Link between Community and Family Violence Suggests Local Elected Officials Must Address Domestic Issues

Article excerpt

"Family violence is the root cause of virtually all the violence we see in the criminal justice system." And, according to Judge Ronald B. Adrine of the Cleveland Municipal Court, local leaders can no longer just leave this problem to just the courts and the police.

Citing a variety of studies during the Leadership Training Institute seminar held prior to the Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C., "Family Violence: Stopping the Cycle that Begins at Home," Judge Adrine pointed out some staggering statistics:

* 12 to 15 percent of all homicides in this country are outgrowths of abuse between individuals who are intimate with each other;

* 63 percent of all young men between the ages of 11 and 20 incarcerated for homicide are in jail for killing their mother's batterer;

* anywhere from one-third to three-quarters of the men who abuse their female partners also abuse their children;

* seven out of 10 children in battered women's shelters have been abused;

* children growing up in violent homes have a 6 times greater chance of committing crimes against persons and were twice as likely to commit rape;

* 78 percent of adolescents exposed to the full spectrum of family violence reported involvement in violent acts;

* seven out of 10 delinquent youths in drug treatment programs witnessed their mother's abuse or were abused themselves;

* battering in one community accounted for one in four suicide attempts; and

* the nation's police spend as much as one-third of their time responding to domestic violence calls.

"Family violence is both devouring and diverting community resources and decreasing the levels of safety, stability and productivity among large blocks of constituents." Judge Adrine stated that, as a result, "local officials, together with judges, lawyers, court employees, police officers, health care providers, human services workers, business leaders, and average citizens must recognize domestic violence for what it is: destructive criminal behavior which has a devastating effect on all of us, not just those who are directly experiencing or addressing the problem head on." Because "domestic violence unchecked becomes everybody's financial and safety problem," Judge Adrine pointed out three things that local officials must do to help create safer and more secure communities.

First, local officials need to become informed about the problem themselves and then must "marshall the public opinion necessary to flush these hidden acts of violence into the open where they can be addressed and dealt with. …