Victims must be persistent for domestic violence charges to stick
Anybody who follows the news is familiar with the name George Zimmerman. The Florida man who became famous for shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death has not stayed out of trouble since his controversial murder acquittal earlier this year. Just last month, Zimmerman’s girlfriend contacted police claiming that the man had used a shotgun to threaten her. After being arrested, Zimmerman was hit with an aggravated assault charge as well as charges of criminal mischief and battery. However, Zimmerman’s girlfriend changed her mind about the events weeks later.
According to the girlfriend’s statement, she mis-spoke about the exact events that took place on Nov. 18 – the day of the alleged threats. She had originally told a 911 operator that Zimmerman was breaking her things and carrying his gun. However, she later decided that she did not want Zimmerman to face any charges. Additionally, she said that she wanted to repair their relationship. A state attorney dropped the charges against Zimmerman, stating that while there was indeed probable cause, it would be unlikely that he could be successfully prosecuted. Zimmerman was involved in a similar domestic dispute with his estranged wife the month prior, and the woman in that case wished to drop charges as well.
A woman who works for a domestic violence prevention organization stated that women in such cases often drop the charges because they are coerced into it. She said that the coercion does not usually involve things as severe as death threats; rather, a victim may have the perpetrator and even her own family members consistently telling her that she is blowing the situation out of proportion. The woman is attempting to start a program that will put victims in contact with authorities immediately, before the victims are convinced to recant.
The woman also stresses that victims do not technically have the final say in whether or not charges are pursued. Prosecutors must press charges for the case to go to court, and it can be difficult for them to continue when the victim changes his or her mind. Therefore, it’s important for victims to seek legal help right away.
Source: washingtonpost.com, “Who’s at fault when domestic violence charges are dropped?” Vanessa Williams, Dec. 23, 2013