A Tale of Two DV Cases

Here’s a tale of two DV cases that have some remarkable similarities. The first is the Matt Barnes case.  He’s the Los Angeles Lakers swingman who was arrested last month on a charge of domestic battery.  He was released on bail and almost immediately tweeted that it was his fiancee, Gloria Govan, who had started the whole thing.
  That, together with her statement that Barnes had never committed domestic violence against her strongly suggested that he was telling the truth. Now this article tells us what we pretty much suspected all along – that the District Attorney in Sacramento won’t file charges against Barnes (Sacramento Bee, 10/26/10).  He’s citing lack of evidence, which again suggests that Barnes was telling the truth when he said Govan had started the altercation. That of course leads to an obvious question: why wasn’t Govan arrested and charged?  After all, Barnes said she started it and she’s never denied it, so why’s he the one posting bail?  The DA refused to charge Barnes because there was no evidence of his guilt, but there was evidence of hers.  Barnes said she started it and he had the scratches to prove it.  That’s probable cause to arrest her, but he’s the one who went to jail. I’ve written before about the police program in Maine that purported to train officers in the handling of domestic violence calls.  It gave eight hypothetical situations and asked trainees to decide who to arrest in each.  (To all future trainees, here’s a hint – arrest the man.)  The program taught that in none of the situations was it correct to arrest the woman.  That included one in which he said she hit him, he was bleeding, she admitted that she hit him and both said that he hadn’t hit her.  Still, he was the one to be arrested.  The fact that she had committed a crime and he hadn’t was never mentioned in the training materials. That looks a lot like the Matt Barnes case.  I guess the police have learned their lessons well. The Barnes case reminds me of another thing.  I recently reported on a study done by Clark University researchers Denise Hines and Emily Douglas.   They interviewed over 200 men who had sought help from a domestic violence hotline, and their findings were interesting in a number of different ways.  One of those was the size of the men who had been the target of violent partners often enough to seek help.  The median height and weight of the men was 5’11” and 195 pounds, both of which are significantly above the national averages. That in turn segues nicely with the Amber Portwood case.  Portwood is the young woman on the MTV reality show “Teen Mom.”  On Episode Nine, she was caught on camera battering her boyfriend and the father of her daughter, who was there looking on.  Viewers reported the matter to the local police who immediately began “investigating” the matter.  As I asked several weeks ago, “what is there to investigate?”  After all, the police can look at the scene in Episode Nine as well as anyone else can.  And in DV cases, there’s seldom any better evidence than a videotape of the proceedings.  In the Portwood case, it shows that her boyfriend, Gary Shirley, did nothing to initiate violence and next to nothing to defend himself against her slaps, punches and kicks. So what’s the status?  This article tells us the Anderson, Indiana police department is still investigating (TV.Com, 10/25/10).  The local child protective services?  Still investigating.  The incident happened about six months ago, and the authorities have it on tape, but no one’s been arrested or charged.  And speaking of charges, instigating domestic violence in the presence of a child under the age of 14 is a felony in Indiana. So what gives?  Why haven’t charges been filed?  Why hasn’t Amber Portwood been separated from her daughter to whom she may be a danger?  (Some studies suggest that simply viewing domestic violence as a child can increase the chances of becoming a batterer as an adult.) Well, as I said at the outset, the Barnes and Portwood cases have some similarities.  One is that both guys are large; another is that the women seem to have initiated the violence; yet another is that neither woman seems likely to bear any legal consequences for her actions; and the last is that CPS seems willing to ignore DV by a woman against her male partner. There used to be a bumper sticker that said “There’s no excuse for domestic violence.”  But as it turns out, there seems to be at least one.

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