Believe women – Thanks Baltimore Sun!

Thanks in part to reporting done by The Sun newspaper, the Senate Crime & Drugs subcommittee has asked the Office of Violence Against Women to discuss the problem of impunity in rape cases. Now if we can just get them to look at all the other cases – like those in family court, for another.

U.S. Senate committee to hold hearing on rape investigations

The Sun reported in July that Baltimore for years led the nation in the percentage of rape cases in which police concluded that the victim was lying, with more than 3 in 10 cases determined to be “unfounded.” Other cities have seen disturbingly high percentages of uninvestigated or dropped rape cases in years past, and a women’s advocate in Philadelphia pushed for the congressional hearing after the Sun’s investigation reignited concerns.

So the police are our first “judge & jury”…

The Sun analysis showed that four out of 10 calls to 911 over a five-year period had not generated a police report, having been dismissed by officers at the scene. Victims have reported being interrogated by detectives about their motives and truthfulness, while others said patrol officers ignored their allegations.

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Sentencing disparities

The news article Crack Cocaine and Powder Cocaine Punishments Modified, which discusses sentencing parity, got me thinking. First, let’s start with a snippet from the article:

The sentencing disparity was viewed as unjust because everything about the two drugs is pharmaceutically the same, except the demographic who buys them. African Americans accounted for 82.7 percent of crack cocaine convictions in 2007. Powder cocaine tends to be purchased by upper class suburban youth, according to the Wall Street Journal. Though the new law only applies in federal courts, which only hears a small fraction of cocaine possession cases, many states have significantly lowered the sentencing disparity already. Virginia, for instance is 2-to-1.

I knew of this disparity for some time, so I was quite happy to see that it will be resolved. I’m sure there are a lot of other sentence disparities involving race & ethnicity (rape comes to mind – I believe minorities receive  longer sentences). But, it made me think about the gender disparities in sentencing. I’ve often seen comments by men (and some women) that women receive shorter sentencing for killing a man or that female teachers get off easy when they sexually abuse their students. I’ve certainly seen some cases like this, but why don’t people recognize the gender disparity when women get charged more often than men or have longer sentences than men?

Failure to protect” laws come to mind. Here’s a paper posted on the Liz Library about how mothers are more often charged with failure to protect than fathers. I’ve often seen these cases in the news.

Who’s failing whom? A critical look at failure-to-protect laws by Jeanne A. Fugate

I’ve also seen news articles where women are charged with false allegations – but are men? Research (Bala & Schumann) finds more men make false allegations than women in family court.

I’ve seen articles about women being gagged from talking to the media about their family court cases – but are men? 

And from:  Defending justice

Women can be charged with child abuse or drug trafficking if they test positive for drugs during pregnancy. It is estimated that at least 200 women in 30-40 states have been “arrested and criminally charged for alleged drug use or other actions during their pregnancy,” the majority of them being poor women of color.22 This criminalizes a medical problem, violates women’s privacy rights, and undermines the doctor-patient relationship, without doing anything to help women to have healthy babies.

Or, how about testing positive for alcohol during pregnancy? This seems Taliban-esque, don’t you think?

…laws that have been passed in five states that make it legal to place a woman under “civil confinement” if she drinks while pregnant. She’s not confined to prison but to an institution where workers can monitor what she imbibes. The rationale being that drinking–as we all know–is not good for a fetus. (From: ABC News)

And, why do incarcerated mothers more often lose their children than fathers?

Prison shouldn’t be a bar to motherhood

Most women in prison are mothers, and they are five times as likely as imprisoned fathers to have children in foster care. (When a father goes to prison, the children are most likely to live with their mother; when a mother is in prison, the children are most likely to live with a grandparent, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports.)

And females can be further punished if they served time for drug use:  Out of jail, mothers struggle to reclaim children

A federal law signed by former President Bill Clinton prohibits people with a drug felony from receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federal welfare program that provides temporary assistance for five years or less to families living below the poverty line.

“The ban singled out drug offenses, but not rape or murder or other kinds of offenses that one might consider much more heinous and you’ve singled it out for lifetime punishment,” says Jacobs.

Prostitution also comes to mind. More prostitutes are charged with crimes than are Johns, or even pimps.

Incest, although it’s more traumatic to victims, also results in shorter sentences for men than stranger-perpetrated sexual assaults. Is there a patriarchal reason behind this (ie. that fathers “own” their daughters or that men are more prone to stranger-perpetrated crimes)?

Here’s a case in Iowa, with lots of facts interspersed:  Case shows frustrations of proving allegations of incest 

Here’s a PDF on differences between stranger and non-stranger crimes: Violence between lovers, strangers, and friends

Look at the royal treatment incestuous adults are given in California: Child sexual abuse and the state

And, of course, there’s virtual impunity in rape cases: US Senate Committee to hold hearing on rape investigations

Believe women

Another women who is not believed. Another child who is dead.

I’m posting the entire article. See: Family:  System failed to protect boy, 2

Family: System failed to protect boy, 2

 
  Download story podcast

06:53 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 3, 2010
By JOHN ASBURY

The Press-Enterprise

PDF: Read transcripts of the custody hearing for Isaac Gallegos

The family of a 2-year-old Inland boy who died in his father’s care has filed a complaint asking that a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge be disbarred for granting visitation to the boy’s father.

Seven months after the judge’s order, in which court records show he chastised the mother for overreacting to injuries, Isaac Gallegos was dead and his Moreno Valley father was charged with murder.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance would not confirm whether it had received the family’s complaint against Superior Court Judge John M. Pacheco. It said the proceedings are confidential and the judge had not been disciplined.

Story continues below

Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise
Reflected in a portrait of Isaac Gallegos are, from left, his grandmother Grace Lester, his mother, Andrea Gallegos, his aunt Jessica Gallegos, and grandfather Mike Lester, all of Ontario. The boy died in April while visiting his father — visits the boy’s mother had asked a judge to prohibit.

San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Douglas Elwell said Pacheco could not comment directly since it was part of an ongoing criminal case. He said the family court always considers a child’s safety in its rulings.

“In doing so, it’s not only based on the credibility of those testifying, but family service reports and trying to weigh all of that with an appropriate decision under the law,” Elwell said.

During a Sept. 4 custody hearing, Isaac’s mother, Andrea Gallegos, 22, of Ontario, told the court that her son came home with bruises on his buttocks and scratches on his back after a visit in Moreno Valley with his father, Alex Baeza, 23, of Moreno Valley. Isaac was taken to Pomona Valley Hospital where police and Child Protective Services were notified, Gallegos said.

Baeza told the judge Isaac had slipped and fallen on the edge of a hot tub.

A Riverside police report was inconclusive about whether child abuse had occurred, and the case was deferred to CPS, Sgt. Wayne Ramaekers said.

“Your honor, I fear for my son, he came back with all the bruising,” Gallegos said, according to court transcripts, not finishing her sentence.

“I already made my order OK?” Pacheco said. “I talked to the detective; the detective talked to the doctor. I’ve done my investigation, I feel very confident this man did not hurt his son all right? …

“I think you’re overreacting all right? Now, if you continue to act this way… I’ll have to take custody away from you and… I will give custody to the person that is most willing to cooperate with the other parent, and giving them custody OK?” Pacheco said, according to court transcripts.

“I understand you want to protect your child, and that’s fine. That’s the way moms are, and dads too. But I don’t see anything here to stop him from letting him see his son OK? I really don’t.”

Pacheco ordered the mother to continue allowing overnight weekend visits between the toddler and his father and threatened to take away custody if she made additional allegations against the father.

multiple failures

Andrea Gallegos said the child welfare system failed her at every turn.

“My boy’s dead because of that judge’s failure,” Gallegos said. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought we would go to court and they were going to help us.”

Isaac died in April of a head injury that Riverside County sheriff’s homicide detectives said was inflicted by his father.

Riverside County Regional Medical Center officials summoned police after the boy was brought to the emergency room with a severe head injury. He was declared brain dead and was kept on life support so his organs could be donated to another child.

Baeza’s family previously said Isaac was sick when he arrived at their home and that he fell off a bed while in Baeza’s care shortly before he died, but he was not abused. The family said Baeza had also filed CPS complaints against Gallegos for bruising in April.

Homicide detectives said the injuries were consistent with abuse and not with a fall. Baeza was identified as a suspect because he was the only person in a bedroom with Isaac when the injuries occurred, authorities said.

Baeza was charged with murder and assault on a child. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for this month. His attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

Gallegos moved in to her parents’ house in Ontario when she became pregnant with Isaac. She said her relationship with Baeza was distant.

After Isaac was born, Baeza wanted to become part of his life. The couple agreed to share custody, but she didn’t know where he lived. During the Sept. 4 hearing, the judge ordered them to hand off Isaac for visits at a Rubidoux sheriff’s station.

She believes Isaac had been abused at least three times before the fatal injury.

After she was unsuccessful in September at stopping the court-ordered visits, Gallegos said Isaac came back from a visit with his father with bruising on his ears. Fearful of returning to court, the family took him to a pediatrician and called Ontario police, which opened a CPS case.

A third CPS case was opened in Fontana shortly before Isaac died for other bruising, said Isaac’s grandfather Mike Lester.

In each case, CPS and authorities found insufficient evidence of child abuse, Lester said.

San Bernardino County officials said they could not confirm or deny a CPS history without a public records request because Isaac died in another county. A records request is still pending.

Riverside County CPS officials said Isaac’s only history with their office was filed April 11, the injury that caused his death.

“The whole system failed us from start to finish. All we wanted was for someone to help us,” Lester said. “This is their job. They have to investigate in order to save these kids. I don’t want this to happen to another child.”

why no investigation?

University of San Diego professor Robert Fellmeth said the case points to not just the court’s failure but to a larger indictment on the system in place to protect children from abuse. At the very least, an investigation should have been opened, said Fellmeth, who founded the Child Advocacy Institute and co-wrote the state’s CPS open record law.

“If it comes up, they’re supposed to do something. The court is tasked with protecting children with abuse,” Fellmeth said. “The mom is doing the right thing in raising the issue. To imply the mom did anything wrong, and if she did it again would lose custody, is outrageous.”

Family courts can often overlook signs of abuse because false allegations are frequent in embattled custody cases, Fellmeth said. But the courts should not deem an allegation false, solely based on whether a detective planned to file a case, he said.

“Obviously there was a failure,” Fellmeth said. “The family court judge made an imprudent remark, but the larger failure is not his. Where was CPS and the juvenile dependency court? Why wasn’t there a further investigation?”

DeAnna Avey-Motikeit, director of San Bernardino County Children and Family Services, said legislation is being proposed to remove some of the confidential barriers that surround child cases.

“We definitely need a better communication system between family court, CPS and law enforcement,” Motikeit said. “This is an issue people are becoming acutely aware of and shows the need of greater communication in a lot of the battles between the parents.”

Reach John Asbury at 951-763-3451 or jasbury@PE.com

For the record, false allegations are NOT frequent. Research finds most allegations of abuse are made in good faith and rates of false allegations in family court are not higher than other cases.  The American Bar Association and the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence both have research citations regarding this.

False allegations against beheaded wife

I can’t get the link to Buffalo News to work, so I’m copying the entire article. Notice when men make false allegations, the story obscures this, but when women make false allegations it is made very clear. This man stabbed and beheaded his wife and now falsely accuses her of being the abuser in the marriage.  While the woman is dead, the story’s slant is still written differently than it would if the genders were reversed. Notice too how he is using a lot of the Men’s Rights/Father’s Rights rhetoric – about how the police laughed at him, about the advocates “blaming the victim,” etc. We do need to take abuse against males seriously, but abusers will often manipulate people into thinking/believing they are the ones that have been wronged, when, in fact, the opposite is true. And, my final point would be – notice how the system failed her. She did everything she was “supposed” to do – get restraining orders, gather evidence, report her fear, leave him…

Facing murder charge, he blames slain wife

By Sandra Tan
News Staff Reporter

Updated: July 18, 2010, 8:54 am / 41 comments
Published: July 18, 2010, 8:50 am

 

Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan, the Orchard Park man charged in the stabbing and decapitation of his wife in February 2009, said last week that he is an honest man prepared to speak the truth.
And the truth, he said, is that he is the real victim.
Contrary to the pile of evidence and witness corroboration that he mentally tormented and physically beat his wife over a period of years, he said, the truth is that he was the one “emotionally tortured” by his outwardly kind and sweet-natured wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan.
Few believe him, however.
“It, to me, sounds like a desperate attempt by a person who does not have a credible defense,” said Suzanne Tomkins, the clinical professor at the University at Buffalo Law School who runs a domestic violence law clinic.
In brief conversations with The News at the Erie County Holding Center last week, Hassan said that immediately after his wife was killed, he could have fled the country.
“I could have gone to Toronto, taken a direct flight to Pakistan, and I speak the language fluently,” he said.
Instead, he said he chose to turn himself in and adhere to Gandhi’s principle of “satyagraha” — to seek the truth without selfish interests.
The former banker and head of an Islam-oriented cable network faces a murder trial in September. Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk recently ruled that Hassan’s statement from Feb. 12, 2009, that he just killed his wife, is admissible as evidence.
Hassan has spared no effort in promoting his own version of events and taking control of his own case. He has sent The News a dozen handwritten letters — two under the false authorship of his mother — and fired two of his lawyers since his incarceration.
A News reporter met with Hassan and discussed the possibility of conducting an extensive interview with him in the future, in the presence of his lawyer.
Hassan said he would agree to an extended interview on two main conditions: That he determines when and where the story would run and that he would be the only person interviewed for it.
The Buffalo News refused those terms, quoting instead from last week’s meetings and his letters.
Hassan has never publicly denied killing his wife. Instead, he has suggested he will build his court defense on the grounds that as a long-abused spouse, he finally snapped and killed his wife in a desperate bid to end the psychological abuse inflicted upon him.
He stated last week that in cases where battered women kill their abuser, they “overkill” them — shooting the abuser five times instead of once, for example. And they rarely try to run or hide after the homicide, he said, clearly attempting to draw parallels to his own case.
Police have accused Hassan of repeatly stabbing, then beheading his wife after meeting with her alone in their Orchard Park television studio.
Aasiya had filed for divorce a week before her death and told others she feared for her safety. She had filed multiple police complaints, received orders of protection, produced photos of her injuries, and signed an extensive divorce affidavit attesting to her trauma. Her husband was also investigated by Child Protective Services.
Hassan, however, contends he is the one who suffered immense psychological abuse and humiliation during his seven-year marriage to a wife who publicly nurtured a false image as a kinder and more sympathetic woman.
“All abuse happens behind closed doors, thus NO witnesses,” Hassan stated in his most recent letter. “All abuse is psychological, emotional wounds are not visible, thus NO evidence. … What a perfect crime! Only the poorly trained abusers use physical violence and get caught, for physical abuse leaves behind evidence.”
Domestic violence advocates are unimpressed by Hassan’s defense.
And those who work locally with abusers and victims also say it’s not uncommon for a perpetrator to assume the opposite role.
Greg White, program director for Catholic Charities Domestic Violence for Men, said he’s been involved with the program since 1988 and routinely sees instances where men charged with a domestic violence crime claim to be abused.
“We do see men … that even though they are mandated to us through the criminal justice system and have been found to be guilty to some degree, still claim to be victims themselves,” White said. “Whether that’s true or not, that is often a tactic men use in the program to not take responsibility.”
Speaking in a polite and amiable tone, Hassan said he’s currently housed in a medical ward at the Erie County Holding Center and likes the “dormitory-style” setting and the food.
Despite a letter to The News last month complaining at length about his treatment at the Holding Center, he told a reporter last week, “Compared to the emotional torture I lived with in my seven years of marriage, this place is paradise.”

Says police laughed at him

Many of Hassan’s letters include hand-drawn charts chronicling the “spiral of abuse” and other abuse statistics and theories, or articles about battered men.
He stated that he repeatedly tried to get his wife to face the fact that she needed psychological help, without success, and that his claims of abuse were dismissed by local domestic violence victim advocates because he was a man subjected to “sexist ideology.”
“Anytime I sought outside help, I got falsely accused of sexual misconduct or physical abuse — more than 12+ police reports, each in response to my reaching out for help from counselors, my family or her family,” he stated.
He said he sought help from more than two dozen domestic violence professionals in Erie County but was told he was “blaming the victim,” or “in denial.” He said last week that when he told an Orchard Park police officer at his home in 2006 that his wife was abusing him, the officer laughed in his face.
But those familiar with the Hassan case say Hassan’s profile fits all the markers for an abuser, not a victim.
In his defense, Hassan said he has more than 2,000 e-mails between himself and his wife dating back to 2000 showing Aasiya to be an emotionally unstable, abusive and manipulative woman who came from a troubled family. He offered to share some of the e-mails if The News agreed to his terms.
Aasiya stated in her divorce papers that in December 2007, when a child-neglect proceeding was pending against Hassan, he forced her to tell him her e-mail password, then logged into her account and sent out messages pretending to be her.
Hassan denied the charge, saying that if he was capable of forcing his wife to hand over her e-mail account password, why wasn’t he able to require her to get the psychological counseling that experts “agreed” she needed during their years of marriage?

Recurring theme

He also denied allegations that he not only abused Aasiya, his third wife, but also his second wife by arranged marriage, Sadia Hussain Hassan. They divorced after 13 months with the intervention of the Muslim community in Rochester.
He said he took out an order of protection against his second wife and eventually divorced her because she, too, was abusing him, not the other way around.
“I moved out of home with Sadia Hussain due to her extreme abuse,” he wrote. “She continued her abuse with letters to M&T Bank CEO [Hassan’s former employer]. The bank helped me get a protection order against her. And the court granted me divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment by Sadia.”
Those who assisted with his second wife’s divorce said that while Hassan attempted to force Sadia to say she abused him in divorce proceedings by holding her immigration status over her, she refused.
stan@buffnews.com

False allegations land grieving mother in jail

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I try to counter the propaganda that women make false allegations. First, this is a myth, a lie and a stereotype.  Research (see: Bala & Schumann) finds that men make more false allegations in family court than women and that the majority of claims women make in court are made in good faith. Second, you rarely read about men’s false allegations – even this article ignores the issue. Third, as a result of this lie, women and children are denied justice and can be further harmed or killed.

Here is an article about a mother jailed for killing her infant (blunt force trauma, torn intestines, vaginal damage, etc.). The judge bashes her and throws her into jail. A few years later, the lawyer admits that her then-boyfriend admitted HE DENIED the assault and falsely accused her instead…

Eight years later, new evidence surfaces in R.I.’s toddler’s murder 

Believe women

Cries of child abuse bounce back on mums

CHILD protection campaigners say women who accuse their former partners of sexually abusing their children are being unfairly labelled as mentally ill in the Family Court.

Child sex abuse researcher Freda Briggs and child protection advocate Charles Pragnell say recent cases show the emphasis on shared parenting responsibilities is putting children in danger.

Professor Briggs and Mr Pragnell are part of the Safer Family Law campaign and argue that amendments to the Family Law Act in 2006 were geared towards the rights of parents rather than those of children.

Professor Briggs, from the University of South Australia, specialises in research into child sex abuse. Mr Pragnell is from the National Council for Children Post-Separation, which is part of the Safer Family Law campaign. He has been called as an expert witness in child sex abuse cases in Australia, Britain and New Zealand.

They cite a Sydney case of a child who was allegedly put at risk of danger by being forced to live with her father.

An interim decision was made to order the six-year-old to live with her father, at whose house she was photographed in pornographic poses by one of his friends.

A court counsellor alleged the girl’s mother was manipulative and might suffer from a mental illness.

“The courts should focus on the needs and wants of the child, and the rights of a child to be protected from abuse,” Mr Pragnell said.

“Too often we see that a parent’s right to contact is given at all costs.”

Amendments to the Family Law Act in 2006 emphasised “co-operative” parenting and shared responsibilities.

In January, Attorney-General Robert McClelland released three reviews into these amendments.

A review by the Australian Institute of Family Studies accepts that some of the consequences of a focus on shared parenting responsibilities have been “less than favourable”.

Child Abuse Prevention Service manager Karen Craigie said women and men contacted the service regularly after raising concerns of sexual abuse and being labelled mentally ill.

“We get lots of calls about this. It is common. Women involved are often subjected to domestic violence and are very traumatised,” Ms Craigie said.

“I have heard of cases where women are so afraid of losing their children and solicitors will advise them that raising concerns of sexual abuse will make them look like they are being obstructive.”

Angela Lynch, a solicitor for the Women’s Legal Service in Queensland who has advised women in these situations, said the family court system was too “pro-father involvement”.

“In a nice family, that is a great thing. When there are issues of abuse and domestic violence, it is a huge problem,” Ms Lynch said. “If you raise sexual abuse in court, you are seen as an unfriendly parent, which is the worst thing you can be in family court.”

The Federal Magistrates Court and the Family Court of Australia would not comment.

Source: The Sun-Herald

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

 UPDATES –

HB 700 was not passed –

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/06/AR2010030601948.html

Fathers Rights groups are happy about it –

http://www.fathersandfamilies.org/?tag=luiz-rs-simmons

Dump the Delegates campaign –  

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