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Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional/psychological abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence varies dramatically. Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger, systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime. In the United States, on an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. The Women's Health and Education Center (WHEC) works with its partners to better understand the problem of violence and to prevent it before it begins.
The purpose of this document is to describe the current state of the problem around the world and the extent to which countries are collecting data on fatal and non-fatal violence to inform planning and action, to assess the status of programmatic, policy and legislative measures to prevent violence, and to evaluate the status of health, social and legal services for victims of violence. This report identifies gaps and stimulates local, regional and national action to address them. By providing an assessment of violence prevention efforts at the global level and a snapshot of the state of violence prevention efforts in each country, this document is a starting point to track future progress and offers a benchmark that countries can use to assess their own progress.
Domestic violence is one of the most serious public health problems in the United States (U.S.). More than 27.3% of women and 11.5% of men 18 years of age and older have a lifetime history of spousal abuse, battering, or intimate partner violence (1). In many states in the U.S., the weighted lifetime prevalence of domestic violence (including rape, physical violence, and/or stalking) is 34.2% among women and 24% among men (2). Although many of these incidents are relatively minor and consist of pushing, grabbing, and hitting, domestic violence resulted approximately 1,200 deaths in the United States in 2014, with 205 deaths in Florida. One of the difficulties in addressing the problem is that abuse is prevalent in all demographics, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, religious denomination, education, or socioeconomic status, and it is either unreported or under-reported universally.
Victims of abuse often suffer severe physical injuries and will likely seek care at a hospital or clinic. The health and economic consequences of domestic violence are significant. Statistics vary from report to report, and due to the lack of studies on the national cost of domestic violence, the U. S. Congress funded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a study to determine the cost of domestic violence on the healthcare system (3). The 2003 CDC report, which relied on data from the National Violence Against Women Survey conducted in 1995, estimated the costs of intimate partner by measuring how many female victims were non-fatally injured; how many women used medical and mental healthcare services; and how many women lost time from paid work and household chores. The estimated total annual cost of intimate partner in the 1995 survey was more than $5.8 billion (3). When updated to 2003 dollars, the amount was more than $8.3 billion annually. The costs associated with intimate partner now would be considerably more, but no further studies have been conducted. It should be noted that the costs of any one victimization may continue for years; therefore, these statistics most likely underestimate the actual cost of intimate partner violence.
The national rate of non-fatal domestic violence against women in U.S. declined 72% between 1993 and 2011 (4). The rate of overall violent crime fell by nearly 60% in this same period. Studies reveal that several factors may have contributed to the reduction in violence, including a decline in the marriage rate and decrease of domestically, better access to federally funded domestic violence shelters, improvements in women's economic status, and demographic trends, such as the aging of the population (5). Of note, declines in the economy and stress associated with financial hardship and unemployment are significant contributors to intimate partner in the U.S. Following the economic downturn in late 2008, there was a significant increase in the use of the National Domestic Violence Hotline in 2009, with more than half of victims reporting a change in household financial situation in the past year (6).
According to World Health Organization (WHO) global consultation on violence and health; 1996: "Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation." In 2003, the World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA 56.24, which called upon Member States to appoint a focal point within their ministries of health and actively make use of the conclusions and recommendations of the World Report on Violence and Health. In 2014, the World Health Assembly drew attention to the important role of health systems in addressing violence, in particular against women and girls and against children, and called upon WHO's Director-General to develop a global plan of action to strengthen the role of the health system in addressing interpersonal violence, in particular against women and girls, and against children (WHA 67.15).
Domestic Violence Law Enforcement Guidelines 2017
Commonwealth of Massachusetts (USA)
The provisions of MGL c209A impose specific responsibilities upon the police regarding a domestic abuse situation. All officers are expected to be thoroughly familiar with the contents of that and all other statutes referenced within these guidelines, as amended and construed by case law, and to act with appropriate discretion and competence in carrying out these provisions. According to MGL c2009A, § 6: "No law officer shall be held liable in any civil action regarding personal injury or injury to property brought by any party to a domestic violence incident for an arrest based on probable cause when such officer acted reasonably and in good faith and in compliance with this chapter and the statewide guideline as established by the Secretary of Public Safety" (7).
Supervisors shall ensure that the appropriate and mandated reports are filed for children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly (7).
NOTICE OF RIGHTS
As a victim, the Commonwealth has afforded you certain rights. The Abused Person's Notice of Rights (described further down this article) outlines your rights as a victim of domestic violence as provided by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 209A. In accordance with Chapter 2009A, you have the right to appear at the Superior Court, Probate and Family District Court or Boston Municipal Court if you reside within the appropriate jurisdiction, and file a complaint requesting of any of the following orders (8):
For an emergency on weekends, holidays, or week nights the police will refer you to a Justice of the Superior, Probate and Family, District or Boston Municipal Court Departments. You have the right to go to the appropriate Court and seek a criminal complaint for threats, assault and battery, and assault with a deadly weapon, assault with intent to kill or other related offenses. If you are in need of medical treatment, you have the right to request that the police officer drive you to the nearest hospital or otherwise assist you in obtaining medical treatment. If you believe that police protection is needed for your physical safety, you have the right to request that the officer present remain at the scene until you and your children can leave or until your safety is otherwise ensured.
You may also request that the officer assist you in locating and taking you to a safe place, including, but not limited to designated meeting place for a shelter or a family members' or friend's residence, or similar place of safety.
You may request a copy of the police incident report at no cost from the police department. To obtain a restraining order you do not need an attorney and it will not cost you any money.
The officer shall leave a copy of the forgoing statement with such person before leaving the scene or premises.
Definitions of Violent Crimes (9):
Homicide: murder and non-negligent manslaughter is defined as the willful killing of one human being by another.
Rape: forced sexual intercourse, including both psychological coercion and physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender (s). This category includes incidents where penetration is from a foreign object, such as a bottle. This definition includes attempted rapes, male and female victims, and heterosexual and same sex rape.
Sexual assault: includes a wide range of victimizations distinct from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include completed or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between the victim and offender. Sexual assault may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. Sexual assault also includes verbal threats.
Robbery: completed or attempted theft of property or cash by force or threat of force, directly from a person, with or without a weapon, and with or without injury.
Assault: the unlawful physical attack or threat of attack. Assault may be classified as aggravated or simple. Rape, attempted, and sexual assaults are excluded from this category, as well as robbery and attempted robbery. The severity of assaults ranges from minor threat to incidents which are nearly fatal.
Aggravated assault: the attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether or not an injury occurred and attack without a weapon when serious injury results.
Simple assault: an attack without a weapon resulting either in no injury, less serious injury (for example, bruises, black eyes, or cuts) or in undetermined injury requiring less than 2 days of hospitalization. Also includes attempted assault without a weapon.
High-risk teams build upon the work of risk assessment by providing systematic responses to monitor offenders and enhance safety for victims. These teams are made up of multiple agencies and provide a vehicle for communication among the different disciplines involved in the domestic violence response system. Ideally, high risk teams are focused equally on offender accountability and victim safety. Teams pool information on high-risk cases and create individualized intervention plans, provide ongoing risk management, and track case dispositions and victim safety. Teams are made up of victim advocacy organizations, law enforcement, probation, parole, prosecutors, Intimate Partner Abuse Education Programs (formerly known as "Certified Batterer's Intervention Programs"), and health care. Other members could include the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), Department of Children and Families (DCF), educational institutions, correctional facilities, as well as organizations that will ensure cultural sensitivity and representation. Team members are well trained in domestic violence dynamics and risk assessment. They work together to leverage all possible safety options for victims at highest risk.
Critical Elements of Successful High-Risk Teams
Whether or not you obtain a Restraining Order, call your local shelter to make a SAFETY PLAN
You can IMPROVE YOUR SAFETY through a restraining (209A) order:
Complete 209A petition and affidavit. In the affidavit state the facts which causes you to come to court and ask the orders you are requesting. You will need to identify where the abuser lives, works and where the abuser spends a lot of time at, so that the police may give a copy of the order to abuser. If you want to the police first obtain the restraining order in this method, you will not have to repeat this step.
Appear before the judge and explain what occurred. Tell why you are in fear. Explain why and what you want the court to do.
New Requirements on Employers
(Domestic Violence Law Enforcement Guidelines 2017)
The law creates MGL c149, § 52E, which requires employers of fifty or more employees (including the Trial Court) to provide up to fifteen days of leave in any twelve-month period if the employee, or a family member of the employee, is a victim of abusive behavior and is using the leave to seek or obtain a variety of medical, community and legal services relating to the abusive behavior, including appearing in court or addressing "other issues" directly related to the abusive behavior. Abusive behavior extends beyond domestic violence to stalking, sexual assault, and kidnapping.
Employers may require employees to provide documentation demonstrating the employee is a victim of abusive behavior, including a document on court letterhead. The employer has the sole discretion to determine whether any leave taken under this section shall be paid or unpaid.
The Attorney General will enforce this section and may seek injunctive relief or other equitable relief. Any benefit received from this section "shall not be considered relevant in any criminal or civil proceeding" as it relates to the alleged abuse unless, after a hearing, the judge determines that such benefit is relevant to the allegations. MGL c149, § 52E (as inserted by Act § 10).
ABUSED PERSON'S NOTICE OF RIGHTS
Opportunities for Prevention and Action
Lifetime and one-year estimates for intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking are alarmingly high for adult American, with intimate partner violence alone affecting more than 12 million people each year (10). Collective action is needed to implement prevention approaches and ensure appropriate responses. It is important for all sectors of society, including individuals, families, and communities, to work together to end intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking. Opportunities for prevention and intervention include:
Women's right to live free from violence is upheld by international agencies such as the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), especially through General recommendations 12 and 19, and the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (11). The Women's Health and Education Center (WHEC) in collaboration with its partners and UN Women works with countries at the global level to advance the international normative framework through support provided to inter-governmental processes, such as General Assembly and the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. A functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), it was established by Council resolution 11 (II) of 21 June 1946. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women's rights, documenting the reality of women's lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
At the country level, WHEC supports Governments in adopting and enacting legal reforms aligned with international standards. WHEC partner with Governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations and other institutions to advocate for ending violence, increase awareness of the causes and consequences of violence and build capacity of partners to prevent and respond to violence. We also promote the need for changing norms and behavior of men and boys, and advocate for gender equality and women's rights. We support expanding access to quality multi-sectoral responses for survivors covering safety, shelter, health, justice and other essential services.
WHEC supports expanding access to quality multi-sectoral responses for survivors covering safety, shelter, health, justice and other essential services. Policy guidance helps to step up investments in prevention - the most cost-effective, long-term means to stop violence.
WHEC works with Governments to develop dedicated national action plans to prevent and address violence against women, strengthening coordination among diverse actors required for sustained and meaningful action. We also advocate for the integration of violence in key international, regional and national frameworks, such as the post-2015 development agenda.
THE WAY FORWARD
Building global commitment to violence prevention
Violence shatters lives. Many who live with violence day in and day out assume that it is intrinsic part of human condition. But this is not so. Violence can be prevented and should be prevented. Governments, communities and individuals can make a difference. Around the world almost half a million people are murdered each year. Beyond these deaths, millions more children, women and men suffer from the far-reaching consequences of violence in our homes, schools and communities. Violence often blights people's lives for decades, leading to alcohol and drug addiction, depression, suicide, school dropout, unemployment and recurrent relationship difficulties. In crisis and conflict-affected countries, violence can hamper recovery and development efforts by exacerbating societal divisions, perpetuating crime, and in some cases leading to the recurrence of war. In addition, the costs of violence are high. Families on the brink of poverty can be ruined when a breadwinner is killed or disabled because of violence. For nations, social and economic development is eroded by the outlay on the health, criminal justice and social welfare responses to violence.
The Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) is a network of the WHO Member States, international agencies and civil society organizations working to prevent violence. VPA participants share an evidence-based public health approach that targets the risk factors leading to violence and promotes multi-sectoral cooperation. Participants are committed to implement the recommendations of the World report on violence and health (12). The Global status report on violence prevention 2014, which reflects data from 133 countries, is the first report of its kind to assess national efforts to address interpersonal violence, namely child maltreatment, youth violence, intimate partner and sexual violence, and elder abuse (12). The report made recommendations for action at local, national and international levels. In short, the report recommended that governments:
Laws against violence send a clear message to society about unacceptable behavior and legitimize the actions needed to ensure people's safety at all times. A growing number of scientific studies demonstrate the preventability of violence. The evidence supporting certain prevention strategies is stronger and the prevention gains shown so far are greater for some types of violence than for others (for example, to address child maltreatment and youth violence). With some exceptions, most of the existing evidence for effective violence prevention programming also comes from studies in high-income countries, and may not easily be adapted to low- and middle-income settings where economic and social conditions, and the epidemiology of the different forms of violence, are very different (13).
Many countries have begun to implement prevention programs and victim services, and to develop the national action plans, policies and laws required to support violence prevention programs and response efforts. At international level, high-level resolutions that commit Member States to tackling interpersonal violence within their countries and through the establishment of networks and partnerships have been adopted. Yet serious gaps remain. Much work is still required before the full potential of the growing violence prevention field is realized. No country can rest on its laurels and assume it has successfully addressed interpersonal violence. The international community must continue to recognize interpersonal violence as an important health, criminal justice, development and gender equality issue, and must step up its support for the prevention of and response to all forms of violence.
Resources and Suggested Reading: