Domestic violence is a widespread and unacceptable problem that should not be ignored. While abuse is relatively uncommon in aged and community care services it is still an important issue. It is therefore important that states develop clear policies and procedures to manage and respond to allegations and/or actual cases of domestic violence and elder abuse. This policy paper is developed from existing policies addressing the two issues and covers the following areas: The objectives of the policy, statistics of domestic violence and elder abuse, the stakeholders involved, policy recommendations, influence of politics on implementation of the policies and the effect of the policies on the Criminal Justice System.
To develop a policy paper addressing domestic violence and elder abuse that can be adopted for use by a state.
Domestic violence is more prevalent as compared to elder abuse. Both sets of statistics however, are likely to understate the extent of abuse mainly because of incidents which occur but are never reported, or whose classification makes it difficult to determine their true nature, for example emotional abuse.
Domestic violence and elder abuse statistics:
The victims include wives and to a lesser extent husbands, and the elderly members of society (those above 60 years of age). They may suffer physical injury, emotional suffering and depression alongside loss of dignity. Domestic violence has been cited as major cause of divorce. They would welcome a policy that not only ensures justice but also aims at eliminating these vices from the society. Children are also exposed to domestic violence in the form of watching or listening to abuse, attempting to intervene, or witnessing the effects of abuse on the mother. Statistics also show that parents in a domestically abusive relationship are also abusive towards their children.
Most of the perpetrators of domestic violence are the immediate or former spouses of the victim. They cut across financial, racial and regional stratifications, hence proving difficult to pinpoint before a case is reported. Elder abuse is either perpetrated by relatives under whose care the elders are or staff in homes for the elderly. Perpetrators of elder abuse may inflict physical, psychological, sexual, social and financial abuse. Perpetrators would also endorse this policy as it caters for their rights.
Politicians/ influence of politics
Politicians are charged with the responsibility to legislate on domestic and elder abuse. Political goodwill is necessary if any policy on these issues is to be implemented, hence political leaders are integral stakeholders in the efforts to eradicate or reduce these forms of abuse. The government of the day sets the tone regarding matters in their jurisdiction including crime and social ills and determines the priorities to be addressed in a given state. Hence, if issues of abuse are not a central agenda on the politicians’ plans they will be shelved aside in terms of budgetary allocations and legislation and thus hamper efforts to eradicate domesticate violence and elder abuse. Since the policy is neither drastic nor extremist, the politicians are expected to support it.
The judicial system: Judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys
The judges are important stakeholders expected to interpret the law and make rulings that are just to both the victim and the perpetrators. The prosecution gathers as much evidence as possible to present to the judge, while the defense attorneys ensure their clients get a fair hearing or are not convicted while innocent. Any miscarriage of duty within the judicial system would lead to injustice on either side. A policy that that ensures justice to all involved will definitely get the support of the judicial system.
Law enforcement officers and administrators
The victims of domestic violence or members of the public report such incidents to law enforcement agencies that then proceed to investigate the cases and make arrests if necessary. Their role is an important one as they determine which cases reach the courtrooms or fail to do so. Improper investigations may lead to acquittal of guilty perpetrators hence derail the efforts to eliminate the problem. Since this policies proposes clear laws on what should be considered as abuse, this stakeholder is expected to support.
Law abiding citizens
Responsible and law abiding citizens have a duty to report any cases of crimes to law enforcement officers and appear as witnesses before the judges so as to ensure justice prevails across the board. Besides the expected support, their opinions are to be integrated in the policy in future revisions.
These policy recommendations take into consideration the rights and responsibilities of all the stakeholders identified. They are meant to guide any given state on domestic violence and elder abuse issues with a view to eradicate the vice. The policy should be rolled out as combination of actions as described below:
This involves several aspects synchronized to ensure that the victims obtain justice and are free of the emotional trauma that accompanies abuse. The law enforcement agencies to which the crime is reported should create more receptive environments for disclosure of abuse and be adequately equipped to handle such cases through thorough investigations and presentation of strong cases. Societal/community based agencies should also bridge the gap between the victim and law enforcement agencies, besides providing counseling and rehabilitation services to the victims. The judicial system should ensure that justice is prompt and achieved through availing of qualified prosecutors and the judges and a reasonable jury to ensure guilty perpetrators are not acquitted. Follow up should also be done to establish the welfare and level of satisfaction of the victims after a case is concluded . The interpretation of what constitutes domestic violence and elder abuse will have to be revised to accommodate uncovered acts of abuse.
Through sufficiently qualified defense attorneys and trial before a jury, a fair and deserved judgment should be undertaken in accordance with the rights of the accused. The state should provide state attorneys for those who can not afford (Davis, 2008). Community based intervention programs should be developed to rehabilitate and counsel the incarcerated perpetrators and those who have served their jail terms fully.
Strong working relationships should be established among the law enforcement agencies, the defense attorneys, the community based intervention bodies or abuse units and the correctional facilities. This will mainly be achieved through enhanced sharing of information among the stakeholders and cooperation in implementation of proposed strategies.
Besides the crime-curbing measures addressed above, preventive strategies should be used to arrest abuse. This would involve targeting the youths through counseling programs that explain the consequences of domestic violence and elder abuse to both the victims and perpetrators. Awareness initiatives should be undertaken to enlighten the public on the two issues, including disseminating statistical data about prevalence, patterns, and importance of reporting incidents. Workplace trainings on domestic violence and elder abuse among employees should also be encouraged. Non-violence and conflict resolution should also be integrated into school curricula. Efforts should also be aimed at changing attitudes that encourage the society to view such acts of abuse as acceptable. More research needs to be done to establish the causes of abuse, critical patterns, effects and responses of those involved.
Impact of the proposed policy on Criminal Justice System
Most of the proposals are in line with the current judicial dispensation. However, a few changes will have to be implemented to ensure smooth operations. These include setting up inter-departmental teams to enhance cooperation within the judicial system and review of interpretation of criminal law on the scope of domestic violence and elder abuse.
Effect of globalization
This policy should be rated according to international standards and where it fails to meet requirements reviews should be done to ensure compliance. It is a universal policy paper that can be adopted for use by any state committed to eliminating domestic violence and elder abuse. The exchange of cultures that usually accompanies globalization should also be kept in mind, allowing for integration of helpful strategies/traditions into the policy and discouraging retrogressive attitudes.
Domestic violence and elder abuse are serious issues that need urgent intervention, a view supported by the grim statistics available on these two issues. The main stakeholders involved in domestic violence and elder abuse are the victims, perpetrators, politicians, law enforcement officers, members of the judicial system and law abiding citizens. The four recommendations proposed in this policy revolve around quality services to the victim and perpetrator, enhanced cooperation amongst the systems involved and raising awareness on the issues of domestic violence and elder abuse. The interplay of this policy versus politics, the Criminal Justice System and globalization is also investigated. Its recommendations are holistic in terms of involving all the important stakeholders hence it is expected that the policy will be successful upon implementation.