Two Short Takes: Domestic Violence and Infant Homicide

Since I’ve written several times recently about domestic violence and its treatment by the news media, I’ll start with this (Slate, 6/24/11).

I’ve pointed out that throughout the DV industry, male victims are silenced.  The DV establishment only grudgingly admits male victims exist at all, and some parts of it, like the Vice President of the United States, don’t even do that.

For its part, the media often report on domestic violence by women against men, but almost without exception, fail to call it “domestic violence.”  That of course promotes the DV establishment’s preferred narrative of only female victims and only male perpetrators.

The Slate piece comes from its advice column, “Dear Prudence.”  In this case, a young woman wrote in to say that she’s just out of film school and had landed a pretty good job with a husband-and-wife documentary film team.  Her problem is that her employers fall somewhere between hard-to-get-along-with and crazy.  She wants to keep her job, but her bosses make life stressful for her.  None of that would be exceptional, but she includes these sentences:

The husband and wife are overtly abusive to each other, verbally and emotionally (I also think physically, though not in front of us). Sometimes they come back from “lunch,” and the husband has puffy, black bruises on his face.

To that remarkable revelation, Prudence responds… not at all.  Reading her response, you’d never guess that the young woman believes – and with apparent justification – that the wife is beating up her husband.  It simply didn’t register with Prudence that violent crimes are being committed by the woman against the man.  Or if it registered, she didn’t consider it important enough to comment on.

Now, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what Prudence likely would have replied if it had been the woman coming back from lunch bruised.  My guess is that it would have made up the bulk of her response.  She’d likely have tossed off a few false figures about the prevalence of DV against women and advised the young woman to report the man, albeit carefully so as to not jeopardize her job.

But when it’s a man getting hit, it’s no big deal; actually, it’s no deal at all.  Better to just ignore it and hope everyone else does too.  It’s been the modus operandi of the DV establishment from the beginning.

Second up is this very strange case (Associated Press, 7/13/11).  Last year, Michele Kalina of Reading, Pennsylvania, was arrested for killing five newborn children – hers.  It seems that she had become pregnant five separate times and kept them all secret from her husband and her boyfriend who is the father of at least three of the children.  She then carried each of the children to term, gave birth (where, no one seems to know), killed the children and stored their remains in a locked closet.

Her 19-year-old daughter got into the closet somehow and found the remains.

Since her arrest, she’s been evaluated for mental competence and has just been found to be capable of standing trial.  But that won’t happen.  She’ll plead guilty in August, although to what remains unclear.

The home-health aide is charged with one count each of criminal homicide and aggravated assault, and multiple counts of abuse of a corpse and concealing the death of a child.

DNA tests show she conceived most, if not all, of the babies through a long affair with a co-worker. Neither he nor Kalina’s husband knew about the pregnancies.

Kalina moved the remains with her and kept them in a locked closet until her teen daughter found them in the family’s high-rise apartment last year and called police, authorities say.

It’s a case that has perplexed the police and indeed seems hard to explain.  Exactly why a woman with many contraceptive alternatives and the choice of abortion would become pregnant five times, give birth and then kill the newborns is a mystery.

Despite the unusual nature of the Kalina case, Dr. Peggy Bowen-Hartung of Alvernia University does have a theory.

“She meets the definition of a serial killer,” said Bowen-Hartung, who specializes in forensic psychology and is chairwoman of psychology and counseling at Alvernia.

“It’s not uncommon for a serial killer to keep them as trophies as remembrance,” she said of remains. “The babies were so young. She did not allow maternal attachments. This is a really weird case.”

Bowen-Hartung likened Kalina to a New York woman who is in prison for the murder of one newborn but apparently killed six others.

Meanwhile there’s the father of the children, Kalina’s boyfriend.

She also had a sixth secret pregnancy that culminated with the 2003 birth in a Reading hospital of a baby girl that she gave up for adoption. That child was also conceived with the boyfriend, DNA tests show.

A prosecutor described him last year as “overwhelmed and shocked” by news of the pregnancies.

I’ll be interested to see what her punishment is.  If it’s anything less than life in prison, I’ll be amazed; she’s mentally competent, after all.

One thing her case highlights is the ease with which she concealed her pregnancies.  Although there’s nothing to indicate that she did so strictly for the sake of denying paternal rights to her boyfriend, she certainly accomplished exactly that, not only by the killings but by the earlier adoption.

Notice that in that case, the adoption was finalized without anyone contacting either her husband or her boyfriend.  The child was presumptively her husband’s, but the court that waved its wand over the adoption apparently did nothing to let him know that “his” child was going to other parents.

They do have records on marriages in Pennsylvania, you know.  Did no one check?  Did no one go to her home to see if there was a husband around?

The point being that, when it comes to adoption, courts aren’t very interested in knowing whether there’s a dad or not.  Everything goes much more smoothly when he’s out of sight and out of mind.

(Didn’t I just say something very much like that about male victims of domestic violence?  Yes, I believe I did.)

The larger issue is the ease of concealing her pregnancies.  One of the easiest ways by which mothers deny paternal rights to fathers is by keeping  pregnancy secret.  That can be done in all sorts of ways, and when it is, fathers, particularly single fathers, will have a hard time asserting their rights even if they do find out later.

Michele Kalina showed just how easy that is.

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