Opinion: Domestic violence

POSTED: 05/31/12 12:54 PM

It is not often that this newspaper deviates from its standards, but today we saw the need to do so. Our readers are obviously entitled to an explanation. We’re referring here to our report about domestic violence that earned the abuser a suspended jail sentence plus the obligation to follow anger management training.

Standard, we publish the full names of defendants after the Court in First Instance condemns them. In case of an acquittal we protect the defendant’s identity. As long as defendants have not been convicted the presumption of innocence prevails and we will also protect their identity – unless the suspect is a high profile public figure. In such cases we will, after an initial careful approach, let go of the principle. Public figures, like politicians and artists, in general receive less consideration in this respect than the average citizen.

So why now protect the identity of a man who bit his girlfriend in her face and in her fingers during a drunken stupor? Should he not be put on public display?

In general the answer to this question is: yes, we should do that. If publishing a name stops the next guy from doing the same to his girlfriend, this serves a purpose.

In the case at hand, we received a request from the defendant’s attorney to keep the name out of the paper. We don’t know what others will do – that is not our responsibility – but after hearing the argument we reluctantly decided to honor the request.

That argument is that the abuser is holding two jobs and that there are three small children depending on this income. Publishing the name would lead to the abuser’s dismissal. In other words: it would take the bread out of the mouth of three little children.

Is this the right thing to do? For the moment we stand by it, but we want to send the defendant in question a clear message: this is not for your benefit; it is for the benefit of your children.

The defendant is on probation for three years. Any crime he commits in that time will send him straight to jail.

We have to give it to the defendant: he generously admitted his guilt and said that he was in court to take responsibility. What are those beautiful words are really worth? We will learn sooner or later whether they are good enough to stand the test of time.

If they don’t the defendant’s name will end up in the paper all the same. Then the misery he bestows on his own children will be his responsibility alone and there will be no one to help him out.

In a way the defendant reminded us a bit of the uncle who is always all smiles and full of jokes towards visitors; but as soon as the last visitor leaves the house he turns on his family – his wife, his children and any piece of furniture that happens to annoy him.

Abusers have a tendency to kiss and make up. They also have a tendency to abuse again. And again. And again.

We sincerely wish that this abuser is the exception that confirms the rule. In other words: we wish him well, we wish that his relationship will flourish and that his children will never have to worry that one day he is going to bite mommy again.

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