October 22, 2014
By: Nicole Michelle Arroyo Díaz
Professor Luisa Seijo, Dr. Luis Nieves and attorney Vanessa Díaz, held a press conference on October 15, 2014 at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. To discuss domestic violence and the Law 54.
Panelists listed and described different types of domestic violence, including abuse in same sex couples. The effectiveness of Law 54 and its extent and protection for the victims of domestic violence were discussed as well.
Law Against Domestic Violence
Vanessa Díaz, attorney at law, described domestic violence as a pattern of behavior from one person against another in a domestic context that harms the victim. This behavior can be summarized as any action of physical, verbal, emotional or even economical.
Law 54, approved in 1989,stipulates how the courts should proceed when faced with domestic violence. Cases recently it has been amended to include protections for same sex couples as well.
Increased Statistics Reported
According to Professor Seijo, 90 percent of victims in her program, Siempre vivas, are women. This does not mean that men are exempt from this type of abuse.
Dr. Nieves recalled in his experience, violence between homosexual partners is the result of an argument that escalates to violence. They do not conceptualize it as domestic abuse.
As attorney Díaz said, “machismo” in this society prevents men in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships to accept or acknowledge this abuse.
Children Are Taught the Biases
Professor Seijo explained that children are taught by their parents, teachers and families. Children in our society are encouraged to be violent against other children, adults and even animals.
She stated that boys are given toys that are used for violence, such as guns and swords, and are expected to play in groups. On the other hand, girls are taught to play by themselves with dolls and toy kitchen appliances. This is also mentioned in the research paper by Brenda Brewer, Children Growing Up with Biases.
The paper also shows the way kids express and behave in a playground shows a lot about their personality and their upbringing. If violence is encouraged by the children’s role models, most likely they will tend to be or definitely be more aggressive.
Differences in Domestic Violence Between Heterosexual and Homosexual Relationships
There are many similarities between heterosexual and homosexual relationships when talking about domestic violence. Dr. Nieves indicated that male victims in a homosexual relationship have a tendency to be perpetrators in a new relationship. Female victims in heterosexual or homosexual relationships tend to avoid violent relationships in the future.
Steps to Getting a Protection Order
There are many situations when a person can be advised to file a petition for a protection order, said attorney Díaz. This protection order is provided by the civil court and by the Law 54 against domestic violence.
Although there are different cases the steps are much similar, she explained. The first step is going to civil court and explaining the judge the need for the protection order. The next step is the judge evaluating the situation. After the evaluation is completed the judge can grant the order or summon the aggressor. The order will be granted for five or six days until the hearing. During the hearing the judge hears both sides, evaluates any evidence submitted and decides whether remove or extend the protection order.
Protective Measures for Victims
As part of the protection order, the judge can take the aggressor away from the home. The judge can even order a relocation of the aggressor if he or she understands the victim is still at risk, as explained by attorney, Vanessa Díaz.
She also clarified that if the couple has children, the custody agreement may be changed temporarily or permanently to protect the victim as well as the children.
Domestic Violence Victims in University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM)
Professor Luisa Seijo, director of the program “Siempre Vivas,” explained that the process of being identified as domestic violence victim can be very dramatic for the victim. As part of the difficult process the victims are given counseling and a safe home for relocation. In the UPRM there is a protocol to deal with domestic violence cases. It starts reporting the incident and going to ‘Siempre Vivas,” where they receive counseling and the changes needed to guarantee the safety of the victim.
Panelists’ suggestions for the improvement of 54 Law
All three panelists agreed that the law still has its limitations and could use some improvements to prevent and minimize the domestic violence cases.
Attorney Vanessa Díaz proposed that people should be educated. She acknowledges that the law has been amended to improve its effectiveness. However, she understands the citizens need to know what the law provides for them.
Dr. Nieves agreed with Díaz and also recommended to improve the identification of the victim and the aggressor, especially in same sex couples. He also stated that domestic violence is a cycle and that has the power to put a stop to it is the victim and not the perpetrator.