Who thinks we should have ‘Domestic Violence Offender’ registries?

September 28, 2012

No abusive relationship starts out that way. If a guy hit you on the first date, you probably wouldn’t give him a second call any time soon. It’s almost always a progression of increasingly controlling or violent behaviors. So the scary thing is, you never know.

Every worried soccer mom or protective dad has been able to check the sex offender registry for potential threats for years. But when it comes to domestic violence, you have no way of knowing if you or your friend’s next blind date might be bad news.

And given the facts about domestic violence reoffending, it’s crucial that we be able to know just what we’re getting into. A study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over half of defendants in domestic violence cases last year were at least second time offenders. And that’s only among the men who were in court and were reported. Thousands of cases and complaints go unheard each year because victims have a hard time coming forward.

Currently, there are no state registries, and though Texas and New York both considered bills to create them in 2011, both died in their respective houses. A privately owned company created a national registry that has been “in progress” since it began. Maryland has 0 offenders listed, and Virginia only about 50. It’s hard to believe these are accurate total numbers given the statistic that 1 in 3 women experiences domestic or dating violence.

So why the disparity? Why sex offender registries and not domestic violence offender registries? Both offenders are charged because of intimate violence. Both present a threat to children and potential partners. Is the law implicitly delegitimizing the danger of a domestic violence offender in comparison to a sex offender? We’re not sure, but for now, with no help from a registry, we all have to be careful about how our and our friends’ new relationships start developing and be able to say something when we see warning signs.

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