Domestic abuse isn’t a joke. It isn’t a cutesy, pat-on-the-head, whimsical thing. Women in America experience 4.8 million incidents of violence from their partners every year. In 2005, three women a day were murdered by an intimate partner. It is an epidemic, and it is killing women. All abuse needs to be taken seriously.
So when a judge calls an incident of abuse “very minor” and — bogglingly — sentences the perpetrator to “take his wife to dinner,” it turns the prosecution of these incredibly serious violations into a joke and undermines every message that violence against women is wrong.
Florida resident Sonja Bray, 39, said that she and her husband, Joseph Bray, got in a verbal altercation when he forgot her birthday. The argument escalated until Bray pushed his wife on the sofa, held her by the neck and threatened her (though didn’t hit her) with his fist. Mrs Bray contacted the police and her husband was arrested. This week in the courtroom, the presiding judge called the incident “very, very minor“, then asked Mrs Bray what her favorite restaurant was. He then ordered Mr Bray to buy her flowers, take her to a restaurant for dinner and attend marriage counseling. Case closed.
The judge did check with Mrs Bray as to whether she felt threatened by her husband and would welcome him home before imposing the “sentence.” However, many victims of abuse feel differently about the incident after it happens: where they first feel endangered and threatened, once they get to a place of safety they may feel guilt, shame and anxiety. And their partners often will be on best behavior, buying their victims gifts and taking them out for dinner — just like the court ordered — until the cycle starts again.
Sometimes, women are lucky. Sometimes, the abuse never repeats itself. But we have laws in place for a reason: to protect those who are vulnerable. And flowers and dinner isn’t what anyone would call a “deterrent” to violence.
Photo Credit: The Raggedy-man on Flickr