The recent release of the Ray Rice video, showing him hitting his fiance, has become a very real reminder that violence between two people in a relationship is a very real problem.
It seems unnecessary to point out here that domestic violence is a crime that ought not to be tolerated. But nothing is ever quite that simple.
No one in their right mind would condone domestic violence, nor would they approve of any relationship in which one party maintains an unhealthy control and dominance over another.
But too often the crime creates a victim who is so fearful for his or her life, that the matter goes unreported and the perpetrator gets off without being punished.
Even in the now famous case of Ray Rice, his victim has come publicly to his defense.
But there are ways that domestic violence can be curbed.
The most efficient way to slow this embarrassing trend is by locking up people who commit the crime. And, we don’t just mean a weekend sentence or a 72-hour-hold in the county lock up.
Stiffer penalties, meted out consistently, that force violators to serve serious time in a state prison would do three things:
First it would give the violator a sense that the price for committing the crime is too high to justify. Far too often, people don’t worry about suffering the penalties for their actions because those penalties don’t truly inconvenience them.
Second, it would give the victim of domestic violence a period of relative safety in which he or she (yes, sometimes men are victims of domestic violence) can restart their lives and learn that their lives are better off without the person who hurt them.
Third, and most importantly, stiffer penalties will give victims the sense that the person who hurts them will, indeed have to pay for their actions. No longer will a judge or magistrate simply sign a worthless domestic violence protection order and release their assailant back into the community. That could lead victims, who now don’t want to report these problems, to come out of hiding and tell law enforcement officers what has happened to them.
Now, yes, we can hear all the complaints right now about the public cost of housing lots more prisoners. But we believe that could only be a temporary problem if the punishment for the crime is so severe that even the angriest of partners thinks twice before beating up their partner.
Legislators can lead the way in this matter if they could, just for a minute, be serious about how big a problem domestic violence has become.