Sunday, November 05, 2006

Georgia Makes History

Living in Minnesota and working on violence against women, I oscillate between being mainly incredibly grateful about the long and rich tradition that has come before me and the work that amazing trail blazers fought through to bring us to where we are today and being a tad envious or maybe wistful about what those early days must have been like. As many young feminist activists will tell you as amazingly grateful and full of admiration as we are of the pioneers in our field it does sometimes get discouraging to constantly be told oh you think that is bad you should have been around when... I am lucky to mainly work with and around women who are very supportive of my generation, but in some sense there is a feeling that the exciting action is over. The movement has important battles yet to be fought but we are never going back to having shelters in our houses or meetings without any funding or any belief that we will be taken seriously (which is a good thing). I am glad, beyond glad, that we have some of the best laws in the world on domestic violence in Minnesota. Minnesota's history as a pioneer on this issue is something to be proud of but there is something about being in from the ground floor.

Well, today we had an amazing ground floor moment here in Georgia! Georgia passed a domestic violence law in July of this year. It is modeled loosely on our law and on the Austrian model. It creates an order for protection remedy for victims of domestic violence. Our law, the second in the country, was passed in 1979 (the year I was born). Despite its passage several months ago, what we were told when we arrived is that no one is using it, there have been no orders, etc. WELL, on Sunday we attended the court hearing for the very first protective order in Georgia. The protection sought was just an order to not engage in further physical or verbal abuse. There was no request of no contact and the petitioner and respondent didn't live together so occupancy was not an issue. The case was actually between an adult daughter and her father. She alleged physical and verbal abuse. The father admitted one incident of physical abuse but denied a pattern. Under the law, one incident is enough and the judge could have ended the matter there with that admission but she let the hearing continue. The hearing lasted for well over an hour. The judge took a brief recess and then granted the order. On the whole the judge did a good job, especially for the first time! There were somethings I wish had been handled differently for example there was an underlying property dispute between the two and although she did tell the father to take it to civil court if he had a problem and not use violence she still allowed a great deal of the time and the focus of the hearing to be on the property and not on the central issues of the violence and the woman's safety. After the hearing we learned that two more cases were scheduled for later in the week and we have heard of more being filed. Ahh, the ground floor!

-A. Monkey