Topeka, Kansas Considers Decriminalizing Domestic Violence

In a money-saving measure, the city of Topeka, Kansas, is considering decriminalizing domestic violence so that it is not forced to prosecute the cases.

Yeah, seriously.

The story goes like this: the District Attorney’s office of Shawnee County has been hit with a 10 percent budget cut. In response, the DA’s office announced on Sept. 8 it would no longer prosecute misdemeanors, which includes domestic violence, that occurred in Topeka city limits in an effort to save money. That puts the pressure on the city of Topeka to prosecute DV cases itself. But they are squeezed for money for the extra caseload either. A possible solution? Remove DV from the city laws that currently ban domestic battery. In other words, if it’s not a crime then there won’t be criminals either the DA’s office or the city has to spend money to prosecute.

This shift of priorities has real consequences. Already, three alleged perpetrators of DV misdemeanors have been released by judges because no one has filed criminal charges against them (the first step towards pursuing prosecution). The three individuals may still face charges, the Topeka Capital-Journal said, but not anytime soon. Additionally, the DA’s office has handed 30 — 30! — misdemeanor DV cases back to the city. Those alleged batterers will go right back to the people who are most vulnerable. Considering the majority of DV cases are committed by men against their intimate female partners according to statistics from the Domestic Violence Resource Center, the Topeka situation will have a direct impact on the women of this city. I suppose we should infer, then, that the well-being of vulnerable women is not a priority to Topeka. But this is a tragedy for all vulnerable families: men and same-sex partners are also victims of domestic abuse as well and it’s chilling to think of who may be threatened, raped, stalked, injured or killed. As blogger Maya Dusenbery for Feministing sarcastically put it, “Thanks, austerity!”

The city council will vote on whether to repeal its domestic violence code on Tuesday. A DV victim’s advocate in Topeka named Claudine Dombrowski, who herself survived two broken wrists and being hit in the head with a crowbar, gave the most colorful — and on point — commentary. “[The city will] need to invest in headstones, because these women are going to end up in cemeteries,” she told Fox 4 Kansas City. “No matter how political you want to be, or you want to play hardball with peoples lives, how can you in good conscious say it’s okay to repeal domestic battery as a crime in the city of Topeka just so you can get out of prosecuting them?”

Indeed. Let us hope — pray? — the city does the right thing.


[Topeka Capital-Journal]


Image via ThinkStock

You can contact the author of this post at [email protected] You can follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.