Domestic violence the invisible crime


We tend to hurt the ones we love. But when people batter and bruise loved ones, they deserve the same
justice rendered to those who assault strangers.
The oft-played video of Ray Rice hitting his then fiancee in an elevator has ignited a national
conversation on domestic violence. Rice received no jail time, and was ordered to attend counseling –
stirring questions about the light penalties sometimes doled out in cases of abuse from a loved one.
It’s hard to conceive that Rice would have received such a light sentence if he had knocked out a
stranger in the elevator.
Across the country, domestic violence is not always taken as seriously as stranger assaults. It’s less
likely to be prosecuted and less likely the abuser will get jail time.
People who work with domestic violence cases know the issue is complicated. The police routinely find
cases that are not clear cut, but have layers of history and emotion. The courts often find victims who
are reluctant witnesses. And victims’ advocates frequently find cases where the victims are not strong
enough to leave.
"It’s always more complex," said Michelle Clossick, executive director of the Cocoon Shelter
for domestic violence victims.
It is messy. But the message sent to abusers needs to be clear – beating up a loved one is no better than
beating up a stranger. There is no excuse.
All too often, domestic violence festers with no meaningful intervention. Wood County has seen evidence
of that, with 12 women being killed by their former boyfriends or estranged husbands in a 10-year
"Our experiences in Wood County are terrible. People here kill the people they love," said
Bowling Green Municipal Court Judge Mark Reddin.
For that reason, Reddin said his court treats domestic violence cases more seriously than abuse committed
by a stranger.
But the judge admits that conviction rates for domestic violence are low.
Reddin recalled a recent domestic violence case in which the terrified victim begged for her abuser to be
jailed and pleaded for a protection order to keep him away. When the case appeared in court, the victim
failed to show, and sent a letter saying the incident was blown out of proportion. Uncooperative
witnesses, as domestic violence victims often are, make it much harder for courts to render justice.
Bowling Green Police Chief Brad Conner has statistics showing that as local domestic violence incidents
increase, so do the number of charges filed. Last year, there were 78 reported incidents, with 53
charged filed. At the end of August this year, there were 46 reported incidents, with 39 charges filed.

But across the country, there is a disconnect between the punch in the face and the punishment.
"I do believe in many cases, law enforcement is doing their best," Clossick said. But that
disconnect can occur anywhere.
When a Bowling Green man originally charged with abducting and raping his ex-girlfriend escaped from a
correction facility last month, a law enforcement official stated to the public that the escapee was not
considered dangerous.
"People forget that domestic violence is a crime," Clossick said.
Society asks why these women don’t just leave.
If only it were that easy. The last 12 women killed by their ex-boyfriends or estranged husbands in Wood
County were all in the process of leaving – when they were abused one last fatal time, according to
The issue is complicated, but the message should be simple. Domestic violence is still violence – and the
consequences should reflect that.

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