By Barry Goldstein, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Studies contain medical research from the Centers for Disease Control originally used by doctors to diagnose and treat patients with health problems caused by childhood abuse inflicted decades earlier. The findings have even greater value for prevention and have the ability to transform society in the most joyous and consequential ways.
The ACE Research demonstrates that children exposed to domestic violence, child abuse and other traumas will live shorter lives with far more illness and injury. Domestic violence is at the epicenter of adverse childhood experiences. The long-term health risks are caused by living with stress from the fear engendered by abusers. The essence of domestic violence is the fear and intimidation used by domestic abusers to coerce their partners to do what they want. Fathers who abuse mothers are 40-60% more likely to also physically abuse children. Domestic violence is also associated with all of the other ACEs. Preventing domestic violence will therefore dramatically reduce health and safety risks for children thus reducing cancer, heart disease, stroke, mental illness, suicide, substance abuse, crime and many other social problems. Put more positively, the prevention of domestic violence will lead to a healthier, happier and wealthier society where women and children can be safe in their homes.
Domestic Violence is Not Inevitable
Domestic violence has been dramatically reduced in places like Quincy, Nashville and San Diego by using a group of proven practices. In Quincy, District Attorney Bill Delahunt noticed that virtually every inmate in a nearby high security prison had a childhood history that included domestic violence and often sexual abuse. He believed that if he could prevent domestic violence he could reduce all crime and this is exactly what happened. A county that averaged 5-6 homicides enjoyed several years with no murders.
I have updated the successful practices to create the Quincy Solution. The essence of the original responses were strict enforcement of criminal laws, protective orders and probation rules together with practices that made it easier for victims to leave their abusers and a coordinated community response. I have added the new research and technology like GPS that were not available when these communities enjoyed their success.
In Quincy, some victims stopped cooperating with prosecutors when their abusers sought custody. This did not derail the success because at the time this was a rare tactic. Today this is a standard abuser tactic. They routinely seek custody as a way to regain control over their victims and undermine domestic violence laws. Accordingly the custody courts must be part of the Quincy Solution and stop allowing abusers to use the courts to gain custody or access to the children. The Safe Child Act which requires courts to make the health and safety of children the first priority in all custody and visitation decisions is part of the Quincy Solution.
Huge Financial Benefits for Ending Domestic Violence
I have worked in the movement to end domestic violence for over 30 years so I would agree to spend almost any sum to stop hearing the horrific stories. I don’t want to read about the mothers and children killed by abusers or police officers murdered when they try to stop him. I hate the stories of courts ripping children from safe, loving mothers and forcing them to live with abusers and rapists. Most people are less aware of these tragedies and so other issues are given greater priority.
For me, the world changed when I read about the health costs related to domestic violence. Previous estimates were limited to the costs of treating the immediate wounds from an assault and believed the cost was $5-8 Billion annually in the United States. The ACE research demonstrates the full costs include the many diseases and social problems caused from the stress of living with an abuser. The full cost is $750 billion. When we also consider crime costs and the loss of economic potential the cost is well over one trillion dollars annually.
Based on the success in communities like Quincy, Nashville and San Diego, I believe the best practices would quickly save $500 billion annually and that will be a huge incentive for policy makers to adopt the Quincy Solution.
Fifty years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report linking cancer and smoking. It was depressing to know that our tolerance and encouragement of smoking led to so many illnesses and deaths and enormous medical costs. Society responded with laws, commercials, taxes, cessation programs and other practices to discourage smoking. As a result smoking has been reduced and this has led to reductions in cancer and heart disease, longer lives and reduced healthcare costs.
Behavior that we now refer to as domestic violence and child abuse has been allowed and encouraged for thousands of years. Our present life expectancy and frequency of many common and deadly diseases are based on the existing level of domestic violence and child abuse. Fortuitously the knowledge of the full benefits from preventing abuse occurs just when the Quincy Solution demonstrates our ability to dramatically reduce domestic violence.
We have the ability for the first time in human history to make most women and children safe from domestic violence. But just as domestic violence is not inevitable, neither is the Quincy Solution. We need people who care to get involved and make sure this opportunity is not lost. Join the Stop Abuse Campaign and encourage organizations in which you belong to join the coalition. Speak and write to legislators, community leaders, the media and friends about the Quincy Solution and Safe Child Act. Promote a meeting in your community so the public can learn about our ability to prevent domestic violence. I will be traveling around the country to speak about the Quincy Solution and hope organizations will invite me to speak. Together we can have a safer world.
Barry Goldstein is a nationally recognize domestic violence author, speaker and advocate. He is the author of some of the leading books about domestic violence and custody including Domestic Violence, Abuse and Child Custody, co-edited with Dr. Mo Therese Hannah, Representing the Domestic Violence Survivor, co authored with Elizabeth Liu and Scared to Leave Afraid to Stay. His latest book, The Quincy Solution: Stop Domestic Violence and Save $500 Billion demonstrates we have the ability to dramatically reduce domestic violence based on proven practices.