Some of our best-read stories tend to be those involving the worst of fates for some people.
That invariable trend surfaced again last week with the case of the unfortunate woman who turned up badly beaten and bruised at our local Olive Garden restaurant.
The woman’s face was so swollen, she could barely speak to place her order, court records say.
An alert and caring waiter did what so many folks don’t: He got involved. He told his manager what he saw and eventually police showed up to arrest the alleged victim’s husband, Michael Balent Jr. of Wilkes-Barre, who is due in court for a preliminary hearing Thursday on assault and other charges.
Disturbingly, there were several other stories in recent days with a similar, sad theme:
• A man allegedly beat a woman along the levee wall on South River Street early Thursday. James Robert Adams is accused of choking his alleged victim with her underwear and sexually assaulting her.
• In a story that made national headlines, former Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has come under suspicion for possibly being involved in the severe beating of his ex-girlfriend. McCoy strongly denies the accusation he was involved in planning the attack (he was in another state at the time), and the woman’s attorney said days later she is “no longer certain” McCoy orchestrated the bloody assault.
McCoy has not been charged in the case, so we don’t mention him to assign culpability but to point to another instance of extreme violence against a woman.
In 1994, the federal government recognized the need to stem such assaults and did so through something called the Violence Against Women Act.
Perhaps most importantly, that piece of legislation put a spotlight on rape, abuse, stalking and other crimes and pushed the criminal justice system and the public to prioritize such cases.
Interestingly, on the heels of the Me Too movement that blew up over the last year, the Violence Against Women Act is due to be reauthorized by Congress before it expires in September.
That reauthorization does not seem to be in doubt, but it’s still unclear if the funding allocation for the Office on Violence Against Women will total anywhere near the $492 million approved for 2018.
That’s a real problem.
At a time when when society has been shining a light upon and trying to take the first steps to correct the many wrongs of decades past, the federal government has to keep the momentum going by sending a strong message that it supports VAWA and the many good things it does. Those include grants for rape prevention programs, domestic violence hotlines, women’s shelters and special training for law enforcement.
VAWA “has changed the landscape for victims who once suffered in silence. … A new generation of families and justice system professionals has come to understand that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are crimes that our society will not tolerate,” says the website for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
In other words, without such emphasis on crimes against women, fewer people would feel compelled to get involved like the Olive Garden waiter did last week and victims’ suffering would continue.
Humans are still evolving, and it’s our hope we all evolve one day to the point where violence is unthinkable and some men drop the mind-set of women somehow being their personal property.
Until then, we have to be firm and consistent about certain behavior being unacceptable in any instance.
— Times Leader