Saturday, June 26, 2010

Domestic abuse conference looks at breaking the cycle of violence - The Times Herald News: Norristown, PA and Montgomery County (

WHITPAIN — Domestic violence is a civil rights issue, it’s a crime and the government and criminal justice policies are failing in their right to protect women.

Those were the tenets at a domestic abuse conference Thursday at Montgomery County Community College.

Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor, author of “And Justice for Some” and women’s rights advocate, presented a look at the domestic violence epidemic during “Everybody’s Business: Preventing Dating Violence and Domestic Abuse in Our Community.”

Also featuring Dr. Sandra Bloom and a panel of professionals including Laurel House counseling director Minna Davis and Women’s Center of Montgomery County community educator Janine Kelly, the event looked at the issues of dating violence and breaking the cycle of violence in the home, community and media.

“Domestic violence awareness as a bumper sticker just bugs me. We’ve got so much domestic violence, we don’t need a month,” Murphy said. “We’ve got chronic domestic violence going on.”

As a prosecutor, Murphy said the violence 25 years ago is the same as today. Why? Because we are not doing the right thing in civilized society and no one wants to hear about the “war on women.”

“I’m not sure we should have shelters. I’ve sat on aboard for a shelter program in my community for a long, long time. The failure of law forces us to have a shelter system,” she said.

Women, she said, have the constitutional right to live in a violence-free society without fear.

“You take away freedom in the name of freedom? Of liberty? It doesn’t work for me,” Murphy said.

News, law and the community use social values to show domestic violence is not an issue. For instance, in the Chris Brown and Rhianna abuse incident, Brown’s PR firm put out information first of how he “sought help” and “apologized” and how “she hit him first.”

“Because of the legal system, she almost didn’t have a voice at all,” Murphy said.

Language plays in factor, as in passive versus active. The lead-in of “Woman was beaten” has a different context than “He beat her,” for instance. The terms “statutory rape” and “date rape,” she said, don’t work toward the cause.

“It’s not enough to call it ‘rape’ or ‘rape drugs’? If it’s for context, then show me a case that someone would call ‘mall rape.’ We use specific labels to downgrade the offense,” she said. “Sex is never rape, and rape is never sex.”

The legal system is designed to protect ownership, not to protect women. Thus, special rules were made for them, like restraining orders, wife rape and domestic assault and battery.

“Domestic violence is a civil rights issue. It is a hate crime. Nobody in society should be targeted for a type of violence,” Murphy said. “Go to your elected officials. Ask them, ‘Why aren’t you doing something about domestic violence as a civil rights issue?’”