Twice victimized

I’m happy to see sexual assault getting more media attention these days, stemming from the Penn State scandal. I can only hope this will continue to snowball – to include family court cases, for example.

The New York Times ran this article and has a follow up next week on the care of victims:

The twice victimized of sexual assault

It is all too easy to see why. More often than not, women who bring charges of sexual assault are victims twice over, treated by the legal system and sometimes by the news media as lying until proved truthful.

“There is no other crime I can think of where the victim is more victimized,” said Rebecca Campbell, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University who for 20 years has been studying what happens legally and medically to women who are raped. “The victim is always on trial. Rape is treated very differently than other felonies.”

So, too, are the victims of lesser sexual assaults. In 1991, when Anita Hill, a lawyer and academic, told Congress that the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her repeatedly when she worked for him, Ms. Hill was vilified as a character assassin and liar acting on behalf of abortion-rights advocates.

Credibility became the issue, too, for Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant chambermaid who accused the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, of forcing her to perform fellatio in a Manhattan hotel room. Prosecutors eventually dropped the case after concluding that Ms. Diallo had lied on her immigration form and about other matters, though not directly about the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn.

When four women, two of whom identified themselves publicly, said they had been sexually harassed by Herman Cain, the Republican presidential hopeful, they, too, were called liars, perhaps hired by his opponents.

Charges of sexual harassment often boil down to “she said-he said” with no tangible evidence of what really took place. But even when there is DNA evidence of a completed sexual act, as there was in the Strauss-Kahn case, the accused commonly claim that the sex was consensual, not a crime.

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Female murder-suicide case

Okay, I don’t see a ‘nice woman kills family’ template like is typical with the “nice guy kills ex/wife/family.” But, like with male perps, they have not identified this woman’s relationship to the baby – nor have they mentioned the other victims in the headline:

Neighbor saw woman shoot at baby

 

Authorities have said five people, including two children and a baby, were killed in a murder-suicide, but they haven’t identified the shooter. The bodies were found Friday in Emington, a small farming community about 80 miles southwest of Chicago.

What drives a father to kill?

Does this sound like the guy is trying to rationalize a father’s violence or be sympathetic to it? Kinda creepy.

What drives a father to kill?

The typical profile of a family annihilator is a middle-aged man, a good provider who appears dedicated, devoted and loyal to his family. However, he is usually quite socially isolated, with few friends and with profound feelings of frustration and inadequacy. The tipping point is some catastrophic loss or impending tragedy that threatens to undermine his sense of self and amplifies his feelings of impotence and powerlessness. In individuals for whom their family is an integral part of their identity – part of themselves, rather than a separate being – murdering the family is akin to a single act of suicide. It is a way of regaining control; of obliterating the impending crisis. This explains why men will often not only kill their partner and children, but also pets and destroy their property by setting fires. It is an eradication of everything that constitutes the self.

In addition to this, they are often motivated by bitterness and anger and a desire to punish the spouse; while killing the partner is an act of revenge, killing the children is an act of love as he believes he – and therefore they – will be better off dead than face the imminent loss of power.

While this points to severe psychological problems with underlying personality issues and maladaptive coping strategies, this, in itself, does not necessarily constitute a mental illness. However, professionals are divided as to whether these men can be held truly culpable for their actions. For the few that survive, jurors tend to find them responsible for their actions and therefore guilty of murder, but some end up detained in secure psychiatric hospitals indefinitely.

Experts, such as Jack Levin, Professor of Sociology and Criminology at the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts who has studied family annihilators, have argued that they typically do know right from wrong and points to the fact that they are well planned and selective and that if a friend came along, the father wouldn’t kill him or her – instead, he kills his children to get even with his wife because he blames her and hates her.

Others, such as Tony Black, former chief psychologist at Broadmoor, are more circumspect. Black has argued that for anyone to commit such a heinous crime, there must be something fundamentally wrong with them and it is unhelpful just to simply think of them as ‘bad’. But what can be done to prevent such atrocities? Is there the possibility of intervention before such murders take place or ways to identify at risk men?

Scott Mackenzie, a consultant forensic psychiatrist in Essex who has assessed family annihilators for the criminal justice system, feels that often there are underlying anti-social personality traits and fundamental issues with rage and anger management. But these psychological traits are not uncommon in the population, and most will never go on to murder their family. ‘Those who act are often angry and resentful individuals. There is often a prior pattern of domestic abuse. But predicting with any reliability who will suddenly flip and resort to this kind of behaviour is incredibly difficult, if not near impossible. After any such incident there are inevitably questions asked if anything could be done, if someone could have intervened or spotted the signs. Tragically, in most cases, the answer is no.’

Wrong answer! Here is how we prevent it:

  • Look for the red flags (anger, resentment, abuse, control, coercion)
  • Take threats seriously
  • Believe women when they express fear
  • Do NOT provide leniency in domestic violence
  • Treat domestic violence like other crimes
  • Educate society on domestic violence (myths vs. reality)
  • Don’t be silent about abuse – it can lead to shame, victim blaming, tolerance for this crime
  • Change how the media present stories – the “nice guy”‘ murders wife – does not provide the context to understand DV
  • Change the culture – violence against women is not inevitable

 

Police officers won’t be charged with domestic violence

Of course they won’t…

Two officers arrested in domestic violence cases won’t be charged

http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/2-officers-arrested-in-domestic-violence-cases-wont-be-charged-5e3ffuf-135762328.html

Interesting…

Domestic violence is far more common among the families of police officers than among the rest of the population, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Women and Policing. At least 40% of police families are affected by domestic violence, as opposed to an estimated 10% in other households.

Male privilege on the Internet

Interesting post on the Feminist Law Professors blog – written by a male ally 🙂

Harassment, male privilege, and jokes that women just don’t get

http://www.feministlawprofessors.com/2011/11/harassment-male-privilege-jokes-women-dont/

Male privilege on the internet — or in law, or in society at large — isn’t going away any time soon. But let’s call it out, and let’s label it for what it is. When male interlocutors tell a female writer that she is overreacting and just isn’t getting the joke, they are speaking from a starting place of male privilege. They are assuming that casual threats of violence are something which can easily be shrugged off, and are ignoring the vast difference between lived experiences of men and women in America. And they are denying the reality of something which, in all likelihood, they don’t even understand.

I’m baaaack

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I was pretty busy these past 3 months – I went back to work full-time, bought a condo, went on vacation, and now, am getting ready for the holidays. My posts will probably still be a bit erratic, but I wanted to get back into the swing of things.

And, I have to say, while I’ve been away, the posts  about horrific rapes (tied up, peed on…) have been getting some of the most hits – and I don’t think they’re looking at these posts from an analytic viewpoint if you know what I mean. How ironic to write about sexual violence and have the pervs show up. I hope they did some reading while they were here.