Domestic violence

There has been a great deal of press coverage about NFL players involved in domestic violence. This is a complex problem that has been kicked about by professors, physiologist, politicians, preachers and “everyman” without any rational conclusions. I certainly don’t have the answers but I have a real life story that shows how complex dealing with this societal problem can be.

Friends of mine, a young couple, both in their late 20’s, university grads, married to each other and the parents of five children went out to dinner one night. Their youngest child was less than a year old and this was their first “get away” from the house and kids. They had invited the wife’s mother to baby sit and expected to enjoy a nice evening out. During dinner they had a couple of cocktails and a bottle of wine. On the way home they got into an argument and as it accelerated the wife demanded that the husband pull over and let her out of the car. The husband said that was a stupid request since they were only two blocks away from home. That made the wife even angrier and she insisted so he did stop and she got out of the car and he drove the two blocks home. When he walked into the house his mother law asked him where her daughter was and he explained they had an argument. By the way neither he nor his wife remembered a few day later what the argument was about.

When the wife walked in she was very angry and told her mother her husband was a no good bum and more. She said she was going to call the police because her husband was a brute and she didn’t want to be with him any more. The husband was holding the baby and when the wife grabbed the phone to call the police he grabbed her arm, she screamed he was hurting her and he immediately released her. She grabbed the phone again and called the police.

The police arrived and arrested the husband. In the state of Michigan when a charge has been made of domestic violence the accused must go to jail then and there. Of course in this case as many in the state of Michigan the wife “changed her mind” but the police said that under state law they had no option but to arrest her husband and prosecute him. The next day the wife called the police station and said she would not testify against her husband. Logically and in the cold light of day if her husband went to jail she would be responsible for raising five children without benefit of income for some period of time. It should be noted that the husband worked for a company that depended on his reputation for integrity and good character and he could have been fired for these charges.

When they went to court a few days later “a relative” allegedly familiar with the legal system suggested they plea no contest and throw themselves on the mercy of the court. The court explained that no contest was the same as guilty and sentenced the husband to six months in jail or be on parole for six months with limited driving to daylight hours and no alcohol for one year and take three “educational” courses paid for by the defendant. One course was a series of eight meetings on alcohol abuse, another on driver education, and a third, 6 classes on spousal abuse. The policy of the state [at least at that time] was to force the convicted person to pay for these courses provided by the state through independent outside services. This was a substantial cost to the convicted felon.

The one that was most interesting was the spousal abuse class. The husband attended his first class and was surprised to see the class packed. In addition to the men there were a few women in the class. A husband and wife team ran the classthat emphasized the convicted citizens must work hard to repair their respective spouses/significant relationship and understand that if that spouse or significant other calls the police they, the convicted mates will go back to jail and serve their entire sentence. The husband in this story is as I indicated a well-educated individual, as was his wife. When he heard the message from the husband/wife team conducting the class he asked this question; if my wife decides that I’m too late getting home from the office and calls the police, the police will arrest me no matter what the circumstances? After him and hawing around they admitted this was a fact, the spouse could call anytime and the convicted spouse would be put in jail. This created a small riot in the class and the participants began to realize they were at the mercy of their spouses and all the implications of that fact. The instructors in the class tried unsuccessfully to calm the class but to no avail. Finally they called the husband out into the hall and told him that if he disrupted the class one more time they would talk to the judge and he would be in jail for the remainder of his sentence.

As you might expect the lesson the husband took away from the class was that he was at the mercy of his wife. Meanwhile the wife received a letter from the state outlining the conditions of the parole for her husband and in particular it indicated the power she had if he became violent, in her opinion.

The tension between husband and wife was palpable and when the conditions of the parole were met they both agreed to get divorced. Here were two well-educated people torn apart by a momentary event and ligament government efforts to put rules in place that will stop domestic violence. What they got was a marriage torn apart, five children becoming “a prize” in court and absolutely no resolution of the issue of domestic violence. As I said at the beginning of this case history I don’t have the answer, do you?

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