Violence and “art”

The article in the New York Times today should make the anti-feminists happy. In it, the author blames feminism for women’s access to power (because in a “normal’ society, women wouldn’t have such access?!?). This access to power, the authors asserts, is why women are becoming as violent as men. In the last sentence, he states that women are just as violent as men – and where is the evidence for this? Sure, there are 200 or so self-report studies that have shown women to use Common Couple Violence (throwing things, hitting, slapping, etc.) – but these studies don’t pick up severe violence or homicide. We also know (from research) that women are more apt to admit using violence while men are more likely to deny or minimalize it.  So, where exactly is the evidence that women are just as violent as men?

He doesn’t bother to talk about how “art” has glamorized violence against women either – in films, porn and TV (America’s Top Model shot poses of “dead” women in the back of car trunks – as have advertisers).

Seems he just wants to ease his conscience about violence against women – just as the media did when it highlighted the woman’s aggression in soccer – while the same behavior is virtually ignored in men. Nothing wrong with pointing out women’s use of violence – but his statements lack depth, knowledge and accuracy.

Violence that art didn’t see coming 

Believe women

In the Believe Women department, we have the case of Amy Castillo. Remember her? Her husband drowned their 3 young children in a hotel bathroom – to get revenge on her. Castillo sought a restraining order but the judge didn’t think she was credible. Months later, the father killed their 3 children, one-by-one.

Now, she’s advocating for HB 700, a Maryland bill, that will change the level of evidence from clear & convincing evidence to preponderance of evidence. 

Drowned children’s mother seeks change

Mother fights to change law after husband killed children

Mother of children drowned in bathtub to speak at hearing today

Mother backs easier access to protective orders


HB 700 was not passed –

Fathers Rights groups are happy about it –

Dump the Delegates campaign –


Here’s a bone-chilling article about domestic violence in the Washington Post today. While they describe the perp’s background, it’s not the typical “nice guy kills wife” template (the woman in this case did survive). They actually uncover his temper, his wife’s concerns about his control issues, and they even interview domestic violence experts.

76…and counting

Check out this recent post on Dastardly Dads – She’s counted 76 cases of Dads murdering their children during visitation or custody. According to the Leadership Council on Child Abuse over 58,000 children go into unsupervised visitation or custody each year. These days family courts hand over the kids because, well, parental rights trump safety, don’t they? When women allege abuse, courts think they’re being ‘manipulative’ in order to get a favorable decision. They turn their backs on these women and readily hand over the kids–to abusers and murderers.

Check out these RECENT cases:

Stephen Garcia-

Nicholas Bacon-

Jesus Roman Fuentes-

Timothy Frazier-

Murder-suicide of 7-year-old boy in Greece, NY-

Danielle Horvat/David Aguilar

Bias in psychiatric diagnosis

Check out this resource from:  The Association for Women in Psychology

Mission: To provide information for people (including but not limited to professionals and journalists) about biases and other problems in psychiatric diagnosis, an especially important goal in light of the American Psychiatric Association’s preparation for the 2013 publication of the next edition of the psychiatric diagnostic manual.

Bios for Group Members and Contributors

1. – website about bias in psychiatric diagnosis, including stories about people harmed in a wide variety of ways by receiving such a diagnosis and including six kinds of solutions to problems resulting from psychiatric labeling

2. Click Here for an important article in New Scientist about problems in the preparation for DSM-V

3. Click here to go to a website that is presented as allowing anyone who wants to make suggestions about DSM-V to do so.

Note:  AWP’s Committee on Bias in Psychiatric Diagnosis does not know what plans may have been made by the DSM-V authors to consider these suggestions.

4. Call for papers for a special issue of Social Science and Medicine, Sociology of Diagnosis

5. PSYCHOUT – A conference for organizing Resistance against Psychiatry – Call for submissions


Press Release: Family courts implicated in infants’ deaths

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   Contacts: Rita Smith 303-839-1852 ext. 105

February 10, 2010                 Kathleen Russell 415-250-1180

 Family Courts Implicated in Infants’ Murders

Two Young Boys Killed by Two Divorcing Dads in Past 10 Days

Points to Massive System Failure

 SAN RAFAEL- National and local advocacy groups are expressing outrage over what has become a disturbing national trend of divorcing Dads killing their children and themselves. 8-month-old baby Bekm was shot and killed by his father, Nicholas Bacon, in Meridian, Idaho just 48 hours ago, while 9-month-old baby Wyatt was killed by his father Stephen Garcia just ten days ago in San Bernardino County. Details are still emerging about the tragic Idaho murder-suicide of baby Bekm on Monday night.

 In the Garcia case, three different judges refused multiple requests by the child’s mother for restraining orders to protect her child, despite police reports and documented death threats by the father in text messages and on Facebook.

 “The system failed Wyatt Garcia and Katie Tagle,’’ said California Assemblymember Jim Beall, Jr., the lead sponsor of Assembly Bill 612, which aims to prevent the use of non-scientific theories in California family courts. “Wyatt’s tragic death was completely avoidable.


 Numerous sources report a significant spike in murder suicides across the country by violent fathers who kill their children and themselves, frequently after mothers’ requests for protection of their children are denied by family court judges. In addition, the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence estimates that more than 58,000 children per year in America are ordered by family courts into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce.

 “The time has come for us as a society to speak out and put a stop to this growing national body count. Across the country, women and children are being killed because of judges’ personal biases and junk science that tells them to disbelieve women’s legitimate claims and evidence of abuse,” said Rita Smith, the Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

 According to court transcripts and eyewitness accounts, judges reacted with disbelief when mother Katie Tagle presented them with evidence of death threats against her son by the father.

 Judge David Mazurek stated, “I get concerned when there’s a pending child custody and visitation issue and in between that, one party or the other claims that there’s some violence in between. It raises the court’s eyebrows because based on my experience, it’s a way for one party to try to gain an advantage over the other,” he said.

 “This attitude permeates the courts, that women are lying about the danger they are in,” said Kathleen Russell from the Center for Judicial Excellence. “This attitude causes judges to ignore tangible evidence of death threats and abuse. The abusers’ lobby has convinced judges that shared custody is always the answer, and sadly, this case points out how deadly that approach can be,” she said.

 According to a family member who was in the courtroom when Ms. Tagle last sought protection for her son, the judge reportedly said, “One of you is lying, and I think it’s you,” while pointing at Katie. Transcripts from this hearing are not yet available.

 The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Center for Judicial Excellence are part of a growing national advocacy movement to educate the public as well as litigants, lawmakers, judges, and social service providers about the need for comprehensive family court reform. The Center for Judicial Excellence and their allies worked with California State Senator Mark Leno and others to pass an audit request through the state legislature last July. The California State Auditor is currently investigating the use of court appointees in family courts because of growing evidence that children are being harmed there. The California Legislature is slated to consider additional family court reform bills being presented by the Center and the California Protective Parents Association in the coming months.

 “We must assess what’s happening in our family courts, and that’s why I’ve requested a state audit to take a hard look at the performance and effectiveness of the family court system,’’ said Assemblymember Beall.

 The State Auditor’s report about the California Family Courts has an expected release date of June 2010.


NCADV – The Mission of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) is to organize for collective power by advancing transformative work, thinking and leadership of communities and individuals working to end the violence in our lives. 

 CJE – The Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE) was established to improve the judiciary’s public accountability and strengthen and maintain the integrity of the courts. CJE has made a special commitment to protect the rights of children and other vulnerable populations in the courts.


Domestic violence coverage

Coverage of domestic violence in the news

The media has not traditionally been a good source of information on family violence.

Crimes were not covered, and victims were often blamed. This reflected societal attitudes to domestic violence and its treatment in the courts.

In a recent study, news articles on men who killed their wives and then commit suicide were examined. The general conclusion is that coverage has improved, but still tends to mystify the problem.

The study used articles from the Calgary Herald from 2008 using the term ‘murder-suicide.’ Alberta has the highest rate of spousal homicide-suicide in Canada. This was compared to a second period a decade earlier to see if coverage had changed.

Research on domestic homicide often points out how news articles are framed to blame the victim or excuse the offender.

Direct tactics involve using negative language to describe the victim, criticizing her actions such as her not reporting past incidences, or mentioning ‘consorting’ with other men as contributing to her murder.

Indirect tactics include using sympathetic language to describe the perpetrator, and emphasizing mental, physical, emotional and financial problems which might excuse his actions.

In 2008 there were two main cases covered extensively.

One described the perpetrator as a loving family man who doted on his wife and young daughters but heard voices in his head and believed he was possessed by the devil.

The second involved a woman who had restraining orders due to a troubled relationship. She had tried to break it off but the period after the woman leaves is usually the most dangerous.

She was said to be a caring, loving woman who never gave an indication of problems at home. However the man lost jobs, drank frequently, made threats and was physically violent.

Authorities said it was a domestic dispute that went terribly wrong.

In these stories the explanation is inexplicable: the man was loving and the couple seemed happy. Sometimes there were warning signs: the man had difficulties, or the couple had a history of conflict. And there was always an attempt to find an excuse: mental disorder, alcoholism or unemployment.

In both cases cognitive biases were used. Criticizing the victim, for example, by not calling the police is a ‘just-world bias,’ that good people do the right thing, and bad things happen to bad (incompetent) people.

On the other hand, to focus on the (now) obvious warning signs, is ‘hindsight bias.’ Both are ways of blaming in order to make ourselves feel safe.

The decade-old articles were short, either briefs or about 200 words. Police are the usual source, and the explanations include: domestic problems, depressed state, no concrete motive and nobody knows.

In comparison, the lack of coverage, the paucity of detail, the reliance on official sources and the absence of a context for explanation is striking. This was normal news coverage of domestic violence in the 1980s, a virtual silence compared to coverage 20 years later where there is an increased use of advocates as sources and a larger discussion of context.

The incidence of domestic violence has decreased over time in society, at the same time as newspaper articles about intimate partner violence have increased. The public is receiving more information about fewer cases, although there is still a tendency to mystify the nature of domestic violence.

In response, some researchers have worked to improve journalistic coverage. For example, the Rhode Island Coalition against Domestic Violence worked with reporters to develop a best practices handbook on news coverage of domestic violence murders.

In comparing print coverage of domestic violence murders before and after, they found an increased tendency to label the murder of intimates as domestic violence, and more use of advocates as sources.

As a result, murders which had previously been framed as unpredictable, private tragedies by police, were more likely to be framed as social problems which required public intervention.

This example of action research shows the importance of naming interpretations and the possibility of changing them.

Chris McCormick teaches criminology and media studies at St. Thomas University and his column appears every second Thursday.

Also, see this letter to the editor noting how the sheriff quoted in an article blames the victim –

Daily Breeze

Blame for male violence misdirected

We work in prevention of gender-based violence and sexual assault. We are authors, professors, public speakers, advocates and community activists. We are appalled and concerned by the statements made by Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Rosenberg and reported by Larry Altman and Andrea Woodhouse in the Daily Breeze (“Couple found dead in MB are identified,” Jan. 12).

The conjecture is that a murder-suicide took place, possibly fueled by interpersonal issues between a girlfriend and boyfriend. About this tragic case, the story says:

“Rosenberg said (California State University, Long Beach student Danielle) Hagbery’s death should serve as a warning to other young women that they need to look out for themselves – such as not going to the boyfriend’s home – when a relationship goes sour. `This is one more tragic end of a dating relationship where these young women should be aware of it,’ Rosenberg said. `Ladies need to be vigilant when things go sideways with boyfriends.”‘

Badly informed comments such as this perpetuate a serious problem: Blaming the victim for her own death. Presuming it’s true that boyfriend Michael Nolin killed Hagbery before turning a gun on himself, the warning must not be directed toward victims. Ladies don’t need to be vigilant. Murderers need to not kill. If this was “one more tragic end of a dating relationship,” men need to be aware of their own potential for violence. Prevention is the real solution.

There are plenty of community-based resources and educational materials on the subject of preventing male violence against women. Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you would like to avail yourself to our services and resources.

– Shira Tarrant, Professor, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, CSU Long Beach

Editor’s note: This letter was also signed by CSU Long Beach professors, lecturers and staff including Courtney Ahrens, Laura Bellamy, Jeane Relleve Caveness, Lynne Coenen, Cindy Donham, Claire Garrido-Ortega, Marc D. Rich, Cpl. Ami Rzasa, Dr. Gina Golden Tangalakis and Mary Kay Will. Also signing were Veronica I. Arreola of the University of Illinois, Chicago; author and speaker Ben Atherton-Zeman; Audrey Bilger of Claremont McKenna College; community members Abby Bradecich, Lana Haddad, Diana Hayashino, Linda Pena, Justine Schneeweis and Barbara Sinclair; community volunteer Craig Coenen; writer, educator and advocate Joan Dawson; Caroline Heldman of Occidental College; Long Beach community advocates Ashleigh Klein and Marea Perez; Dr. Kathie Mathis of Mathis & Associates; Jennifer L. Pozner, executive director of Women In Media & News; Chad Sniffen of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Jessica Stites of Ms. Magazine; and domestic violence advocate Sharon Wie.

On second thought…

Okay, on Feb. 6 I blogged about domestic homicides that target females.  Now, in the past week, we’ve come across three cases that involved boys. There is research that finds violent men seek custody of boys more often than girls. (When I find it, I’ll post it.)

Garcia/Tagle case

Nicholas Bacon

Jesus Roman Fuentes

Also, over at Dastardly Dads, they’ve posted a summary of the Dads that have had visitation or custody and have killed their kids **this year alone.***

Dastardly Dads

(Murder the) women and girls first

Ladies first is taking on a whole new meaning in the homicide field. Is there a trend of killing females while saving the males?

Here’s a case where the man shot the wife and 15-year-old daughter.  The boys were unharmed.

Man charged with killing wife, daughter

HOUSTON — A 39-year-old Houston man is charged with capital murder after allegedly shooting his estranged wife and 15-year-old daughter dead.

The incident happened about 7:30 p.m. Thursday at a southeast Houston apartment complex. Police say Jaime Piero Cole was dropping off his sons, ages 2 and 10, at Melissa Dawn Cole’s apartment when a fight developed between the adults. Police say that when the woman’s 15-year-old daughter, Alecia Desire Castillo (kas-TEE’-yoh) tried to intervene, Jaime Cole drew a gun and shot mother and daughter several times.

Police investigator H.A. Chavez says Jaime Cole left his 10-year-old son behind and fled with his 2-year-old son. After an Amber Alert was issued, the two were seen in a Walmart store in Wharton, 55 miles to the southwest. A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper arrested Cole. His sons are unharmed.

Of course, there have been other cases where daughters were targeted –

There was the Darcy Freeman case, where he threw his daughter but not his two sons off a bridge-

Father accused of throwing girl, 4, off West Gate Bridge

There was also Paul Michael Merhige who killed 4 women, including his 6-year-old daughter, out of a total of 17 people, gathered together for Thanksgiving in 2009 –

Holiday shooting tragedy

Or, how about the man who tried to pin his wife’s bloody murder on the daughter? You don’t have to travel to the Middel East to find women blamed for men’s crimes. It’s right here.

Man charged with killing his wife testifies it was his daughter