Matthew T. Mangino: Empower women — root out domestic violence
Jerry Remy is a legend in Boston. He grew up in Massachusetts, played for the Boston Red Sox and continues to go to Fenway Park every day as a broadcaster for the Red Sox.
Remy’s life seemed to be the stuff of every kid’s dreams, but things are not always as they appear.Remy’s son Jared was, as the Boston Globe suggested, “The king of second chances.”
Jared Remy is in jail awaiting trial for the murder of his girlfriend last August. A review of hundreds of pages of court files and police records by the Globe revealed a dangerous and violent batterer who has never been held accountable. Beginning at age 17, he terrorized five different girlfriends, culminating in the death of his most recent girlfriend.
He was arrested or brought to court in 20 different criminal cases, mostly for charges of violence against, or intimidation of, women. Remy had been found guilty just twice, and both times he avoided prison.
Domestic violence accounted for 21 percent of all violent crimes from 2003 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Domestic violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault committed by intimate partners — current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends — immediate family members — parents, children or siblings — or other relatives.
With that grim statistic in mind and the alarming nature of the Remy case, it may be surprising to know that domestic violence has dropped precipitously since the mid-1990s.
The rate of domestic violence in U.S. households declined 63 percent, from 13.5 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 1994 to 5.0 per 1,000 in 2012. Both serious domestic violence (rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault) and simple assault (push, shove, slap, threaten) decreased.
Why the long and sustained drop in domestic violence?
Steven Pinker in “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined” suggested, “Those countries in which women are better represented in government and in the professions, and in which they earn a larger proportion of earned income, are less likely to have women at the receiving end of spousal abuse.”
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found access to protective orders, assistance with child custody and support, divorce and property distribution and domestic legal disputes around immigration, housing and public benefits help alleviate the burdens of domestic violence. Lonnie A. Powers, executive director of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, wrote recently that these services "appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives to their relationships."
What doesn’t work to protect women from violence are the knee-jerk reactions that often follow tragic high-profiles cases. That is exactly what happened in Massachusetts in the wake of Remy’s arrest.
An overhaul of the state's domestic violence laws, including new bail guidelines and tougher penalties for abusers, unanimously cleared the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The measure, called the most comprehensive domestic violence legislation in a generation, was approved 142-0. The proposed legislation is not without detractors. According to the Boston Herald, some have complained that the bill was hastily drafted and overly broad.
Criminal justice practitioners have focused a lot of attention — with considerable success — on enhanced sentences, emergency shelters, counselors and hotlines. Those efforts are priceless after an assault has occurred. However, such efforts do not prevent the pervasiveness of violence.
The greatest impact on violence against women in America and around the world is to empower women. In this country, women have excelled at every level. That kind of transformation is underway in many countries around the globe. However, until full equality is achieved professionally and personally, here and abroad, the scourge of domestic violence will continue.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was recently released by McFarland & Company. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com, and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.