12/14/09

Dear Abby, You Missed This by a Mile

Re:Lost For Words In Florida’s letter to Dear Abby from The Beacon News on November 28, 2009.

Dear Abby weighed in with a genuinely TERRIBLE answer which caused one of our staff to react:
Are you kidding? “Stop trying to have an adult conversation with an 8-year-old”???? On what planet is an 8-year-old incapable of having a rational and intelligent conversation?? Since when did being 8 automatically make you a moron??

The Original Dear Abby Q & A is as follows:
Dear Abby: My 8-year-old granddaughter has posed a question that stumped me, and I hope you can help with an answer: Why be neat and well-groomed?

She doesn't care what people think of how she looks. She sees no problem wearing clothes that are torn, etc. I am concerned that by the time she reaches adolescence she won't care how she looks when she leaves the house.

Her hair is extremely curly. It can't be combed or it gets wilder and frizzier, which adds to her unkempt appearance. Her hair may improve as she gets older if she's motivated to spend the extra time.

I am challenged by her question. How can I answer her? -- Lost For Words in Florida

Dear Lost For Words: Please stop trying to have an adult conversation with an 8-year-old. Where is this child's mother? Why is she permitted to go around in "torn, etc." clothing? It's time to talk to your son or daughter about helping their child with her grooming. The way your granddaughter looks is not only a reflection on herself, but also the adults whose responsibility it is to care for her. While she may not care how she looks, her parents should.

Children’s Advocate Roger Hyde gave the following alternative to Abby:
The Case of the Girl With Problem Hair:

Start by listening to the child, how it looks as HER problem:
*She doesn't care about others' opinions about her looks.
*She wears torn clothes, etc. without concern.
*She has "extremely curly hair" that defeats normal management.

Diagnose this with a crumb of objectivity from the child's perspective:

The things the "other kids" do to manage their appearance are not accessible to her. She has a daunting extra obstacle in the way if she wishes to keep up the median, regular standards of her group; and she has the apparent extra burden of having adults in her life who might have the resources to compensate for her inborn characteristics which might be unfashionable, but who blame the child for bad self management. We could make a case for that being child abuse.

The child is loaded with ostracism at school, etc. and blame at home. There's a recipe for optimism and healthy motivation, right? If you're an isolated, ostracized geek being proud of THAT seems like a decent and reasonable defense. I'll be ME and everyone else can be whatever they want. I'll just be me and wait until I get out of Duckville and find the swans who will embrace me as a beautiful one of them!

So what do we do to actually help the girl solve the problems? Give her good information and the resources to act on change.

It seems that the hair is a crucial issue and would be a key symbol of empowerment if she were given support to manage it. Hair is malleable in skilled hands. It can be made to do what people want. Try a couple of hairdressers, call a local beauty college: get the tools that are correct for the task. Help the child do this. We do not expect children to choose their own schools and doctors. Find competent help for the child.

The fact that the girl feels defeated is a reasonable response: she HAS BEEN DEFEATED in the task of managing the look of her hair. Once she has been given (repeat: GIVEN!) the means to cope with this, there is the matter of giving her the chance to choose to use the tools as others do. She will be motivated in a healthy way ONLY by seeing the attraction of being able to use the tools: She can Look the way SHE wants to look, when she wants. She can use the communication devices of looking casual, formal, fetching, aloof, practical,.... at her own discretion. Everyone of every age understands social power and its value. She will not neglect this if she is offered it as a choice she can make. If she is lectured about her duty to conform, the healthy thing probably is to refuse to submit to being a puppet of the adults. Let them dress themselves up if THEY want.

12/3/09

Restraining Orders - Women Are Not Lying Or Faking It

Recently Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, whose attorneys work on the front lines helping victims get restraining orders, brought to our attention an article in the Santa Monica Daily Press titled "Many men should ask for help sooner"" by David Pisarra.

The article made us sick to our stomach by giving a blatant and misleading depiction of restraining orders as obnoxious tools used by women having relationship squabbles to get the upper hand. He also insinuates that if only men weren't so embarrassed to ask for help they would get more restraining orders to defend themselves from these antics.

As an agency that works regularly with women in fear for their lives who go through the exhausting process of applying for a restraining order to try to keep themselves from getting killed, we were anxious to respond. So we teamed up with the LAFLA attorneys to write the letter to the editor you see below.

The reality of the situation

Editor:

Re: What's the Point, "Many men should ask for help sooner," Nov. 3.

At the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), we disagree with Mr. Pisarra's assertion that restraining orders are issued instantaneously at the Santa Monica Courthouse without good cause. As seasoned family law attorneys, who are on the frontline every day working with victims of domestic violence, these cases tell us otherwise.

LAFLA's attorneys staff a domestic violence clinic at the Santa Monica Courthouse where we handle more than 600 cases of domestic abuse every year. Abused victims often arrive at the courthouse exhausted, many live in constant fear and have not slept, and some have fresh bruises. Others have spent the night at the hospital. All of the women are scared and arrive with frightened children in tow.

Even before these women can see a judge, they have to go through many steps. At the domestic violence clinic, staff attorneys assess the cases and ascertain whether the facts are sufficient to state a claim before completing the thick stack of forms. The entire process can take two to three hours. All the while, waiting victims are worried about losing their job, picking up their children from school or how to pay the rent and the bills without their spouse's salary. Victims are frustrated, because Mr. Pisarra has made getting a restraining order sound like a process that takes only as long as saying "Welcome to Santa Monica." At the end of the day, the victims are exhausted, hungry and scared. Although plans are made to return to complete the process, the person threatening to kill her has found her, or taken the child or children out of school and disappeared, or disabled her vehicle.

We know that most women have the courage to come to a clinic or court only after years of abuse, or after their teenage sons become old enough to get hurt protecting them. Many don't complain after being set on fire, or threatened with being killed and buried in the desert. Sometimes it is months and months of living in fear, seeing the same face waiting for them outside the apartment, peering out from a parked car, night after night long after the relationship has been over. Lost pregnancies, slaughtered pets and forced sex are all parts of many victims' histories.

On the other hand, men come to the clinic reporting a few days of bothersome phone calls, sometimes three to five in a week. They tell us that the calls are not threatening, but they worry that the wife or girlfriend will lure him into attacking her and he wants to "protect himself." Perhaps men should ask for help sooner, but in our experience very few men experience the terror and fear of living with domestic violence every day. Statistics show that 86 percent of victims are female. Both female and male victims face trauma and fear, which must not be denied and minimized.

Patricia Butler, director Sojourn Services for Battered Women and their Children. A project of Ocean Park Community Center; Minty Siu-Kootnikoff, staff attorney; Susan G. Millmann, senior attorney Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Santa Monica Office
November 17, 2009

9/30/09

Don't believe he's molesting the children? What kind of custody did he ask for?

"In a study of more than 300 custody cases involving allegations of sexual abuse, 70% resulted in unsupervised visitation or shared custody with the alleged sexual abuser. In 20% of the cases the nonviolent parent lost custody completely." - The Journal of Child Sexual Abuse
"Violent and abusive fathers are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children as non-violent fathers." - Report from the American Physiological Associations Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family
"When fathers choose to fight for custody, they win in nearly 70% of contested custody cases." - National Center for Protective Parents
Sojourn frequently screens the video "Small Justice" in our Volunteer Trainings to unveil the atrocity of battered women losing custody of their children. The minute allegations are raised that the father is sexually abusing the children, the courts begin to punish the mother.
Small Justice, an award-winning, independent documentary, exposes a lurking national scandal. Contrary to everything you might think, everything that makes sense, men who beat their wives, sexually abuse their children, and then ask the court for custody, usually get it. It is so counterintuitive, most people simply do not believe it is possible for a judge to hand over custody of children to men who beat their wives and sexually abuse their children. But it is something that happens every day in America, in every state, because the system is broken.
www.smalljustice.com
Although the documentary itself was produced in 2001 the issue is as current as your last Facebook update.

Check out a clip from the video interview below or go to www.smalljustice.com to see the whole thing.

video

CJE Photo Exhibit
Family Court Crisis: Surviving A Broken System is a moving new photography exhibition from the Center for Judicial Excellence in Marin County, California.
This new video, which will also be shown at the 2009 Battered Mothers Custody Conference, was created to show that the problems exposed in the documentary Small Justice still exist.
www.smalljustice.com

It's Never Okay To Hit A Child - Period.

In the October 2009 issue of O Magazine we recently came across a disturbing response in the O Advice section titled, “Now What Do I Do?”

The question below regarding whether or not so spank a child was so badly handled by the magazine’s “experts,” we felt we absolutely had to respond.

Q: My 3-year-old son has acquired the habit of running away from me,
sometimes right into traffic. The other day, he did it, and I was so angry
and scared that I spanked him pretty hard. I got a lot of dirty looks, but
he hasn't done it since. Is spanking always a bad idea?

A#1 by Anita L. Allen, professor of law and philosophy, the University of Pennsylvania Law School:
Never hit a child in anger! Children can experience what you intend
to be "discipline" as violence. Parents who strike children in anger may
injure them or set a bad example. You say spanking works -- but research
does not back you up. I am categorically opposed to corporal punishment.

A#2 by Jack Marshall, president, ProEthics:
I agree: A spanking should never be motivated by anger. Administering a spanking out of emotion, rather than as a calculated effort to teach, is misguided parental conduct that can turn into a dangerous habit. But I don't believe spanking is inherently wrong, if it is controlled, explained, just, symbolic, and rare, rather than routine and excruciating. Spanking, if used, must be seen by the child as a reluctant act of a loving parent who has a clear message to convey -- not the impulsive act of a vengeful adult.


_________________________________________________________

SOJOURN’S RESPONSE
By Children’s Advocate, Roger Hyde

Violence is never a useful communication tool unless you wish to kill or disable. Every use of violence puts a whole list of distracting emotions and ideas ahead of the lesson desired. A child learns slowly and tends to be distracted and confused when Fear, Pain, Disillusionment with the good intentions of the parent, crying/snot/cringing and various reflexive urges to flee the danger are interposed in the learning process. Parent as enemy, terrorist, dictator creates a long hike back after each punishment if they hope to have fences mended and a happy tuck-in at bedtime.

The option is there--and universally used by Sojourn and other agencies-- never to be the users of revenge. When a child does something dangerous and irresponsible: be loud, dramatic, emphatic: "It's DANGEROUS! I'm Scared! Never, ever do that again! You could get hurt and have to go to the hospital!
Or you could die and we'd never play again!! All of your plans and dreams could stop. Please: never do that again!!!"

An adult with any communications skills equal to or better than the child's can devise a way to get the message across dramatically and make a BETTER, STRONGER impression--and a teaching one--that is NOT eclipsed by fear of the parent, pain, disillusionment with the parent, and the ultimate distraction of having a whole new crisis push the original issue off the screen.

The simple question is: does the adult want control or education? Even trying to have both is more trouble than it's worth--ever.
________________________________________________________

If you're still not convinced, check out this article, "Study Links Spanking to Aggression" by DAVID CRARY

©The Associated Press NEW YORK

Study Links Spanking to Aggression


After analyzing six decades of expert research on corporal punishment, a psychologist says parents who spank their children risk causing long-term harm that outweighs the short-term benefit of instant obedience. The psychologist, Elizabeth Gershoff, found links between spanking and 10 negative behaviors or experiences, including aggression, anti-social behavior and mental health problems. The one positive result of spanking that she identified was quick compliance with parental demands. ``Americans need to re-evaluate why we believe it is reasonable to hit young, vulnerable children, when it is against the law to hit other adults, prisoners, and even animals,'' Gershoff writes in the new edition of the American Psychological Association's bimonthly journal.

Her analysis, one of the most comprehensive ever on the topic of spanking in America, was accompanied in the Psychological Bulletin by a critique from three other psychologists. They defend mild to moderate spanking as a viable disciplinary option, especially for children 2 to 6, but advise parents with abusive tendencies to avoid spanking altogether.

Gershoff, a researcher at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, spent five years on her project, analyzing 88 studies of corporal punishment conducted since 1938. The studies tracked both the short- and long-term effects of spanking on children. Gershoff stopped short of endorsing a legal ban on parental corporal punishment, saying the United States was unlikely to emulate a group of European countries in taking that step. However, she urged parents who spank to reconsider their options.

``When they're in a situation where they're considering spanking, think of something else to do - leave the room, count to 10, and come back again,'' Gershoff said in an interview Tuesday. ``The risk is just too great.''

Several major national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have taken an official stand against corporal punishment by parents. The psychological association has not taken a stance, though it is on record opposing corporal punishment at schools and other institutions.

Robert Larzelere, a psychology professor at the Nebraska Medical Center, was one of the three experts critiquing Gershoff's findings. He noted that while she found links between spanking and negative behaviors, she did not assert categorically that spanking caused those behaviors. Larzelere, in an interview, said he remains convinced that mild, non-abusive spanking can be an effective reinforcement of nonphysical disciplinary methods, particularly in dealing with defiant 2- to 6-year-olds. He shared concerns about spanking that is too severe or too frequent.

Gershoff cautioned that her findings do not imply that all children who are spanked turn out to be aggressive or delinquent. But she contended that corporal punishment, on its own, does not teach children right from wrong and may not deter them from misbehaving when their parents are absent. ``Until researchers, clinicians, and parents can definitively demonstrate the presence of positive effects of corporal punishment, including effectiveness in halting future misbehavior, not just the absence of negative effects, we as psychologists can not responsibly recommend its use,'' Gershoff wrote.

9/22/09

"Dr. Phil" and the "Supernanny" Give Bad Parenting Advice

If you asked Sojourn how to break the cycle of violence that batterer's perpetrate we'd point you straight to parenting. The future of prevention hinges on raising children in a way that is empowering, not controlling. Unfortunately, most parenting advice that you see in pop culture teaches parents to use the same controlling behaviors that we see echoed in domestic violence. Check out this article from the New York Times that should make "Dr. Phil" and the "Supernanny" think twice.


When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’


By ALFIE KOHN
Published: September 14, 2009

More than 50 years ago, the psychologist Carl Rogers suggested that simply loving our children wasn’t enough. We have to love them unconditionally, he said — for who they are, not for what they do.

As a father, I know this is a tall order, but it becomes even more challenging now that so much of the advice we are given amounts to exactly the opposite. In effect, we’re given tips in conditional parenting, which comes in two flavors: turn up the affection when they’re good, withhold affection when they’re not.

Thus, the talk show host Phil McGraw tells us in his book “Family First” (Free Press, 2004) that what children need or enjoy should be offered contingently, turned into rewards to be doled out or withheld so they “behave according to your wishes.” And “one of the most powerful currencies for a child,” he adds, “is the parents’ acceptance and approval.”

Likewise, Jo Frost of “Supernanny,” in her book of the same name (Hyperion, 2005), says, “The best rewards are attention, praise and love,” and these should be held back “when the child behaves badly until she says she is sorry,” at which point the love is turned back on.

Conditional parenting isn’t limited to old-school authoritarians. Some people who wouldn’t dream of spanking choose instead to discipline their young children by forcibly isolating them, a tactic we prefer to call “time out.” Conversely, “positive reinforcement” teaches children that they are loved, and lovable, only when they do whatever we decide is a “good job.”

This raises the intriguing possibility that the problem with praise isn’t that it is done the wrong way — or handed out too easily, as social conservatives insist. Rather, it might be just another method of control, analogous to punishment. The primary message of all types of conditional parenting is that children must earn a parent’s love. A steady diet of that, Rogers warned, and children might eventually need a therapist to provide the unconditional acceptance they didn’t get when it counted.

But was Rogers right? Before we toss out mainstream discipline, it would be nice to have some evidence. And now we do.

In 2004, two Israeli researchers, Avi Assor and Guy Roth, joined Edward L. Deci, a leading American expert on the psychology of motivation, in asking more than 100 college students whether the love they had received from their parents had seemed to depend on whether they had succeeded in school, practiced hard for sports, been considerate toward others or suppressed emotions like anger and fear.

It turned out that children who received conditional approval were indeed somewhat more likely to act as the parent wanted. But compliance came at a steep price. First, these children tended to resent and dislike their parents. Second, they were apt to say that the way they acted was often due more to a “strong internal pressure” than to “a real sense of choice.” Moreover, their happiness after succeeding at something was usually short-lived, and they often felt guilty or ashamed.

In a companion study, Dr. Assor and his colleagues interviewed mothers of grown children. With this generation, too, conditional parenting proved damaging. Those mothers who, as children, sensed that they were loved only when they lived up to their parents’ expectations now felt less worthy as adults. Yet despite the negative effects, these mothers were more likely to use conditional affection with their own children.

This July, the same researchers, now joined by two of Dr. Deci’s colleagues at the University of Rochester, published two replications and extensions of the 2004 study. This time the subjects were ninth graders, and this time giving more approval when children did what parents wanted was carefully distinguished from giving less when they did not.

The studies found that both positive and negative conditional parenting were harmful, but in slightly different ways. The positive kind sometimes succeeded in getting children to work harder on academic tasks, but at the cost of unhealthy feelings of “internal compulsion.” Negative conditional parenting didn’t even work in the short run; it just increased the teenagers’ negative feelings about their parents.

What these and other studies tell us, if we’re able to hear the news, is that praising children for doing something right isn’t a meaningful alternative to pulling back or punishing when they do something wrong. Both are examples of conditional parenting, and both are counterproductive.

The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who readily acknowledged that the version of negative conditional parenting known as time-out can cause “deep feelings of anxiety,” nevertheless endorsed it for that very reason. “When our words are not enough,” he said, “the threat of the withdrawal of our love and affection is the only sound method to impress on him that he had better conform to our request.”

But the data suggest that love withdrawal isn’t particularly effective at getting compliance, much less at promoting moral development. Even if we did succeed in making children obey us, though — say, by using positive reinforcement — is obedience worth the possible long-term psychological harm? Should parental love be used as a tool for controlling children?

Deeper issues also underlie a different sort of criticism. Albert Bandura, the father of the branch of psychology known as social learning theory, declared that unconditional love “would make children directionless and quite unlovable” — an assertion entirely unsupported by empirical studies. The idea that children accepted for who they are would lack direction or appeal is most informative for what it tells us about the dark view of human nature held by those who issue such warnings.

In practice, according to an impressive collection of data by Dr. Deci and others, unconditional acceptance by parents as well as teachers should be accompanied by “autonomy support”: explaining reasons for requests, maximizing opportunities for the child to participate in making decisions, being encouraging without manipulating, and actively imagining how things look from the child’s point of view.

The last of these features is important with respect to unconditional parenting itself. Most of us would protest that of course we love our children without any strings attached. But what counts is how things look from the perspective of the children — whether they feel just as loved when they mess up or fall short.

Rogers didn’t say so, but I’ll bet he would have been glad to see less demand for skillful therapists if that meant more people were growing into adulthood having already felt unconditionally accepted.

Alfie Kohn is the author of 11 books about human behavior and education, including “Unconditional Parenting” and “Punished by Rewards.”

9/11/09

Mysterious Disappearance of Domestic Violence Victim

This article caught my attention because it describes a terrifying story about a victim of domestic violence and captures an all to common scenario: no hard proof left behind.

Although no forensic evidence has been found, a basic understanding of domestic violence points unwaveringly at the batterer as the culprit of this woman's disappearance (and likely her death). This article captures the dynamics that we know are typical of batterer's techniques to gain control of their victim including the "whirlwind romance", hasty marriage, isolation from family by moving to another state, and threats with weapons (not proven but something I strongly suspect). Another thing we know about batterers is that they do not take a liking to seeing their partner leave them. If the victim "packed up and left with another man" like the batterer said, I doubt he would've reacted so calmly. In fact, the most violent time for a victim is when she attempts to leave her batterer.

I sincerely hope that more evidence surfaces to bring justice to this case.

You can find the original article at CNN.com


Nurse vanished 10 days before domestic violence hearing
09/07/09 07:12 AM, EDT

By Rupa Mikkilineni
Nancy Grace Producer

(CNN) -- She was 24, a newlywed who moved to Orlando, Florida, with her husband just a few months before she vanished in May 1994. In the 15 years since, there have been no clues or signs of Melisa Brady Sloan, despite periodic searches.
Melisa Sloan has been missing since May 1, 1994. Police in Orlando, Florida, are seeking the public's help.

The native of Louisville, Kentucky, was close to her family and a devoted nurse working long hours at Orlando Regional Hospital. She disappeared just 10 days before she was due in court to testify against her husband in a domestic violence case.

"She loved him and wanted to work things out with him," says Melanie Brady Drury, Sloan's sister.

It was a whirlwind romance, Drury said. The two met in Louisville, where Melisa was a nurse and John Sloan was a night security guard at the same hospital. He said he had just been discharged from the Army Special Forces.

They dated only a few months before marrying quickly. Within weeks of the wedding, they moved to Orlando. Her family was concerned about the move because they barely knew this new man in Melisa's life.

"He was very controlling of her, and that's when the physical violence between them began," Drury said.

In early spring 1994, Melisa Sloan called police, saying her husband had beaten her up at their home. According to Drury, Melisa left him and went back to her family in Louisville, but returned a couple of weeks later hoping to work things out.

The first week of May, her mother tried calling Sloan but could not reach her for days. On May 7, she finally spoke with her daughter's husband, who said, "She'll call you when she's ready," Drury said. It was then that the family grew worried and reported Sloan missing to police.

According to police, Melisa Sloan was with a good friend when she was last seen by anyone other than her husband. She and the friend, a paramedic who worked at the hospital, left work together to go to a street fair, and Sloan did not return home until 2:30 a.m., police said.

The next afternoon, she was captured on a video surveillance camera withdrawing $20 from an ATM.

At the Sloans' apartment, police found none of Melisa's personal items, clothes or shoes. The apartment looked as if she had never lived there. All that was left was an old bathrobe, hung on the back of the bathroom door, and her beloved cat, police said.

"She would never leave that cat behind, that cat was like her baby," said her sister, Drury. As police searched the home, they found that one of the bedrooms was unfurnished, with only a rifle and knife propped against a wall, said Detective Andre Boren of the Orlando Police.

"We searched for days in the woods behind their apartment," Boren said. Three searches have been conducted over the years on the land behind the Sloans' home. The 1-square-mile parcel is federal property. Nearly 75 percent of the property has been searched, Boren said.

According to investigators, there was no activity on Melisa Sloan's credit cards, bank accounts, Social Security number or driver's license. Her car was left parked in front of their home.

Police quickly focused on John Sloan and named him a person of interest in his wife's disappearance.

The phone listed in Sloan's name has been disconnected. He did not respond to e-mails from CNN, or to messages sent through his father.

Police say John Sloan has not cooperated with them since the initial questioning. When police first came to the Sloan's home when she was reported missing by her family, he told police his wife had packed up and left with another man. Since then he has refused to speak with police.

Last year, homicide detectives attempted to question Sloan in Bellingham, Washington, a city near the Canadian border where he now resides with his new wife and family, but he walked away without answering questions from police.

Forensic tests on the Sloan home and Melisa Sloan's car were completed, but police found no evidence of foul play in the car. However, they did find small blood stains in the Sloan home. Investigators have requested DNA samples from Melisa Sloan's family.

"We are not resting until we solve this case, and I believe the key to this case is her husband," Boren said. "We've made contact with his current wife, who is now aware of the situation, and we hope she will shed some light for us."

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Melisa Brady Sloan is asked to call the Orlando Police Department at 321-235-5300.

Batterer kills 2-year old, wife, and son

This Louisiana murder-suicide is another instance of an all too common event.

We found this article at Yahoo! NEWS

2-year-old, 3 others dead in La. murder-suicide
AP

By DOUG SIMPSON, Associated Press Writer Doug Simpson, Associated Press Writer – Sun Sep 6, 7:12 pm ET


HOLDEN, La. – A man shot his estranged wife, son and 2-year-old grandson to death and seriously wounded his pregnant daughter-in-law at their rural Louisiana home, then killed himself as police tried to pull over his car 20 minutes later, authorities said.

The pregnant woman later gave birth, about three months early, her father said.

The shootings late Saturday appeared to stem from an ongoing dispute between 50-year-old Dennis Carter Sr. and his wife, Donna Carter, who had a restraining order against him, Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office Chief of Operations Perry Rushing said Sunday.

The father of the pregnant woman, Amber Carter, said the suspect had a history of abusing his estranged wife and recently tried to attack her with a machete.

"This had been going on for quite some time," Paul Williamson said. "It was one of those domestic violence things that just gets worse and worse."

Another 16-month-old boy was in the house during the shootings but was not hurt. The child was related to the Carters but Rushing was not sure how.

Authorities were called around 10:30 p.m. Saturday to the home in Holden, about 30 miles east of Baton Rouge. Donna Carter, 49, and Dennis Carter Jr., 26, were dead inside. Dennis Carter Jr.'s wife, Amber Carter, was badly hurt and their son, Masson Carter, 2, was found dead outside.

Williamson said Carter Jr. had previously fought with his father to protect his mother.

Rushing said it appeared Amber Carter, who was about six months pregnant, and Masson Carter managed to escape from a second-floor window but it was not clear if the gunman shot them inside or followed them outside and shot them there.

Rushing said deputies spotted Dennis Carter Sr. about 20 minutes after the shootings driving on a highway. When they tried to pull him over, he shot and killed himself.

"It's very unusual to have this many victims," Rushing said. "This is an anomaly by any stretch of the imagination."

All the Carters lived at the house in Holden except Dennis Carter Sr., who used to live there but had recently been residing in nearby Hammond. Williamson said Carter Jr. and wife Amber had been planning to move out of the house where the shootings occurred.

Williamson said the senior Carter was a semi-employed mechanic.

He said his pregnant daughter had bullet wounds to the kidney and liver and spinal damage caused by her leap from a second-story window.

After the shootings, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Aubrey, Williamson said. He said she was taken initially to a Baton Rouge hospital and later was transferred to a hospital in New Orleans.

Rushing said that state police ballistics experts were conducting tests on a gun found in the senior Carter's car.

Williamson said he didn't expect to ever learn fully how the killing spree transpired.

"We won't ever know what happened inside that house," he said.

9/10/09

LGBT Domestic Violence: A good example of good policing

Here's something you don't see everyday (or ever) in the US. When was the last time police publicly appealed to LGBT victims of domestic violence to report?

Check out this article "Metropolitan police urges gays to report domestic violence" that we found at Pinknews.co.uk


Exclusive: Metropolitan police urges gays to report domestic violence

By Jessica Geen • September 3, 2009 - 15:17

The Metropolitan Police Service is calling for more LGBT people to report domestic violence, saying that it is hugely underreported.

New figures show there were approximately 53,000 domestic violence crimes in the London boroughs covered by the Met last year. It is estimated that between six and nine per cent of the population are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, but as only 503 of those related to LGBT people, police believe those suffering abuse from partners are not coming forward.

There is little research on reporting rates, although a 2008 Stonewall survey of lesbian and bisexual women found that eight in ten who had experience domestic violence to the police, and only half of those were satisfied with how officers dealt with the situation.

A 2003 paper by research institute Sigma found that only 13 per cent of LGBT women and 18.8 per cent of LGBT men reported domestic violence to police.

PinkNews.co.uk spoke to Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell, of the Met's violent crimes division, about why LGBT people should come forward and what they can expect.

He said: "The first important thing we have to get across is that the Met is wholly committed to tackling violent crime, which includes domestic violence and hate crime. In a similar tone, we will and do work in participation with LGBT-focused groups to improve our service delivery.

"Domestic violence and other forms of hate crime are underreported, especially for LGBT people. If people in same-sex relationships are experiencing domestic violence, this means rape, harassment, violence, intimidation and damage to property.

"It's a cause for concern for us. If people are not reporting it, then they're not being supported. They're still open to risk and danger and will become repeat victims of these serious crimes, which impact on their health and their quality of life. If they're not reporting them, we don't know who some of these dangerous and violent suspects are."

DCI Campbell also set out what victims can expect when they report crimes and the different ways they can access help.

He said: "Victims will always lie at the centre of our decision-making. We will work with victims and a number of organisations to look after their safety.

"Let's be clear about this - it's about the power dynamic of the domestic violence setting, it's not their faults.We know it takes a lot of courage to come forward and tell us about these sensitive and personal matters. But they're also very serious and dangerous crimes. We want people to know they will be handled in a sensitive and compassionate manner.

"People can request to speak to LGBT liaison officers. There are about 215 dotted around the London boroughs covered by the Met and these officers will have a better understanding of being LGBT and same-sex domestic violence.

"It's about wrap-around support - actual and perceived safety. Then we look next at deciding what evidence to gather, gather evidence and decide whether the offender will be prosecuted."

For those who do not want to contact police, he stressed that other channels are available, citing Stonewall Housing, Broken Rainbow, the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and Galop as the four main strategic groups the Met works with on LGBT domestic violence.

He added that LGBT liaison officers have profiles on Gaydar, which LGBT people can access for advice, although he added that these profiles are not checked every day.

"I don't want anyone reporting a crime through them, but they are there to offer advice, especially for people who aren't out or who have a heterosexual partner and don't want letters about it coming through the door."

According to the most recent Met statistics, there were 503 cases of LGBT domestic violence in the last year, compared with 415 the previous year. DCI Campbell believes this is due to increased rates of reporting. Of the figures for the latest year, 164 victims were female and 332 were male.

He said: "It's really important to get across to LGBT people, whether men or women, that domestic violence does exist in same-sex relationships. Some guys are embarrassed about coming forward, they think it can't be domestic violence if they're a guy and it's another man. But it is prevalent. If you get this level of criminality against you, it is a crime, it is likely to escalate."

He added that women in particular, whether heterosexual or LGBT, tend to underreport domestic violence, a statement borne out by recent Met research which suggested they are up to seven times less likely to report the issue compared to men.

DCI Campbell acknowledged that LGBT people have been traditionally reluctant to approach police, due to laws and discrimination in the past.

He said: "We understand there are legacy issues, with the previous relationship between the police and LGBT community. But we know more LGBT people are coming forward, not just with domestic violence and hate crimes, but also to report things like theft as mainstream service users.

"But we recognise that for older people there will be more worries as they remember how some things used to be. We want to give them the knowledge that we will deal with this is a sensitive, confidential way.

"They can speak to LGBT liaison officers, third party groups and report crimes through the website (www.met.police.uk). There are a number of different outlets for those who are openly LGBT, those who are out to some people or those who are not out. Our first priority is safety."

7/6/09

William Fisher: Give Us Your Huddled Masses - But Battered Women Need Not Apply!

The Huffington Post
July 6, 2009
Posted: July 4, 2009 11:56 AM
By William Fisher
"Give Us Your Huddled Masses - But Battered Women Need Not Apply!"


Here's a note for the "to do" list of the Obama Administration's newly appointed Domestic Violence Czar - or Czarina in this case: Battered wives and significant others pose a serious law enforcement and public health problem affecting as many as one in four women in this country. But they are not just an American problem. Women are being whacked all over the world. And some of them are trying to find safety in America - and are being turned away.

Why? Because of the inept and bureaucratic foot-dragging of our Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. Thanks to their sorry non-performance over more than a decade, domestic violence is still not a legal basis for seeking asylum in the U.S.

Consider the plight of Rodi Alvarado from Guatemala. At 16, she married a man who, for the next decade, terrorized her. He raped and sodomized her almost daily, beating her before and during the violations. Because he was unfaithful, he infected her with sexually transmitted diseases. He dislocated her jaw when he learned that her period was late, and violently kicked her when she refused to abort her baby, causing her to bleed for eight days.

She tried to run away, even to the other side of the country, but her husband - a former soldier - always found her. One night, he woke her to whip her with an electrical cord, pulled out a machete and threatened to cut off her arms and legs if she ever tried to leave him again. He broke windows and mirrors with her head. He pistol-whipped and threw a machete at her, punched her and dragged her by her hair.

Mrs. Alvarado repeatedly sought help from the police in Guatemala, but to no avail. She pled her case to a judge, but the judge said the same thing: They don't involve themselves in domestic matters.

Finally, in 1995, she did the most difficult and desperate thing she could do to save her life. After 10 years of cruelty, at age 28, she fled Guatemala and sought asylum in the United States.

There was only one problem. The U.S. has no asylum provisions that cover victims of domestic violence. Mrs. Alvarado was ordered deported. Under U.S. law, asylum applicants have to show they can't go home because they face persecution because of religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. But not domestic abuse.

Enter a sympathetic immigration judge, who granted Mrs. Alvarado a temporary stay of deportation. That was in 1996 - thirteen years ago. And for thirteen years, Mrs. Alvarado has remained in this legal limbo. She hasn't been deported - she works as a housekeeper in a California convent. But she can't achieve any legal status and can't be reunited with her son and daughter, who remain in Guatemala. She hasn't seen them in thirteen years.

The reason: For more than a decade, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have been playing musical chairs with a new asylum regulation that would cover victims of domestic violence. Without such a regulation, Mrs. Alvarado's case cannot come before a Board of Immigration Appeals, which is supposed to re-decide her fate.

The musical chairs have bounced Mrs. Alvarado's case from the Clinton to the Bush administrations, and now to the Obama Administration.

Opponents said new asylum rules would lead to a surge in claims, an assertion disputed by a large and bipartisan group of immigration, legal and religious advocates.

Those proposed regulations saved -- and stalled -- Alvarado's case. In 1996, an immigration judge granted Alvarado temporary asylum, finding that the abuse she suffered and the government's inability to protect her constituted persecution. But newly-installed Bush immigration service opposed the decision, and Alvarado's case went before the Board of Immigration Appeals, a Justice Department panel that reviews immigration cases.

The board ruled that Alvarado was not eligible for asylum and ordered that she be deported. But on her last day in office, Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno voided that ruling and instructed the board to reconsider the Alvarado case after the immigration service finalized the proposed regulations. A month later, George W. Bush took office.

The next stop in this cruel bureaucratic game was the desk of John Ashcroft, then Bush's Attorney General. Ashcroft certified the case to himself, making him effectively the judge. He said he would decide Mrs. Alvarado's fate. But he didn't. Instead, he kicked the can down the road, deciding neither to grant nor deny asylum to Alvarado. A decision, he said, should await new regulations from the Department of Homeland Security.

Wonder of wonders, the DHS actually drafted a regulation to make domestic abuse a valid legal basis for asylum-seekers. But the Department of Justice disagreed with the draft. In the years since then, the DOJ and the DHS have failed to agree on the domestic abuse asylum regulations. Ashcroft's inaction simply complicated the problem. Just before he stepped down, he passed the responsibility for the Alvarado case to his successor, Alberto Gonzales, who faithfully followed in the quicksand footsteps of his predecessors: He did nothing. And his successor, Michael Mukasey, did exactly the same thing: Nothing.

The DHS says it will not press for Mrs. Alvarado's deportation regardless of how much longer it may take the agency to finalize the new regulations. But that's cold comfort to Mrs. Alvarado. At the current pace, she could be a very old lady by the time the DHS and the DOJ decide to actually do something.

That's where Obama's new Domestic Violence Czar could be a huge help. Lynn Rosenthal is an experienced advocate for abused women. She was executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and executive director of the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She has focused on domestic violence issues like housing, state and local coordinated community response, federal policy, and survivor-centered advocacy.

Reporting to Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, she will have the ears of the two guys at the top of the tree. And it may be helpful that Biden has had a long-standing interest in the domestic violence issue, dating from his days in the Senate and his key role in enacting the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

Immigration experts say they are more encouraged than ever that cases like Mrs. Alvarado's will be resolved by the Obama Administration. No doubt Ms. Rosenthal's cup will runneth over with issues of purely homegrown domestic violence - which the stresses of the recession have apparently caused to spiral out of control. Perhaps the relatively tiny number of battered women seeking asylum in America will be assigned a low priority.

But further delay would simply exacerbate a gross denial of justice. So even at a time when immigration in general remains one of the third rails of American politics, Lynn Rosenthal needs to find the time to flex a little White House muscle with the DOJ and the DHS. She needs to ensure that the process of writing one new regulation doesn't again fall victim to another decade of bureaucratic bungling and inter-agency turf wars.

So Rodi Alvarado can see her kids again.

6/30/09

Jackson Katz on Eminem

"Eminem, Misogyny and the Sounds of Silence"
By Jackson Katz
The Huffington Post
June 5, 2009

Eminem is back and once again looming large over the pop cultural landscape. On the occasion of the release of his new album, Relapse, his full-length, full-color image appears literally larger than life on billboards in major cities from New York to Los Angeles, not to mention cities all over the world. Although the album itself has received mixed reviews, the elite arbiters of cultural taste and artistic merit have given the rapper’s return the red carpet treatment.

The New York Times ran a giant photo and story on the front of its Sunday Arts and Leisure section on May 24. Entertainment Weekly featured the 36-year-old on the cover of its summer music preview issue; Time magazine devoted two pages of its June 1 issue to a review of his album and discussion about the state of his life and career. Of course the online universe is also abuzz; at the time of this writing, a Google search with the words Eminem and relapse returned 2.7 million hits.

Despite a five-year hiatus, there is no doubt that Eminem remains a popular artist. Relapse debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 608,000 units in its first week of release.

For those of us who had hoped that his cultural moment had passed, the return of Eminem forces us to confront the disturbing reality that our society remains in deep denial about misogyny and its myriad manifestations in the art and commerce of everyday life. Misogyny (the hatred of women) in rap preceded Eminem and has thrived in his absence. And in fairness, the fact that he is white makes it easier for this writer and other whites to criticize him than it is to call out Black artists whose work is similarly sexist and oppressive. These racial dynamics are important issues to examine in another time and place.

Nonetheless, the evidence of our culture’s unwillingness to address the reality and ubiquity of men’s violence against women is not merely contained in the lyrics on Eminem’s new album, which when they’re not exploring the depths to which the artist’s drug addiction had taken him, characteristically communicate a deep contempt for women and a violent rage at them. This unwillingness is most clearly seen in the music reviews and overall media coverage of the rapper’s comeback.

It is not what they say that is cause for concern, but what they studiously avoid. With a few notable exceptions, such as Alan Ranta on the web site Pop Matters calling Relapse “chauvinistic hate-speech,” the high priests of cultural criticism in the journalistic mainstream seem to have decided that Eminem’s virulent misogyny is no longer even worthy of a mention, much less an appropriate subject of extended commentary and critique. Is it truly possible that women’s lives have been so thoroughly devalued that a multi-platinum musical artist with nine Grammy awards to his name can sing multiple songs about raping and mutilating women and hip sophisticates can’t even bring themselves to utter the words “woman-hating?”

It is as if critics have decided that 1) there is (still) nothing wrong with one of the most celebrated musical artists in the world devoting multiple songs to verbal attacks on women and girls, as long as there’s a catchy beat and the content is rationalized as “dark comedy,” or 2) homicidal misogyny has become so commonplace in entertainment media that there is no further need to discuss it.

A survey of recent articles about Eminem in several major media outlets yields plenty of lines like “a stunning return to form from the man who is arguably rap’s most talented lyricist,” (Entertainment Weekly), but a near-absence of criticism directed at Eminem or Interscope/Universal Music Group for releasing an album with lyrics like the following from the song Stay Wide Awake:

Fe Fi Fo Fum
I think I smell the scent of a placenta
I enter central park, it's dark, it's winter in December
I see my target with my car, and park and approach her tender
Young girl by the name of Brenda and I pretend to befriend her
Sit down beside her like a spider, hi there girl you mighta
Heard of me before, see whore you're the kinda girl that I'da
Assault and rape and figure why not try to make your pussy wider
Fuck you with an umbrella then open it up while that shits inside ya



No thoughtful person would argue that music lyrics themselves cause men to be violent; that is the sort of simplistic argument which defenders of Eminem and other misogynous rappers and rockers raise and then ridicule whenever anyone mentions the possible “real world” effects of artistic portrayals. But just as it is reductive and problematic to draw a causal link between lyrics and actual behavior, it is similarly nonsensical to deny that the production and reception of art always has a social dimension. Popular art succeeds, at least commercially, precisely because it resonates with a certain audience – for whatever reason – in a given cultural and historical context.

In discussions of Eminem’s choice to feature on his comeback album a number of songs that explore the sadism of his misogynous serial killer alter ego, Slim Shady, is it not relevant to mention the ongoing pandemic of men’s violence against women, including the outrage of serial murder? Is it not relevant to ask why some men are so angry at women that they would derive a twisted sort of pleasure from singing along with a first-person narrator (Slim Shady) who delights in terrifying, degrading, raping and murdering them?

In addition to his predilection for writing “comic” lyrics in the voice of a serial murderer, Eminem continues to find lyrically inventive ways to joke about raping women by shoving objects into their bodies, like in the lyrics above, or in the song “3 a.m.,” where he casually raps about inserting “…a flashlight up Kim Kardashian’s ass.” This is in a country – ours – where one out of six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. And while the reality of rape is not funny anywhere, the global reach of the U.S. entertainment industry means that boys and men can listen and laugh along to Eminem’s songs in countries where the rape and mutilation of women and girls are even more common and less socially stigmatized than they are here.

Consider the tragic case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the rape and murder of women are beyond pandemic and are closer in scope to genocide. For years Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist, has operated daily on dozens of women and girls as young as two and three-years-old whose insides have been ripped apart by men who brutally gang rape them, shove sticks and bottles into their vaginas, and sadistically mutilate their sexual organs in unimaginable ways, causing the ones who survive a lifetime of excruciating pain, incontinence, disease and loneliness. In a New York Times article in 2007 Dr. Mukwege said “We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear. They are done to destroy women.”

Is it going too far to suggest that when wealthy nations such as ours export music by the likes of Eminem to countries with that level of misogynous violence that we are practicing what might be considered a particularly insidious form of cultural imperialism?

Defenders of world-famous artists like Eminem would surely rush in to say: Eminem is not responsible for these unspeakable outrages! He is an artist! Of course. But is it unreasonable to suggest that when Eminem jokes about sticking umbrellas up women’s vaginas that one effect might be that it helps to desensitize his male (and even female) fans across the globe to the humanity and suffering of women? Desensitization is one of the key effects of exposure to violence, both in media and real life. An Alternet article entitled “Torture Chic: Why Is the Media Glorifying Inhumane, Sadistic Behavior?,” suggests that the increasing presence of torture in entertainment media, such as on the hit TV series 24, has helped to desensitize Americans to real torture done in our name, such as in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

The silence of mainstream music critics on such matters has been deafening. If an artist’s job is sometimes to be provocative and push boundaries, isn’t it a critic’s job at the very least to ask questions like: What does it say about our culture that Eminem’s lyrics resonate with millions of American men, and even many women? How can we discern the difference between artistic revelation and crass exploitation in Marshall Mathers’ art? Does his vaunted lyrical virtuosity provide us with any insight into the larger belief systems – along with individual motivations --- that lie behind men’s sexualized brutality toward women? Is he a brilliant artist exploring important artistic terrain, or is he merely going for cheap voyeuristic thrills at the expense of women, knowing full well that no one will hold him – or his record company -- accountable?

One piece of circumstantial evidence for the latter view is provided by Jon Pareles in The New York Times, who explains the process Eminem and his collaborators went through in deciding how to position his comeback:

Both Eminem and Dr. Dre thought hard about how Eminem should re-emerge. And both concluded the world wanted more Slim Shady. “I talked to my son about it,” said Dr. Dre, “and he was like: ‘The kids want to hear him act the fool. We want to hear him be crazy, we want to hear him be Slim Shady and nothing else.”

The tone of at least some of the coverage this time suggests there are a few authoritative voices in music criticism and commentary who have moved beyond the adulatory groupthink that characterized much writing about Eminem back in his heyday earlier this decade. In those headier days, when Eminem was both lionized and criticized for being the “Hip-Hop Elvis,” many in the cognoscenti actively sought to rationalize Eminem’s murderous lyrical misogyny and homophobia by claiming that the “Slim Shady” character Marshall Mathers hid behind was a creative fictional construct through which the artist sought to explore taboo topics with lyrical dexterity over an infectious beat produced by Dr. Dre. If you didn’t get the joke or appreciate the humor, it was because you were too dense or politically correct to appreciate the brilliant artistry at play.

But at least some writers seem to have grown tired of parroting the debatable (and profitable) premise that Eminem is a major artist with important things to say. In one of the most dismissive pieces I reviewed, Josh Tyrangiel in Time magazine ridicules Eminem’s attempt to regain the title of America’s Most Outrageous:

Half of Relapse – the aggressively dull and stupid half – is devoted to re-establishing Eminem as a man so unhinged, he’s capable of anything or at least fantasizing about anything…. By the middle of the first song, ‘3 a.m.,’ Eminem, or one of his multiple alter egos, has masturbated to Hannah Montana and left a pile of bodies behind the counter of a McDonald’s….On ‘Medicine Ball’ he promises to rape the Pussycat Dolls and spits out a couplet of abuse for Madonna and Rihanna, while ‘Same Song and Dance’ has him raping Lindsay Lohan in one verse and Britney Spears in the next. Suffice it to say that many more rapes occur and I stopped taking notes.

The corporate media have played a crucial role in Eminem’s highly lucrative career in part by defining the parameters of how he can be criticized. As Jon Pareles writes in The New York Times, Eminem “quickly became an offensive scourge to those who took Shady’s fantasies literally, or worried that others might.” Note the narrow range of possibilities the writer offers to describe those who might be “offended” by Eminem’s art. Conveniently left out are Eminem’s detractors who possess a more complex understanding of the effects of violent, misogynous lyrics than whether or not people (men) take them literally.

Another distortion about Eminem and his detractors that many music critics have turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy is the idea that resistance is futile, because Marshall Mathers is just too clever. Pareles writes that when combined with Eminem’s murderous lyrics, the “bouncy beat and singsong choruses of kiddie music” that characterize Dr. Dre’s production constituted a “smiley-faced nastiness (that) was enough to make Eminem a target for the censorious, which in turn gave him a new bunch of antagonists to provoke.

So people who are concerned about the ongoing pandemic of men’s violence against women -- including thousands of domestic violence and sexual assault advocates and educators – are “censorious” if they have a problem with lyrics that normalize and find humor in (fictional) rapists’ misogynist fantasies of brutality and degradation? Pareles quotes Eminem’s response to (unspecified) criticisms of his work with yet another non sequitir: “I didn’t get in this game to be a role model.” As if criticism of his artistic contributions necessarily implies such an unsophisticated understanding of the social functions of art.

Many of the same people who defend Eminem and dismiss his feminist and gay rights critics are white people – including good liberals and progressives -- who long ago accepted the idea that racist depictions in media play an important ideological role in perpetuating racism, not because whites will go out and imitate the behavior of fictional racist characters, but because the institutional structures of racism require ideological and cultural apparati to sustain them.

It takes no great leap of logic to see that sexism works in the same way. One need not argue that boys and men who listen to Eminem will become rapist-murderers in order to maintain that misogynous music and lyrics play an important role in legitimating men’s mistreatment of women by making it culturally acceptable and even “cool” for men to express sexist rage against women and then hide behind the pretense that “it’s only a joke” if anyone takes it too seriously. That argument has long been discredited when it comes to racism. What’s the difference when the oppression in question is sexism, or heterosexism?

For women and men who work in the trenches of the sexual and domestic violence fields, and see daily the brutal results of male socialization played out on the bodies of girls and women (and other men), bearing witness to the continued success of Eminem, Inc. can be an emotionally excruciating experience. I know plenty of people who would prefer to crawl under the covers and pretend that none of this is really happening.

But those of us who take seriously the feminist idea that rapists teach us something about the society that produced them have no choice but to pay attention to Eminem -- both the content and context of his art, and how critics and others describe and make sense of it. With rare exceptions, men who rape are not anomalous monsters. They are products of their socialization and the deeply misogynist norms that prevail in their societies. In the long term, the only way to reduce dramatically the incidence of men’s violence against women is to change the social norms that help to produce abusive men – which includes critically examining what sort of art we choose to celebrate, and why.

In domestic violence advocacy, there is a term used to describe a situation where people contribute to an abusive man’s behavior by their conscious actions, by their minimization of his crimes, or by their silence. It is called “colluding with the batterer.” It is hard to avoid the conclusion that a society where radio stations continue to play Eminem’s records, people continue to buy them, and critics continue to write about them while leaving out any condemnation of their vicious sexism, is a society that is in profound collusion with the batterer.



This article is available at the Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackson-katz/eminem-misogyny-and-the-s_b_211677.html

Domestic Violence is terrorism

act of terrorism, terrorism, terrorist act - the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

domestic violence - the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against an intimate partner or other family member in order to attain control over them to achieve the illusion of powerfulness; this is done through a pattern of intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

Batterers are terrorists

In the wake of the tragic events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, domestic violence service providers nationwide witnessed an increase in our clients’ post-traumatic stress which directly correlates to the traumatic affect of the attack on the nation in general.

Terrorists, as we are coming to learn, are people who feel slighted, who feel an injustice has been done to them, who feel they are victims of an oppressor, and that their violence is justified to right the “wrong” and balance the scales.

Batterers, as we have always known, feel exactly the same way. They are known for blaming everyone else for whatever goes wrong in their lives, blaming everyone else for their own actions and failures, and they justify their abuse by blaming their victim.

One Sojourn client, who was born and raised in the Middle East and has lived in the USA for many years, discussed her experience as a long-term battered woman in the context of the 9/11 attacks. She told us the following:

  • Terrorists blame America for all their troubles, just as my husband blames me for all his troubles.
  • These terrorists were very intelligent, and were able to outsmart law enforcement, just like my husband.
  • The terrorists have intelligence and other resources, but they use them for malicious and destructive purposes rather than for positive ones, just like my husband does.
  • The terrorists destroyed themselves in order to destroy Americans, just as my husband is destroying his own life just to get back at me.
  • Terrorists at first seem crazy, but in fact they are quite calculating in their actions, just like my batterer.
  • Terrorists are successful at creating terror and fear in others, and people begin to live in dread, fearing what they will do next. This is the way I live and have lived every single day for many years.

The terrorist attack on September 11, was designed, in part, to make citizens of this country no longer feel safe in their own homes, on their streets, in their cities. Victims of domestic violence – both women and children – never feel safe, no matter where they are.

Among the many losses suffered by victims of terrorism is the fundamental right to liberty. Much discussion currently is centering on what Americans must be willing to sacrifice in order to feel safer. In much the same way, battered women must make choices which partly or entirely disenfranchise them. Women who are living with their batterer “walk on eggshells” in a constant state of hypervigilance. Not free to speak their mind, come and go, choose their friends, or decide for themselves, they are virtual prisoners in their own homes. Women who attempt to leave their batterer must give up their home, their neighborhood, their daily routine, church, gym, job, car, pets, and belongings to live in hiding. Occasionally, they must give up their identity. Too often, they lose custody of their own children.

For years and years, many American women have been living with terrorists. It’s taken all those years to make changes in the law to address the issue.

by Pat Butler and Erika Stewart