Well Being

Topeka’s New Money-Saving Scheme: Decriminalize Domestic Violence

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Remember how it's Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Here's something to be aware of: an entire city in Kansas is looking for a new way to cut corners and save some money. What's their amazing idea? Shaving down law enforcement costs by decriminalizing domestic violence.

Yup.

Granted, domestic violence (which, you'll recall, touches 1 in 4 women in America each year) is expensive…but only because it's so prevalent. In America, a woman is abused in her home every 15 seconds. Which means there are a lot of criminals–assuming domestic violence is a crime. But the most expensive part about domestic violence isn't even prosecution–it's medical treatment for battered women without health care, it's assistance for families who have had to flee, and it's even the numeric toll on businesses, who lose workers to domestic violence. Even still, lawmakers in Topeka, Kansas would like you to know that locking up the abusers is just too costly.

The county of Shawnee, which is home to Topeka, has already decided to saved their tax payers thousands of dollars with the decision to stop prosecuting domestic violence incidents. In fact, since the policy went into effect in September, they've saved thousands by ignoring over 30 cases. And those are just those that were reported. Official estimates believe that, as is, when domestic violence is a crime, fewer than 60% of cases make it to police. So really, Topeka should thank the abusers for keeping their victims quiet for them, right?

Times are tough, economically speaking, so looking to save a little scratch in the City budget is understandable. But doing it by choosing one of the most potentially deadly and psychologically damaging crimes and rendering it essentially legal is quite possibly the worst way to shore things up. Particularly considering that, during this economic downturn, violence in the home is up.

I can think of no greater way to single-handedly silence and disenfranchise women than by taking away their ability to seek justice against abusers. What message does that send to children? That drugs are bad and still illegal, but that beating your spouse is tolerable? That when someone hits you, there's no reason to reach out for help?

Think about 4 women you know. One of them will be the victim of abuse. Wouldn't you want her to be able to call the police and file charges? Other cities across the country are in dire legal straits, too–but they're cutting costs without ignoring the price humanity. When your partner is abusive, there are ways to escape, and resources to use. But when it's your city that's the abuser? It's much harder to flee.

Image:  silver-john / Shutterstock