Divorced Father Begins 6-month Sentence for Refusing to Sign Confession
Fathers' rights advocates say Stewart's case highlights abuses
QUINCY, August 18, 1999--After two years of hearings, continuances, and courthouse
protests, Harry Stewart was shackled and taken to the Dedham House of Correction to begin
serving his six-month jail sentence last month.
Stewart had been sentenced to two-year's probation and a suspended six-month sentence pending completion of a batterer's program. He was later denied entry into the program run by a private company because he refused to sign an admission document that required him to admit to acts of violence. Stewart has never been violent, and his several counts of restraining order violations are all of the no-contact provision, such as exiting his car.
In Stewart's first appearance last month before Judge Mark Coven, of Quincy District Court, he explained why he was refused admission to the program, and stated his objections of conscience. Judge Coven then referred Stewart to another program, with instructions to return back later in the day. Stewart discovered that all the state's batterer's programs have the same requirement of guilt admission, and he was unable to persuade the program to allow him to enroll without admitting to crimes he never committed.
Judge Coven banged the gavel of finality around 3 p.m. August 17 at Stewart's third and final appearance before him that day. Stewart was tried and convicted on June 21 of violating a 209A abuse protection (restraining order) in 1997 when he left his car to assist his 5-year-old son return to his mother's home. The conditions of the 209A order required him to remain in his car at visitation pickup/drop-offs. Stewart's son was unable to open the apartment complex outside door, and after futile attempts to get his ex-wife's attention by honking his car horn, Stewart got out of his car to help his son get in the home.
Stewart gave an emotional speech to the court, closing with "God save the children," which was greeted by applause by his many supporters from the Fatherhood Coalition present in the courtroom. Judge Coven immediately ordered the supporters out of the courtroom. When the sentence was pronounced, several battered women's advocates and women from the district attorney's office showed their approval by clapping. They were not ordered out of the courtroom.
The state's so-called "batterer's intervention programs" have a poor success
rate, probably due to the fact that many of their clients are innocent men like Harry who
attend as a condition for avoiding jail.
The programs subscribe to an orthodox, victim-feminist interpretation of gender relations: abuse and control of women is inherent in the construct of masculinity; men who refuse to admit to their gender crimes are "in denial"; and the "theory of escalating violence." This theory holds that if a man is "abusive" (as defined by domestic violence "experts" such as EMERGE's David Adams) to any degree, he will eventually kill his wife/girlfriend unless there is intervention. That is, an angry husband's look with eventually result in homicide.
"Batterer's" are evaluated by psychological "batterer's profiles" developed by people from the domestic violence industry, who also provide training materials for the state's judges that includes these nuggets of wisdom:
But batterer's programs hold the threat of imprisonment over their clients by virtue of
the power to fail them, violating their conditions for probation: "State regulations
require that batterer programs terminate batterers from counseling if they have inadequate
attendance, poor attitude or participation."
For men ordered into these programs, innocence is not a possibility. Denial of guilt shows a "poor attitude," and cause for termination. In such Kafkaesque circumstances, it's no surprise when batterers eventually emerge from "denial." Many accused witches confessed in 1692 after the Court of Oyer and Terminer declared that admitted witches would no longer be executed.
Harry Stewart, man of conscience, didn't take the easy way out. He has refused to go along and add his name to the burgeoning population of "batterers."
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