Domestic violence is an abhorrent act that plagues many households in America. The national spotlight has been on domestic violence ever since the infamous Ray Rice elevator video was released to the public. Here are some sobering facts:
- More than 60% of domestic violence incidents occur in the home.
- More than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their own households every year.
- Domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year; this includes law enforcement involvement, medical and mental health treatment, legal work, and lost work productivity for companies.
Typically, when people talk about domestic violence, the focus tends to be on adult relationships (i.e. boyfriends and girlfriends, or husbands and wives). Although this tends to be the norm, abuse isn’t exclusive to adults and also includes children.
Child abuse is an incredibly heinous act and as a society we’ve passed laws that are aimed at stopping this problem. “Failure to protect” laws penalize parents that fail to protect their children from abuse. The purpose behind these laws is to deter mothers in abusive relationships from staying or being complacent.
Although the goal of failure to protect laws is noble, the reality is actually harmful to children and mothers. Prosecutors want to send the message that mothers need to be held accountable and should protect their children from domestic abuse at any cost. While domestic abuse advocates believe the real message is that abusers should be held less accountable for their actions compared to “bad” mothers that stay in abusive relationships.
Under failure to protect laws, many mothers have received harsher sentences than their child’s abuser. In the Collin Grant case, his stepfather, who repeatedly raped him, was sentenced to 15 years in prison—his mother was sentenced to 20 years. Arlena Lindley, who even tried to stop her boyfriend from harming her son, received a 45-year prison sentence. In the past decade, 28 mothers have been sentenced to 10 years or more in prison for violating the failure to protect laws in their state. Although these laws were written to deter both fathers and mothers from placing their children in dangerous situations, failure to protect laws disproportionately punish mothers over fathers.
In the end, children aren’t truly helped or protected when mothers are imprisoned for longer sentences than the actual abuser. Collin Grant has stated that he wished he remained silent and would even endured a life time of abuse because he lost his mother during a time when he needed her the most.
Authored by Jessica Tran, LegalMatch Legal Writer