Controlling Men Could Face Criminal Charges

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the UK wants to “…make abusive behaviour by men a criminal offence, even if it does not involve physical violence), according to the Sunday Mirror. He also wants to extend the law to include men who discipline children under the age of 18 “too strict[ly” also a criminal offense.

I don’t know what the domestic violence laws currently are in the UK, if any, but this is clearly a step in the right direction of helping ensure that men who don’t understand and respect personal boundaries and who often end up ruining the lives of partners and/or children are held responsible for their behavior. It’s a formal acknowledgement, in a country in which domestic violence accounts for 18% of all violent incidents, that domestic violence is a serious crime that should not go unpunished, that partner abuse is something that shouldn’t be tolerated in a civilized society.

The problem, of course, is determining a reasonable definition of “spousal abuse” (which I hope they will expand to the more general “domestic partner abuse), which is something they are looking at now.

It’s one thing to realize that some legal support for such victims is necessary, but quite another to pass laws which don’t unfairly target those whom they shouldn’t, and punish too many people, thereby ruining lives unnecessarily as well as contributing to prison overcrowding, and clogging the courts with both criminal and civil cases.

Another problem, as it is in this country, is actual enforcement of whatever laws do exist, and getting police to take the reports seriously enough.

Let us hope that they come up with a definition that will protect a woman’s right to say no and have her wishes respected – and ensure that violations have some real consequences – without causing an ipso facto across the board condemnation of consensual BDSM. If they follow a model similar to California law, which requires affirmative assent, rather than just implied consent, and prohibits the use of the classic “She didn’t say no or safeword” as a defense, it seems to me that this could be a very positive thing.

Did you know that in California, domestic violence is treated as even more serious than violence against those with whom one is not currently or in the past in an intimate relationship? And that the definition includes even those who have had as little contact with someone as a single date?

It is – and is something people who suffer abuse, particularly violence, should keep in mind, particularly bottoms or submissives, who seem to be disproportionately affected by abuse for by partners in the name of D/s. Report it *when it happens*, not later, for maximum police response, and to preserve your legal rights later, and leave a documentable paper trail. And keep a lot of everything that happens, with dates and details in order to keep a documented paper trail. And also don’t be afraid to seek medical help if you are injured in any way, for the same reason as well, of course, for treating any injuries when they occur. Don’t forget that emotional distress caused by abuse can also have lifelong damaging consequences, oftentimes much more so than any physical harm.

Some Sobering Abuse Statistics

Nearly one-third of American women (31 percent) report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. Source: Commonwealth Fund survey, 1998

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1998 and 2002:

* Of the almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49% of these were crimes against spouses.
* 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at were female.
* Males were 83% of spouse murderers and 75% of dating partner murderers
* 50% of offenders in state prison for spousal abuse had killed their victims. Wives were more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses: wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but 81% of all persons killed by their spouse.

Matthew R. Durose et al., U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 207846, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances, at 31-32 (2005), available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/fvs.pdf

So it does seem like a much bigger problem than we generally think.

And it’s true that very often, a victim of domestic violence will choose the same type of partner in a subsequent relationship. So it can be a recurring problem.