In the past year at the Turley Blawg, we’ve cast a spotlight on the GOP’s “war on women”—as well as on the low esteem in which some members of the Republican Party seem to hold women. (Note: At the end of this article, you’ll find links to a number of the previous Turley Blawg posts on the subject.)
In order to keep you updated on this gender war that appears to have no end in sight, I have a story out of New Hampshire that should make women who live there shudder. Members of the Republican Party have proposed legislation that would change the state’s domestic violence laws—which are said to be some of the toughest in this country.
According to the Concord Monitor, “New Hampshire has been a leader in the effort to make domestic violence a cultural taboo.” The Monitor reported that “House Bill 1581 would turn back the clock forty years to an age when a police officer could not make an arrest in a domestic violence case without first getting a warrant unless he or she actually witnessed the crime.” As the NH law now stands, the police can arrest an abuser based on probable cause.
The Concord Monitor provided a possible scenario to consider—one that was outlined for lawmakers by Tim Russell, a retired police chief from Henniker:
An officer is called to a home where she sees clear evidence that an assault has occurred. The furniture is overturned, the children are sobbing, and the face of the woman of the house is bruised and bleeding. It’s obvious who the assailant was, but the officer arrived after the assault occurred. It’s a small department, and no one else on the force is available to keep the peace until the officer finds a judge or justice of the peace to issue a warrant. The officer leaves, and the abuser renews his attack with even more ferocity, punishing his victim for having called for help.
An arrest is not mandatory when someone alleges domestic assault. Under New Hampshire law an officer must first have probable cause and corroborating evidence. Under existing law, officers have the discretion to decide when an arrest is warranted, with or without corroborating evidence, but most police departments have a policy that presumes an arrest will be made when evidence is observed.
It’s impossible to say how many lives the policy, in place since the 1970s, has saved or how many injuries it’s prevented. If they adopt House Bill 1581, lawmakers might find out, but the price paid could be extraordinarily high.
House Bill 1608 would also almost certainly cost lives. It removes judicial discretion by severely restricting when someone who has violated a domestic violence protective order can be arrested to three offenses: committing an act of abuse or an offense against the person named in the protective order, or engaging in prohibited contact.
The bill would also, law enforcement believes, remove a judge’s ability to order a defendant in a domestic violence case to relinquish weapons or prevent him or her from purchasing a gun. It would also eliminate law enforcement’s ability to arrest a defendant who threatens to use physical force against a victim or her children. All are changes that could have deadly consequences and make life more frightening for abuse victims and their families.
The Huffington Post has reported that the law enforcement community in New Hampshire—including the Department of Safety, Attorney General’s office, Chiefs of Police Association—and domestic violence workers are all “vehemently opposed” to House Bill 1608.
A number of law enforcement leaders claim that the legislation would set them back. Franklin Police Chief David Goldstein said, “It’s taken twelve years to at least get on the books what we have, which is a model for the rest of the nation. And this proposed legislation would in fact send us back to the 1970’s which in domestic violence terms would be the Stone Age.” Amanda Grady of the New Hampshire Coalition against Domestic Violence said that she had “never seen a bill so directly aimed at dismantling the domestic violence statute.” Grady added, “The passage of [these laws] will likely result in further injuries and could possibly have lethal consequences for victims and their children.”
According to New Hampshire state statistics, 38 percent of the homicides committed in 2011 were domestic violence-related—and the vast majority of the “domestic violence cases were perpetrated by men again women.”
Maggie Hassan, the Democratic candidate for governor in New Hampshire, was quoted as saying: “New Hampshire women are like citizens everywhere — they just want to be able to participate in economic and civic life. When you deny them basic health care or basic public safety protections, you really turn your back on them as citizens.”
One has to wonder why such legislation is being proposed in the Granite State.
Afterward: I do have some good news to report. It seems good judgment prevailed in New Hampshire recently when the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 13-0 to recommend killing House Bill 1608.
Leave domestic violence laws alone (Concord Monitor)
NH panel rejects domestic violence bill (Boston Globe/AP)
Domestic violence protections at risk (Nashua Telegraph)
Passing of domestic violence bills could set NH back 40 years (My Fox Boston)
From The Turley Blawg