretched budget needs? That's just a crime, plain and simple.

Via Think Progress, the news that the Topeka, Kansas city council is thinking of repealing their domestic violence misdemeanor laws in order to save money prosecuting them. Really?

It seems that there's an extended game of chicken going on. Shawnee County has dropped all prosecutions of misdemeanor cases including domestic violence, blaming the cuts on budget constraints. The idea was to pass that burden over to cities within the county. In response, the city is debating repealing their domestic violence laws to ease the budgetary burden on the City Attorney's office.

In the meantime, women, men and children are beaten within an inch of their lives with no consequence. Ah, the sweet aroma stench of libertarian conservative anti-taxation attitudes is rising like a poison there.

It's mind-bending to imagine this even being an issue, but it is, because there are places in this country that imagine it's far better to let a few spouse-beaters go free than it is to raise whatever revenue might be necessary to prosecute them. It is right at the heart of the Randian idiocy, where there is never any good reason to levy taxes but always good reasons to decriminalize criminal acts.

There's a very real cost to society when domestic violence and abuse are overlooked. Not only health costs and lost work costs, but a diminution of values. When prosecutions of violence and abuse against a family member become nothing more than a political football, victims burrow deeper into themselves, shamed, ashamed, and alone. No one can save them. At least, that's how they feel. Yes, there are organizations and shelters, but they're stretched too, and have very little in the way of resources to care for these victims. Even if they did, that doesn't stop their abusers, because there is not any deterrent to stop them. If there's no possibility they'll face legal consequences, they will simply continue their abuse and victims will submit, knowing there's no way out.

It has taken decades to raise awareness of domestic violence to the point where victims might actually try to claw their way out with the help of the justice system and other agencies. The kind of political budget games that Shawnee County and Topeka are engaging in guarantees they'll be set back to times where they just sucked it up and kept going, keeping the cycle of abuse alive and well.

I don't understand this. Truly, I don't. I don't understand why conservatives who claim to be all for strong families would not be outraged over this. And as someone who experienced the hand of an abusive parent, I don't understand why victims should be re-victimized by the society they inhabit.

Recently a friend of mine wrote her own memoir about living through domestic and sexual abuse, living in poverty, and surviving. Here's what it feels like, in her own words:

You know you will never be a cheerleader
because those glory days never began
& you could never shout with your mouth
open in favor of violent men.

At nine or ten or forever

There's no shade of white bright enough

to erase your internal stains.
The girls in pleated skirts are Ivory white,
Crest smiled, Clorox clean.
You will never be clean again.

But you can't think about that
so you think about

Red on a knife, his blood not yours.

- Elephant Girl, A Human Story by Jane Devin

This is what the political game of chicken ignores entirely. The human cost, immeasurable and huge.

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