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Initially I was excited when John–an old friend from high school–moved in next door with his wife and 7-year-old daughter, but within a few days life returned to an uneventful pace. John’s wife became close with my fiancée and began to share the more unsavory aspects of her love life. John was abusing his wife, and it was escalating quickly.
A year later, everything came to a head when John threw Jane against the wall and attempted to strangle her. It didn’t take long before police arrived and took John to jail. Afterwards, he was charged with a felony and sentenced to 5 years for attempted strangulation, of which he served 3 before being released on felony parole. He was assigned to the Domestic Violence caseload, of which I was an intern at the time.
As shocking as it was that our second “reunion” had to happen under such awkward circumstances, it did illustrate how seriously domestic violence is being treated now as opposed to 20+ years ago. Back then, domestic violence began to pick up momentum with the passing of the Violence Against Women Act. The Act was the start of reform regarding response, incarceration and supervision standards. These much-needed reforms helped protect Jane and her child after John was arrested, incarcerated and released on parole.
Part of what helped Jane’s case is that her injuries were painfully apparent when police took her statement, and in Idaho attempted strangulation is a felony offense. However, in some districts, attempted strangulation is still a misdemeanor offense. What makes this more difficult is that not all strangulation victims have apparent injuries, which makes it harder to prove intent when the case goes to court. The push for reform in these districts cites a study conducted by the California State Attorney Office, which showed that 62% of victims do not have visible signs of injury.
This case illustrated how Idaho views domestic violence and how swiftly it will act on reported cases, as there were no prior reports of past abuse on file for John. Jane had confided to my wife that much of the abuse happened while their daughter was in the room, and that she was concerned that he would turn his anger on her someday. Jane was starting to realize that simply enduring the abuse was having a ripple effect and damaging her child, who had to be a silent witness to her father’s transgressions.
Where are Jane and her daughter today? While John was incarcerated, Jane moved to the opposite side of the state and is living with a family member while she gets back on her feet. She has decided to return to school as a business student and plans on using her cosmetology experience to start her own beauty shop. While under felony parole, John is still bound by the protection order against him, and has been relatively successful in securing employment and a place to live. John is not allowed to maintain a sexual relationship and has to focus on his treatment and securing gainful employment.
The moral of the story is that the system may not always move as quickly as we would like in regards to reform, but it does happen. Districts such as Hermiston, Oregon are pushing for reform regarding strangulation, and have a plethora of past cases that can painfully illustrate the severity of the problem. Domestic violence shouldn’t be tolerated or kept behind closed doors anymore, as it negatively impacts others beyond the victim. How does your city or state weigh in on domestic violence?
Thank you for reading these words,