I have a confession.
While I am very interested in women’s rights issues and keep abreast of and write about many issues that affect women around the world, I am also an avid reality TV viewer.
Bravo is my go-to network, especially The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills. If you are familiar with the show, one of the story lines I followed closely this season was the demise of Taylor Armstrong’s abusive marriage. Her husband, Russell Armstrong, committed suicide before the season aired, and while many were shocked that Bravo continued with the season, I thought it was a unique opportunity to educate others on the signs and dangers of domestic abuse.
When I recently read of a bill being pushed through the New Hampshire legislator regarding domestic violence I immediately thought of Armstrong and women around the nation that suffer at the hands of their abusers.
The bill, House Bill 1581, would require police to witness domestic violence firsthand before being permitted to make an arrest.
That means that if a police officer came to a home and witnessed firsthand clear signs that abuse had occurred prior to their arrival – for example the face of the victim is bruised or bleeding – he or she could not make an arrest until a warrant was issued. The officer must leave the scene of the crime to obtain a warrant thus putting the victim in greater danger as the attacker might want to punish them for calling for help in the first place.
As the law stands an arrest can be made when police observe evidence of abuse. Evidence such as a bruised or bleeding face or overturned furniture could merit an arrest which would separate the victim from their attacker.
Requiring police to witness abuse firsthand is incredibly dangerous, and completely unrealistic. As Taylor Armstrong’s story shows us, domestic violence is a very secretive business. Abusers do not normally attack their partners in front of other people, especially police, and if women call for help they should not be left alone with their attacker after police have visited the home.
New Hampshire has been a leader in protecting its citizens from domestic violence for many years. This bill would set all those efforts back and endanger the lives of thousands of women.
What do you think? It is reasonable to require police to witness domestic violence firsthand in order to make an arrest?
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Photo credit: Prashanthns, via wikimedia commons