The 22-year-old son of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was arrested on Feb. 12 when Pasadena police responded to a domestic assault call. The young man is accused of punching and kicking his 20-year-old girlfriend, leaving a visible bruise on her arm but no injuries requiring hospitalization. According to news reports, the girlfriend, who was 2011’s Playmate of the Year, called her parents during the incident, and they in turn called the police.

The younger Hefner has now been charged with one count of misdemeanor domestic violence. He was released from jail early Monday morning on $20,000 bail. There are no previous formal reports of domestic abuse involving Hefner or the couple, although the young woman has alleged that he has hit her before.

A relatively common occurrence in domestic and family violence cases is the alleged victim deciding that he or she would prefer not to press charges, and that appears to be the case here. The young woman has said that she would prefer Hefner to obtain psychological or anger management help. She has told several news outlets that she would drop the charges if Hefner were willing to make a public admission and apologize.

Unfortunately, the young woman’s preferences will likely not be honored. In most cases, prosecutors do not drop domestic violence charges because the alleged victim seeks to withdraw the complaint. If there is independent evidence, the case will go forward.

California, like most states, allows prosecutors to bring domestic violence charges with or without the alleged victim’s consent. Furthermore, many prosecutors’ offices have firm policies against dropping domestic abuse charges due to the alleged victim’s change of heart, because some people who actually are being victimized may be pressured by their abusers to withdraw the complaint.

In this case, we have a young woman who never asked for police assistance in the first place, and who has openly offered to drop her complaint if Hefner apologizes and gets help.

That will not make any difference. In domestic violence cases, it doesn’t matter if a member of the couple called the police or a nosy neighbor did. It doesn’t make a difference if police intervention and prosecution are objectively the most effective way to resolve the situation. Once the police are involved, all of the decisions are out of the couple’s hands.

No one could or should argue that violence is acceptable in relationships. It’s essential for victims of violence be supported by our society and by law enforcement. That said, every situation is different, and it is frustrating to know that our justice system allows very little deviation from a standard, somewhat harsh response.

Hefner is scheduled for his first court appearance on the domestic violence charges on March 14.

Source: Pasadena Star-News, “Marston Hefner, son of Hugh Hefner due in court on domestic abuse charge,” Brian Charles, Feb. 14, 2012