As we approach Valentine’s Day, the single day of the year where our collective thought focuses upon the most precious human emotion, we should be reminded that no fear can exist in love. Yet, reality teaches the opposite.

In the words of one French philosopher, we are reminded that if we judge love by its usual effects, love more closely resembles hatred than friendship and caring.

Domestic violence is a daily occurrence for many and a logistical nightmare for courts, law enforcement and counselors. The ability of government to restrain perpetrators from brutality towards domestic partners and children is at best questionable. We are far more successful in punishing such acts than in preventing them.

Continued efforts to improve domestic violence protection are being made. Ten years ago, few uniform provisions existed to curb what is the most common violent crime within the United States. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as amended in 2000 now provides for cross jurisdictional enforcement and accountability of protective orders between the states and tribal authorities.

As a result of this important legislation, numerous protections which were lacking only a few short years ago are now available in all state courts and American Indian jurisdictions. These provisions include:

• State courts judges recognize and enforce valid protective orders issued by other jurisdictions;

• Criminal protective orders — usually issued as a condition of probation or parole — are entitled to full faith by other states;

• Court filings of an application for an emergency order of protection can be done without the payment of court costs as is required for the filing of other civil litigation;

• States must enforce custody and visitation provisions of protective orders issued by other jurisdictions which comply with the federal Parental Kidnaping Prevention Act (PKPA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Other legislation is now in place to curb domestic violence. The Gun Control Act of 1994 forbids the possession of any firearm or ammunition by someone against whom a qualifying protective order has been entered. Likewise, those convicted of misdemeanor crimes involving domestic violence are forbidden by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition. Federal law enforcement agencies routinely and effectively pursue those who violate these provisions.

Obviously, progress is being made. Much more needs to be done. While domestic violence’s direct impact upon the battered is largely known, the indirect impact is equally horrendous for children. An estimated 50 percent of perpetrators who abuse their spouse will abuse their children. Approximately 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence annually and we know that these children suffer long-term effects from such witnessing abuse.

Additional legislation and improved techniques to reduce domestic violence are needed. Currently, VAWA does not adequately address protective orders issued by military authorities or provide for enforcement of state domestic violence orders upon military reservations. And the ritualistic abuse of foreign nationalities remains a serious concern and one which remains outside of our cultural understanding.

Let this Valentine’s Day serve as the traditional reminder of all that remains to do to improve our own personal relationships. Take your spouse to dinner, do an extra chore, play a game with your child. But let us also remember the prevalence of abusive encounters between domestic partners and vow to improve our ability to reduce such crimes. Ten years from now, perhaps the problem of domestic abuse will have genuinely diminished.

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