In part one of this article we saw how disbelieving a young rape victim caused tremendous harm. In the second part, we saw how the same myth about the frequency of false reports contributes to the frequency of custody courts mishandling domestic violence cases. This in turn undermines society’s efforts to curb intimate partner abuse. In the final part, we will explore how proven, effective practices can reduce human costs and provide enormous benefits for the entire country.
Rape, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Can Be Prevented
Mark Wynn is the leading trainer of law enforcement professionals regarding their domestic violence (DV) response. As a young police officer, he was offended by training that said murders could not be prevented. The purpose of the police was only to catch the killer afterward. Mark proved they were wrong by developing a successful program to prevent DV crime in Nashville.
District Attorney Bill Delahunt noticed that almost every inmate at a nearby high-security prison had a childhood history that included domestic violence and often sexual abuse. He believed if he could prevent domestic violence it would reduce all crime. This is exactly what he accomplished. A county that averaged 5-6 DV homicides enjoyed several years with no murders.
The successful practices that became part of the original Quincy Model included strict enforcement of criminal laws, restraining orders, and probation rules together with practices that made it easier for victims to leave and a coordinated community response, dramatically reduced DV crimes. Similar practices in communities like Nashville and San Diego were also successful. The Quincy Solution updated the successful model by using current scientific research, and new technologies like GPS.
Bill Delahunt noticed that victims stopped cooperating when their abuser sought custody. This did not derail the success in Quincy because at the time this was a rare tactic. Today it is a standard abuser tactic so we developed the Safe Child Act to safeguard children in family courts. This is a comprehensive proposal based on current research that is multi-disciplinary and trauma-informed. The proposal would require courts to make the health and safety of children the first priority in all custody and visitation decisions. It would require courts to integrate current scientific research like ACE and Saunders and bar unscientific theories such as parental alienation theories that are based on the belief that sex between adults and children can be acceptable. The law would encourage a more multi-disciplinary approach, instead of using mental health professionals for all issues.
Strict enforcement practices might seem likely to add to an already excessive prison population, but in practice would do the opposite. Contrary to popular misconceptions, abusers are able to control their behavior and will do so if they believe they would risk unacceptable consequences. The media covered the Quincy Model extensively, and the word got out that you don’t commit domestic violence in Quincy. So most abusers stopped committing their crimes and children who did not witness domestic violence were less likely to commit crimes when they grew up.
Reducing Rape and other Sexual Assaults
Proven practices that reduce domestic violence crime will by themselves reduce sexual crimes because the children in the homes will be less likely to commit these crimes as adults. Reforming the custody courts will directly save children who are now forced to live with their abusers and the protected children will be less likely to commit sex crimes as adults.
In recent years the United States has launched campaigns to prevent sexual abuse in the military and on college campuses. The CDC’s research finding that nearly a quarter of our children are sexually assaulted demands a similar program. Present practices treat crimes against children by strangers very seriously, but the large majority of child sexual abuse committed by people the children know is routinely denied and minimized. Bill Delahunt created a special office to prosecute sexual crimes against children, particularly incest. This contributed to the success of Quincy. Today standard practices in cases of incest are to focus on reunification instead of punishment. This encourages sexual assault because the offenders have reason to expect they will get away with their crimes. Law enforcement, rather than social workers, must lead criminal investigations concerning child sexual abuse and gather evidence for the purpose of prosecuting the crimes.
Programs to prevent sex crimes can and should deal directly with the myth that false reports occur frequently. The media must improve their practices, so these stories are put in context, and misinformation is avoided. The authors of the story about Marie used research to place her case in context and spoke to genuine experts. Until the myth is fully exploded, prosecutors may need to use expert witnesses to place the evidence in context. Many sexual assaults, particularly those against children do not leave DNA, but jurors often expect that level of proof. An expert can explain this to a jury and help them understand that unexpected demeanor or minor discrepancies are common in rape cases.
Understanding the Cost of Rape and Domestic Violence
Dutchess County, NY appointed a citizens’ committee of experts to study the county’s response to domestic violence after suffering a series of DV homicides. Many of their practices were the opposite of what was successful in Quincy. Particularly interesting was that small budget cuts impacting the response to domestic violence contributed to the murders. “Savings” of twenty or thirty thousand dollars led to millions of dollars in expenditures to respond after the murders. In other words, even putting aside the horrific human costs, money spent on prevention is repaid many times over.
The money saved by prematurely ending the investigation of the rape Marie reported pales in comparison to the costs in criminal justice expenses and reparations to Marie. Implementing the Quincy Solution would save the United States $500 billion every year. In addition to paying for themselves, these proven practices would help federal, state, and local governments reduce deficits while improving the economy.
There are rare cases where false reports are made. No one wants to see an innocent man endure the enormous harm of bogus charges. Marie knows the devastation of practices based on the myth that false reports are common. Later victims of Marie’s rapist were also harmed by the myth even though they were believed. Police, prosecutors, judges, reporters and the public would do well to learn from three brave young children who taught us the value and the honor of being called believers.
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Domestic Violence Writer, Speaker, and Advocate
Barry Goldstein is one of the leading domestic violence authors, speakers, advocates, and a frequent expert witness.