Livingston County supports domestic violence victims as Topeka abandons them

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At about the same time as LACASA’s 15th annual candlelight vigil ended Tuesday, the Topeka City Council voted 7-3 to repeal its ordinance banning domestic violence.

Before I get into all the Topeka madness, let me just say that this year’s LACASA vigil was wonderful. The weather was so lovely it appeared specially ordered for the event. The Howell High School a capella choir was splendid. A domestic violence survivor told her story, about how she found solace and help in Livingston County. And we heard from Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse and founding LACASA board member Bonnie Miller, two people who’ve done so much wonderful work on behalf of the victims of domestic violence.

Part of the event included the display of cutouts of Michigan domestic violence victims, which ringed the amphitheater of the Livingston County Courthouse.

As he has in years past, my 12-year-old son came with me, and in addition to shooting the photos with this post, he spent time reading the biographies on some of the cutouts. He was particularly moved by the story of a Michigan father who killed his girlfriend, as well as his children.

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

I agreed.

“There’s lots that doesn’t make sense right now,” I said as I told him about what might be happening in Topeka.

When we got home, I learned that Topeka did, indeed, repeal its ban on domestic violence.

The move came in a dispute with Kansas’ Shawnee County over who bears the financial burden of prosecuting batterers. Now, no one will be prosecuted.

The district attorney said on Sept. 8 that his office would no longer prosecute misdemeanors committed in Topeka, including domestic battery, because Shawnee County commissioners cut his budget by 10 percent.

Now, it’s not like anyone is eagerly declaring Topeka a domestic violence free-for-all zone. The repeal comes as a tragic part of an economic power struggle; the fallout, unfortunately, is that victims of domestic violence in that city are being denied the protection of the legal system.

Is this what smaller government looks like?

Prior to the meeting, the Kansas National Organization of Women rallied on the lawn in front of the Shawnee County Courthouse. The vote to repeal the ordinance banning domestic violence has gained national attention, and the story filed on, the web publication of the Topeka Capitol-Journal, noted that a reporter from the New York Times covered the city council meeting.

It’s madness, to be sure. Being safe in one’s home is, indeed, a basic need, right up there with having enough to eat. That the safety of those among us who need protection most is being sacrificed to balance budgets is horrifying.

I give thanks that in Livingston County, Mich., there is a strong commitment across the community to ensure the safety of victims. I give thanks, too, that the amazing organization that is LACASA is in place to give shelter and support.

I can only send prayers to the victims in Topeka.


About Maria Stuart 211 Articles
Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as a reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse. You can check out her website by clicking here.