Value citizens’ safety over budget cuts
As the old adage goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. But that bit of folk wisdom does not justify every instance of desperate action. Take, for instance, the situation in Topeka, Kan. As is the case with every city in the United States right now, the economy is taking a severe toll on the city’s budget, prompting cuts all across the board. To make matters worse, the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office decided last month to stop prosecuting misdemeanors. This includes cases of domestic violence. Faced with a sudden influx of domestic violence cases at the city level, the Topeka City Council is considering decriminalizing domestic violence in order to save time, money and resources in these already cash-strapped times. Frankly, the city council has its priorities way out of order in this instance. We understand they need to save money, but some things are far too important. Domestic violence is one of those things.
We’ve grown accustomed in contemporary times to thinking about everything in terms of dollars and cents. Some of the time, that’s okay — for example, when deciding what brand of potato chips you’re going to buy at the supermarket. When human lives and wellbeing are on the line, however, money should never be a part of the picture. Decriminalizing domestic violence would place the victims of such violence in even worse positions than they are already in. When your own home is unsafe, and the court system and police forces that are supposed to protect you are turning blind eyes, whom do you look to for help?
The fact that the criminal status of domestic violence is even up for debate makes the Topeka City Council seem inept and uncaring. What kind of message are they trying to send to the women and children who are generally the victims of such maltreatment? That they don’t matter? That saving money is more important to them. This is a huge step backwards for women’s rights. As Becky Dickinson of the Young Women’s Christian Association pointed out, there’s a danger that decriminalizing domestic violence will only encourage more violence: “Letting abusive partners out of jail with no consequences puts victims in incredibly dangerous positions … The abuser will often become more violent in an attempt to regain control.”
If the Topeka City Council decides that decriminalizing domestic violence is a good idea, there would be absolutely no way for them to justify that decision beyond their own ignorance of the facts. No amount of money saved could make the potentially disastrous consequences worth it.