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Impunity Files: 10-13-2011

2011 October 13

Domestic Violence No Longer
a Crime in Topeka, Kansas

Topeka/Shawnee County Safe Streets motto:  
“Making Our Neighborhoods Safe for Peaceful Living”

This item may seem a little off-topic, but the City Council of Topeka, Kansas, has just decriminalized domestic violence. Right, you got it: the capital city of the Sunflower state (motto: Through hardship to the stars) will no longer prosecute those who assault or otherwise harm their children, spouses, and elders. Turns out it was just getting to be too much of a hardship to protect domestic violence victims.
            According to a New York Times article of yesterday, the District Attorney of Shawnee County, where Topeka is located, has responded to recent budget cuts by refusing to prosecute domestic violence cases – leaving it to the City to handle them. The decriminalization move is the city’s response. The councilors argue that this will force the DA to act, since such cases remain (so far?) a crime under state law.
            Maybe so, but the Times reports that 18 people arrested for  domestic violence since September have been released without charges “because no agency is accepting new cases.” Joyce Grover, of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, says, “To have public officials pointing fingers while victims of domestic violence are trying to figure out who will protect them is just stunning.”
            Why am I including this story here? Whether we’re talking about torture and disappearances, domestic violence, or schoolyard bullying, perpetrators do what they do, in part, because they face no consequences. That’s the definition of a culture of impunity — offenders can do as they please. It’s the responsibility of a humane society to make sure there are consequences, but both the Kansas Capital and its surrounding County are saying that’s just too expensive.


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