Notice to the reader – the following is a challenging read and may be troubling; therefore please read with care and wisdom.
As it stands today, those who commit any act of domestic violence must face the laws of the state and are punished through the criminal justice system. Acts of domestic violence could be physical harm, psychological harm, or environmental harm (intimidation). In other words, striking someone, playing mind games with someone, or destroying property to ensure conformity.
Now that we have reviewed public law, let us review a segment of society that is challenged by the laws. Individuals who live with developmental and psychological disabilities face many challenges and barriers in their daily lives. One of their greatest struggles is their mental health, when their mental health is compromised they often become emotionally unstable. When they are like this they also can become unpleasant and vulnerable to the intermittent explosive disorder (a common co-occurring condition with developmental and psychological disorders). When this happens in private homes and in the city parks the police are called and this often means they are arrested. This is an unintended and real consequence of the anti-domestic violence laws and has led to the institutionalization of disable individuals as criminals. When they become inmates they do not receive the professional care needed for appropriate stabilization and management of their disabilities. In other words, they are separated from their network of care and support.
Therefore, many individuals who live with establish disabilities must contend with anti-domestic violence laws that cast such a wide net that they often find themselves entangled in its webbing.
Those who are very passionate about domestic violence have created many laws to protect domestic partners and families from domestic abuse through someone’s need to use violence to control and dominate individuals (as if they were property). In their zeal to seek out justice and social reform these advocates against violence did not offer any kind of consideration towards those who have an established medical history of developmental or psychological disabilities and the intermittent explosive disorder that is often associated with these disabilities. This lack of acknowledgement also creates conflicts between the basic concepts of the 1963 Community Mental Health Act and the anti-domestic violence community.
The idea of treating everyone who commits any kind of domestic violence in the same way is another way of seeking a one size fits all approach. If a one size fits all approach is the direction that society wants to go, then we need to completely change the criminal justice systems on both the federal and state levels and remodel many correctional buildings. This kind of major change is grounded on the fact that correctional facilities are currently designed for the detainment of those who have committed a criminal act and are not designed to be the primary care and treatment centers of those who have developmental and/or psychological disabilities. This is especially true for city and county jails, they often do not have the staff and funding that would allow them too properly care for those with these kinds of disabilities. Sadly, this lack of resources has already led to abuse and even death of those with disabilities.
As a rule, I do not have a disagreement with the process and punishment of those who have harmed their domestic partner for the sole purpose of controlling, dominating, and perversely coveting them. However, I strongly believe that the criminal justice system is the wrong place for those who have been professionally diagnosed with a developmental or psychological disability. Instead, I believe that they need to be dealt with by the health and social services community, so that they may receive a thorough mental health evaluation and inpatient treatment. In addition, if they cannot be stabilized they need to be confined for an extended period to a facility for those who have seriously impaired mental health.
Concerning medication. Science has not kept up with the general concerns of society and Federal and State laws; the development of medications to control the genetic based behavior of the intermittent explosive disorder and other similar disorders that often co-occur with developmental and psychological impairments is still in its infancy. It will be a long time before medications are developed that will successfully control this behavior in all individuals with these impairments; as it stands today the only way medication can pacify the impairments of an individual is to be in a high enough dosage that it renders a person into a zombie state.
Criminalization. When anti-domestic violence laws do not take in consideration the medical science of the symptoms of developmental and psychological disorders and make provisions for them, there is only one out come, the criminalize of the genetic nature of these disabilities. Without consideration and provisions in the laws, the impaired DNA that is at the center of the disability and the cause of the symptomatic behavior, will make disabled individuals candidates for criminal prosecution by virtue of their genetic code.
Another serious matter. What makes things really difficult for those who work with those with these disabilities is the fact that all “First Responders (police officers, mental health counselors and case workers, teachers and so forth)” must to report any “person to person violence (verbal, attempt and actual).” This has forced advocates and supporters of those with either with psychological and developmental disabilities underground or into the shadows of society.
What would go a long way in reconciling all these parties and bring them together would be an acknowledgement that the current domestic violence laws need to be reformed and work together to bring about a revised code of law that acknowledges that violence committed by those with established psychological and developmental disabilities is a symptom of these disorders and not a criminal act.
Written by Dave Pflueger March 2012 © copyrighted by Pflueger
Dave Pflueger is certified for mental health peer counseling