Barry Goldstein, author of the book “The Quincy Solution” was the keynote speaker on Sunday at the 21st Annual Northern California Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Conference. He argued that we can “save $500 billion every year by implementing the proven practices of the Quincy Solution.”
“The most dangerous abusers are not necessarily the men that have committed the most severe assaults,” Mr. Goldstein explained. “They’re men that believe that she had no right to leave.” Three quarters of the women murdered by their partners “are killed after she left.”
He said that the custody system is used by these men as a way to punish women for leaving. “The court doesn’t recognize the motivation,” he said.
He argues that often we failed to understand these cases because we have not taken a multidisciplinary approach. He said, “The experts in domestic violence are domestic violence advocates. But too often we have discounted them because they were viewed as biased because they’re always against domestic violence.”
Barry Goldstein believes “we have the ability to dramatically reduce domestic violence crime.” He believes it can be reduced by 80 percent. He cited Quincy, Massachusetts, as a city that dramatically reduced domestic violence through the use of best practices.
His research determined that the medical cost of domestic violence is on the order of $750 billion a year. He believes that “the huge financial savings” can get the interest of public officials and “that could change everything.”
He argued, “In the United States, we can save $500 billion every year by implementing the proven practices in the Quincy Solution.” California would save $58 billion. That comes to $1500 a year individually.
“That’s an awful lot of money to allow a jerk down the street to beat his wife,” he says. “We really need to think of that as an unintended abuser’s subsidy.”
Part of the problem is with the custody court system, which he says developed “at a time when there was no research. At the time there was a popular belief that domestic violence was caused by mental illness and substance abuse, so they turned to mental health professionals as though they were the experts in domestic violence.”
“It turned out the original assumptions were wrong,” he said. We now have a generation of lawyers and judges who have heard this misinformation ever since. “We now have research that demonstrates that standard practices are working poorly for children and we need to change that.”
“Right now the custody courts are the weak link in society’s response to domestic violence,” Mr. Goldstein said.
Almost all custody cases get settled before trial. “The problem with custody court is the 3.8 percent of cases that go trial,” he said. “The courts mistakenly think of these as high-conflict cases, in reality between 75 and 90 percent of these cases are domestic violence cases. They’re cases where the most dangerous abusers… are using custody courts to pressure their victims in return for leaving.”
The courts, he said, mistakenly believe that the fathers are acting out of love for their children and they keep protecting abusers rather than children. This he argues, creates a huge harm to the children and society.
The Quincy Model started in the 1970s with a district attorney named Bill Delahunt, who would become a Massachusetts congressman before retiring in 2011. He would take a look a look at the personal records of inmates at a nearby high security prison. “What he found,” Mr. Goldstein explained, “was that virtually every inmate had a childhood history that included domestic violence and/or childhood sexual abuse.”
“He believed that if he could prevent domestic violence, he would be able to reduce all crime,” he said.
Barry Goldstein said, “It worked.” A county that had previously averaged somewhere around five to six domestic violence homicides each year enjoyed several years with no murders. “We know that these good practices can make a huge difference,” he said.
What they did in Quincy, Massachusetts, Mr. Goldstein explained was “they had strict enforcement of criminal laws, orders of protection, and probation rules.” He said, “They had practices that made it easier for victims to leave. They had a coordinated community response.”
Barry Goldstein argued “There are only two things that have been shown to change abusive men’s behavior: accountability and monitoring.” He also made it a point to note what that doesn’t include. “What it doesn’t include is what many officials are using. It doesn’t include anger management. Abusers manage their anger very well which is why they’re only abusing their partners and doing it when there’s no witnesses.”
He added, “It doesn’t include substance abuse treatment. Substance abuse treatment is helpful. It’s a good thing to have. It’s not what stops domestic violence.”
“It doesn’t include therapy – again therapy is helpful for many people, but mental illness with very few exceptions does not cause domestic violence,” he explained.
“So often, we’re focusing on the wrong things,” Mr. Goldstein continued.
He said a big problem in our society is the “tendency to give so-called first time offenders another chance. The fact is that domestic violence is the most underreported crime that there is. When a man’s domestic violence crime is first brought to the attention of police and prosecutors, we can be fairly sure it’s not the first time he’s committed a domestic violence crime – much less all the other domestic violence tactics that are perfectly legal.”
“What has happened is that he has repeatedly told his partner – no one will believe you, no one will take it seriously, no one is going to do anything to me, I can get away with it,” he said. “Then our criminal justice system so often affirms everything that he has told her.”
So what has happened, Mr. Goldstein explained, is that she has gotten the courage to report the crime, to try to get help, and “instead of imposing a sanction that is known to help change men’s behavior, they have given him another chance.”
The abuser then punishes his victim for reporting his crime. In other words, she didn’t get any help and has been punished for trying to seek help – “she’s learned her lesson.” “She’s not going to report it again,” he said. “The criminal justice system, they measure success on whether someone’s rearrested. He’s not going to be rearrested, she’s afraid to report it again because they failed the first time.”
The Quincy Solution, Barry Goldstein said, worked – it resulted in huge savings of money and reduction in Domestic Violence. But the judge retired, the DA became a Congressman, and the crime rate went back up.
In part II we’ll talk about the Safe Child Act and the ACE Study.
—David M. Greenwald reporting