It’s that time of year again when we acknowledge False Domestic Violence Charge Awareness Month. This is probably the least popular thing I write about.
This year, let’s add some perspective not normally shared before people come out of the woodwork filled with hate due to lack of knowledge: I suffered in-home domestic violence along with my siblings from my earliest memory until the last time I was attacked – in my sleep – before a five credit hours language exam the next morning.
Later, I would find many of these same behaviors in both women I had relationships with and cases where people were charged with various versions of Florida battery, sexual battery, assault, and felony domestic violence batter including strangulation cases.
In sum, domestic violence is far more widespread than people realize and as the Johnny Depp & Amber Heard case has shown, there is another type of violence not normally recognized: domestic legal violence. In Florida, that means filing a false complaint of domestic violence or civil restraining order for purported dating, sexual or domestic violence.
While women’s organizations decry the Depp vs. Heard case as showing women have “to be a perfect victim”, this is simply not true:
- Women are more likely to speak to the police when the parties are separated and questioned. As a result, when someone exercises their right to remain silent or their right to counsel, they are the one who goes to jail and the person going is usually male. In almost every domestic call to the police, someone is going to jail. Florida law clearly states that law enforcement has a duty to “determine the primary aggressor” and to take them to jail to be held without a bail bond. Note the quotes above: this is a presumption that someone is guilty, not a presumption of innocence.
- Men are far less likely to report domestic violence, especially in jurisdictions that overwhelming vote conservative. This is well known within academic circles as many feel that calling to report a domestic is “unmanly”. So, 911 is never dialed.
- The doctrine of “mutual combat”, where both parties have consensually chosen to engage in a battery (“a fight”) holds that both are presumed guilty but neither can run to the police as both have willfully engaged in combat without weapons. This is extremely common.
- Reasons for false allegations are numerous and a blank suggestion to “believe women” or genderlessly “believe victims” without investigation is a recipe for numerous types of abuse by domestic legal violence: domestic violence restraining orders and criminal domestic violence charges on false grounds such as revenge for affairs, obtaining beneficial divorce benefits, child custody legal victory, access to retirement accounts, physical and real property, and even to remain in the United States when the complaining witnesses’ marriage to the US citizen is of short duration and would result in deportation. This last one is actually common: angry revenge for ending a relationship, especially where there is economic dependence.
- As in many real-life cases, you quickly learn in Depp vs. Heard that there is a lot of spin in order for people to look good and be worshipped as a victim. Unique, special. This is why there are so many “imperfect victims”: Ms. Heard’s article read like she was blameless. I have represented hundreds of people in Florida cases that are extremely similar: the “victim” has no marks and claims the other party threw them to the ground while conveniently forgetting to tell the police this was because the pseudo-victim was on the other party’s back trying to claw their eyes out.
For this survivor of multi-perpetrator domestic abuse, this spin is deeply offensive. Most actual victims of criminal domestic abuse aren’t crowing about their special victimhood status in public. Like many victims, it took me decades to talk about it. Rest assured it is the last thing on Earth I want to think about or relive. Attention whoring pseudo-victims, regardless of gender, is about as offensive to sensibility as can be imagined. Secretly recorded confessions of false allegations, social media private messages, texts threatening
When it comes to Florida domestic violence law: no one is running around claiming it’s a success. It’s a blistering failure of legislative duty to protect Florida citizens and visitors from harm. In fact, most people are horrified when their private fight becomes a public legal issue. Most complaining witnesses want to withdraw criminal charges with the largest exception being false accusers motivated by some benefit.
Instead of criminalizing domestic violence while failing to fund both prevention and victim services, it’s past time for the Florida legislature to stop playing politics, put their money where their mouths are, and solve the problem. The days of taxpayers funding worthless criminalization laws that make problems worse instead of better need to end in the now time frame.
Finally, with a problem this complex there will be those who say solving the problem of domestic violence cannot be done. These are people simply admitting they aren’t going to be part of the solution and want the do nothing useful status quo to remain the same. People suffering domestic violence want it to end, want it prevented, and want some actual help. Florida legislators have no problem finding money for a criminal enslavement apparatus. It’s time to redirect those funds to help victims in need and would-be victims the help they need to avoid becoming victims.