The problem with zero tolerance and domestic abuse | Jewish Tribune (Canada)

August 13, 2012

Ontario has a zero tolerance policy and police officers are instructed that they must lay a charge “if there are reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed in relation to the Criminal Code, Child and Family Services Act, Children’s Law Reform Act or Family Law Act.” In the politically-charged atmosphere of “domestic violence,” ‘reasonable grounds’ is often as a complaint of a single event of domestic violence, even if there is no visible evidence, no corroborating witness and even if the event took place years ago.

Once interviewed, the person alleged to have committed the offence may protest that nothing happened whatsoever, that the whole allegation is fabricated or that it was a minor mutual struggle (i.e., they pushed each other with the person alleging the assault starting the altercation). It makes no difference. In many such situations, once the person goes to the police, the police often video tape the complaint made and arrest the person complained about. In almost every one of these situations the complainant is a woman and the person complained about is male. Men rarely go to the police to complain about women attacking them. 

In those cases where women have truly been assaulted this process appears to be quite fair and works well to protect women and their children who witness violence in their families. Much has been written in this column over the past 31 years about domestic violence against women and how difficult it is to obtain their cooperation when I attempt to interview them; many are so abused that they cannot break out of such relationships. They are psychologically trapped by the men who victimize them into a pattern of abuse to which they have become “accustomed,” especially if they are financially tied to the man’s purse strings. No matter how much I explain that the law will protect them with spousal/child support, property division and restraining orders, most don’t believe me or find greater comfort in the abusive relationships to which habit has chained them to these monsters. When I offer to get them medical or psychological help, many simply walk away, comforted in the “knowledge” that their partners have taken away all their self-esteem in exchange for a Faustean devil’s bargain: a roof over their heads, an allowance and a way of life that they “know.” 

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