Document 3B: Prepared Statement of Orrin G. Hatch, U.S. Senator, Utah Senate Hearing 103-726, 13 April 1993. Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 103rd Congress, First Session on The Problems of Violence Against Women in Utah and Current Remedies, Salt Lake City, Utah. Serial No. J-103-11.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF SENATOR HATCH
In this testimony, I will speak about the issue of domestic violence as I have experienced it professionally, how I have participated in my position at the State level as Coordinator of volunteer advocacy programs for victims of domestic violence, as cochair on a committee through the domestic violence advisory council aimed at implanting medical protocols for victims in Emergency Departments, and finally I will outline specific recommendations toward future legislation for this group as far as my understanding of current Federal Law will allow. I will open by commenting that without having a through understanding of the complex problems of domestic violence, any attempt at rectifying situations which emerge from this horror will fall short and be excused as mere "bandaid solutions." Domestic violence knows no boundaries; it effects every race, religion, and socioeconomic group. Violence in the home continues inter-generationally and often ends in death. In order to begin a dialogue about solutions, we must comfront the insidious sources of violence in America, respond pro-actively against violence as a system, and re-educate our children toward nonviolent means of expression.
My professional experience with domestic violence began in 1991 when I began my intership for a Masters in Social Work at the YWCA in this very building. Much of my understanding of the plight of victims of domestic violence came from this introduction. From there, I participated as research assistant to an exploratory study on "The Potential for Advocay for Victims of Domestic Violence in Utah" which I have submitted to you as part of my written testimony. To summarize , 42 victims of domestic violence and 17 legal, shelter, and law enforcment providers were interviewed to determine the degree to which victims were in need of advocacy. Advocacy was needed in 4 major areas: more education and information, more consistency with law enforcement, assistance throughout legal system, and ongoing support and followup. The rarity of such a research project emerging immediately into program development was realized with the creation,through a statutory mandate of my position with the Division of Family Services. Advocacy for victims of domestic violence includes: on-site support to victims just after law enforcement has arrested perpetrators, assistance with protective orders, accompaniment to court and social services, and on-going support, validation and contact. This advocacy program seeks to stop the cycle of violence prior to its re-entry into what psychologists call "the honeymoon phase," when victims often return to abusive situations.
Advocacy is needed in medical settings as well. Studies indicate between 25 percent and 37 percent of all women entering Emergency Rooms are there because of injuries incurred from intimate partners. Domestic Violence injuries to women exceed those of rapes, muggings and auto accidents combined. A need for responsible, pro-active intervention at this level may be addressed through Federal legislation which promotes professionals to report not only injuries that involve gunshot wounds, homicide, and suicide, but any severe, bodily devastation perpertrated by an intimate partner. The reporting procedure I am suggesting needs to be protective of the victim's safety. If the victim does not wish to press charges, nor have any investigation from the law enforcement agency, this obviously needs to be taken seriously; however, a simple call and a report of the incidence if carefully done shouldn't have to endanger the victim. In the long run, this report along with complete documentation in medical records, may serve as admissible evidence in cases of domestic violence. This subcommittee of physicans, registered nurses,and social workers aim at implanting protocols in medical settings to ensure that the following components occur when a suspected victim comes in for medical attention: questions are asked directly, in an isolated location regarding the origin of the injury; assessment of lethality and a safety action plan is put in place; referal is made in the form of calling a law enforcement agency, advocate, shelter or social worker; and through charting of incident is made in medical records which includes the names of the victim and perpetrator, a complete description of all of the injuries incurred, and a notation that a refereal was made. Protocols equal prevention. Prevention of further abuse may result in the saving of millions of dollars in medical bills, treatment, and even precious lives. We are working with several major medical groups in Utah to accomplish the task of getting these protocols out.
Now I will move to my specific recommendations regarding Senator Joesph Biden's impressive collection of safety proposals for women on the street and in the home and some other concerns and suggestions regarding advocacy for victims of domestic violence.
Violations of Protective Orders and Stalking Laws entered into a National Crime Information Center database allows courts the luxury of gathering information on abusive individuals in order to levy more severe punishment to these individuals assuming there is an accumulation of crime incidences. This process is a step in the right direction; however, the Senate needs to be aware that often a Protective Order is "just a piece of paper" according to the victims and doesn't stop the perpetrator from carrying out threats of violence, i.e., the Park City woman who was gunned down and killed recently in a Smith's parking lot also had a copy of her Protective Order in her purse. One violation of a Protective Order may end in the death of the victim. A more pro-active, anti-violence system's approach where abuse is reported by all professionals might be helpful in stopping the abusive couple from continuing in the cycle of violence.
In the section marked Title 1, Subtitle D, the "National Commission on Violence Against Women," section 2, line 18 through 21, suggest that there needs to be a mechanism of evaluation of court systems; with this evaluation I would add the necessity for a survey which might be conducted with County Attorney's Office to assess all of the following; how many cases of domestic violence they serve, how many victims never complete the legal process,whether the agency ever pursues pro-actively, with or without a victim/witness prosecution against an abuser, and what is the agency's general attitude and perception regarding some of the myths about domestic violence, i.e., the victim is somehow responsible for the violent behavior. Many of the legal provider-respondents I interviewed in the research, and some I have chatted with since, have indicated to me the doubt they experience toward pursuing cases where the victim/witness wishes to drop the charges. The tendency here is to believe if the victim really wanted to go through with it, she would assertivly press on throughout the process. The truth here is that victims of domestic violence are least likely to pursue anything because of a deteriorated self-esteem, because of threats against their own lives or the lives of their children, or because of re-entry into the "honeymoon phase" when the abuser may be promising never to abuse again and the victim wants despertely to believe it. As one pro-active lawyer said, "when she says she wants to drop it, she's really saying 'I want to live!'"
In this same Subtitle, section 3, lines 24 through 25, state the need for evaluation of shelters and safe homes for victims of domestic violence. These evaluative standards should include: the facility's level anonymity within the community, the facility's safety features such as camera surveillance, and the relationship the shelter staff have with local law enforcement agency. One standard needs to address whether or not perpetrators of domestic violence are being served in the same facility. This has occured in our state, and one can see how this situation would certainly create a sense of unease for a victim seeking safety.
The issue of inter-state protection of victims logically fits into Federal legislative mandates. This seems a perfect issue to ring up for senatorial ears: Federal cooperation with victims of domestic violence who are seeking re-identification within nation boundaries. Mr. Biden's Title II, section 221, "Interstate Enforcement," addresses enforcement against perpetrators who travel to commit spousal abuse, while chapter 110A, "Violence Against Spouses," Subsection 2265, "Full faith and credit given to protection orders," implies that Protective Orders should be respected when the victim has fled several states in order to secure safety for herself and her children. This attitude which protects the victims and constructs clear obstacles for perpetrators of abuse needs to be carried a step further into what I call "Federal advocacy for victims of domestic violence." This Federal advocacy spreads this "protect victims, prevent perpetrators" attitude to the victims ability to gain a new identity in severe cases of domestic violence. I interviewed several victims who were real life "Sleeping With the Enemies" and needed new social security numbers, new names. If a victim can prove that there is a history of domestic violence and she is fleeing for her life, Federal agencies should be more likely to assist her when there is a necessity for re-identification; this should include a general flexibility for Federal agencies to relinquish material to victims of domestic violence. The Federal Government could also create barries to perpetrators of violence by "red-flagging" or otherwise identifying domestic violence cases to protect the whereabouts of the victim.
One cannot help but consider the children in these situations. The severe emotional truma in which children who live in homes where they witness domestic violence should be criteria for "mental injury" under the Federal definitions for child abuse. If we are ever to stop the inter-generational cycle of violence, we must recognize the needs of these victims who wear no physical bruises but actually become victims and perpetrators of domestic violence in adulthood. Our ideas about the abused child need to expand to include children who observe, witness or otherwise experience severe abuse between cohabitating parental guardians. These ideas need to lead to policy which should clarify our role as responsible state agencies in our indentification of and investigation of these unsung victims of child abuse.
I ask the Senate to gain a sensitivity to the victims of domestic violence. Since victims who receive treatment are never abused thereafter at a rate of 80 percent while perpetrators who go through treatment cease committing violence at a rate of only 40 percent (studies indicate), we can see that our attention is not wasted in our focus on assisting victims of domestic violence. Title III, "Civil Rights", section 304, "Sense of the Senate concerning protection and privacy of rape victims", clearly indicates by ommission that victims of domestic violence have somehow fallen short of this concideration. This may be due to the even weightier stigmatization victims of domestic violence bear; the view that somehow the myths that "they have brought it on themselves, they had it coming, or if they had any sense, they would just leave" prevail. These are difficult spells to break. These spells keep us deep in a trance of inaction. But by understanding that victims of domestic violence are participants in a cycle of violence and often are suffering from the "Battered Women's Accommodation Syndrome," the air becomes a little clearer. Victims stay in these situations because they fear for their lives if they leave (studies indicate that the most lethal abuse occurs when the victim tries to leave, so we can see there are reasons to fear departure), they stand to face poverty, their disintegrated self-esteem won't allow them to make firm decisions, they may love the abuser and believe it is the duty of the wife to keep the marriage and the family together at all costs.