"Why doesn't she just leave him?"
February 11, 2016 5:24 PM   Subscribe

More women are killed by intimate partners in the United States than by any other group of people. It's not strangers, friends or acquaintances who pose the biggest threat to women's lives: It's the men they date and marry.
posted by sockermom (39 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
My daughter's been on a kick of asking me to marry her lately (she's little and thinks marriage means sitting together on the couch sharing make believe cookies--she asked me again just now as this came up in my feed), so this is timely. I hope I'm always going to be around to try to help her learn to spot the potential abusive assholes and pick-up artists in the world. Her only grandparents don't exactly have an idyllic relationship either, so she's apparently not going to get to have too many models of healthy, nurturing family relationships now that her mother and I are divorcing. It scares the hell out of me how little influence I have over the cultural messages she's exposed to half the time now, but you have to accept these things and just do the best you can. Those pics in the article are haunting because they make me imagine her reaching dating age and having to navigate all the craziness and toxicity around sexuality/dating in our culture. Thanks for the depressing kick in the gut/reminder of what's important.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:56 PM on February 11, 2016 [16 favorites]

First responders ask a woman a series of questions designed to determine her risk level: Does your partner threaten to kill you? Does he have access to a gun? Has he ever strangled you? If a woman has a high score, police alert her to her danger level and refer her to services on the spot. Police may further monitor abusers marked as high-risk, and the criminal justice system may use that information to manage the case.
This is one of the reasons we have to have a universal licensing and registration system for guns. Protective order? All your guns are confiscated and held at the PD until further notice. Caught with a firearm while named by a protective order? Contempt of court and you lose bail until everything is sorted out. It wouldn't be a panacea but it would be a hell of a start.
posted by Talez at 6:00 PM on February 11, 2016 [37 favorites]

I'm not trying to start something with the first comment here, but I have really mixed feelings about articles about how Americans are ambivalent to domestic violence, especially because of sentences like this one:

"The simple answer? We need to stop being OK with men's violence against women," she said.

Because I get it that domestic violence (and particularly domestic killings) is a huge problem and is awful and is absolutely routed in patriarchy and everything else. That being said, domestic violence cases -- or cases that are charged as domestic -- are treated WAY more harshly in the criminal justice system than many other similar, and sometimes more violent, offenses. This is because there is a lot of grant funding and media attention paid towards prosecuting domestic offenses, and prosecutors and judges are afraid of tragedies occurring on their watch.

Because folks are generally really unwilling to admit (to the court, to themselves) to being a woman-beater, and many victims change their mind about pressing charges out of love/fear/whatever, the system is set up to force people to plead guilty, regardless of their actual guilt or the victim's interest in pursuing the matter. It is very hard to get pretrial bond relief because the allegations are typically violent (danger to the community is a reason to deny bond relief), and all it takes is a woman to tell a police officer that her boyfriend strangled her for him to get charged with a felony (even without physical marks indicating strangling). Most people charged with domestic crimes accept plea deals to get out of jail, and many assert their innocence. This becomes really problematic when you step back and consider whether maybe some of these alleged perpetrators are actually innocent, or whether the "victim" had motivations of their own to call the police or press charges (jealousy, control, whatever), and the fact that often proof in these cases is the word of the arresting officer vs. the word of the defendant.

This is a particular problem when it is targeted against black men, who as we know are treated disproportionately unfairly in the criminal justice system, and doubly so if the victim happens to be a white female. This aside from the often extremely expensive mandatory counseling required for people who accept plea deals to domestic offenses, and that financial effect on poor families.

I have to admit that as a public defender and a feminist, domestic cases have been some of the hardest and most frustrating cases, for all of these reasons and more. And I really do think that the criminal justice climate w/r/t domestic offenses has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, with the rise of people focused on this issue, for better or for worse.
posted by likeatoaster at 6:04 PM on February 11, 2016 [39 favorites]

You make some really good points, likeatoaster. Thanks for your thoughts. I am curious about what kind of reforms pertaining to this system that you would like to see.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:21 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are those factors more true when it comes to domestic violence than other types of crimes?

And if so, does the fact that DV prosecution is used as a tool to oppress the poor and men of color necessarily contradict the idea that we need to take domestic violence more seriously?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:24 PM on February 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

I am so grateful that my abusive ex did not have access to a gun, because I would absolutely be dead right now. He only hit me once, and he was dumb enough to do so in front of two male friends of mine. After he was slammed against the wall, he never did it again. The emotional abuse, so hard to see, continued for another year. At the time, I defended the hell out of him, because, hey, he wasn't hitting me. He was doing things to me without my consent, but he wasn't hitting me, so that's love, right? No. I am so, so lucky that I'm alive.
posted by Ruki at 6:26 PM on February 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

I am curious about what kind of reforms pertaining to this system that you would like to see.
Frankly, I don't really know. I just think sometimes it is more complicated than first meets the eye. Better policing couldn't hurt though -- I don't think it is routine to ask the questions described in the article, for example, and might lead to more accurate analysis in the first place.

Are those factors more true when it comes to domestic violence than other types of crimes?
Absolutely yes, both because of bond relief and because domestic cases play worse to juries than non-domestic offenses.

And if so, does the fact that DV prosecution is used as a tool to oppress the poor and men of color necessarily contradict the idea that we need to take domestic violence more seriously?
Not, not at all. But it would be cool if the "let's take this more seriously" sentiment, and more importantly money, was focused on things other than strengthening the criminal justice system. I just think tough-on-crime is an easier, and more popular, go-to than other measures, like i dunno dismantling the patriarchy.
posted by likeatoaster at 6:33 PM on February 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

victims are often imperfect and even if they have their own motives for reporting it doesn't mean they're lying. abusers and their victims don't have equal relationships. to stack the word of the accused against the imperfection of the accuser makes sense coming from a defense attorney's mindset, but doesn't make sense in the broader world where women are still most likely to be killed by the men they sleep with.
posted by nadawi at 6:38 PM on February 11, 2016 [12 favorites]

I guess it just seems like it's inaccurate to assume that someone advocating for us, as a society, caring more about domestic violence is necessarily arguing against accused men getting adequate due process. Those don't seem, to me, like self-evidently contradictory goals.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:58 PM on February 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

all it takes is a woman to tell a police officer that her boyfriend strangled her for him to get charged with a felony (even without physical marks indicating strangling)

That's quite an "all," there. How many ligature marks would you propose you need to be believed that your boyfriend just tried to kill you?

Most people charged with domestic crimes accept plea deals to get out of jail,

I'm surprised that, as a PD, you're not aware that this is true for most all felonies if the defendant is below a certain socioeconomic level and can't readily post bail. Indeed, pretty much the entire dynamic you've described applies generally to poorer defendants, except the mandatory counseling.
posted by praemunire at 7:03 PM on February 11, 2016 [13 favorites]

The victims in these cases are very likely to be of the same socioeconomic class and race as the defendants. I can't help contrasting this thread with some of the recent discussions here where the victims were relatively high-status (Jian Ghomeshi, harassment in academia), and what the response might have been to the concern that "jealous" women are launching a raft of false accusations. I...kind of think we wouldn't have had a discussion about, oh, well, yes, that's a really valuable perspective, and how could we help these men who might be falsely accused.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 7:17 PM on February 11, 2016 [14 favorites]

I really resent the implications that a) everyone accused of domestic violence is automatically guilty; b) public defenders who are working to uphold the constitutional rights of the accused, and who see more grit in a day than most people do in a year, somehow fail to experience the "broader world"; c) I am bad at my job when I insist that domestic crimes are treated differently, when in fact there are specific domestic prosecutors whose job is to handle domestics differently, when even alleged misdemeanor domestic offenders are denied bond relief and many accused felons do get ror'd or other bond relief, but generally not in domestic cases; and worst d) i am somehow a #notallmen-er when I took careful pains to make clear that this is a nuanced issue, that I believe that domestic violence exists and is prevalent, and that I didn't think women were lying but rather that there was a possibility that sometimes somewhere some people are actually innocent of what they are accused of.

It's cool that we can have such an honest and vigorous discussion about this issue.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:29 PM on February 11, 2016 [41 favorites]

likeatoaster, I would definitely like to see some of the statistics you have on how harshly DV offenders are treated compared to non-DV offenders. Here are some I've found:

From here:
  • 50% of offenders in state prison for spousal abuse had killed their victims. Wives were more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses: wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but 81% of all persons killed by their spouse.
  • 54% of femicide victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalkers.
  • 41% of participants reported that the men committed a re-assault during the 30-month follow-up period.
  • Nearly 2/3 of the first time re-assaults occurred in the first 6 months.
  • About 20 percent of the men repeatedly re-assaulted their partners and account for most of the reported injuries.
  • Among felony assault defendants convicted in State courts, 45% of persons sent to prison for family assault received a sentence of more than 2 years, compared to 77% of non-family assault offenders sent to prison.

all it takes is a woman to tell a police officer that her boyfriend strangled her for him to get charged with a felony (even without physical marks indicating strangling)

Well, I am not too surprised given the link between non-fatal strangulation and homicide in DV cases. If you're in a DV situation and your partner strangles you during the abuse, you face an eventual seven-fold risk of becoming their homicide victim.

Like I said, I woudld be interested in your stats. I wonder if the behavior you see is the frustration of an outsider used to watching DV victims trapped in the cycle of abuse. One of the most common non-victim stories in DV cases is the friend/officer/prosecutor/family member who helplessly watches a victim go into the hospital and walk right out into the arms of their abuser. Perhaps they see the harsh treatment of abusers as a way to keep the abused from coming back to them.

posted by Anonymous at 7:30 PM on February 11, 2016

Okay one quick response and then I swear I will stop dominating the thread, but that data you linked is from a 1995-1996 study (or it looks like studies generally from the late 90s), and generally there is a lag in current charges vs. convictions vs. people actually physically ending up in prison. One of my points was that the prosecution of domestic violence crimes has change dramatically in the last 20 years. I'm not sure there is solid data on that shift yet, but if I can find some over the weekend, I will try to.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:39 PM on February 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Great post, thank you. I'd also like to drop in a related previous story - last years Pulitzer Prize winning report in South Carolina's Post and Courier, "Till Death Do Us Part". An astonishing and heartbreaking piece of writing. At the end of it, they put forward some potential solutions to the problems they identified. We discussed it here.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:54 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

My mother left, but not because of the abuse. Same for my stepmother. Neither ever called the police, I don't know why (but can guess).

I shudder to think what might have happened if my asshole father had had a gun.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:00 PM on February 11, 2016


If anyone had asked me before my beating if I would defend myself when attacked, I would have said yes, of course I would. The View From The Victim Room
posted by triggerfinger at 8:11 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

am somehow a #notallmen-er when I took careful pains to make clear that this is a nuanced issue, that I believe that domestic violence exists and is prevalent, and that I didn't think women were lying but rather that there was a possibility that sometimes somewhere some people are actually innocent of what they are accused of.

Maybe that wasn't your intent, but when you dismissively refer to a woman's report to a police officer of being violently, potentially lethally assaulted as "all" the evidence or object to arrests because "whether the 'victim' had motivations of their own to call the police or press charges (jealousy, control, whatever)" isn't being properly considered, you are using some seriously loaded rhetoric. It's hard for me to read those statements as anything but insinuations that these women are lying (unless you're arguing that a woman who actually has been assaulted shouldn't get to press charges if her motives aren't saintly, which I trust you're not). You're looking at what is overall a deeply dysfunctional system of criminal justice for the poor and singling out a specific set of defendants as being particularly in need of relief in significant part because the complainants--women reporting domestic violence--aren't, in your mind, sufficiently reliable. Of course defendants are sometimes innocent, including those accused of domestic violence. (And bail reform is desperately needed.) But you can make that claim without implying that it's outrageous that those jealous, controlling women may be believed by the cops or DAs when they say their intimate partners tried to murder them.
posted by praemunire at 8:17 PM on February 11, 2016 [30 favorites]

On "rigorous and honest discussion": some of the folks reading have, of course, been the victims of domestic and/or intimate partner violence, and for them, it might be pretty hard not to take it personally when they see the word "victim" in quotation marks. I am guessing, though.

The narrative that DV (and IPV?) is more vigorously prosecuted than equivalent acts of violence between people not sharing a household is a new one to me, because I grew up in the 70s/80s, when the opposite was the case, and it was an injustice that a lot of feminists of my generation and earlier generations spent a lot of energy changing. That doesn't mean the new narrative is wrong - it means I'm out of date. I would like to see some evidence, too, not because I doubt your word or your competence, but because this is a very striking change.
posted by gingerest at 8:24 PM on February 11, 2016 [18 favorites]

I would like to see some evidence, too, not because I doubt your word or your competence, but because this is a very striking change.

It's anecdote rather than evidence, but there's a whole bunch of angry black men on YouTube who aren't your usual MRA types who go on at some length about the extent to which black men get a rough deal in the courts over a whole host of issues around things like child support, allegations of domestic violence, etc.

I've no idea how true it is or isn't, but there does appear to be lots of resonance in the comments section.

Someone like Boyce Watkins is as reasonable as they come, but he seems to think there's an issue there.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:44 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't know why I checked out Metafilter for some pleasant nighttime reading before turning in.

We all know the problem of Violence in America is the problem of Male Violence in America, as the statistics in the article portray in grim detail.

And: one dude in the story had THIRTY-SEVEN handguns in his home?

No solutions from me tonight, man. Just sorrow. Mixed with anger. And compassion, because this is about people who are hurting, bad.
posted by kozad at 8:54 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Talez' commented reminded me:

Getting a firearms license in one of those other countries where there are quite a lot of guns but a lot less gun violence, part of the process is that the spouse (and other close friends) are privately interviewed before the application is granted to find out if they have fears about that person having access to guns. The interview is private, and if it results in the application being denied, the spouse is not fingered as the reason for that.

I like that system. It doesn't wait until someone is dead or has a criminal record to find out if someone is violent, suicidal, or otherwise unsuitable for the responsibility of gun ownership. It's proactive, and for the vast majority of people, it's a very low bar to cross.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:51 AM on February 12, 2016 [27 favorites]

We all know the problem of Violence in America is the problem of Male Violence in America, as the statistics in the article portray in grim detail.

Data point, which you can place into likeatoaster's "it's a complicated issue" bucket:

I have been in one relationship in my life in which there was an abusive partner. However, I was that abusive partner.

At least, I'm the one who calls what I was doing "abuse" - everyone else I talked to chalked it up to "ooh, the woman was getting angry at that guy, poor dear." I finally realized that it was a really bloody unhealthy situation and we broke up, and then I sought help to process the fact that I was capable of this kind of violence - but I didn't get it, all I got was comments about how "he really must have made you angry" or comments about how "brave" I was to have gotten out of that situation.

And it scared the SHIT out of me to hear that, because I knew that I didn't feel brave, and I didn't feel like I was justified - I was scared to death that I was capable of that kind of violence, I felt like I had been spinning out of control and I wanted someone to help me figure out how to stop.

And I knew that if I'd been a man attacking a woman, I'd be hearing some very different things - my actions wouldn't have been excused as "oh, she really must have made you angry". Although, I wouldn't be getting help in that case either - I'd have been getting legal charges.

Violence is not a gendered thing. And sometimes the people who perpetrate violence need help stopping themselves. I finally found a way to cope, but sometimes I notice that I even pull my mental punches today, even at times when I should be defending myself, and I wonder if more effective help then - instead of everyone leaving me to do it on my own - would have been better for me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:51 AM on February 12, 2016 [31 favorites]

I do find it concerning that in the interests of men of marginalized races, we want to take margilized races women's accusations less seriously. Like I get that racism makes punitive solutions come down harder on men in minority races but what are women in minority races' desires in this? Do they want the system to be equally as indifferent to mens domestic violence or is it that we should take domestic violence from all races seriously, and change the way the prison system works so that anyone who is going to be getting out is getting rehabilitation and a supportive environment to work through there own experiences of abuse and the toxic cultures that taught them it's ok to treat women badly?

I fail to see how taking accusations less seriously is actually going to help a lot either. What's more, while it's the job of a defender to assume the client might be or is innocent, the reality is that at least some of those assumed innocent are actually guilty and going free because of their good defense.
posted by xarnop at 5:34 AM on February 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

I edited to expand on races. I have seen my own family defend domestic abusers-- only the native family members have seen jail time despite tons of white domestic abusers getting away with it. I see this as a real problem but I hardly think making it easier for men of any race to get away with it is an improvement. Yay let's expand the right of men to abuse women to ALL races, equally! Or... something different?
posted by xarnop at 5:39 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

praemunire, I appreciate your point, and I apologize if I used hurtful or triggering language. From my perspective, the entire domestic violence incarceration system presumes guilt on the part of the accused -- including the female accused -- and assumes they are lying, even when they tell police on the scene their side of the story. This is frequently completely unquestioned -- a lot of people think that if you are charged with a crime, you can't be trusted to be truthful about the circumstances leading up to it. I only meant to assert that in some cases, probably the minority of cases but some, the accusing party might be the one making it up. The criminal justice system does not really account for that possibility unless defendants are willing to wait out months of pretrial litigation in jail.

I feel like I was less than totally articulate last night, so let me try again. I feel like the overwhelming response to cracking down on domestic violence has been to put people in jail. I disagree with this response, and I think most victims do too. I talk to both defendants and victims almost every day, and most of the time the victim (if they come to court - many think if they don't come the charges will be dropped, but the prosecutors just assume the defendant scared them into staying at home) is begging the prosecutor not to keep the defendant locked up, saying that they just wanted them to get help. But there aren't really free or low cost "help" available - just jail then mandatory therapy costing hundreds of dollars.

I agree that something needs to be done about domestic violence. I don't think increased criminal punishments, and fewer procedural safeguards, is the best solution.
posted by likeatoaster at 6:41 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

It's such a loaded topic it's difficult to keep calm and have a polite discussion about. I agree that women are violent too. Everyone needs basic de-escalation education. I used to be violent as a teenager, but I weighed less than 120 lbs. People said my violent outbursts were "cute". I never gave anyone an injury beyond a bruise. The exact same behavior from a 170 lb teenage boy could put someone in the hospital. Neither is OK, but the consequences differ by an order of magnitude.
This is one of the reasons male victims of domestic violence are dismissed. In fact, they are often encouraged to fight back - something that women are almost never told to do for fear that that escalation will result in serious injury or death. Our culture does not treat these subjects fairly or with an eye towards the future. We are often short-sighted.
We must stop these behaviors when they start, but I'm not sure how we can get there from here.
That I couldn't accomplish anything by being violent was what stopped me. If I had been stronger, if people apologized for making me angry and avoided the behavior that set me off (as scared people are likely to do), I might never have stopped. I was forced to find other ways to interact with people.
posted by domo at 6:55 AM on February 12, 2016

likeatoaster- I comepletely agree with you that we need a multifaceted approach-- I would personally like that change to alter the nature of prisons themselves, not eliminate them, but I agree in a shift in focus. Because I have in fact spent years head buried in research about this, talking to my professors about the best sources of information and really trying to understand the multifaceted contributions to violence in humans (and while women can be violent, and I have known violent and abusive women- the death and rapes that come from the abuse at the hands of men tend to be radically higher in all the research I've read.)

We need to take seriously the fact that the rates of domestic violence soar when you're looking at men in violent professions- slaughterhouses, police, military- Training people to kill increases their likelihood of killing and violence. Strange. Huh. I have so much research I've read about this and I want to find good studies but essentially, men don't like going to therapy- and being a witness to domestic abuse in the home, whether at you or others is going to increase the normalization of violence. Essentially the other biggest predictors of violence include being male, poor and having substance abuse problems (all overlap with trauma histories and childhood adversity).

We tend to act like "we just don't know" and "it's such a mystery" but it's really not. There are a lot of known factors and we could start by addressing those known factors- addressing poverty with living wages, housing the homeless, and supports for the unemployed whether or not they pass muster for disabilities (so many with disabilities don't qualify as REAL disabled even though they can't work). We can provide free counselling and support services to trauma survivors (including financial and housing support when ability to work is impaired), processing trauma can really make working hard and more women survivors I know are willing to live with family and go through a period of being unemployed while recovering than men who are trained to see needs as weakness and to be independent and strong-- making numbing drugs that just help you get through the workday (an understandable choice for plenty of men and women in tough situations) seem like a better choice.

Yes "male" culture adds to supporting violence, but think about what men have been asked to do. They are supposed to slaughter a baby cow and it's mom right in front of each other and not bat an eye so everyone else can have a nice dinner. They are supposed to fight wars and kill people and see violence as a good solution "if needed" and they absolutely are thrown into the situations where it's considered "needed" or at least good. Male culture evolved to help men cope with this burden, to help ease the ache of harming other living creatures, to make it feel more ok, to be more numb, to savor the power of harming others and to focus on the good that comes from it so you don't collapse inside with guilt and grief and the echos of the screams of those you harms, their blood pouring forth because of your own deeds. The human race has disproportionately trained/s men to be violent and to have low empathy for those who "deserve" violence. Granted, because of men's advantage in size and build, there is a real difference that makes violence coming from one or the other different as mentioned above and has likely impacted how we have cultured each other and whether you want to call being the dominant aggressor a burden or privilege is relative, it comes with both. The fact that male violence and domination seems to exist across cultures tells me that more is needed to address this than simply thinking it's just cultural.
posted by xarnop at 7:12 AM on February 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

For me, I still take the aikido technique of turning to face what your opponent is taking seriously, so when I am threatened or harmed by men, I want to look deeper and see the history and causes of their violence and what they are coping with/thinking/reacting to that is making them choose this or feel out of control to stop this and I think it is some of both which matters in how we help stop this.
posted by xarnop at 7:14 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have tried to help violent men, before I realized the cost were not only to me but to those who will be hurt if I am hurt, and children I can have if I am forcefully impregnated- I remember one talking about how if he were to actually face the pain and the trauma, it would be dangerous to everyone around him, he would need to do it in restraints.

"therapy" can mean a lot of things but once a week appointment to go through the hell of facing the pain of years of child abuse and violence is not adequate and can even be dangerous for some people.
posted by xarnop at 7:18 AM on February 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

Interesting that we can't even frame a discussion about violence against women in terms other than "But what about the men?"

In other news, Zoe Quinn has dropped her harassment suit against her abusive ex, Eron Gjoni. So I guess that's a victory for the "This is actually a complex sociological phenomenon, and we should keep abuse cases out if the criminal justice system." crowd.
posted by happyroach at 8:11 AM on February 12, 2016 [9 favorites]

Violence is not a gendered thing.

Maybe the impulse for violence isn't. Situational couple violence is talked about a lot less often than the "intimate terrorism" model is. But death after (domestic) violence clearly is gendered.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:28 AM on February 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

I would like the record to show - in light of happyroach's comment above - that my comment was not meant to object to legal action in any way, shape, or form. On the contrary, I strongly believe that it is vitally important for victims of assault or harassment to have an easier time of involving police, and I also strongly believe that if someone is arrested for those crimes, and tried and found guilty, that the legal system be involved with their penalty.

The only thing I wished to contest was the notion that "domestic violence is male violence", because no, it's not; and I also wished to add that treatment and therapy for the perpetrators can be a very important part of the penalty.

I think Eron Gjoni should be slapped with about 85 lawsuits, including charges of slander, endangerment, and harassment. I also think the same should be done for any of his minions that left threats against Zoe Quinn. In addition, though, I also think that when evaluating those minions, one should ignore the myth that violence is a "male thing", because that may cause you to overlook or even excuse the female perpetrators simply because you don't think they really mean it; on the contrary, they are just as guilty. And, I also think that court-ordered therapy and anger management should be part of the punishment, in addition to (and NOT "instead of") any other punitive measure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 AM on February 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've never known how to answer questions (in doctors' offices, usually) about growing up with domestic violence and abuse, because there's nearly always an explicit assumption the mother was the victim, and that wasn't the case in my house. What does that do to my experience? It makes me feel very strange and like I don't count, somehow, or must have misunderstood something. But the problems of lack of visible resources for male victims and recognition of abuse when it's committed by women, which EmpressCallipygos gets at very articulately above, do seem slightly different from the problem cotton dress sock mentions and the one focused on by the article, which is death by intimate partner violence, which indeed seems to be very strongly gendered. There's room to discuss both subjects in the world, I think, but they probably shouldn't be confused.
posted by thetortoise at 8:51 AM on February 12, 2016 [7 favorites]

One framing that (IMO) encompasses both of those views is that domestic violence is patriarchal violence. That is, the targets of violence from men are symptomatic of reinforcing cultural ideals of male power and dominance, while the targets of violence from women often rely heavily on not conforming to those ideals. Both are rooted in keeping the target "in their place" that they're supposed to have in a male-dominated society, and/or punishing them from deviating from that. That being said, there certainly are issues, especially in the US, that I think are separate from patriarchy that do read as very gendered. For instance, a woman that is in a relationship or household with someone that owns a gun is far more likely to be injured or killed in the course of DV abuse, as well it providing a tool for ensuring compliance.

I don't really know anything about violence within trans and non-binary relationships and communities, so I don't really want to step in there, but the reinforcement of patriarchal values definitely plays a part in violence against those communities.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:13 AM on February 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

We need to take seriously the fact that the rates of domestic violence soar when you're looking at men in violent professions- slaughterhouses, police, military- Training people to kill increases their likelihood of killing and violence.

This is an interesting point and makes sense intuitively. I agree that it's likely to contribute to the problem. I think it's important to remember that people are not randomly assigned to careers, though. Many factors go into career choice, including personality (including aversion to violence and desire for power over others), lack of other options (due to socioeconomic background, education, intelligence, etc), and cultural values that honour men in (some) violent jobs while strongly discouraging women from doing them (leading to a male-dominated workplace where violence is not sanctioned and harassment of women is even encouraged in some cases). So for these reasons, it's extremely likely that men in those jobs are more prone to violence than the average man in the country, and when that violence is tolerated (or encouraged!) by the work environment, things get ugly. But of course, domestic violence is also committed by many wealthy, educated, white-collar workers who've never been encouraged to hurt anyone.

So I agree with you that it's more complex than just a culture that encourages male violence, and it's also more complex than testosterone or "evolutionary instincts", because the vast majority of men manage to get through life without battering anyone. The tricky part is figuring out how to stop that minority when so very many factors have usually contributed - they're neither an innocent victim of circumstance nor simply evil men, but somewhere in between, like anyone else.
posted by randomnity at 9:39 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

erm, that should obviously have been "where violence IS sanctioned", not "is not". Apparently I did too much rewording!
posted by randomnity at 10:31 AM on February 12, 2016

One of the things that may notably impact likeatoaster's perspective on this is that a felony charge against someone in certain socioeconomic classes can be, depending on the likely length of the jail sentence, pretty much a mandatory guilty plea.

Infuriatingly, I can't find the article I was just reading this week, but it talked about folks facing charges who couldn't see the evidence against them in a timely manner. While discovery is a thing, these were cases where discovery processes were allowed to take months - as many as 8 or 9. So attorneys representing defendants couldn't see what the actual evidence was against their client in order to counsel them on how they should proceed.

If you were facing life in prison it would be one thing, but anyone looking at a term below what it would take to get that information - particularly if they had been denied or were unable to post bail - would almost have to be stupid not to take the plea. You're being offered 4 months of time or you can sit in jail for 8. Maybe you lose your case and get sentenced to 9 and get time served, but even that's a bad calculus.

From a societal perspective I completely agree with the attitude that if a woman says a man assaulted her we should simply believe her. But I don't think it's necessarily a #whataboutthemens to be bothered that, given the absence of intervention programs and societal support, this can very well mean a guaranteed conviction and all the downstream negative things that can entail: being released with no intervention to prevent repeat offenses, increased difficulty in getting employment, absence from family structures.

Maybe that's worth it; I'm not entirely sure it's not. But it's a huge load of steaming BS that it's a negative impact that doesn't fall on more well-off men.
posted by phearlez at 1:36 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I found an excellent quote about presumption of innocence and guilt here:
I am not the US criminal justice system. I have no obligation to demand proof in order to be sympathetic. My kindness doesn’t need to depend on the removal of all reasonable doubt. If someone says that they were hurt, discriminated against, harassed, assaulted, wronged in any way, I will simply believe them. The justice system demands irrefutable proof because it seeks to punish the guilty. I need not punish a victim by withholding basic human decency until that same mark is met.
Abused women are routinely shamed for loving their abusers, for not leaving immediately [1], and for defending their abuser [2], or for going back to them, sometimes repeatedly [3]. Every woman I know who has been the victim of abuse has shared a story of friends who refused to "take sides" and maintained strict neutrality. This, in a nutshell, makes it unsafe for the victim to continue in that social circle. I absolutely make notes of people who talk about "innocent until proven guilty" and "what about false accusations". If you work in the criminal justice system, that's one thing, but if this is your default rhetoric when stories of abuse and harassment come up, just know that you are announcing "If you tell me your story, I won't believe you" to everyone around you. One of those people might be someone you care about.

[1] The most dangerous time for a victim is when they try to leave their abuser. Abusers systematically remove their victims from all support networks and often keep them isolated and financially dependent so that escape is very difficult.

[2] Victims who know they must go home to their abuser, or who have children with their abuser know that their compliance keeps them and their children safe. Women are socialized to forgive, to try harder and that their love will conquer all. Society tells women that fixing broken men is their duty.

[3] Without social, financial, and emotional support, it's very difficult to survive on your own. Abusers often have hooks into their victim's family and friends as well and enlist them to urge forgiveness from the victim. Abusers are charming and manipulative and prey on their victim's love. Many abusers have the means to obtain partial custody of shared children and it may be safer for the victim to be present 100% of the time. Abusers gaslight their victims and many of them believe themselves to be responsible for bringing on their own abuse, or feel that they are deserving of that abuse, especially if do not get any support from their social circle.

posted by hindmost at 3:30 PM on February 12, 2016 [13 favorites]

« Older "I didn't expect it to be very driver friendly,"   |   Inside the Eye Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments