Domestic violence is a thing that has affected millions of people over the years. The thing about it is that only about fifty years ago began to change the view of domestic violence. Reports were never taken seriously, and when people were prosecuted they were very rarely charged. This makes you think why domestic violence of all types was so common and why was it criminalized so much more after it was viewed as normal for so long. This essay will show why this change happened as well as the major players and advocates for change.
Domestic violence used to be thought of as just a part of life. These ideas go back before the 1500s. This time was a time of change for society, but these views remained unchanged toward women. In the early 1500s in colonial America, laws were put in place based on “Old-English law,” which states that a man can beat his wife and children. This was later lessened to decrease the exact size of the switch that can be used. Later, in Mississippi, 1824, there was a law put in place that gives the husband the right to give “moderate chastisement in case of emergencies” to people within their household. The government associations to prevent animal cruelty (SPCA) was established before any association was made to stop domestic violence.
In North Carolina, 1886, there was a law is put in place that charges couldn’t be taken out on the abuser unless the injuries were life-threatening or permanent. These laws were still in effect one hundred and fifty years ago. This shows just how much our point of view and how domestic abuse victims are treated has changed. There is a great deal of change that happened during this, but not all at once. It does bring up the question, what started the change?
Things started to change in the late 1800s. In 1871, Alabama was the first in the United States to take away the right of husbands and/or fathers to beat their children and spouses. Eleven years later, in 1882, Maryland was the first state to criminalize domestic violence. The punishment was forty lashes or a year of jail time. The turn of the century brought along more change. Buffalo, New York was the location of the first family court, which helped solved most issues before they became violent and would sometimes get social services to intervene. With the right to vote and the civil rights movements, this brought more notice to the problems of domestic violence and its victims.
The major change was in the 1970’s to the 1990’s. In the early seventies, in some places, if women left their husbands they could be denied welfare based on their husband’s salaries. In other countries though, it was worse. At this time it was legal to spank your wife but would pay an eleven dollar and fifty cents fine if you struck her face. In Brazil, a law was passed in the mid-’70s stating that you couldn’t rent, sell, or gamble your children or wife away. In the 80’s and 90’s, laws began to become more concrete and made harsher punishments to the assaulters. People finally began to look at domestic violence as a crime instead of something apart of life.
There are still cases of domestic violence. Just because there is more awareness does not mean that there is a complete solution to the issue. In Belfast, Maine, on December 6th, Julio Carrillo has been sentenced to fifty-five years in prison in the case of his step-daughter’s death, Marissa Kennedy. This case alone is sad because he had beat her multiple times a day. This also shows that domestic violence is still happening. This is in part due to the fact that the afflicted are scared to reach out for help. Victims are controlled by their abusers and can be forced to claim the evidence is false or not press charges if evidence is brought up by others trying to help them.
There is also a problem with the sentencing. Evidence is harder to come by since they live together, meaning DNA evidence would be mainly dismissable. Also, having another witness to strengthen a case is almost impossible to come by unless it is another person who lived in the house. This makes it so that the abuser may think that they will never be charged and it will make a horrific cycle of being abused physically, sexually, emotionally, etc. The victims may stop seeking legal help because it may be useless.
Since domestic violence has been around for so long, as well as it was only recently taken seriously, people may still be accustomed to it being a major part of their lives. Either physically, mentally, or psychologically, people who have been victims are more likely to be abused later on in life. Since they can be controlled by power and fear, it would be hard to get away from that person that is the abuser. Also, people who were abused at a younger age are more likely to find a partner who does the same thing. Since that is the only life they know, it is hard to find their own way out. This is why improving how we can get these people to help is so important, but it lacks urgency. People do hear as much about in the news or on social media because it is not an issue most like to discuss and this turns a blind eye.
Another issue that can be brought up is false accusing. The victim can be given the benefit of the doubt in cases because they can woo sympathy from the jury. Once again, DNA evidence is hard to prove what is accurate or not. People can be sentenced from DNA that is from consensual contact of any kind and the victim can say it was not wanted. This can cause false imprisonment and even ruin a person’s life if they are proven to be innocent of the charges. This is the double-ended sword of domestic violence.
There are two major things we can do; one is to find ways to prove there was an act of violence, and two, is to get awareness out. Since it is hard to prove by DNA in these situations since the victims are within the same home, evidence can be dismissed. It is possible to do a lie detector test or to test that can show signs of mental wear and tear caused to victims or mental issues that can cause one to be violent. This can also disprove false claims that may be made. The second one is true in the sense that people are aware of domestic violence, but people don’t know how they can help. There are organizations that can be contacted or donated to. This can help them be able to spread the word or reach out to current victims and get them the help they need.
We have progressed in the way we view domestic violence. The laws have changed from legally encouraging it to punishing it. These changes have been crucial to people who are victims now can be given the help we need. With improving technology we can be more accurate with how we can prosecute abusers, give needed help to victims, and sift through what is a false claim or not.