Is abuse a “family value”?

This is very good exposure of the impact of Marshall/Newman on domestic violence law enforcement. In the context of the domestic violence professionals and elected officials cited, it’s painfully obvious that the pro-amendment ideologue interviewed for this article doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. Ouch.

New concern in marriage amendment debate
Loudoun Times-Mirror
September 19, 2006
By Joe Kendall and Eileen Carlton

“The wording of the amendment bans relationships that resemble marriage,” said Stacy Ruble of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Action Alliance. “Domestic violence laws in Virginia cover both married and unmarried couples so long as they are living together and have lived together in the past 12 months or have a child in common. Essentially, the current laws provide a legal status to unmarried couples that is the same as married couples.”

Helpfully, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman makes this clarification: “The violence in a situation where the couple is not considered married is still considered an assault, just not a domestic assault.” [Emphasis mine.] Plowman is referring here to same sex couples, who are not eligible for any of the provisions available through the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, such as mandatory arrest for the perpetrator, protective orders, and collaborative safety planning. Currently, unmarried heterosexual couples who live or have lived in a domestic, marriage-like relationship are “considered married” for the purposes of this law. That classification is a “legal status.”

Sue Curtis, executive director of Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice/LAWS (Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter), said she’s most concerned with individuals that have used divorce to escape an abusive situation.

“From a Loudoun perspective, I’m especially concerned for women who get divorced, who are now out of abusive relationships, but have children and must continue for a long number of years to have contact with the abusive person. It is at this time that many women become victims of violence and death because this [abusive] person no longer has access to abuse them,” Curtis said. “In the case of women and men who were married but are now divorced, the victim would no longer be able to apply for a protective order.”

Some commenters on this blog have asserted that women who “want the benefits of marriage” (presumably referring to protection from abusive husbands) should just “get married.” The logic of that argument is honestly so off the wall that it hasn’t seemed worth debating. I admit that it hadn’t occurred to me that a woman who divorced her abuser would also be divorcing her right to protection under our domestic violence law. I think it’s safe to assume that those who so carefully crafted the amendment language are also ideologically opposed to divorce.

There is a fresh outrage every day with this idiotic amendment.

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5 Responses to Is abuse a “family value”?

  1. Jack says:

    “It is at this time that many women become victims of violence and death because this [abusive] person no longer has access to abuse them.” If the abusive person does not have access, how is the abuse occurring?

    Anyway, I’d be very interested to see past court rulings on this. Has no divorced person ever gotten a restraining order against a former spouse? Reading the code of VA, 20-103(B), says, “upon a showing by a party of reasonable apprehension of physical harm to that party by such party’s family or household member as that term is defined in § 16.1-228, and consistent with rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, the court may enter an order excluding that party’s family or household member from the jointly owned or jointly rented family dwelling.”

    In § 16.1-228, a “household member” includes “

  2. Jack says:

    Sorry about that.

    In § 16.1-228, a “family or household member” includes “(ii) the person’s former spouse, whether or not he or she resides in the same home with the person” and “(vi) any individual who cohabits or who, within the previous 12 months, cohabited with the person, and any children of either of them then residing in the same home with the person.”

    Furthermore, in § 20-121, the Code says, “No final decree for divorce entered in such a case shall terminate or otherwise affect any restraining order.”

    So from the Va. Code, I really don’t see a problem. I would like to see some case law on people’s being refused restraining orders against former spouses.

    Since “family or household member” includes many persons besides a spouse, the Marriage Amendment would have no effect.

  3. Jack says:

    I should also point out that when a crime has occurred (such as stalking or assault), a restraining order may also be issued, regardless of the relationship. In a case in which I was a witness, a woman accused her boyfriend of hitting her. Well, under cross-examination she broke down and admitted that she made up the whole story. The judge put HER under a restraining order; she had to avoid contact with him. (The crime she committed was filing a false police report.)

  4. David says:

    If the abusive person does not have access, how is the abuse occurring?

    What she means by “access” is the situation of having the victim trapped in the domestic relationship. That situation is disrupted when the victim leaves and seeks assistance, and it tends to make abusers very angry. That’s why it’s the most dangerous time for an abuse victim, and why protective orders and other provisions only available under domestic violence law, such as mandatory arrest, are so critical to the safety of these victims.

    The fact that VA code currently offers these protections to divorced people and otherwise unmarried people in intimate relationships, to include the boyfriend in your example, says nothing about how the amendment language would be interpreted. The relationship does matter – the law has been clarified, by both an Attorney General advisory opinion and a subsequent court ruling, to apply specifically heterosexual unmarried intimate partners. The reason that we have domestic violence law in the first place is that violence that occurs in the context of intimate relationships is qualitatively different from simple assault.

  5. Jack says:

    First, please send me references on teh cases.

    Second, the reason we have domestic violence laws is that people are sharing a home, and one may hve no-where else to go. Since cohabitation is illegal in VA (I cited the law in an earlier post), the law is not designed to cover that (illegal) situation. Cohabitaion is both stupid and illegal.

    Have D.V. laws been applied to heterosexual couples who do NOT live together?

    It may also be noted that VA has an instant background check system in place so that those who feel threatened may arm themselves immediately. Iron and lead are much greater deterents than paper.