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| Chapter 8 Demographics Of Domestic Violence In Colorado |
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No marriage, no divorce
The death of marriage
Population-normalized divorce data for each year are compiled for comparison in Table 76. Implicit in these tabulations is the assumption that the percentage of married couples is reasonably uniform in all judicial districts in Colorado.
With twelve years of data now available (Table 76) it is clear that the average number of divorces per 10,000 residents has been generally trending downward, with the exception of a spike in 2006 while the total number of divorces generally is in the range of 25,500-27,600. However, since 1999 the state population has increased from 4,056,133 to 5,029,196, a 24% increase. A proportionate increase of number of divorces would suggest roughly 32,000 divorces in 2010, which didn't happen.
Taken by itself that might suggest that fewer married couples are divorcing. But in Table 77 I note that the percentage of married couples arrested for domestic violence declined from 40% of the total in 1999 to just 29% in 2010, an 11% decline. There was also a 3% decline in the number of couples cohabitating during these eleven years who were arrested for domestic violence in Colorado. Since there are no data that indicates married couples argue and fight any less now than a decade ago, there is a strong suggestion that the number of married couples in Colorado has sharply declined over the past decade. And nationally the marriage rate dropped from 9.8 per 1,000 in 1990 to just 5.4 per 1,000 in 2008. Clearly fewer people are getting married.
Also of note is the much smaller standard deviation (S.D. 7-9) between judicial districts for divorces than for protection orders (S.D. 23-37). The small standard deviation indicates couples get divorced at a fairly uniform rate throughout the state and the court statistics are adequately sampling this variable. Filing for divorce or separation is an individual decision and thus serves, in a sense, as a check on court statistics.
As might be expected, some judicial districts with a large number of restraining orders, e.g. Third, Fourth, Ninth, Twelfth, and Sixteenth (Table 62), have relatively high divorce rates. Other districts, e.g., the Tenth (Table 62), has a high rate of restraining orders but average divorce rates.
With its jump in restraining orders since 2006 (Table 64), by 2008 the Twenty Second Judicial District was the leading judicial district in the state in per capita divorces with 72 per 10,000 residents (Table 76) in 2008. However, it fell back to second behind the Third in 2009, but it is still not a welcome haven for children, men, and women.
While some correlation is evident, available data suggest that the issuance of restraining orders is not the primary factor driving divorces, nor are divorces solely driving the issuance of restraining orders.
While protection orders and domestic violence complaints cannot be shown to be driving divorces, or vice versa, abundant anecdotal evidence shows that the use of such orders is a major and commonplace weapon to gain advantage in a divorce, particularly in custody disputes. It is reliably estimated that one-fourth to one-third of divorces in Colorado involve allegations of domestic violence or abuse primarily to gain advantage, or as a weapon of vengeance or revenge. An estimated 8,000 to 11,000 of the domestic abuse and violence filings in 2009 thus involved divorce disputes. Note that estimate is closely aligned with the estimates of false allegations determined previously.
Further, by 2010 the dominant use of domestic violence laws, originally passed under the banner of protecting battered wives, is in boyfriend/girlfriend situations. Of 12,922 domestic violence incidents reported to police in 2010, 7,634 (59%) were logged as boyfriend/girlfriend. Instead of protecting wives, domestic violence laws are now apparently used as a principal weapon in the courtship war between the sexes. And filing false allegations of domestic violence or the more popular approach of getting a protection order is virtually certain to end any relationship. Couples who once fought, then kissed and made up, and often went on to marriage, happy or otherwise, now have their affair sabotaged by Big Sister who encourages them to call police or get a restraining order.
One reason for a lack of direct correlation between domestic violence, restraining (protection) orders, and divorce is that the majority of the men and women involved in these incidents simply aren't married, as noted above. That fact is vividly illustrated in Table 77.
The current statewide domestic violence laws were passed in 1994 and in 1995 half of the domestic violence incidents reported involved either married couples or partners living together (Table 77). The sixteen years since then have seen a dramatic drop and by 2010 only 35% of the reported incidents involved married or common-law couples. Initially 41-42% of reported incidents originated from married couples but by 2010 only 29% of the incidents involved married couples (Table 77).
There are at least two possible explanations for why the percentage of DV incident reports for married couples has dropped 12-13% in the fifteen years since the statewide domestic violence laws have been in effect:
Hypothesis One: Couples have learned, at their peril, that it is a very bad idea to call 911 in any domestic dispute. This hypothesis is supported by the police data presented in Table 74. However, if that were the entire reason, why haven't incident reports from common-law relationships dropped a similar amount? Table 77 shows the percentage of cohabitating couples bouncing irregularly up and down between 6% and 10% between 1995 and 2010 rather than the consistent, steady decrease shown for married couples. As noted below, domestic violence has long been reported as “shack up” violence, which certainly isn't supported by the data in Table 77.
Hypothesis Two: The percentage of married couples in the Colorado population has declined by 12-13% since the domestic violence laws were passed and that is reflected in the percentage of DV incidents reported in Table 77. That inference is strongly supported by the available data illustrated in Table 78. Although currently marriage data for Colorado are only available through 2004 this hypothesis clearly links passage of the domestic violence laws in 1994 to the dramatic decline in marriages since then.
John Maguire has pointed out that: “Although the words 'domestic' violence are commonly used, some commentators say that a better description would be 'shack-up' violence...” But that isn't borne out by the available data. From 1995 to 2010 Table 77 shows essentially random variation in the percentage of incidents involving common-law marriages and the percentage of all incidents for such couples is consistently 6-10%.
One might also infer that, since the percentage of DV incidents reported by common-law couples has remained relatively constant, the total number of common-law couples has also remained relatively constant. I don't have supporting data for that conclusion, however.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been tracking marriage rates since 1950. For most of the fifty-plus years between 1950 and 2004, the marriage rate has averaged around 100 per 10,000 citizens per year, with a low in 1956 of 81 and a high of 125 in 1981. But since 1994 the marriage rate has been declining fairly consistently (Table 78) and, by 2004, stood at a historic low of 77 per 10,000 citizens. As noted before, by 2008 nationally the marriage rate had declined to just 54 per 10,000.
Also it is quite evident from Table 78 that as the number of marriages declined so did the number of divorces. One expects marriage and divorce to be coupled variables.
It is unlikely to be simply a coincidence that statewide domestic violence laws were passed in 1994. However, as noted above (Table 76), it has been evident since archival data became available from the Colorado courts that there was no direct relationship between domestic violence cases and divorce rates.
In strong contrast with the decline in marriages and divorces is the increase in restraining orders evident in Table 78. An inverse relationship between marriages and restraining orders is plainly evident in Table 78 through 2004. Clearly, the implication is that as charges of domestic violence and abuse increase the number of marriages declines. That finding agrees with common sense and the data in Table 77.
Marriages are built on trust and a restraining order or domestic violence accusation destroys any and all trust in one's partner. Available data link passage of the statewide DV laws in 1994 with a 12-13% overall decline in the number of married coupes in Colorado since then. It is expected the decline in marriages is much larger among the younger population, particularly since dialing 911 appears to have become the weapon of choice in boyfriend/girlfriend disputes.
An inverse relationship between restraining orders and divorce begs for explanation but data for several more years is required to establish any clear trend. At present it appears that divorce is most strongly coupled with the number of marriages. Naturally, the fewer marriages the fewer divorces, and that relationship is plain in Table 78.
There are, of course, many other factors contributing to the decline of marriage in today's society, e.g., the easy availability of sex without getting married. Women also blame men, as usual, for having a fear of commitment. But it is a rare man today who has not been caught up in the nightmare of a divorce, allegations of domestic violence, a restraining order, or faced charges of sexual harassment; or at least has a close friend, co-worker, parent, sibling, or other relative who has been through the horror of our present legal system.
If unsupported allegations of domestic violence and abuse can be freely made in divorce and custody disputes with the law strongly favoring the female, then a man has to be functionally insane to marry and a drooling idiot to sire a child.
By not marrying and using modern birth control methods, our best and brightest largely avoid the nightmares our family laws and courts have become. As a result, marriage laws have become a breeding experiment in stupidity.
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