In North Carolina, Domestic Abusers Get A Taste Of Public Humiliation

Instead of jail time, some domestic abusers are being ordered to stand in public holding signs that read "This is the face of domestic violence."

In North Carolina, a judge did what many of us only dreamed of one day seeing.

Instead of ruling that those who plead guilty to domestic violence must simply pay a fine or spend a few days in jail and get on with their affairs, District Court Judge Mark Cummings ordered the men to carry signs outside of Guilford County's courthouse that read: "This is the face of domestic violence."

The act is meant as public humiliation, which could be more effective in making sure these men never strike again.

“My friends now think I beat on women,” Josh Hill told reporters. "And I don't."

He pleaded guilty to assault on a woman last week along with Melvin Southerland, who joined Hill outside of the courthouse.

“It's pure hell, that's what it's like,” Southerland said. “It's hell, it's embarrassment.”

At least three men were sentenced to public humiliation, but to Southerland, the punishment doesn't work.

“It's a punishment, but it's not very effective,” he concluded, adding that he thinks “the court system should be set up as a form of punishment and a form of re-educating an individual.”

“I don't see much [re-education] in being made to walk around and carry a sign," he stated.

Southerland was sentenced to carry the sign for three days, whereas Hill was ordered to hold his sign in front of the courthouse for seven days.

According to Hill, he has received threats online ever since he started standing outside with the sign. But to him, it was an easy choice as he could have spent 150 days in jail instead — both he and Southerland preferred to be publicly humiliated.

“[The judge] said I could do 15 days in jail or stand out here,” Southerland explained. “So I choose to come out here.”

To many advocates against domestic violence, the fact that these men are stepping outside and being publicly shamed for what they did could help people start talking about the problem.

"Domestic violence thrives in secrecy and in the dark so this has people talking," said Shay Harger, director of Victim Services at Family Services of the Piedmont, an organization that offers a 26-week program for people who have been convicted of assault.

But simply standing outside with a sign isn't enough.

"We need to make sure we are getting [them] proper treatment for behavioral change," Harger added.

It's good seeing a judge take a step toward making sure that this problem is being brought to light, and we're glad this is prompting people to discuss it more widely. Domestic abuse is a serious problem, and yet, only over half of cases are reported to the authorities — time to change that.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jamal Saidi

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