Reference Number: 
CTAS-1312

“In America, early settlers held European attitudes towards women. Our law, based upon the old English common-law doctrines, explicitly permitted wife-beating for correctional purposes. However, certain restrictions did exist and the general trend in the young states was toward declaring wife-beating illegal. For instance, the common-law doctrine had been modified to allow the husband 'the right to whip his wife provided that he used a switch no bigger than his thumb' -- a rule of thumb, so to speak." Del Martin, Battered Wives Volcano Press, 1976, page 31.

Societal attitudes toward domestic violence have changed dramatically, and Tennessee laws related to it are modified almost yearly. Each revision has placed a greater burden on the law enforcement community to protect alleged victims, and the liability for failure to do so can be tremendous where an order of protection has been issued by the courts and served by the sheriff.

For law enforcement officers, domestic disputes and domestic violence are among the most difficult and dangerous situations to address. Some individuals seem to repeatedly manipulate the justice system for their own vindictive purposes, wasting valuable resources. Others petition the courts for protective orders, then fail to appear and testify, having returned to the alleged abuser. Officials may therefore become cynical and reluctant to take action.

However, in 2002, 3.1 percent of all male homicide victims and almost one-third of all female homicide victims in the United States were killed by a former or current “intimate partner.” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Homicide Trends in the U.S.”  Domestic violence results in nearly 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths nationwide each year. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2003. Additionally, there have been a number of cases, in Tennessee and other jurisdictions, in which domestic conflict culminated in the murder of the perpetrator’s own or estranged partner’s children.