Cutting Domestic Violence Programs is Dangerous
August 27, 2017 Kristance Harlow
The current political climate in the United States is putting victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and the police officers who respond to their emergency calls in greater danger.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly said one of his top issues is protecting police officers; the White House website even included “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” as part of its priorities. But his budget proposal, which includes cuts to federally funded domestic violence programs, says otherwise. These changes, combined with any additional state cuts, would put countless lives in jeopardy—because as we see frequently reported in the news, officers are more often killed when responding to domestic dispute calls than other calls.
A 2016 report from the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services cited domestic dispute calls as being the most dangerous domestic calls for police to respond to.
Ashley Guindon, Scott Bashioum, Nicholas Ryan Smarr, Jody Smith, Houston James Largo, Alex K. Yazzie, Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez, Carl Howell, Daryle Holloway, and Lloyd Reed: These are just a few of the police officers who have been killed while responding to domestic disturbance calls in the past three years.
Officer Scott Bashioum was shot on November 10, 2016, while on duty with his partner, Jimmy Saieva. Michael Cwiklinski, a 47-year-old with a history of domestic violence, fought with his pregnant wife, 28-year-old Dalia Sabae, a native of Egypt. Neighbors called the police at 3:15 a.m. After killing Bashioum and injuring Saieva, Cwiklinski reportedly pulled the trigger and killed Sabae. Shortly after the killings, he died by apparent suicide.
Sabae had previously filed for a protection-from-abuse (PFA) order. Reports claim she was restricted in her ability to remove herself from the situation due to the immense control Cwiklinski held over her. According to one local report, when police asked Sabae about past incidents of physical violence, she explained, “He will have sex with me even if I say no … he used sex as a way to threaten me about my green card.”
At the time of the murder, Sabae had a second PFA; a judge dismissed the first one when she failed to show up to court.
Cwiklinski enacted classic abuse tactics such as isolation, threats, violence, and emotional control. In the past, he had reportedly prevented his wife from receiving medical care for injuries he had inflicted. Horrifically, this story is not an isolated case.
In 2016, Officer Ashley Guindon died on her first shift after responding to a domestic dispute where Crystal Hamilton, a Black woman, was murdered by her husband as their 11-year-old son was reportedly fleeing the house.
Black women are three times more likely to be victims of partner homicide than people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. They are also less likely than other populations to seek help when suffering abuse, according to legal experts and advocates.
If Hamilton had been protected from her spouse, Guindon by extension would have seen similar protections.
VAWA has provided funding for more than half a million criminal justice employees every year.
The Importance of Officer Training
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), signed into law as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, officially recognized domestic violence (DV) and sexual assault as crimes nationwide. Nonfatal incidents of intimate partner violence declined 67 percent from 1994 to 2012, and the number of women killed by their partner decreased 24 percent between 1994 and 2010 and by 26 percent between 1996 and 2012. Before VAWA, intimate partner violence was often treated as a private matter not to be spoken about outside of families. Now it is seen by many at all levels of our society as a problem that needs a public solution.
VAWA has provided funding for more than half a million criminal justice employees every year including law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges. This training teaches officers how to understand the injuries commonly seen in domestic violence incidents and to be able to identify the true perpetrator (the difference between injuries caused by self-defense and other injuries). This training, as 27-year police veteran Officer Michael LaRiviere explained in an interview with the Trace, teaches officers to understand the dynamics of domestic violence.
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