Domestic violence charge against Arlington police official sheds light on crucial issue

It is a sad irony that hours before he was arrested early Sunday on a charge of assaulting his wife, Arlington Assistant Police Chief James Hawthorne participated in an event to raise awareness and money to fight domestic violence.

A 28-year veteran of the department and for a long time the face of the Arlington police force through his community activities, Hawthorne has inadvertently drawn more attention to an issue that has plagued families and society for generations.

The assistant chief is presumed innocent, of course.

He has been charged with assault with bodily injury to a family member, released from jail on $1,500 bail and placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues.

Without dwelling on his case, his arrest serves as a reminder that domestic violence continues to be a serious problem, one that affects people of all racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as all educational levels.

About 1 in 4 women (24.3 percent) has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010, a product of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that 35.6 percent of women in the United States “have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime,” and about half (48.4 percent) have been the subject of psychological aggression.

Through various governmental and community agencies over several years, much progress has been made in educating people and combating the problem.

The Tarrant County district attorney’s office and the Commissioners Court in 1997 created a misdemeanor court dedicated exclusively to family violence cases.

The district attorney’s website points out that more than 20 years ago the office implemented a “no drop” policy in domestic violence cases because “Sadly, many victims request dismissal of a case due to emotional dependency or financial ties to the offender.”

Along with a pretrial diversion program for certain first-time offenders, strong efforts are made to put strict conditions on those receiving probation, including parenting classes, anger control counseling, alcohol and drug treatment, and completion of a Batterers Intervention Program.

Victims can and should take advantage of available community resources. For help, contact SafeHaven of Tarrant County (www.safehaventc.org) or The Women’s Center (www.womenscentertc.org).

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