Topkea, Kansas repeals domestic violence law
Topeka, Kansas has officially made domestic violence legal in a game of financial chicken where the parties at play have little to lose, while survivors’ and future victims’ safety is jeopardized in a major way. Excerpts:
On Tuesday night, the city council of Topeka repealed the local law that lists domestic violence as a crime, in turn making any actions that would have previously necessitated police involvement a matter of the state of Kansas, who the council says must rely on the county to enforce the charges. The county district attorney, however, has already stopped prosecuting would-be criminals citing budget shortfalls of their own.
“We had hoped that he would not put that group of victims at risk, that he would find some other way to absorb the cuts,” Shelly Buhler of the Shawnee County Commission tells The New York Times.
“I absolutely do not understand it,” Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, tells McClathcy Newspaper. “It’s really outrageous that they’re playing with family safety to see who blinks first. People could die while they’re waiting to straighten this out.”
Sharon Katz off Safehome in nearby Johnson County adds, “There needs to be a higher priority for people who are going to start getting killed.” With the state unwilling to have county prosecutors go after cases in the Topeka area, Katz is concerned that the epidemic could spread through Kansas and elsewhere in the Midwest and America.
Upon the repeal of the law yesterday, around 18 suspects awaiting trials of domestic abuse had those charges dropped and been released back into the public sans trial and sentencing.
The Kansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence put out a statement regarding this situation.
The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence and the National Network to End Domestic Violence are shocked that the City of Topeka and Shawnee County, Kansas, have decided that the safety of their citizens who are victims of domestic violence is not a priority.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, the city governing body just passed a resolution this week declaring that living free from domestic violence is a basic human right.
This is what prioritizing domestic violence prosecution and safety of victims looks like; not repealing city ordinances, not refusing to prosecute because of budget cuts, not tossing the safety of victims back and forth between city and county governments and prosecutors; not reducing or omitting funding for critical services and responses. This isn’t about budgets it’s about priorities.
For decades, KCSDV and NNEDV have urged state and local governments to prioritize the issue of domestic violence. We are saddened and shocked that during Domestic Violence Awareness Month these local governments have reversed time and turned their backs on victims.