I was recently pleased to be a guest on Paul Elam’s show on Blog Talk Radio along with Seattle family attorney, Lisa Scott. The subject was domestic violence and the many roles it plays in the diminution of our civil rights and liberties. Here’s a link to the show (BlogTalk Radio, 4/13/11).
Scott is a long-time family lawyer so she’s seen the pernicious effects of the domestic violence industry on families, particularly fathers and children. Here’s her website that makes it clear that, when it comes to dads in family court, she “gets it.”
The interview was a good one. It was made even better by the many calls from knowledgeable listeners. One in particular got my attention.
A mental health professional called in with some very important information for men in intimate relationships. She said that she’s counseled many innocent men who’ve found themselves thrown out of their houses, denied access to their kids, tossed in jail, made the subject of TROs – in short, the whole litany of abuse visited on men by the domestic violence establishment.
Her message? Many, many of these men had been threatened repeatedly by their partners, with exactly that. The couple would have a row and the woman would tell the man that, if he didn’t toe the line, she’d call the police and claim DV. The good doctor said that is a very common occurrence, and her message was that if your partner says that, believe her. Sooner or later, she’ll likely make good on the threat.
Into the bargain, as Lisa Scott added, that very threat is itself a form of control that our greatly expanded version of domestic violence is supposed to prohibit. Needless to say, that’s an interesting point. The ease with which TROs are issued against men and the power of false allegations are in fact a terribly real form of domestic abuse.
My two cents consisted in part of discussing the inroads into constitutional rights made by domestic violence law. The fact that the Fourth Amendment requires a finding of probable cause before a search or arrest can be carried out is routinely cast aside in favor of unsubstantiated claims.
Add to that the fact that supposed DV perpetrators are often brought to trial based on something as insubstantial as the recording of a 911 call. That’s one of the results of no-drop policies of district attorneys in cases in which domestic violence is alleged. In those cases, the accuser has changed her mind and seeks to withdraw her complaint, but ADAs go ahead anyway.
Now, there’s a little matter of the Sixth Amendment to reckon with. That Amendment requires that anyone accused of a crime has the right to confront his/her accuser. As a practical matter, that means the accuser must be brought into court for cross-examination. Needless to say, you can’t cross-examine a tape recording.
Lisa Scott pointed out that, however violative of the Sixth Amendment that might be, since most cases are plea-bargained, the mere threat of prosecution – even one based on something as shaky as a 911 call – is often enough to force a defendant’s hand.
She rightly said that men faced with plea-bargaining to a lesser offense or risking a trial have a daunting decision to make. Conviction can often mean not only prison but loss of kids, job and more. Given the fact that few such men can afford the type of drawn-out representation required to not only try a case but possibly appeal a conviction, the results of a charge based even on flimsy evidence are not hard to imagine.
Domestic violence is a serious problem in the United States. That’s why understanding it correctly and addressing it effectively are important. Sadly, since the early 1970s, we’ve gotten almost everything about DV wrong. That’s because we trusted a radical political ideology to inform us on the subject. Not surprisingly, that ideology led us down the wrong path.
Now, after almost 40 years of federal and state funding, interests that believe in preserving the status quo have become entrenched and unseating them will not be easy. But more and more, people are coming to realize that what we’ve been doing isn’t working. It’s a waste of public money because it was always based on numerous flawed concepts.
Among those are that only men commit DV or that when women do it’s only in self defense. Then there’s the claim that women’s DV doesn’t hurt men and that women don’t seek to control men by their violence.
How to deal with offenders is likewise flawed. Mental health professionals actually have some very good ideas about how to deal with perpetrators, but for the DV establishment all that is irrelevant because it fails to embrace the political notion that men abuse women out of a need to maintain a misogynistic patriarchy. Mandatory arrest of “primary aggressors” is similarly flawed because it too seeks to ignore women who commit DV.
The conflation of all domestic violence with “battering” is another favorite misconception the DV establishment is glad to perpetuate. Time and again we find that the vast majority of what’s called domestic violence is either entirely non-injurious or results in no more than “a minor cut or bruise,” to quote a recent study by the government of Scotland. In that study, 80% of incidents resulted in either no injury or only a minor one, in short, a far cry from “battering.”
I could go on, but suffice it to say that little that we do or say about domestic violence is calculated to sensibly confront that very real problem.
But many people outside the DV establishment are fighting back. We read about it in newspapers, in academic studies and the Internet, and hear about it on television and the radio. Slowly but surely the worm is turning.