We Are Survivors 

This blog is dedicated to the tens of millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect who get up every day and try to work and function in a world that seems to not care about us.

Law Enforcement and the Abusive Family

There are three related assumptions that still serve as the basis for much policy and practice in the criminal justice system.[1] The first assumption is that maltreatment of children and violence against women are completely separate phenomena. The second is that children who witness violence are not significantly affected by it. The third is that the non-abusive parent in a domestic violence situation (the mother in 95% of cases) should be held accountable for the actions of the abuser.

Child maltreatment and violence against women often happens under the same roof.[2] Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials agree that all too often abusive conduct (sexual, physical, and sometimes even homicidal acts) that would typically result in a felony conviction if committed against a stranger is charged and treated less seriously when the victim is a child. They see too many cases in which the child has died as a result of repeated physical abuse by an alleged “caretaker” and the defendant successfully argues that s/he never intended to hurt the child. The tragic result is that perpetrators of violence against children may be free to commit their crimes again.

Why are the laws not fully upheld? Probable reasons include cultural prohibition against intruding into “family matters” as well as America’s early history of treating women and children as property and not according them their basic human rights. [3]

Regardless of the origins of the problem, the criminal justice system has a responsibility to make changes that will hold perpetrators of violence against women and children accountable for their actions through vigorous enactment of the law.

[1] “Children Exposed to Violence:  A Blueprint for Action,” OJJDP, November 2000.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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