Fault Lines: Failure to Protect

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Fault Lines: Failure to Protect

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Sarah is has a problem. Her husband Jeff came home yesterday evening in a drunken stupor and punched her in the face again. Unfortunately, her children were home and witnessed the whole thing.

Sarah wants to take her kids and run, but she’s afraid. Her husband is a charming but vindictive man. If he even suspects that she might be leaving, he might kill them all. That’s why she didn’t report it the last time it happened.

The police won’t help either. Sarah can take out a restraining order, but the police are under no obligation to arrest him if he ignores it.

Besides, in Sarah’s home state of Florida, if child services find out that her kids were home, they will remove them from her custody.

No. The best thing Sarah can do for her family is to keep quiet and take it on the chin.

Sarah’s situation echoes the reality of many women in Florida. Children who witness domestic abuse have a much higher chance of developing emotional and psychological problems. The more they see, the higher the probability.

According to Florida state, if a child witnesses domestic abuse, the parents have failed in protecting them. Documented cases exist in which a man abuses a woman in the presence of their kids, and they both get into trouble. The man faces domestic abuse charges, and the woman may lose custody due to her failure to protect her kids.

On the face of it, ‘failure to protect’ clauses are meant to encourage women to report their abusers and end cycles of violence. Unfortunately, it often has the opposite effect: women stay silent because they don’t want to risk losing their kids or aggravating their abusers.

Running away isn’t a viable option for many abuse victims. They might not be able to afford to move away from home because their partner controls their finances. They might not want to up-end their children’s lives by having to move to a shelter.

In addition, even if victims take out restraining orders against their abusers, the police are under no obligation to arrest the abuser if they ignore the restraining order.

Fault Lines explores this catch-22 situation, in which victim-blaming seems to have become the norm.

Thursdays at 12:30 AM on Aljazeera (ch 257) from Thursday, 10 June

Also on Thursday at 11:30 AM, Friday at 5:30 AM, Saturday at 8:30 AM, and Sunday at 7:30 AM

Author: Jan Hendrik Harmse