Case Shows Why DV Must Be Viewed as Gender-Neutral

The following was submitted by Ohio fathers’ advocate Terry Kee.

A domestic court judge recently ordered a mother, who was preventing parenting time to the father, to appear in court or risk arrest; instead, she slit the throat of her 3 year old son and then did the same to herself. The child is in critical but stable condition. Read the full story here (Palm Beach Post, 8/12/10).

This presents an interesting case study since many “Domestic Violence Against Women Special Interest Groups’ (DVAWSIGs) would classify the father as an abuser simply because the mother had previously filed a restraining order against him, claiming “I fear for my life and the lives of my children.’ As the article does not cite tangible evidence of actual abuse on the part of the father, we do not know if the mother”s claim is a custodial tactic or if it is a valid fear. What we do know is that it was the mother who demonstrated herself to be dangerous and who should be appropriately punished for the attempted murder of her child.

If the woman had killed her ex-husband, DVAWSIGs would likely claim justifiable homicide, even if her fears were largely unfounded. In this case though, there can be no justification – even a claim of battered woman’s syndrome does not, and could not, excuse the attempted murder of a child. In this case, the fear of violence does not justify the use of violence. Self defense was not an issue.

This case is but one example of why we must address domestic violence as being gender neutral. No longer should we focus only on domestic violence against women. DVAWSIGs must wake up to the fact that women are equally likely to perpetrate domestic partner violence, equally likely to murder their child, and equally likely to emotionally abuse their children. The denial of domestic violence as being gender neutral is as antiquated as, well, the question of equal rights for women.

For example, according to Archer, meta-analyses of sex differences in physical aggression indicate that women are more likely than men to “use one or more acts of physical aggression and to use such acts more frequently.’ [Archer, J. (2000). Sex differences in aggression between heterosexual partners: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 651-680.]

The only reason to differentiate between the sexes, is that a man”s greater physical strength (in most cases) suggests that he’s more likely to injure a woman than vice versa. It is for this reason we have mandatory arrest laws when police respond to a domestic violence incident and why temporary protection orders are sometimes granted to women without clear and convincing evidence that such protection is necessary. These laws have gone beyond leveling the playing field.

In custody battles, women are encouraged to file Temporary Protection Orders so that when a judge considers the best interest of the child, a seed of doubt has been planted. Consider Joan Meier”s assertion to the D.C. Family Court Conference in 2009 that, “domestic violence is the norm, not the exception, in custody litigation.’ This is a dangerous assertion. It ignores the incidence of false allegations of abuse as a tactical advantage in custody litigation, as well as the realities of equality in domestic violence, and is premised on the assumption that most men are dangerous or abusive. It is classic case of the tail wagging the dog.

Domestic violence most certainly occurs at the tail end of the bell curve. To believe that domestic violence is the bell rather than the tail is to allow the systemic injustice that separates children from good and loving parents, while at the same time fostering developmental problems associated with parental separation and single parent homes.

Domestic Violence Against Women Special Interest Groups view the world with gray colored glasses. All they see is the bad – from their own isolated view of the world. If one works in the sewer system all day long, eventually one begins to believe that the world is a filthy place. Shame on them. Shame too, on the state legislatures that enacted into law the DVAWSIG dogma and that have unwittingly caused profound harm to children and their parents.

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