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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On Tuesday night, the city council of Topeka repealed the local law that lists domestic violence as a crime, in turn making any actions that would have previously necessitated police involvement a matter of the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.


we wrote about this before here


Topeka, Kansas may decriminalize DV

Talk about losing major ground in the movement to end domestic violence.  Council discusses domestic battery prosecution | Excerpts:

The council is expected next week to consider the proposed changes, which would include repealing the part of the code that bans domestic battery.

The city attorney’s office says the repeal would force Taylor, who said Sept. 8 he would no longer prosecute misdemeanors committed in Topeka, including domestic battery, to start prosecuting that crime again.

Dombrowski told the council her mother always told her two wrongs don’t make a right. She said repealing the part of city ordinance banning domestic battery would be “the second wrong” after Taylor stopped prosecuting those crimes.


Mayor Bill Bunten responded that everyone on the council supports punishing those who commit domestic battery.

“The question is who prosecutes them, the municipal court or the district court, and who pays for it, the city or the county or a combination?” Bunten said.

It’s very convoluted.  I appreciated this article from feministing which tried to break down the situation over there in Kansas. Excerpt:

Here’s what happened: Last month, the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office, facing a 10% budget cut, announced that the county would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanors, including domestic violence cases, at the county level. Finding those cases suddenly dumped on the city and lacking resources of their own, the Topeka City Council is now considering repealing the part of the city code that bans domestic battery. The thinking here is that the county won’t let domestic violence go unpunished in Topeka and so will be forced to step in and start prosecuting it again if the city won’t. Basically, it’s a big game of chicken–where the “chicken” is, I suppose, the chump who won’t allow domestic abusers to walk free?

Of course, if you’d somehow gotten the impression that domestic violence is not really all that much of a priority for the county (which stopped prosecuting the cases almost a month ago) or the city (which is seriously considering officially legalizing the crime), think again. On the contrary, everyone involved professes to believe, as the DA’s office said, “that domestic violence is a crime that should be taken seriously and charged.” It’s just that everyone wants someone else to pay for it


But while this clusterfuck is getting sorted out, domestic violence advocates in Topeka say it’s already putting vulnerable people at increased risk. Since the county stopped prosecuting the crimes on September 8th, it has turned back 30 domestic violence cases. Sixteen people have been arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery and then released from the county jail after charges weren’t filed. “Letting abusive partners out of jail with no consequences puts victims in incredibly dangerous positions,” said Becky Dickinson of the YWCA. “The abuser will often become more violent in an attempt to regain control.” The YMCA also said that some survivors associated with their Center for Safety and Empowerment were afraid for their safety if the dispute wasn’t resolved soon.

Scary situation.

Round Up: TRO videoconferencing; Planned Parenthood; gender gaps

The interwebs were full of women’s news today, so I decided to do a news roundup.

Maricopa County in Arizona is using videoconferencing as a way for survivors of DV to get restraining orders:

Since the county started a videoconferencing program last January, at least 60 domestic-violence victims have obtained orders of protection against their abusers from their hospital rooms at Maricopa Medical Center….

….The process is designed to create a safe, private space so that victims feel comfortable enough to open up about their situations. They do not have to face their abusers in a courtroom setting….

….For the past 10 to 15 years, Maricopa Medical Center has taken a clinical approach to helping domestic-violence victims through the “Mariposa: Wings to Safety” domestic-violence advocacy program.

Domestic violence and women’s reproductive health have a lot of overlap.  From Women’s E-News, here’s an article with great information on the battles facing Planned Parenthood in a number of states:

Several states–including Kansas, North Carolina, Indiana and Arizona–have spent months wrangling over whether federal money can fund the country’s largest provider of reproductive health services.

The Hyde Amendment has blocked federal money from funding Planned Parenthood’s abortion services since 1976, but anti-choice lawmakers argue that federal money should have no association with abortion services whatsoever. So the funding fight is a proxy battle over abortion rights.

A media survey of lawsuit coverage reveals two key legal questions behind much of the legal chatter.

No. 1: Can state lawmakers use the budgeting process to block federal contributions to Planned Parenthood, which receives about one-third of all federal family-planning appropriations?

No. 2: Can lawmakers subject Planned Parenthood clinics to prohibitive regulations through so-called TRAP

Next, from the UN News Centre, an article that explores the gaps between boys and girls in developing countries:

A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlights significant gaps in areas such as education and health, mostly favouring males, as boys and girls in developing countries grow older.

“While there is little difference between boys and girls in early childhood with respect to nutrition, health, education and other basic indicators, differences by gender appear increasingly more pronounced during adolescence and young adulthood,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director….

…..The data shows that girls are significantly more likely to be married as children (under 18 years of age) and to begin having sex at a young age. Young women are less likely to be literate than young men and are less likely to watch television, listen to the radio and read a newspaper or magazine.

In addition, young men are better informed about HIV/AIDS and are also more likely to protect themselves with condoms during sex. Young women in sub-Saharan Africa, the report says, are two to four times more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS than young men.


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