By Patricia Glaser Shea
President and CEO, YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee
Nearly nine months ago, domestic violence victim advocates stood proudly in front of the Metro Courthouse as our city’s leaders presented recommendations for system-wide improvements to Nashville’s response to domestic violence. The recommendations came after Mayor Karl Dean commissioned and completed a domestic violence safety and accountability assessment and shed a bright light on the gaps in our community’s legal, judicial and law enforcement practices.
One shocking fact that was exposed by the mayor’s assessment: More than 40 percent of alleged offenders are released by night court commissioners before their statutory 12-hour hold ends. That means that 40 percent of the time, victims of domestic violence are not given the time needed to get themselves and their families safe. They are not provided time to get health care needs met. They are not provided time to gather their belongings, find a hotel or a shelter, like the YWCA’s Weaver Domestic Violence Center — anyplace where the batterer cannot find them and re-offend.
We were so hopeful, with recommendations being made that beautiful Nashville day, that they would become the starting point for permanent change. In fact, District Attorney Torry Johnson and Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson announced ways that their departments had already begun implementing the recommendations. Unfortunately, not everyone was listening.
When the story broke regarding the release of a prominent local contractor and the alleged second near-fatal beating of his girlfriend, we knew some things had not changed at all. We still had “good ol’ boys” doing what “good ol’ boys” do: supporting a culture that contributes to violence against women and girls.
This week, we heard loud and clear from Chief Anderson that he is not a good ol’ anything. Instead, our chief did his job, as a leader in our community and someone whose job it is protect all of us. He spoke out for what is right. In his seven-page statement, Anderson called out the behaviors of men who continue to contribute to the staggering amount of violence perpetrated against women in our community.
Tennessee ranks sixth in the nation for the rate at which men kill women, and more than half of all crimes against people in our community are domestic violence. While men are committing a majority of the violence, they also hold the majority of positions of power. That is why we need men, like Chief Anderson, to speak up with outrage and the authority to end it.
Chief Anderson is part of our city’s solution to end domestic violence. He understands it. He is willing to publicly admonish those who should and don’t. He is refusing to collude with social norms that value the freedom of an alleged abuser more than the life of an alleged victim. He is choosing to speak up — as he knows all too well that silence is affirming. He has taken the responsibility that we wish all men would take — holding other men accountable for their behaviors and pointing out their role in the perpetuation of violence against the women who live in our community.
Thank you, Chief Anderson.
Cross-posted with permission from The Tennesseean