Ross Mirkarimi Shocks Legal Scholars With Claim That Abuse Allegations Are "a Family Matter"

Mirkarimi Lopez Luke Thomas FCJ.jpg
Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his wife, Eliana Lopez
Ross Mirkarimi is innocent.

Of course he is -- he is innocent until proven guilty. It remains to be seen if District Attorney George Gascón will even  charge the sheriff with domestic abuse following a police report filed by Mirkarimi's neighbor.

Regardless, the language Mirkarimi has used to describe the situation has deeply troubled legal scholars with an expertise in the state's domestic violence laws. For a top city law enforcement official to describe abuse allegations in which a police report has been filed and an investigation is under way as "a private matter, a family matter" -- as Mirkarimi did -- is both legally incorrect and sends the disturbing message that accusations of domestic violence are to be kept behind closed doors.

In fact, Nancy K.D. Lemon, a lecturer at U.C. Berkeley's Domestic Violence Law Seminar, notes that one of the questions on her recent final exam was "Give some examples of how we are moving away from seeing domestic violence as a private, family matter."

The notion that allegations of domestic abuse belong out of the public eye is "a very antiquated view of domestic violence," Lemon says. "A century ago we thought it was a private, family matter. We found a lot of people were hurt -- or killed." Rather than treat domestic violence as a domestic problem, Lemon notes, it is now seen as a crime against the state. That's why prosecutors can move ahead with charges, even if the alleged victim refuses to cooperate, or even actively opposes the process.

To classify domestic violence as a problem for families to sort out on their own exposes a mentality "predating the 1970s," says professor Marisa Cianciarulo, the director of Chapman University's Family Violence Clinic. The nation's first Domestic Violence Protection Act was enacted in Pennsylvania in 1976; California followed shortly thereafter. Prior to that time, an attack that, by a stranger, would constitute battery could go uncharged if it was received in a domestic attack.

But the pendulum has shifted. Lemon notes that a lower standard is necessary for a felony charge in domestic battery than in a general case. "Police often tell me it's seven stitches or a broken bone," to garner felony charges in a battery case, she says. "In domestic violence, on the other hand, even something as minor as a bloody nose, a scratch or bruise, or a black eye could result in a felony arrest."

What's more, the old "she started it" defense doesn't hold. Police now look for the "dominant aggressor." Who started the fight "is irrelevant," Lemon continues. "The real question is, who responded appropriately or who overreacted?"

In short, the law has changed a great deal since allegations of domestic violence truly were a family matter. To claim the same today "sends the message that it's okay for the head of the household to be abusive with his or her spouse or partner," says professor Wendy Seiden, Cianciarulo's colleague at the Family Violence Clinic. "It says violence is okay if it's in the family."

In fact, Seiden notes, none other than O.J. Simpson referred to alleged domestic abuse as "a family matter."

No one would lump the deeds -- alleged or otherwise -- of Mirkarimi and Simpson together. They have, however, both chosen a most unfortunate set of words.

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Tsk
Tsk

It is clear that domestic violence is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed. Lemon asks "who responded appropriately and who overreacted." She has defended at least one woman who hit and threw objects at her male partner, suggesting that these are appropriate and understandable responses to asking a yelling woman to calm down. There are no doubt many, many cases of abuse, but it is important that we stop assuming all women are victims, look at how domestic violence affects men as well, and elevate us all away from using violence in the home.

Dally
Dally

It's tough to raise children in the city. This incident probably stems from stress in the home. Mirkarimi ought to do what Chris Daly did, and move his family to Fairfield, a nice middle-class place where kids can run around and play in the yard.

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on  Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends. 

danisf
danisf

Well they are both savvy to being in front of a camera--she an actress, he a politician. Both know the importance of appearance. And they played it well at the swearing in. But those words don't compute, you're right...not with the law and the reasons behind the law...and that's all i have to say at the moment. 

Mothertoldme
Mothertoldme

Really would this be just a 'family matter' if their sizes were reversed and he was only 5'2'" and she was 6'3"  Mr. Mirkarimi could be heading down a very deep dark slippery slope, hope Mrs, Mirkarimi keeps her eyes wide-open.

____
____

That's because he has something to hide.  There's always some small inconvenient truth in matters like this.  And murky made a mental mistake and attempted to make light of the problem by making seem small, private and really no one's business.  Too bad he can't stand the heat now that the spot light is shining on a dark party of his life, his behavior and his thinking.

Andrew R.
Andrew R.

Blah, blah.

I read the police report. I went to the Inaugural.I've never had bruise that healed in 7 days. (*cough* sleeveless dress *cough*)

jen
jen

Have you heard of make-up, then?? It is amazing how well a good, waterproof concealer works. Just because you didn't see the alleged bruise, doesn't mean it wasn't there hidden under layers of Dior's best.

____
____

 How close were you?  Were you standing next to her to get a good close look?

Andrew R.
Andrew R.

Dude, she was walking around talking to everyone at the reception afterwards. Practically daring people to gape. I got right up next to her.

____
____

 Looks like you were either blind or had selective sight.  Guess your dream of making it with murky-rim-me will go unfulfiled unless you are going to go to jail like him

Flemingrandolph
Flemingrandolph

Liberal dichotomy..

Mohammu34
Mohammu34

Ross and Indymedia do not want to lose their grip on power. They will do anything to win, even if the victim loses. Sad. Ross sounds like another Hitler.

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