According to the website www.domesticviolencestatistics.org , the costs of intimate partner violence in the US along exceeds $5.8 billion per year. Of that total, $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion. Every 9 seconds in the United States a woman is assaulted or beaten. Studies also show men who as children witness their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own partners than sons of nonviolent parents. These stats paint a grim picture of a serious and wide reaching topic.
Students, faculty and staff of the Lincoln Memorial University-John J. Duncan, Jr. School of Law peered beyond the statistics on Thursday as Knox County 4thCircuit Judge Bill Swann brought his entire order of protection docket to us. The day that took months of careful planning was an opportunity for DSOL students to put faces on an issue that can impact all levels of American society. It also gave the students the unique learning experience of observing how domestic violence issues can be resolved through the legal system.
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used by one individual to exert power and control over another person, usually in an intimate relationship. It can be physical, sexual or psychological. The primary purpose is to control, to dominate or to hurt another within the relationship. Domestic violence may occur between a male abuser and a female victim; a female abuser and a male victim; two women; or two men. The Domestic violence statute also extends protection to the elderly and to children.
On Thursday, Judge Swann’s docket included nearly 300 cases. The 4th Circuit holds Orders of Protection hearings once a week, unless holidays disrupt the schedule. Order of Protection dockets are always held on Thursdays. Judge Swan said that the docket usually averages over 300 cases and he uses two special masters to hear all the cases. A special master is appointed by a judge to supervise those falling under the order of the court to make sure that the court order is being followed.
At DSOL, the Order of Protection day began with an orientation presented by Judge Swann. This included distribution of resources for victim services, information on where to get help, details about how court would proceed and a question and answer period. Throughout the process Judge Swann took care in making specific points to the DSOL students in attendance. A great advocate for legal education, this was the ninth time Judge Swann has taken the docket on the road. Throughout the day Judge Swann paused to give DSOL students pointers on the law and clarify proceedings. He also spent his lunch recess addressing he students and answering questions. The students who participated were grateful for the experience.
Thursday’s Order of Protection day marked the second time DSOL students were able to witness court proceedings held on campus. In August 2011, the Tennessee Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases, including one death penalty appeal.