Sunday, October 18, 2009

Balloon Hoax Reveals Abuse Reality

I am hardly surprised that the Heene family balloon incident has been found to be a hoax. For the last week, this story has made many headlines and now the two parents, Richard and Mayumi, may be facing felony charges after Falcon, the child supposedly floating away in the balloon, unintentionally revealed the scam. It also appears that the police officers working on this case are concerned for safety of Mayumi and her children: “Records show that police have responded to the house at least twice in the past year, including a possible domestic violence incident in February." (NPR News).

After seeing the Heene family on the ABC Reality television show Wife Swap, I am surprised that Richard has not already faced charges for domestic abuse. I clearly remember him having major anger management problems on the show and throwing multiple tantrums over minor problems. I also remember his wife, Mayumi, defending her husband and making excuses for him. Perhaps this explains why she still refuses to go to a safe house even after officials have recommended such action (NPR News).

Unfortunately, this sounds like the reality of many women and children who are facing domestic abuse. Many women experiencing domestic abuse are reluctant to leave their situation and find help; this puts both themselves and other members of the household at risk of experiencing ongoing abuse.

The really sad part is that police officers recognize how dangerous Richard is, thus their attempts at persuading Mayumi to leave the house with her children. However, as NPR explains, “[Police officers] have a concern, but [they] didn’t have enough that would allow [them] or child protective services to physically take the kids from that environment.”

When the only way for children to be removed from an abusive environment is to wait until there is physical evidence of it, there is something seriously wrong with our criminal justice system. Shouldn't we be working to prevent domestic abuse before it even happens?

There may be a silver lining to this familial hoax after all; with all the attention paid to the family, it is perhaps less likely that the children and/or the wife will have to experience abuse from their father and husband as both Richard and Mayumi will now be facing charges.

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