Threw a chair at him through a glass door. Door smashed and cut him the f*** up. Needless to say he didn’t smart mouth me again…
The disgraceful Facebook page was outed by Black Ribbon Australia, a group dedicated to fighting the current domestic violence paradigm that is powerfully biased to see all men as abusers and ignore violence by women against men. The system is so biased that when men are abused by women they face a high risk of being arrested for abuse.
…Black Ribbon’s chief executive John Paul Hirst says attitudes are changing. But the law isn’t.
“They still can only remove the male from the house, not the female,” Mr Hirst told news.com.au.
“The male has to be moved and arrested and charged at the police station and only gets legal counsel when he stands before a magistrate.
“All she has to say is, ‘He slapped me and I was only defending myself’.”
This legal response of arresting men who are assaulted by women is not limited to Australia. At The Good Men Project Joseph Kerr wrote about being arrested after his wife kicked him in the head, rendering him unconscious.
I ended up on the ground next to the stairs. She kicked my head into the solid wood base. I blacked out, came to, stood up, bleeding. My daughter was screaming, “Stop hurting daddy!”
It was over. We were over. I headed out the door to the police and then the hospital. My daughter stopped me. “Daddy, you need to go to a doctor, here take this,” she handed me a bandage. “I love you” was the last thing I said to her. It’s been almost a month.
When Kerr foolishly went to the police and reported the assault, the police reflexively arrested him:
“Is she hurt? Did you hit her…?” No. Never. I waited.
“We’re sending a car over there to talk to her.” I waited some more.
“You wife is telling a bit of a different story, as happens a lot in these situations, she says you threatened her.”
“We’re going to take you into custody now.”
“Stand up and put your hands behind your back.”
Eventually Kerr was able to see a lawyer, and asked him what a man should do if his wife assaults him. The lawyer replied “Run and don’t go to the police”:
I sat across from my lawyer and talked about the other time. She grabbed me and ripped my shirt. Her nails cut my face. I bled. I tried to walk out the door. She blocked the door. I was a gym-every-day, active duty Marine, fearing someone a fraction of my size. If she had a penis I’d have a dozen ways to put her on the ground. Instead, I was left to sneak out a bedroom window and spend the night in a parking lot.
I tried the police and now in front of a guy practicing law for nearly as long as I’ve been alive I tried again.
“What do you do when a woman hits you?”
“Run. Run and don’t go to the police.”
His lawyer should have added not smart mouthing the wife to make her angry in the first place. Other advice comes from the Web MD article Help for Battered Men, which advises battered men to always have an escape plan when their wife is in a mood, so she can’t trap him in a room and then have him arrested when he tries to get away:
“We tell men if they have to be in an argument, do it in a room with two doors so they can leave; a lot of times a woman will block the door, the man will try to move her, and that will be enough for him to get arrested.”
As the Web MD article explains, the domestic violence legal system and the family courts are designed to empower women who abuse men:
…perhaps the most important difference is that women who batter may have a greater ability to use the “system” to their advantage.
“Systemic abuse can occur when a woman who is abusing her husband or boyfriend threatens that he will never see his children again if he leaves or reports the abuse,” says Philip Cook, program director of Stop Abuse for Everyone. “A man caught in this situation believes that no matter what his wife or girlfriend does, the court is going to give her custody, and this greatly limits his ability to leave. While this can occur when a woman is being abused, it is more likely to happen when a woman is abusing.”
Women, explains Cook, who is author of Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, may also be able to use the system to their advantage in that they are less likely to be arrested if police are called as a result of a domestic dispute.
The important thing to understand is this isn’t the result of a well intentioned system behaving unexpectedly. Nearly all modern domestic violence legal frameworks in the west are based off of what is called the Duluth model. Dr. Don Dutton, head of the University of British Columbia Forensic Psychology lab explains how the Duluth model has been used to train police and other officers of the court to automatically identify the man as the abuser:
Jaffe et al. then go on to define abuse, using the “Duluth Power and Control Wheel” that includes “Using Male Privilege” as a part of an octant of abusive strategies used against women. Jaffe et al. then list, under “whom to assess”: Victimized mothers (p.44), Battering fathers (p.46) and “war torn children” (p. 49). Jaffe et al suggest using an Abuse Observation Checklist (Dutton 1992) and asking the victimized woman to describe the “first, worst and last” incident, followed by allowing the “alleged perpetrator an opportunity to respond”. It is not clear what response, apart from denial might be expected from an accused male. Indeed, the authors warn an assessor that (p. 42) the male perpetrator may “minimize their abusive behavior by blaming their victims or proclaiming that the abuse was uncharacteristic”. It seems that, once accused, the male can only use responses that the evaluator is already primed to see as disingenuous.
This is the very nature of the Duluth model, something its founders openly admit to. The Duluth founders are not interested in ending or reducing domestic violence in itself; instead they are interested in using domestic violence policy as a mechanism to change the dynamics of power and control in heterosexual relationships. Specifically, they want to empower women and dis-empower men. In Countering Confusion about the Duluth Model, the founders explain (emphasis mine):
The Duluth curriculum is designed for male perpetrators. In Duluth, a separate court-deferral program called Crossroads was designed for women who use illegal violence against the men who batter them (Asmus 2004). Most women arrested in Duluth have been able to document to the court a history of abuse against them by the person they have assaulted (past calls to 911 for help, protection orders, previous assaults, etc.). Those women who use violence against a partner with no history of that partner abusing them are not eligible for the Crossroads diversion program, but face the same consequences as male offenders after a conviction, i.e., a jail sentence or counseling in lieu of jail. The vast majority of women arrested in Duluth for domestic assaults are being battered by the person they assault. Most, but not all, are retaliating against an abusive spouse or are using violence in self-defense. The notion that battered women share responsibility for the violence used against them because of provocative words or actions is a dangerous form of collusion with men who batter (Mills 2003). We do not accept that these women should complete a batterers’ program. We do agree that there are a small number of women who use violence resulting in police action against their partners without themselves being abused. This is not a social problem requiring institutional organizing in the way that men’s violence against women is. For these women, a separate gender-specific counseling program may be appropriate.
Note that they acknowledge that women use the legal framework they created to abuse men and then have the men arrested, and they don’t see this as an important social problem. Perhaps someone (but not them), should come up with a counseling program for these women. More specifically, they are against any policy that doesn’t automatically arrest the man while not arresting the woman:
From a public policy perspective, not arresting batterers essentially decriminalizes domestic violence and condemns a victim to either live with the violence or (as in the “bad old days”) be forced to press charges against an abusive spouse. Doing away with pro-arrest policies targeting the predominant aggressor (a core component of the Duluth Model) reduces the total number of arrests but increases the proportion of dual arrests. Dual arrests have proven ineffective in stopping violence, and they also have the unfortunate consequence of making victims more reluctant to call the police when further acts of violence occur.
Some may be mislead in the above by the seemingly gender neutral terms of “batterers”, “predominant aggressors”, and “victims”. If you assumed these terms were neutral, the quote above might seem to contradict the previous quote where they explain that women using the Duluth framework to make men afraid to report being abused is not an important problem. However, under the Duluth model, batterers are men and victims are women:
…not every person who has used physical force against a partner is what we would describe as a batterer. A person who batters is one who uses a pattern of intimidation, coercion, and violence against a partner. It is unusual for men to be arrested for assault in cases where there has been no such history. Women call the police because they are afraid. Neighbors call because the violence is alarming. Children call because they are trying to help their mothers.
Under the Duluth model, domestic violence by women is seen as wholly different than violence by men. Violence by men is a tool of the patriarchy, while violence by women is a tool to fight against the patriarchy (emphasis mine):
When women use violence in an intimate relationship, the context of that violence tends to differ from men. First, men’s use of violence against women is learned and reinforced through many social, cultural and institutional avenues, while women’s use of violence does not have the same kind of societal support. Secondly, many women who do use violence against their male partners are being battered. Their violence is primarily used to respond to and resist the controlling violence being used against them. On the societal level, women’s violence against men has a trivial effect on men compared to the devastating effect of men’s violence against women.
Making the Power and Control Wheel gender neutral would hide the power imbalances in relationships between men and women that reflect power imbalances in society. By naming the power differences, we can more clearly provide advocacy and support for victims, accountability and opportunities for change for offenders, and system and societal changes that end violence against women.