The Danger of Staying Home

I can’t speak for other criminal defense attorneys but judging by the calls I’m getting it appears that the stress of home confinement has caused an increase in family violence. Some of it is simple bickering, some is outright hostility and unfortunately, some of the calls I get describe criminal activity. 

I have received phone calls from wives who need help from their assaultive husbands. Calls from husbands and boyfriends whose significant other has just called the police and calls from those who have been charged with the offense of assault. The story has been familiar. The couple, normally in a peaceful partnership, have found themselves at each other’s throats since Harris and Fort Bend counties shut down. 

There is a danger in leaving a residence in a time when a novel virus circulates in the community. Danger is everywhere, though. Most families are not used to being locked in an apartment together. This combined with the added financial stress of job loss and reduced medical insurance can have a deleterious effect on an already frayed relationship.

I have a different view than prosecutors when it comes to family violence. I look at the holistic nature of the family and don’t presume that one act of violence defines the entire relationship. A family shares a partnership in financial matters and child rearing. The family has a vested interest in continuing this partnership. It also usually has the strength to work past a sordid chapter, much like the long-term marriage that works through infidelities. 

It does not necessarily benefit a wife who has reported an assault to force her husband from the home. It doesn’t benefit her or the children for her husband to lose his job. Often times what is needed is forgiveness and healing. Of course, this may require the accused accept responsibility for his mistake, but the family cannot heal when the only recourse offered by the State is to strap the accuser with a criminal record.

We are in a new world and it’s not likely to be normal any time soon. I worry that continued confinement and financial devastation will cause far greater damage to our community than Covid-19 could. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Our leaders need to broaden their analysis of this crisis and consider the collateral damage that comes with shutting down our cities.