Though it was nearly a year ago in April 2018, the Trump Administration effectively avoided making news when they changed the Department of Justice’s definition of domestic violence.
“The term ‘domestic violence’ includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence,” meaning only physical violence counts against the accused,” Trump’s Department of Justice now reads. “Any emotional, psychological or financial assault cannot be included in a victim’s testimony against the accused. This definition would also prevent victims of other forms of domestic violence to come forward and receive the proper resources available to victims.”
After headlines surfaced about the change, the DOJ released a statement.
“By following the statute, the Department ensures the funds made available by Congress are employed in the most effective manner possible to reduce violence and to assist crime victims,” it read.
If the victims were truly the basis of the legislation, then the Trump Administration would have left the definition alone. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence shows 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence while the numbers for men are 1 in 9. These high numbers include all forms of violence, not just physical. To limit victims of domestic violence to only physical violence undermines justice. To overwrite victims’ emotional and psychological trauma does not promote victims’ rights, but rather limits them.
Though criminal cases can’t be made against those accused of emotional, psychological or financial domestic violence, the previous definition allowed victims to take their case to court and government programs for other forms of justice that didn’t include jail time for the accused. Examples include victims receiving financial aid to escape violence, seeking asylum at shelters, and/or providing testimony or evidence against their perpetrators when filing for a restraining order, through custody battles, divorce, etc.
The argument I know that’s being made for this law is: “Victims lie.” Yes, sometimes there are false victims, but more times than not, the guilty-party who has been accused tend to lie and deny the victim’s charges.
Where’s the justice for real victims? The justice system has been under fire for not taking victim’s charges seriously enough, and with this law in effect, it’s only become harder for victims to receive justice.