Domestic violence is an ongoing problem in North Carolina and throughout the entire country. It is the crime that is least reported to the authorities, and its victims are put in constant fear for their physical and psychological well being. Many fear for their lives, as roughly one quarter of all murders in this country are committed by a family member. A new bill, Senate Bill 600, may raise the punishment for murders committed by spouses when they have a documented history of domestic violence. The bill, if it becomes law, could automatically make a domestic violence murder, a murder in the first degree. While most first degree murders have to have an element of premeditation, some types of murders do not, such as a murder when another violent crime is being committed, such as burglary. Currently, most spousal murders are charged as second degree murders, as they are seen as a crime of passion. However, some lawmakers believe that when a person who has a history of domestic violence, murders their spouse they should automatically be charged with first degree murder. “What we’re finding is that men are using the defense of, it was just done in the heat of passion, when there’s been a history of domestic violence in that relationship,” said Senator Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, as reported by WRAL.com. While this may increase the penalty for some murders, even if Senate Bill 600 becomes law, tens of thousands of North Carolina victims of domestic violence will continue living in fear and humiliation until they find the courage with the help of friends and family to speak up and take legal action.
Public Humiliation in Place of Time Behind Bars
Some acts of Domestic violence are a felony in North Carolina, though the degree of punishment varies greatly depending on the circumstances, the injuries caused, and other specifics. However, punishment is also heavily weighted based on the court’s choice of sentencing. District Court Judge Mark Cummings, a North Carolina judge, recently gave two men who pleaded guilty to a crime of domestic violence the option of spending time in jail or public humiliation. Both chose public humiliation, and both seemed to agree that they chose the wrong option, according to KTLA 5 News. Both were ordered to carry a sign that said “This is the Face of Domestic Violence” in front of the courthouse for five hours a day, one sentenced to three days and the other to seven. “It’s pure hell, that’s what it’s like. It’s hell, it’s embarrassment,” said one man who also received online threats afterwards. “My friends now think I beat on women. And I don’t,” according to the other man. According to the director of victim services at Family Services of the Piedmont, Shay Harger, “Domestic violence thrives in secrecy and in the dark so this has people talking.”