By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
I had the privilege of being a speaker on a local community panel last week as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event had great attendance, and the discussion that unfolded was lively and engaging.
One of the most poignant moments from that panel happened toward the end, when two of the other panelists said that “Assault on a female in this state (North Carolina) is a misdemeanor...and kicking a dog is a felony." As I left the event, I couldn’t help but think how this discrepancy in the law is a manifestation of the stigma surrounding intimate partner violence. That stigma was the initial focus of the research that my colleague, Allison Crowe, and I began a few years ago, and which is the foundation of the See the Triumph campaign.
The first part of the research that we analyzed formally related to the stigma that survivors received from professionals, such as counselors, lawyers, and law enforcement officers. An unanticipated theme that emerged from those analyses was one we labeled, “Dismissed and Denied.” Within this category, we heard themes from survivors that reflected that they felt that their concerns were minimized and not taken seriously when they sought help.
From my perspective, a law that makes it a more serious crime to kick a dog than to assault a female is a systemic manifestation of the Dismissed and Denied theme we heard from our participants. (Note that I believe that abuse of animals is wrong in any form, and this is not to say that those laws should be loosened in any way.)
By placing minimal consequences on violence within an intimate relationship, a message is sent that this form of violence is not taken seriously. Further, it suggests that intimate partner violence is not as serious as other crimes.
Are there laws like this in your area? If you don’t know, you can learn more about federal and state-specific statutes through WomensLaw.org.
I’ll leave you with the following questions: