It was a murder so brutal – and one that continues to haunt law enforcement in the quiet community of Osceola County, Florida.
For those like Gibson, who are tasked with safeguarding the most vulnerable in the community, it has raised the question as to what more the justice system should and could be doing to support victims of domestic violence.
Namely, why there has been little headway made to establish a national registry for those convicted of domestic violence crimes – similar to the SORNA registry, which has three tiers publicly listing sex offenders.
“In the year 2019, why don’t we have this in place? We must change that,” Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson told Fox News. “I can’t see any cons in regards to a registry. Information is powerful. If you armed with information that this person has been convicted of domestic violence, you can stay away from that. Being aware of a persons’ violent or abusive background can absolutely save your life.”
The bill that Hottinger and her team are proposing to lawmakers’ centers on three levels. Level one would be attributed to those deemed a first-time offender, and removed after five years. The second level is for offenders convicted of a violent crime or a second offense and would remain on the registry for at least a decade. And the third level is for those convicted three times, and twice or more in five years. Their names would remain on the registry for life.
Indeed, the quest for such a registry is considered by many industry experts to be more of a hindrance than a help.
“The issue comes up nearly every legislative session. Well-meaning legislators and constituents around the country propose creating a state or national registry that lists domestic violence offenders,” said Corbin Streett, a technology safety specialist with the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “But there are many unintended consequences that would actually end up harming survivors and giving a false sense of security to potential victims who look at the registry, thinking it will help them avoid getting into a relationship with an abuser.”
Streett pointed out that only a small number of domestic violence offenders are ever arrested, and many victims simply don’t call for help because they are scared of retaliation. Even if they do, such a small number is subsequently convicted.
“We are also concerned about the impact a registry will have on victims reporting violence. Victims are already hesitant to report domestic violence, worried about the violent retaliation that will come after. If the abuser knows their name will be posted on a registry, it doesn’t make them less likely to abuse; it makes them more likely to try to scare a victim into not reporting,” she continued. “There are also major privacy implications, including potential discrimination against victims that can occur with a registry. When an abuser’s name ends up on a list, it’s not just the abuser who will be outed, but their victims as well.”