Judge Says Courts Must Take a Holistic Approach to Solving Domestic Violence Issues

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Although the current spotlight has been on the National Football League (NFL) and domestic assaults perpetrated by its players, domestic violence is an all-too-often occurrence facing judges in Ohio.
It is something that Judge Gayle Williams-Byers sees almost every day as she sits in her Municipal Court room in South Euclid, outside of Cleveland.
It is reported by that every nine seconds a woman in America is assaulted or beaten.  Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents or other forms of violence combined, the statistics say.
The statistical service also reports that everyday more than three women in this country are murdered by husbands and boyfriends.
Domestic violence, in medical bills and lost wages equals a loss of $5.8 billion per year.
Athens County alone in 2013 had 352 incidents of domestic violence, according to the Ohio Attorney General.  Cuyahoga County had 4,786 reported incidents.  Numbers of reported cases are increasing dramatically across the state.
Judge Williams-Byers, however, says that the problem is even greater than these statistics.  She calls domestic violence an escalating problem which may start with menacing verbal threats, property damage or criminally abusive language and finally end with physical violence.
The judge believes that the earlier this progressive chain of escalating behaviors can be broken the greater the chances of stemming the domestic violence problem in a family.  She says, as a judge, she needs to get to the “root causes of the issue.”  It may be alcoholism, drug addiction or other forms of mental health issues that have previously been unidentified.
Judge Williams-Byers is a strong proponent of victim advocates to help the abused party from the outset of a situation.  Victim advocates may direct the victim to safe housing or to other social or medical services that are necessary to preserve safety.  The more victim advocates are involved the greater the chances that the victim will break the chain of violence and leave an abusive situation, according to the judge.
Judge Williams-Byers also is in favor of not just incarcerating guilty abusers.  She thinks that often mental health counseling or alcohol or drug abuse counselling are necessary along with jail time.  She works to find solutions to break the chain of events perpetuating the violence and not just punish the perpetrator.
“You can’t just incarcerate people and solve the problems they face.  There must be more involved in the sentencing.  There needs to be a broad-based approach at solving the problem,” the judge said.