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Harsh Domestic Violence Laws Recall Jim Crow Abuses

Misty Ospina was dropping off her eight-month-old child at Richard Gibson’s apartment when the two fell into an argument. Suddenly Ospina, jealous over Gibson’s new girlfriend, grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed her ex.

An hour later the 22-year-old father was pronounced dead at Rhode Island Memorial Hospital. Police have charged Ospina with first-degree murder.

It’s no secret that our nation’s crusade to stop domestic violence has been a magnificent flop. Researchers have been saying that for years.

Three years ago professor William Wells of Southern Illinois University did a comprehensive analysis of domestic violence programs in California. “There was no statistically significant relationship between any criminal justice system response and victimization for either gender or for any racial or ethnic group,” he concluded.

Even government bureaucrats see no point in whitewashing the truth. “We have no evidence to date that VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women,” writes Angela Parmley, PhD, acting chief at the National Institute of Research in the Department of Justice.

But while abuse prevention programs are simply ineffective in middle-class families, these nanny-state efforts have been a colossal failure in African-American communities.

Domestic violence is caused when a couple can’t resolve its differences in an amicable manner, so they resort to physical aggression. And recent research by Daniel Whitaker from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reveals it’s often the lady who strikes the first blow.

The problem is domestic abuse programs invest heavily in get-tough law enforcement measures, while ignoring the offender’s mental health and drug addiction needs.

Take Misty Ospina who had a well-known proclivity to violence. Richard Gibson’s mother had warned him months before to leave Ospina or else “You could end up hurt or dead.” So why didn’t someone dispatch her to a domestic violence counseling program?

The reason is these programs are little more than thought reform classes informed by radical feminist ideology. Browbeating Ospina to give up her patriarchal need for power likely would not have helped her overcome that jealous rage.

And no surprise, studies show counseling programs based on the Duluth approach don’t work. “Recent evaluations using more rigorous designs have found little or no reduction in battering,” reveals Peggy Grauwiler, a social worker at New York University

But while counseling programs based on gender ideology have been merely ineffective, intrusive law enforcement programs are downright destructive.

Last year Harvard University economist Radha Iyengar released a milestone study on mandatory arrest laws for partner violence. She found that after these laws were enacted, partner homicide rates shot up by more than a half.

Why? Because in most cases victims want the police to simply defuse the conflict, not incarcerate the aggressor. So victims stop calling for help, Iyengar believes. The conflict escalates, and someone yanks a knife from the drawer.

According to FBI statistics, some 300,000 African-Americans, mostly men, are arrested each year for partner aggression. In low-income communities, that’s not just a statistic, it’s a prescription for financial ruin as families suddenly find themselves without a breadwinner.

“Throw the guy in jail, let the prosecutor sort things out,” seems to be the prevailing attitude, even when the woman is the primary aggressor.

The problem has gotten so out-of-hand that Aya Gruber, writing in the Iowa Law Review, revealed a modern-day incarnation of harsh Jim Crow policies: “Day after day, prosecutors proceeded with cases against the wishes of victims, resulting in the mass incarceration of young black men.”

The long-term effects of arrest policies that set aside constitutional considerations of probable cause are devastating. Last year the Institute for American Values reported that young Blacks may be “losing hope that a good marriage is attainable.” As a result, fatherless African-American children are vulnerable to delinquency, teen pregnancy, and economic dependency.

At a February 8 vigil, Pawtucket mayor James Doyle joined family members and community activists who gathered to mourn the death of Richard Gibson, a man who had once dreamed of getting his G.E.D. and becoming a rapper. Sister Eulanda LaFrance lamented, “Now I’m a victim of domestic violence. Now I have two little girls without a mommy or a daddy.”

Women like Misty Ospina can be helped. And tragedies like Richard Gibson are avoidable. But first we’ll have to get the ideology-bound domestic violence industry to mend its ways.

© 2008, Carey Roberts

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Carey Roberts probes and lampoons political correctness. His work has been published frequently in the Washington Times,,,, Intellectual Conservative, and elsewhere. He is a staff reporter for the New Media Network. You can contact him at E-Mail

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