Since claims of domestic violence and child abuse are the major tool used to prevent shared parenting, it’s always useful to look at what domestic violence actually is and what it’s not. To that end, a friend of Fathers and Families forwarded some data from a publication by the State of Maryland entitled “Crime in Maryland, 2010.” Unfortunately, I can’t provide a link.
I reported recently on the study conducted by Douglas Allen and Margaret Brinig that looked at the efficacy of the 1997 amendments to its family law by the State of Oregon. The amendments’ purpose was to increase shared parenting and decrease sole custody after divorce. But Allen and Brinig found that the amendments achieved no such thing. There was no increase in shared parenting. In fact, the only change in custody arrangements saw fathers getting slightly more sole custody and mothers getting slightly less.
So what was the problem? Why didn’t the new law do what it was intended to?
The answer is simple – claims of violence and abuse. The law, like those everywhere, included an “escape clause” that prevented or severely limited custody to abusers. Not surprisingly, there was a spike in claims of abuse, 82% of which were made by mothers. Those claims protracted the divorce litigation and most importantly, thwarted the aims of the law. Elsewhere we learn that non-feminist custody evaluators believe that between 40% and 80% of abuse claims are fabricated for the purpose of gaining an advantage in the custody case.
So domestic violence is an important topic to those who would reform family courts. It may well be the most important thing.
Now, the data sent to me out of Maryland are police statistics. As we know, the police are powerfully urged to arrest the “dominant aggressor” whenever they get a DV call. As a practical matter, that means the man. He’s usually the larger and stronger of the couple and, more importantly, the police, like the rest of society, have been trained to believe that women don’t commit domestic violence or, if they do, it was either non-injurious to the man or was in self-defense, i.e. he started it.
So arrest statistics have never shown the reality of domestic violence. What they show is the reality of police behavior in the context of their training and socialization on the issue of men, women and domestic violence.
Given that, it’s interesting to note that the Maryland figures for 201o show that over 25% of the victims of DV in the state were men. That’s far more than I would have guessed would appear in figures compiled by law enforcement.
In all, there were a little over 17,000 arrests made for DV in the state in 2010. That continues a steady downward trend in DV arrests that’s been going on for at least five years. Almost all of those were for assault and 78% of those were of the non-aggravated kind, i.e simple assault. Eighteen people were killed in DV cases in the state in 2010. The percentage of male victims increased slightly over five years and the percentage of female victims declined slightly. The number of African-American victims dropped 24% in five years while the number of white victims declined about 11%.
Husbands and wives were markedly less likely to assault each other than men and women who cohabitated.
Interestingly, among cases in which it was known to police whether alcohol and/or drugs were involved, most had no such involvement. Of the total of 17,391 DV cases cleared by the police, in 5,859, it’s unknown whether drugs or alcohol were involved. That leaves 11, 532 with either drugs and or alcohol involved or not. Of those, 6,839 – 59% – had neither.
The causes of domestic violence are many, but infidelity and children are consistently the top ones.
There are two ways of clearing a case. One is by making an arrest and charging the person (s) with the offense. The second is known as an exceptional clearance. Exceptional clearance means the police know the identity and location of the person (s) who committed the offense and have enough information to arrest them. However, there is some reason beyond their control that prevents them from making the arrest.
In short, Maryland is a mandatory arrest state. Police either arrest someone or for some reason they’re unable to. Now, there are some provocative data from several sources that suggest that people don’t call the police in DV incidents because they don’t want them or the courts involved. That seems particularly true in mandatory arrest states because partners know that a call to the police means that someone’s going to jail.
My guess is that at least some of the drop in arrests for DV in Maryland reflect that very hesitation on the part of everyday citizens to involve the entire system of law enforcement in what they often view as a private matter.
Thanks to Michael for the heads-up.