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Therapist Self-Care Compassion Fatigue & Secondary Traumatic Stress
Domestic Violence continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 6
Social Justice Attitudes Among Therapists

CEU Question 6 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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In the last track we discussed three traps that you may get into when dealing with your own mistake of arrogance. To review, these three traps are: Imposing My Own Reality and Values, Assuming the Dominant Role, and Disempowering.

This track will discuss law enforcement issues regarding domestic violence by looking at two landmark cases regarding battered women's rights for protection. As I cite the two landmark cases of Tracey Thurman and Nancy Watson, think about your local law enforcement and justice system and where these systems stand regarding domestic-violence-calls and protection. In your next session, perhaps this will allow you to deal with some of your feelings of possible inadequacy if the battered woman you are treating is having difficulties freeing herself from her abusive partner because of the legal system.

As you listen to this track, don't look for any answers or remedies for battered women. Rather, this track will be a presentation of some facts for you to consider and provide food for thought.

Struggle with the Justice System - Tracey Thurman's Case
Have you found, like I, that a battered woman's struggle is not only with her batterer, but is also with the very justice system that she should be depending on for protection? Just as law enforcement has often not held batterers to account, many courts have chosen not to hold the police accountable for their refusal to protect battered women. As you know, battered women have tried suing police departments for violations of their constitutional rights. But it seems the more battered women press for laws against domestic assault, the more they are turned down.

As you may know, Tracey Thurman's case is an exception to the legal system's ambivalence toward domestic assault. In 1984 Tracey Thurman sued the City of Torrington, Connecticut, and 24 of its police officers for their failure to arrest her violent and estranged husband, Charles "Buck" Thurman. According to the suit, Charles had repeatedly assaulted and threatened to kill Tracey. The final incident took place on June 10, 1983, when Charles stabbed Tracey in the chest, neck, and throat with a knife 10 minutes after she had called police. According to the suit, one police officer arrived at the scene 25 minutes after the call was made, and that officer did nothing to stop Charles from kicking Tracey in the head.

In her legal suit, Tracey Thurman claimed a violation of her constitutional rights, as set forth in various constitutional amendments, but mainly the Fourteenth. As you may know, the Fourteenth Amendment states, in part, "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The Outcome
Tracey Thurman alleged that by following a policy of not arresting abusive husbands or boyfriends, Torrington police failed to provide the same protection for abused wives and children as they provided for victims of similar assaults outside a domestic relationship. In a landmark decision the court agreed, ruling that officers could indeed be held accountable for violating the rights of battered women. The court awarded Tracey Thurman $2.3 million in compensatory damages. Quickly following this court decision, Connecticut adopted a more comprehensive domestic violence law. In the twelve months after the new law took effect, the number of domestic violence assaults reported increased by 92 percent.

Discrimination Against Women - Nancy Watson's Case
As you may know, however, since Tracey Thurman's landmark case, many courts have taken a different view and have ruled against battered women. For example, when Nancy Watson sued Kansas City, her abusive husband, Ed Watson, was already dead by his own hand. After Ed had forced his way into Nancy's home in January of 1984 and raped, beat, and stabbed her, she escaped through a picture window. Ed Watson, a police officer himself, fled and then killed himself.

Nancy Watson filed a suit claiming, as Tracey Thurman had, that the police had violated domestic-violence victims' rights to equal protection. In her 1983 lawsuit, Nancy used Kansas City police records to point out that 31 percent of the perpetrators in non-domestic assaults were arrested. But, in domestic assaults, only 16 percent were arrested. In addition, Nancy said, this trend discriminated against women, since women constitute up to 95 percent of the victims of domestic assault.

The district court ruled in favor... of the city and police on every score, but an appeals court reversed part of the decision. The appeals court said Watson could proceed with her claim because she had enough evidence to show that the police policy on non-arrest in domestic assault cases resulted in her being treated "differently." But, the court continued, Watson "had failed to present any evidence…that a policy which discriminates against victims of domestic violence adversely affects women." Even if Watson could prove that, the court said, she also would have to prove that the police purposefully adopted the policy to discriminate against women.

As you know, the law has created even more obstacles for battered women seeking their constitutional rights since Nancy Watson's case. And by the time a movie of Tracey Thurman's story reached the television screen in 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court had once and for all snatched the legal rug from under battered women with a landmark ruling in a child-abuse case. This child abuse case, Joshua DeShaney, (da-shan-nee) was based on due process, not equal protection, as Tracey Thurman's has been. But, in later cases the DeShaney decision would be used to block the claims of battered women brought under either provision, due process or equal protection, of the Fourteenth Amendment.

How does this information... regarding these two landmark cases of Tracey Thurman and Nancy Watson affect your burn-out concerning your experiences with law enforcement? As you know, local communities vary wildly from very supportive to very unsupportive law enforcement and court systems, and from individual to individual. How does the incredible difficulties battered women may face not only from their batterer, but also from the law affect you today concerning stress and burn-out? You might consider playing tracks 1, 2, and 3 of this CD, which contain specific self-care techniques to alleviate therapist burn-out.

In the next track we will discuss strategies for ensuring a therapist's physical safety when working with a battering client

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Ceballos, P. L., Parikh, S., & Post, P. B. (2012). Examining social justice attitudes among play therapists: Implications for multicultural supervision and training. International Journal of Play Therapy, 21(4), 232–243.

Comas-Diaz, L. (2012). Psychotherapy as a healing practice, scientific endeavor, and social justice action. Psychotherapy, 49(4), 473–474.

Hoover, S. M. (2016). A critical feminist phenomenological study of social justice identity among professional psychologists and trainees from a feminist multicultural practicum. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 47(6), 383–390. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 6
What does the Fourteenth Amendment state that the landmark cases of Tracey Thurman and Nancy Watson used to substantiate their case? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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