I was struck today while we debated a bill to stiffen penalties in order to protect domestic violence victims, how very colored our values are by our experience. I see in debate that what we've never experienced we really genuinely might not understand.
The committee was hearing two bills from the prosecutor's association. Both allowed for a felony charge if a person is found guilty of breaking a domestic violence protection order or a no contact protective order for a third time.
In debate, Phil Hart was concerned that his ex wife's own past behavior and accusations would land him a felony charge even if he did nothing wrong. Raul Labrador thought that it was too easy for people to get a protection order just to try to get custody of the kids in divorce proceedings. Lynn Luker moved to kill both bills because he says that judges can put people in jail enough already under the existing law.
None of these legislators I suspect has ever experienced domestic violence or stalking. None has spent long months with every day feeling like a dreaded test of your will to live. Every day a question of whether you can survive psychologically long enough until you are no longer followed, no longer haunted by phone calls, impersonated, no longer tired of having the police on auto-dial, filing report after report, no longer exhausted waiting for your stalker to maybe snap and kill you with a gun, a car or fist.
How many of my colleagues have lived in fear? Have some of the older ones been to war perhaps? It seems that those who have been in combat might know even better that I do just what living in fear of violence does to a person's life.
` I look around the room in judiciary and rules and it is like many committees. Three women on a committee of 16. What are the chances that the law will often not reflect our unique needs in areas like domestic violence?
We all seem to value what we know, and fear what we know to fear. Today by the skin of our teeth and with Raul Labrador's help eight of us passed just one of the two laws to allow women who are victims of systematic harassment or threats to seek some additional help from the court.
Still many women will wait in agony, enduring repeat offenses for a year or more while three charges slowly reach convictions and the felony comes to play. But it will be well worth it I hope for the sake of those few women who now will find safety sooner or get a rest from fear for a year or two while their perpetrators are in prison. I have hopes that prison will work better than jail time because it provides actual treatment for that sort of obsessive control and gives offenders and a better chance that psychological healing (if not the deterrent) will make more Idaho women safe and prevent even a few deaths by violence or the suicide that can follow despair.