Domestic violence: The media's irresponsibility

Psst. Has anyone spotted the "custody revolution" lately? You know, that side-effect of the women's movement that was going to give men a more meaningful role in parenting their children?

Look up and down the halls of Family Court and it's nowhere to be found.

Few deny that stereotypes favoring mother custody still prevail in divorce court, but as those have gradually broken down they've been replaced by something even worse: a proliferation of "domestic abuse" allegations. Short-circuiting normal divorce law, a woman's claim of domestic abuse virtually ensures that a father will lose any possibility of real parental rights.

Safety of women trumps due process

Our legislatures and courts have gone to extremes to guarantee the safety of women against what is thought to be an "epidemic" of domestic violence. For example, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 209A allows for the suspension of liberty, the loss of home and property and contact with one's own children under penalty of two and a half years in jail, based solely on a woman's claim that she is "in fear" of physical harm. It mandates warrantless arrests-on-sight, in direct contradiction of the search and seizure provisions of the Bill of Rights.

Forced to justify 209A, politicians claim it is OK to circumvent your civil rights when there is a compelling state interest. This kind of reasoning should always raise an eyebrow. But the question deserves an answer. Is there really an epidemic of domestic violence against women? The answer lies in how we define it, and how the media contributes to public perception.

'Abuse' bestows victim status and benefits

Battered Women's Resources Inc. name the following as examples of "abusive and controlling" behaviors: Interrupting, changing topics, not listening, not responding, twisting "her" words; Claiming the truth, using logic; Emotional withholding; Not responding to others' needs. Such lists read with a certain mounting hilarity, but don't laugh. This nonsense loses it humor quickly in the courtroom when your children are at stake, and you are being accused of fitting a "batterers profile."

These examples of "abusive behavior" are used to convince women that they are "abused," and so obtaining "their" restraining order is not only justified, but necessary. Of course, with definitions this broad, any man's (or woman's!) behavior can, at some point, be construed as "abusive." But that's the whole point: The looser the definition, the bigger the problem.

 

Battered Women's Resources Inc. name the following as examples of "abusive and controlling" behaviors: Interrupting, changing topics, not listening, not responding, twisting her words; Claiming the truth, using logic; Emotional withholding; Not responding to others' needs. Such lists read with a certain mounting hilarity, but don't laugh. This nonsense loses it humor quickly in the courtroom when your children are at stake, and you are being accused of fitting a "batterers profile.".

 

 

Media trumpets 'abuse epidemic'

The media plays a large role in the creation of the "epidemic" of violence against women. Claims by women's groups, no matter how wild or inflammatory are accepted and published without confirmation or question, and seldom-if ever-with a counter viewpoint from men/fathers advocates. News reporters and editorial writers typically parrot classic myths that have been widely circulated by domestic violence advocates such as:

This is a misrepresentation on two fronts. It obfuscates the true dimension by including minor assaults (threatening, pushing, etc.) with actual battery (striking, and worse). But more disingenuously, it fails to acknowledge that the same studies used to derive these numbers also show that men are battered at the same rate. The scientific studies on domestic violence done by Murray Straus, Richard Gelles, and Suzanne Steinmetz found in all their surveys and analysis, repeated over time and examined from every perspective, that there are at least as many incidences of female battery on males as vice-versa.

Earlier this year, Dr. Richard Gelles, speaking at a meeting of the Fatherhood Coalition in Charlestown, dispelled this number as a "factoid." Their most comprehensive survey estimated that 1.8 million women are victims of severe violence each year compared with 2.1 million males. They also found that the rate of male-on-female violence was decreasing while that of female-on-male violence is increasing.

Because of the high degree of politicization of domestic violence, and the bullying tactics of the victim-feminists who wield enormous clout in government and academia where such studies are funded, it is unlikely that another scientific and unbiased study will be done anytime in the foreseeable future.

This second "factoid" is a far more egregious assault on the truth. The recent Bureau of Justice study ("Violence-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments," August '97) indicates that 0.3%-not 33%-of all women's visits to emergency rooms are attributed to domestic violence. Domestic violence injuries accounts for 1.5% of all visits to emergency rooms. This lie then inflates the true scope of domestic violence-related ER visits by women by 100 times!

Women empowered to abuse

The other statistics commonly used are drawn from sources where input from abused men is either ignored, ridiculed, or-even worse-counted as an act of abuse by them against their female assailant. Restraining orders requested by men are seldom granted, but when they are, the police often don't even bother to serve them. A Fall River man reported to the police when his ex-wife, who has a restraining order out on him, was stalking him. The incident got reported in the police log as a violation of her 209A order on him, and no police report was filed!

It has gotten so bad that any adversarial act taken by a man against a woman is labeled as "battery." Men accused of abuse are routinely ordered into Orwellian "batterers intervention" programs where they are told that taking legal action in their cases is further proof of their abusive and controlling behavior. Such men cannot even defend themselves in court. So much for due process of law and equal protection.

Abused men remain silent for different reasons

It has been said that men often don't report being battered in the home for the same reasons as women, but this is not so. If a battered father applies cold logic to all the possible repercussions of his seeking help, he arrives at one inescapable conclusion: he will probably lose his children. This point was viscerally brought home in a segment of the television show 20-20 on battered men that aired in September 1997. A group of battered husbands were all asked how many of them had custody of their children. Not a one answered Yes. And when asked how many fought for custody, all answered Yes.

It took a long time before wife-beating was properly acknowledged by the legal system. Today, despite the unpleasantness of the news, we have to face the truth about domestic violence. As women now demand equality in all aspects of life, they must also accept equality of accountability and responsibility.

 

It has been said that men often don't report being battered in the home for the same reasons as women, but this is not so.

... A group of battered husbands were all asked how many of them had custody of their children. Not a one answered Yes. And when asked how many fought for custody, all answered Yes.

 

 

Criminal liability double-standards

One area where women are held to a different standard of accountability is criminal prosecutions for spousal murder. Another Bureau of Justice study examined criminal dispositions of spouse murderers ("Spouse murder defendants in large urban counties," 1995). [The earlier study on the subject found that women account for 41% of all spousal murders.] In every category women were treated more favorably than men, in many cases with large disparities that defy explanation. Among the findings:

The report blandly states "No explanation for why State prison sentences were, on average, 10 years shorter for wife defendants than husband defendants."

Conscientious newspaper editors should not be propagating feminist factoids that misrepresent the truth so consistently and persistently. Instead, they should be asking serious questions, such as: Why are feminists deliberately exaggerating domestic violence against women, and why won't they acknowledge the domestic violence committed by women?

The Fatherhood Coalition recognizes that domestic violence perpetrated against women is a very real problem. We don't wish to see laws changed so that batterers can continue to batter their spouses. We do, however, insist on an end to the double-standards that unfairly victimize men, the effect of which falls heavily on their children. And we insist on a return to due process of law and equal protection in family law. To this end, we support the 209A Reform legislation currently languishing in the Senate Judiciary Committee (S1891), and we challenge the news media to report on domestic violence as it does on other controversial issues: with fairness.

 

News and Commentary from the New Guard of the Father's Rights Movement

Volume 1, Issue 4
January, 1998

PO Box 1146 Leominster, MA 01453
www.ziplink.net/~brontis/FFhome

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