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abusive relationships and social services
November 21, 2002 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Is "a 25-cent bullet" the solution to men who abuse women? (Via Obscurestore) NY State legislator Wanda Hudak claims social services are overloaded by women of "low moral character" and the men who abuse them. This seems to be a week for blunt ideas about abusive relationships: in the NYTimes Magazine (reg req) Deborah Sontag challenges the "doctrinaire thinking about the nature of domestic violence" which posits men as uncontrollable ogres and women as meek victims. Thoughts?
posted by serafinapekkala (39 comments total)

 
Wanda Hudak (sorry, i just can't stop marveling at that name) seems to have Draconian ideas about punishment as well as your typical conservative, NIMBY ideas about "loose women" and "that element" of society. While she may be dismissed as a nut, she does have great authority over the county social services budget and who knows what may result from her ideology. On the flip side, Sontag's article makes a more subtle argument that "the criminal justice system is a blunt club for a problem as psychologically dark, emotionally tangled and intimate as domestic violence." I imagine DV advocates will react in outrage to the idea that police intervention in a DV case amounts to "intrusion of the government into [the couple's] intimate lives," as Sontag suggests. DV became a national issue in the 80's, but what has changed over time? Anything? Did all the "sensitivity training" pay off?
posted by serafinapekkala at 9:02 AM on November 21, 2002


Someone should inform Wanda that sometimes "a 25 cent bullet" can be a viable solution for public officials who do not understand their own jobs...

The arrogance of the self-reightous is simply breathtaking at times.
posted by tommyspoon at 9:05 AM on November 21, 2002


Wanda Hudak: Wow. I really don't know what else to say. I'm flabbergasted.
posted by Fabulon7 at 9:36 AM on November 21, 2002


I think this researcher might be on to something...
posted by titboy at 9:36 AM on November 21, 2002


Even joking about a 25 cent bullet and public officials can get you a visit from the FBI. Sadly, there's no similar precedence set for public officials proposing the same solution for citizens.
posted by substrate at 9:48 AM on November 21, 2002


Bring 'em on, I say, bring 'em on.

And when they drag me away, I'll shout at the top of my lungs, "Long live meta-- fmmmppphhhhhhh!!!!"
posted by tommyspoon at 9:52 AM on November 21, 2002


Hmm... Nowhere does the article mention Representative Hudak's political party. Any wagers?
posted by smrtsch at 10:00 AM on November 21, 2002


Wanda A. Hudak was first elected to the County Legislature in a special election in 1987. She is a registered nurse, and practiced from 1984-1994 at the health clinic, "The Definite Difference" that she founded in Endicott, NY.

She's a nurse? Hmm, so much for compassion and caring.


...and you're correct smrtsch, she's an (R).

m@
posted by m@ at 10:16 AM on November 21, 2002


Got to love the sexy graphic that went with the Times piece. It's stormy, it's tumultuous, it's hot...it's domestic violence! Actually, it's probably a pretty accurate depiction of how these "non-doctrinaire" thinkers view the problem.
posted by transona5 at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2002


Interestingly, Ms Wanda appears to be a cousin to Camille Paglia as referenced in her "Letters to the Editor" column in Salon. scroll to sixth paragraph down in the second link
posted by madamjujujive at 10:44 AM on November 21, 2002


the sexy graphic

yes, exactly: on the cover of the Mag is a b/w closeup photo of a woman's black eye with the title "Bad Love." the interior photos look like something from "Sid & Nancy" or "crazy/beautiful." grrrrrr.
posted by serafinapekkala at 10:52 AM on November 21, 2002


I also found it interesting that while the Times article points out that the majority of domestic violence situations involve blacks and latinos, the graphic depicts (what appears to be) a white couple.
posted by mariko at 11:05 AM on November 21, 2002


...and you're correct smrtsch, she's an (R).


Don't start it, just don't. Please.
posted by a3matrix at 11:06 AM on November 21, 2002


Don't worry about domestic violence--corporate America is fixing it because they decided it affects profits. How do I know? It's a topic at this year's Risk Insurance Management Society conference: Domestic Violence Targets the Heart of American Business. I was flipping through the program in the office breakroom when I stopped cold at this sentence: "They [companies] are beginning to address the issue of domestic violence out of compassion to retain talented employees, reduce the negative impact on their profits, and avoid or minimize legal liability."

I always thought that domestic violence targeted people, but obviously I just don't understand business. Is it just me or is that horrifying?
posted by vraxoin at 11:16 AM on November 21, 2002


Ugh. Broome County. Very poor, fairly rural, mostly white, nearly half the population has *at most* a high school education. Generally poor health with much higher than average infant mortality rates. And of the 2,214 live births in 2000, one-third of them were out of wedlock.

It all adds up to one of the crappiest areas to live in NY, if not the entire northeast. And here's this woman, presumably popular since she's been in office since the 1980s, who (as a nurse) should be coming from a rather sympathetic background, right? She of all people should know firsthand that Broome County isn't gonna benefit from caps on Medicaid spending, etc. She may be drawing on personal experience when she refers to immorality and final solution-tactics for domestic violence, but why on earth would you become a public official if you've already lost all hope for humanity? (don't answer that)

(I thought the Times piece was interesting, but the photos really creased me--what, tattoos=abuser?)
posted by cowboy_sally at 11:18 AM on November 21, 2002


a b/w closeup photo of a woman's black eye with the title "Bad Love."

Ick.

I've never been involved in a situation of domestic violence, so maybe the experts Sontag quotes are right, but most of the argument seemed really weak. A woman named Sylvia says that she's also at fault in the fights where her husband batters her? Anyone who's ever overlooked mistreatment by a friend or been dumped by a lover has probably tried to make it sound like "a mutual thing" rather than admit to being a doormat. That doesn't mean it is a mutual thing.
posted by transona5 at 11:21 AM on November 21, 2002


I have been involved in a situation of domestic violence, and while I can't speak for anyone else, I can say that after a while, I did more than my fair share of participating and inciting it. It took me a while to figure out that going out of my way to piss him off wasn't revenge, it wasn't changing anything, and the only way it was going to stop was if I stopped it- I was only blameless the first time it happened, after that, after I chose to stay, I was complicit.

Once I figured that out, I left and never looked back.
posted by headspace at 11:29 AM on November 21, 2002


The abused partner in an abusive relationship generally blame themselves for the abuse. It is part of the syndrome. This is not a new thing.
posted by moonvine at 11:33 AM on November 21, 2002


Every 6 seconds, a man physicaly assults a woman

but every 4 seconds, a woman physicaly assults a man.

It's rediculous to claim that only men can inflict damage on women, and not the other way around.
posted by delmoi at 11:33 AM on November 21, 2002


transona5: yes, i was also put off by Sontag's proffering of Sylvia and Michael as a typical case of abuse. Michael admits, at least in retrospect, that he was a ticking time bomb of hatred for women...do most abusers see themselves so clearly? Sylvia says she "doesn't back down" from conflict...and what of those who do, out of necessity for themselves or their kids? it's not just that the arguments are weak, the whole article was so derisive of the tireless advocacy in the last 20 years to get the system to treat abuse seriously...it's just so regressive to treat it as passe (just like feminism! *sarcasm of course*).
posted by serafinapekkala at 11:35 AM on November 21, 2002


delmoi: any links for those stats?
posted by serafinapekkala at 11:36 AM on November 21, 2002


serafinapekkala: here are the real numbers, it's every 20.9 seconds a woman is beaten, and every 37.8 a man is beaten.

The FBI also has a 15 second number for women that I've see mentioned around, but I didn't bother to find the source for that.
posted by betaray at 11:49 AM on November 21, 2002


delmoi, I don't know where you;re getting you data, but check out here and here
for stats that refute your numbers. (Grr, I can't get the second link to work.)

And, further, let's identify the difference between an assault such as a punch and assaults that are severe beatings, that can frequently lead to death. No comparison. None.

"Annually, compared to males, females experienced over 10 times as many incidents of violence by an intimate. On average each year, women experienced 572,032 violent victimization at the hands of an intimate, compared to 48,983 incidents committed against men. (Ronet Bachman Ph.D., U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report," January 1994, p. 6)"

"Among all female murder victims in 1992, 30% were slain by husbands or boyfriends."

"47% of the husbands who batter their wives do so three or more times each year."
posted by Red58 at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2002


The problem lies with the low moral character of women who insist on breeding children they can't care for because 'somebody else will.' The problem lies with boyfriends being allowed to stay with them to suck on the system while they themselves service a multitude of women and deal drugs without repercussions.

Since this woman is right there in the middle of that community, wouldn't she be a bit more qualified to make that statement than any of us, who have never been there? Of course, in the land of liberals, there is no such thing as a welfare queen, or the irresponsible men, who impregnate them, with no ability to support the children, or even a desire to so. Yes, far better to throw more money at the problem, without actually being so cruel, as to ask these people to, you know, actually change their behavior.
posted by Beholder at 12:08 PM on November 21, 2002


And, further, let's identify the difference between an assault such as a punch and assaults that are severe beatings, that can frequently lead to death. No comparison. None.

Simply because a woman's less likely to *injure* a man she's hitting doesn't make that behavior more acceptable. I fail to see the distinction you want to make. Women who hit men are just as culpable as men who hit women; and as the Sontag article points out, in many cases of domestic violence, it's usually a combination of both.

Why, then, should we laud the "tireless advocacy" of the past 20 years when the chief fruits of that particular labor are mandatory arrest laws and controlling, dismissive treatment of victims? Domestic violence is a nuanced issue, and current methods of dealing with it are about as subtle as an anvil.
posted by cowboy_sally at 12:09 PM on November 21, 2002


A quick skim of those documents doesn't reveal any numbers about self defense. Usually, these surveys tally up incidents, regardless of the motivation. If a woman threatens a man with a knife because he's about to hit her, it is still counted as threatening with a knife. Not that it shouldn't be counted, but some context is needed.
posted by frykitty at 12:10 PM on November 21, 2002


Doing more research, I found out that the 9-15 second number that people claim the FBI is based on Richard J. Gelles research is bogus. In fact even Mr. Gelles himself explains how his work was often misreprestented.

In this case the statistics are especially tricky because there are many different groups out there that would like to distort the facts on this issue, and as we all know, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.
posted by betaray at 12:14 PM on November 21, 2002


...ask these people to, you know, actually change their behavior.

For the most part, I rather agree with this. There are rotten people in the world. The question is why (which cowboy_sally addressed nicely), and how to change it. Hudak doesn't want to change it. She doesn't want to get the the root of the problem. She just wants to off that segment of the population.

I've had my fantasies about poisoning the beer at monster truck rallies, but I'm not serious. There are solutions. Maybe welfare is the wrong way to handle it, as it seems more like an ambulance down in the valley than a fence at the edge of the cliff. It bothers me deeply that Hudak seems willfully blind to considering alternatives in salvaging her neighbors. As a public official, especially one in her position, that's her damned job.
posted by frykitty at 12:21 PM on November 21, 2002


So Beholder, women of "low moral character" (judged by whom?) deserve to be beaten? Sheltering them is a waste of money? What about wealthy women who have no access to money without their husband's permission/control? Should we shelter them? Oh, I mean throw money at them?

This is about blaming the victims, preferably the poor ones.
posted by Red58 at 12:25 PM on November 21, 2002


There are a lot of problems with statistics. For one thing, we're talking mostly about partners abusing one another, when "domestic abuse" in legal terms is defined basically as violence between two people who live together: spouses, partners, relatives, roommates. They also depend a lot on who reports what (especially if they're just reports, not seriously victims). Some sort of violence not likely to result in hospitalization might be more likely to be reported by a female than by a male (since there's still a huge stigma to being "beat up by a girl")
posted by dagnyscott at 12:27 PM on November 21, 2002


Since this woman is right there in the middle of that community, wouldn't she be a bit more qualified to make that statement than any of us, who have never been there? Of course, in the land of liberals, there is no such thing as a welfare queen, or the irresponsible men, who impregnate them, with no ability to support the children, or even a desire to so.

Actually, I spent the first 18 years of my life a stone's throw away from Broome County. It doesn't make me uniquely qualified to comment, but it gives me considerable perspective. How about you?

There's a difference between throwing money at the problem and *not* eliminating 53 social service positions from an already understaffed county office, which Hudak seems to be hellbent on doing. The county is in rough shape; what good is her tyrannical posturing doing?

(on preview, what frykitty said)
posted by cowboy_sally at 12:37 PM on November 21, 2002


ask these people to, you know, actually change their behavior.

Hudak judges their character as well. she implies that the bad behavior that costs the county money would be eliminated if only these immoral people would mend their wicked ways. to me, the idea of "wickedness" has zero place in public policy, other than archaic criminal law. whether you're wicked or young or uneducated or poor or just unlucky, the county has to deal with you just the same. and not by namecalling or shooting you.

subtle as an anvil

better an anvil than nothing, as was the case not so long ago...i'm thinking of the beginning of "LA Confidential," when Bud White's partner and other cops make fun of him for intervening in a wife-beating. maybe the pendulum has swung "too far" in the other direction, but refining the system is better than scrapping it.

salvaging her neighbors...that's her damned job.

it seems Hudak sees her job in Bushian terms: stop all that liberal bleeding heart profligate spending on the weak and fallen. nice.
posted by serafinapekkala at 1:24 PM on November 21, 2002


I take offense to the "low moral character" judgement. I too was part of an abusive relationship for 16 yrs. Does she not realize that most women involved in such, got in that relationship at an early age. I was young and also a victim of parental abuse. I went into the relationship with low self esteem. Most people especially women that find out about this ask me "How do you stay with a man treating you this way?". What they do not understand is that the physical abuse doesn't happen immediately. It's not until you have had enough emotional abuse; until you believe that you do not deserve any better and that everyone else around you is also being treated this way, that the physical stuff begins. I have since gotten out of that relationship, have attained one college degree and am working on a second. This was due in part to the availability to a grant for displaced homemakers. The other part was meeting my caseworker who believed in me and made me believe in myself. These women do not need more emotional battery by this woman calling them low character. What they need is someone to care about them and let them know there really is more out there for them. I know that's what worked for me.
posted by SweetIceT at 1:26 PM on November 21, 2002


Judgment as to people's behavior, and, more specificically, the conformity of that behavior to accepted norms, is the core of how governments function. The decision to allow the poverty-services element of government to deviate from that established, and uncontroversial, basis of action was a terrible one.

In virtually every other sphere of public services, there is a continual effort made to distinguish between the good and the bad, the worthy and the unworthy, the qualified and the unqualified. Think about law enforcement and the criminal justice system, about medals and promotions in the military, about grades in public schools and admissions to selective public colleges and unversities, about allocations of tax incentives and zoning variances for useful development, etc.

Poverty benefits used to be based upon some concept of worthiness, neediness, attachment to the community. I can see absolutely no reason why those standards should not be reinstated.
posted by MattD at 1:57 PM on November 21, 2002


SweetIceT: thank you for sharing your experience. i agree with you that empathy is what's missing...i posted a few weeks ago that we seem to be moving towards a United States of I Don't Give A Damn About Anyone But Myself. i hope that turns out to not be the case...
posted by serafinapekkala at 2:33 PM on November 21, 2002


For the most part, I rather agree with this. There are rotten people in the world. The question is why (which cowboy_sally addressed nicely), and how to change it. Hudak doesn't want to change it. She doesn't want to get the the root of the problem. She just wants to off that segment of the population.

Do we have any evidence that Hudak has no desire to change it? Are we sure that she's not just someone who has been at the front lines of this situation for a lot of years and is sick and tired of seeing the same old, same old and is just frustrated, burned out and in a state? That's she's mouthed off about a ridiculous solution (the 25-cent bullet) while really advocating for an extreme solution -- forcing people to make better choices because the safety net which has always been there to solve things for them isn't going to be there anymore?

My mom, also a nurse, also a community leader, also a woman of great compassion has made similar statements -- not about a 25 cent bullet but about a 1 cent match and how it could solve problems she's been having with tenants of a house across the street from her who are apparently dealing drugs. Does my mother (who actually carries spiders outside rather than kill them) really mean that she'd like to see their houses torched? Absolutely not. But she's frustrated because these people are a drain on public funds (the house is subsidized via Section 8) and public safety (police are out at least once a week, every resident has been arrested multiple times, some while out on bail for other arrests) and because laws and rules aren't being followed, they're continuing to infect her (previously very safe, very family-friendly) neighborhood. She's working within the system to get them out, but meanwhile, she vents.

So back to Hudak -- she's looking at women who are repeatedly popping up on her radar. They've shown little responsibility, they're having kids without benefit of a stable family structure or the financial ability to care for them, they're hooking up with lowlifes. She's looking at these men, drug dealers, probably racking up criminal charges the way most people rack up credit card charges, and abusive toward these women and children, often with extremely tragic circumstances.

And what's the response? That it's somehow inappropriate for the government that continually cleans up the messes that these people are making of one anothers' lives to recognize and state the truth: if these people weren't making these selfish, reckless, dangerous choices, government wouldn't have to keep bailing them out at the expense of the time and money of everybody else.

Well, someone has to say it. And someone has to pull the plug on fixing it, because eventually, that turns into supporting it. Otherwise, how will anyone get the idea that it's not appropriate to have kids you aren't equipped to raise, not a good idea to cohort with thugs, and never, ever right to put your children in the path of those thugs? How will anyone ever feel like they don't have any other choice but to find a better way to go about living their lives until they really don't have any other choice?
posted by Dreama at 3:35 PM on November 21, 2002


an ambulance down in the valley than a fence at the edge of the cliff

Nice phrase, BTW.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:09 PM on November 21, 2002


Nice phrase, BTW.

Lifted.
posted by frykitty at 9:33 PM on November 21, 2002


Poverty benefits used to be based upon some concept of worthiness, neediness, attachment to the community. I can see absolutely no reason why those standards should not be reinstated.

MattD, I'm not going to argue with you on principle because I know it would be pointless to do so (although I hope you don't really believe that providing a tiny subsidy to an person with a morally questionable lifestyle in order to prevent them from suffering great harm is like letting a criminal go free or promoting a lousy soldier). However, I would point out that almost all welfare benefits outside the disability context are targeted toward children, not adults. Individuals or families without kids are eligible for food stamps and little else (The only reason they're even eligible for food stamps is because the food producers are big supporters of expansive eligibility). Benefits provided directly to the parents, like health insurance, are only to insure that they will be able to take care of their kids. Are you willing to argue that poor children are "unworthy" of benefits? If not, you have nothing to worry about, because government policy already overwhelmingly reflects your view.
posted by boltman at 11:40 PM on November 21, 2002


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