Marcia Clark: Domestic violence is a crime; can we count on punishment?

“I’m sure she did something to provoke him. And anyway, it’s a family matter. Why on earth would we call the police?” Not long ago, that was the most common reaction to domestic violence. The victim was routinely blamed for the beating and the assault wasn’t even viewed as a crime. But one of the few good things to come from the OJ Simpson trial was that it blew the doors off those myths and made people aware that not only was it a crime, it was often a deadly crime.

In October, we observed Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I applaud the efforts of countless advocacy groups and individuals who continue to spur progress in the treatment of both victims and abusers. Still, more progress is needed.
In spite of all we’ve learned, many high-profile abusers are still receiving favored treatment.

I am now representing an Arizona woman who says she was attacked by Robert S. Parsons, the son of Go-Daddy Founder Bob Parsons. Robert S. Parsons is an individual with significant wealth and power. He’s facing felony charges in criminal court, but if past is prologue, it’s entirely possible that it will go the way of so many other cases involving abusers with money and power: washed out with a misdemeanor guilty plea and no jail time or even an eventual dismissal. While I remain hopeful that Robert S. Parsons will be convicted in criminal court, I agreed to take the case to civil court to ensure that he is brought to justice.

When I say past is prologue, I’m not talking about the distant past. I’m talking about 2014. Remember Ray Rice? The video of him punching his girlfriend in the face and dragging her out of the elevator? The prosecutors charged him with aggravated assault, a charge that carries a potential sentence of five years in prison. Know how much time he got? Zero. He was allowed to enter a 12 month counseling program usually reserved for non-violent and victimless crimes. If he stays out of trouble, the case won’t even appear on his record. And now it’s being reported by TMZ that teams are showing “legitimate interest” in signing Rice.

The statistics are still chilling. The Huffington Post reported last year that the number of women killed by a male partner or ex-partner between 2001 and 2012 was 11,700; that’s nearly twice the number of American soldiers who lost their lives serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan during that same period.

It is right and necessary that we honor our war dead. But it is also right and necessary that we honor victims of domestic violence by making sure their attackers are punished.

When an abuser beats his partner and then beats the system it sends a message that domestic violence can be a crime without consequences. It’s time to change that narrative, in Arizona and around the country.

Marcia Clark
Editor’s note: Ms. Clark, an attorney, may be best known as the prosecutor in the OJ Simpson trial. She is an author and advocate for domestic-violence victims.

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