Does Tennessee Help Victims in Their Struggle Against Domestic Violence?

John M. Dabbs

Nearly 40% of Tennessee women, and nearly 37% of Tennessee men experience physical violence, rape, or stalking from their intimate partner during their lives. Each year, 90 Tennesseans are murdered in domestic violence related incidents. Over half involved the use of a firearm in 2020.

Law enforcement officers responded to nearly 70,000 reports of domestic violence last year. We have no way of knowing how many others have gone unreported. These calls involved:

  • 1,420 domestic violence abductions
  • 613 Forceable rapes

Nationally

One our of every three women, and one of every four men in the U.S. have experienced some form of physical violence by their partner (intimate partner). Domestic violence hotlines received over 21,000 calls in 2020 (about 15 per minute). Domestic violence accounted for 20% of all violent crimes in 2018.

Firearms and domestic violence

Firearms appear to exacerbate domestic violence. Abusers with access to firearms increases the risk of female homicides by around 1000%, and when used in severe abuse cases, the risk increases 41 times. Over half of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner (65%). The majority of the victims are female (96%).

Tennessee domestic violence and firearms laws

In Tennessee, those convicted of domestic violence are prohibited from possessing a firearm. They are required to surrender their firearms within 48 hours of conviction.

Those convicted of stalking are are also prohibited from owning and possessing firearms, as are those subject to final protective orders. Courts issuing an ex parte protective order can authorize any relief they believe is necessary to protect a survivor - to include banning the possession of firearms.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) was launched in October of 1987 as a National event. DVAM is a means to both connect and unite individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues and raising awareness on the seriousness of scope of this modern plague.

Defined

We define domestic violence as the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and other abusive behaviors, as a pattern of control by one intimate partner against the other. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, economic, and emotional/psychological abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence varies dramatically.

What has Tennessee done

The Tennessee legislature has passed several laws related to the required reporting for both child abuse and domestic violence. Healthcare practitioners and all other certified and licensed healthcare provides are encouraged to report any evidence or suspicions of domestic violence. The law was passed to allow them to provide the necessary information without divulging the patient's information (not violating patient privacy laws). Tennessee Code 36-3-621 spells out the duties, responsibilities and requirements.

Not only are medical providers encouraged to report - All licensed beauty professionals in the state are also required to take domestic violence training (just as EMS, Police, and Fire personnel are similarly required).

Domestic violence stats are alarming. In Tennessee, nearly 50% of crime is related to domestic violence. Tennessee ranks among the top ten for states were women are killed by men. Lawmakers passed the new law requiring beauticians to attend domestic violence awareness classes to help identify victims and learn of support resources and how to help.

50,000 beauty professionals licensed in the state will have the next two years to complete an approved training program (online or live). Cosmetology students must receive training to obtain licensure. - The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2022.

Signs of domestic violence

Signs covered in the beauty training, which may indicate a victim of domestic violence include:

  • Signs of physical abuse such as bald patches, bruises, and cuts
  • Sudden lifestyle changes
  • Appointments made in an irregular pattern
  • Their partner coming and staying at every appointment
  • Hesitancy to do any type of style, color, etc., change without their partner’s permission
  • Self-blame

Penalties

The penalty for those convicted of domestic violence are harsh. They often affect a person's job, ability to possess a firearm (even for hunting), and often affect a parent's child custody relationship. Every law enforcement officer and prosecutor take each accusation of domestic violence seriously. They also weight the preponderance of evidence wisely due to the significant impact it can have on the lives of those involved.

Tennessee is taking a stand, and making an effort to make reporting easier by increasing awareness and training professionals in different areas to be aware of the signs. Legislators have also taken the mandatory reporting and made the language of legislation to encourage the reporting of domestic violence, while protecting those reporting suspicions from civil lawsuits which could result from reporting. It takes both efforts to fully encourage people to step up, as they need not worry about legal repercussion when acting in good faith.

Reporting

If you are a victim, or suspect someone of being a victim of domestic violence, call the Domestic Violence Helpline: 1-800-356-6767

The Statewide Domestic Violence Helpline can provide referrals and counseling for victims of domestic violence. Counselors are available every day, around the clock. They will provide referrals, listen to you, and help you plan for your safety and that of your family.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN
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