THE BLOG

Your Dating Priveleges Have Been Suspended for One Year

04/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As a former domestic violence prosecutor, these are the words I long to hear a judge utter in a domestic violence case once in awhile. Yes, there are some legal issues, but none that can't, and shouldn't be, resolved.

When a person abuses puppies, it is a common component of sentencing that the privilege of being a pet owner is suspended for some period of time, or taken away entirely. When a person drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the privilege of driving is often suspended. When a person demonstrates a sexual interest in children, the offender is required to stay away from children; sometimes for the rest of their lives.

What exactly is the difference?

Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence to be more inclusive and precise, is a unique crime. Statistically, these are men (and 92% of the convicted offenders are men) who are not violent to the community at large. It is a singularly interpersonal type of violence, and is an extension of their unhinged and brutal desire to exercise control over their partner.

It is the randomness of the violence that paralyzes these women and blocks the normal flight or fight response. When dogs or rats or monkeys are placed on a floor gridded with random electrical charges, at first they try to escape. They then try to discover a pattern. Eventually they sit in the corner and refuse to move, even when the door is open. In domestic violence situations, the pattern is similar -- will he hit me over the dinner being cold this time? This phenomenon is confusingly called Learned Helplessness, and was first identified by Lenore Walker in her 1979 groundbreaking book The Battered Woman.

It is not that the victims, be they canine or rodent or human, have actually learned to be helpless. It is that they are frozen in place because of the random inconsistency of the shock or punch. Hence the social and/or economic dependency is the real life equivalent of huddling in the corner of the cage, even when the door is wide open.

I did go to law school and seem to remember that marriage is a fundamental right, and the Supreme Court case that established that is adorably called Loving v. Virginia. But a fundamental right isn't a right that is absolute; it is a right that can only be infringed upon if it is necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest, a standard I think my proposal could pass.

Here are some interesting facts that prosecutors know too well:

* Half of all abusers in state prison are there for killing their victim.
* 1 out of 3 teenage girls will experience some form of dating violence.
* Over ½ of offenders are rearrested within a 30 month period following the initial arrest.

So what is a theoretical poor hapless pop star supposed to do with his Saturday nights once his dating privileges have been suspended? I'd suggest sitting quietly and meditating on the wrongness of his actions, holding a men-only fundraiser for the local domestic violence shelter, or perhaps helping out in the morgue, where tragically some of these victims end up.