Friday, 4 December 2009

The Parnell plan for reducing Domestic violence contrasted

When Governors announce that they'll reduce Domestic violence, rape, incest, or anything of that sort, it feels a bit like when teachers from the states come here and announce that they'll solve all our problems - you know they mean well, but they don't have a clue what they're doing. Parnell, bless him, says he'll be the man to reduce domestic violence rates.
  • They plan to aggressively pursue stiff sentencing for offenders.
  • The sex offender list will become unavoidable through plea bargains.
  • New sexual assault and domestic violence investagors will be added to the roll.
  • Increased funding to shelters.
  • An expansion to the VPSO project.
I'm afraid the end result will not be a reduction in the real rate, but that the real rate will remain unchanged, and we'll see an increase in the observed rate thanks to the increase in enforcement. Domestic violence is not a pre-meditated thing. It's typically a crime of passion, where deterrence just doesn't work. In fact, there's been a study on just this subject, where Sherman et al 1991 found, "Contrary to deterrence theories, arrest had no overall crime reduction effect in either the official or victim interview measures of repeat domestic violence." In fact, there's a chapter in a book, titled, "Does Arrest Deter Domestic Violence." The answer seems to be 'no.'

Even more problematic, it appears not only arrest appear to be ineffectual, but it may actually increase domestic violence in the long run as those penalized through stiff sentences increase the rate of battery. This may be due to the increased disruption in the batterers' leading to a poor economic situation, and this hypothesis would be supported by the fact that increased arrest increases the rate of domestic violence and sexual assault among the unemployed. It seems that the situation is positively hopeless!

The current situation is clearly not tenable, so what would a better plan be? The bush suffers differentially from domestic violence, with some areas it being positively epidemic. There are a few strong links to domestic violence that we could address, possibly with greater success. Most studies have focused on male to female violence, so please keep that in mind.

  • Female highest level of education is negatively associated.
  • Having multiple partners is positively associated.
  • Conflict over his drinking is positively associated.
  • Greater income inequality between partners is positively associated.
  • Other conflict in their lives was positively associated.
  • General increasing income equality was negatively associated.
  • Family income is negatively associated.
  • Living with more extended family members is positively associated.

I've only listed the things we societally could address. For example, the older you are, the less likely domestic violence is, but we can't go out and age people. In the light of this information, it should seem highly unsurprising that many bush communities have high rates of violence, because they are on the increased risk end of many of these factors. My arm-chair quarterback suggestions for reducing the rate of domestic violence in Alaska would be:
  • Invest very heavily in rural economic development.
  • Continue to invest in domestic violence shelters.
  • Increase the availability and desirability of bush student scholarships.
  • Increase the amount of available affordable, energy efficient housing in the bush.
In my last point, energy efficiency is important, because households (in my purely observational opinion) tend to consolidate over the inability to keep two houses running at once. Typically over heat. As a side note, I went to AZ once, and a lot of the old BIA houses are the exact same ones they use on the Navajo reservation. And they wonder why they leak heat!

The problem with the TwoYaks proposal is it'd be slow. It would take a long time to see the fruits we've planted, but I don't know of any method to give the state an immediate short-term drop in domestic violence. There just doesn't seem to be a quick and easy fix. But the TwoYaks proposal has the advantage of being based on sound science and observation, and also effecting other things we find societally undesirable too. For example, poor opportunities for employment is associated with high levels of murder and alcoholism, two things we also don't like.

Sadly, I'm not Governor, so I just make them start. That means it's time to hit the pen and paper, and write some letters to my congress critters.


Cate said...

Well, I think that tackling the elephant in the room, alcoholism, would have to be the first step, even though the steps you outlined would be helpful.

I don't know the solution, but I know that people are killing themselves here and their children along with them -- and I would wager that 99% of domestic violence or any other violence is in some way related to alcohol out here, either while drinking or related to it by happening during hangovers or withdrawls.

I have thought about what it would take, and the things I come up with would have to be extremely intensive for a long period of time -- such as a full time counselor per family for several years. The random, hit and miss programs and overworked behavioral health workers aren't able to tackle a problem on this magnitude.

That said, I wouldn't turn up my nose at any help, regardless of whether it is probably not going to change things much. I don't understand the sentencing of domestic violence offenders here -- even though they offend again right after they get out of jail, they don't get increasingly longer jail times -- they just pop in and out of that place that is not really like real jail, more like a clubhouse in Bethel. I don't think that this is a deterrent, and so if Parnell's policy and funding change this aspect at least, it may somewhat help. What do you think?

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