A Domestic Violence Database? No, thank you.

It’s hard to see any story detailing domestic violence. The pictures, the comments, and the police reports all illustrate a complete violation and misappropriation of trust. It’s difficult to understand. Luckily, the number of organizations dedicated to stopping or slowing domestic violence in our communities is growing – which is beneficial since most of it boils down to the resources that are readily available. Lately, though, there’s been an even greater push to create a database of domestic violence offenders. We’ve seen one at the national level, but what about as organized through the state? What does that entail and what are the unintended consequences?

It’s an interesting concept in and of itself and a demonstration of what we’ve evolved into as a society. Some guy (or girl) asks you out, you say yes, and then head to the desktop to google whether or not they’re on ‘the database.’ How…romantic.

I’ve long battled with the idea of the sex offender database, specifically here in Georgia, because of the ‘catch-all’ nature of it. I wholeheartedly believe the public should have the most access to information as possible – and crimes against persons (excluding minors) are all public information. But our database for sexual offenders is inherently flawed as it is defined in the law. How would a domestic violence database be any different?

  1. Trying to catch those guilty of domestic violence charges will be about as effective as using a hammock to catch water. In Georgia, we call it ‘family violence’ in the Georgia code and it blankets any felony or “offenses of battery, simple battery, simple assault, assault, stalking, criminal damage to property, unlawful restraint, or criminal trespass.” Sometimes people are charged with crimes that may be similar to what they did, but not exact. Will you include people who are convicted? Or just charged? Or those who have a report filed against them? Does it have to be a first hand report? What’s the burden of proof?
  2. There is grey area in the law. We’ve seen the unintended consequences of the 17-year-old sleeping with the 16 year-old spending the rest of his life on the sex offender registry. How do we ensure this doesn’t happen with this second database?
  3. Databases create an entirely different class of people. By placing them on a database, we’re essentially saying they are too dangerous for society and we should all ‘watch out.’ If the public is endangered, should those people not still be in prison? And are we declaring that there are absolutely no exceptions and that no one can ever change? Are we also going to place domestic violence offenders on the same playing field as those who commit sexual offenses of a high and aggravated nature?
  4. Who will pay for it? If it’s a nonprofit or third-party organization, the buck stops there. That can’t even be regulated – there is no penalty from making a public record more public. But if it is run by the state, or local agencies, someone has to maintain those records and verify the information provided in the records, which is costly.
  5. It’s hard to say that a database will cut down on the the occurrence of domestic violence. Setting all judgment aside, domestic violence happens for reasons beyond the scope of what a database could ever prevent. Circumstances, internally and externally, make some women more vulnerable and keep many domestic violence victims from leaving. I personally know this to be true.

I am of the belief that we have a moral obligation to weigh who will be harmed in the process of ‘doing good’ and trying to protect victims. The possibility of negative consequences should be addressed before a database is constructed, especially if done by the state, since “fixing” problems is almost impossible. As we’ve already seen, attempting to alter the sex offender registry in any capacity is political suicide.

The idea may seem like a good one, but for now, we should hold off. In the meantime, women (and men) will have to be responsible for types of people they date.


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