LGBT people living in Marion County are fortunate in that both candidates for M.C. Prosecutor support comprehensive hate crimes legislation (including enhanced penalties) that covers sexual orientation and gender identity and both candidates have actively courted the LGBT vote.
But while Carl Brizzi is supportive of LGBT rights, his record on domestic violence concerns me deeply. Dismissal rates have gone through the roof under Brizzi's tenure. Conviction rates have dropped from 37 percent to 9 percent in the past four years. Domestic violence cases are arguably among the toughest to prosecute (although they didn't magically get tougher when Brizzi took office). But Brizzi's policy of letting newbies cut their teeth on them when they first join the prosecutor's office certainly hasn't helped matters any. As a friend whose job puts her into contact with domestic violence victims daily said to me: it's a policy that's harsh for the brand new prosecutor and even harsher for the victims.
Domestic violence is not an isolated problem. It's an epidemic.
- In the United States every year, about 1.5 million women and more than 800,000 men are raped or physically assaulted by an intimate partner. (See Tjaden P, Thoennes N. "Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey." Washington (DC): Department of Justice (US); 2000b. Publication No. NCJ183781.)
- Another 3.8 million women and 2.4 million men are pushed, shoved, slapped, or hit by an intimate partner each year (Tjaden and Thoennes).
- According to the Centers for Disease Control, domestic violence results in nearly 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths every year.
- According to the National Coalition Against Domestic violence, about 3 out of every 5 women murdered are killed by their husbands or lovers.
- Moreover, the effects of domestic violence are transmitted intergenerationally. One study found that children of abused mothers were 57 times more likely to have been mistreated or physically harmed compared with children of non-abused mothers (Parkinson GW, Adams RC, Emerling FG. Maternal domestic violence screening in an office-based pediatric practice. Pediatrics 2001;108(3):E43.)
Melina Kennedy gets it. If she's elected prosecutor, she's promised to assemble a family violence unit within the prosecutors office made up of deputy prosecutors trained in the issues surrounding DV.
Kennedy also understands that domestic battery needs to be a felony. (As it stands now, it can take up to four (!) DV convictions for domestic violence to be treated as a felony in Indiana. Four convictions!) I want hate crimes legislation. I also want domestic battery legislation. While I don't envision I'll ever need it, and hope fervently that my daughter won't either, I know that my students do. Rarely does a school year go by without at least one of my students coping with partner violence. And my guess is that for every one student I know about, there are several others who choose not to confide in me....
This has to end. So I'm voting for Melina Kennedy on Tuesday. Her actions as prosecutor could make a real difference in the lives of real people.