Before Waukesha: Domestic Violence

Darrell E. Brooks, Jr., was fleeing the scene of a domestic disturbance when he allegedly drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing five people and injuring 48 others.

No words can describe the tragedy experienced by the parade victims and their families but it is important to note what preceded the event.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that just before the parade attack, Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance, the details of which are unknown at this point. 

Brooks was released on $1,000 bail less than two weeks before the parade after he allegedly used his SUV to run over a woman who says she is the mother of his child. CNN states the criminal complaint notes: “Officers observed tire tracks on her left pants leg.”

The low bail indicates that prosecutors did not treat that crime seriously, possibly because it involved domestic abuse, which historically has been minimized and overlooked because most victims are female.

Until the 1980s, police routinely failed to arrest domestic violence perpetrators, telling them to walk around the block and cool off.

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‘No Bail’ Imperils Domestic Violence Victims

Robin Little’s 8-month old baby grew up without his mother.

She was a teenager in a small town outside Pittsburgh, PA, whose nude body was found in a vacant lot near her apartment. The nineteen year old was raped and fatally stabbed by her husband, Wayne Mitchell, Jr.

This was about 20 years ago. I wrote an op-ed article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in which I decried her senseless death as the lack of “real protection for abused women.”

I noted that Little was killed a few hours after Mitchell was released from jail, where he was sent after being arrested for raping and assaulting Little. He was released the next morning on his own recognizance, a precursor of “no bail.” He went back and killed her.

When I read that Illinois became the first state this week to completely eliminate cash bail, I thought of Little for the first time in years. I also thought of her devastated mother and her son.

Little, who was African-American, died because of a different kind of plague.

Society did not begin to make serious efforts to protect women who were victims of domestic violence until the 1970s. Historically, it was legal because it was deemed a husband’s right. A private matter.The first domestic violence shelter was opened in Great Britain in 1971. Police routinely told abusers to take a walk around the block and cool off.

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