Monday, 15 September 2014

The causes and effects of domestic violence (Part 2)  

This article is the second part of a two-part series dealing with domestic violence. In Part 1, I described what domestic violence really is all about and the role that abusive men play in this terrible crime. That article was published in my blog on Friday September 12, 2014.  In the second part of this series that I am submitting today to my readers is how this kind of abuse has a terrible effect on the lives of women and children who are victims of domestic violence.    

Battered women suffer physical and mental problems as a result of domestic violence. Battering is the single major cause of injury to women, more significant that auto accidents, rapes, or muggings. In fact, the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted by batterers may be more costly to treat in the short-run than physical injury. Many of the physical injuries sustained by women seem to cause medical difficulties in women as they grow older. Arthritis, hypertension and heart disease have been identified in battered women as having been directly caused or aggravated by domestic violence suffered early in their adult lives.

The long term effects of domestic violence can last for many years.  Battered women suffer physical and mental problems as a result of domestic violence. Battering is the single major cause of injury to women, more significant that auto accidents, rapes, or muggings. In fact, the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted by batterers may be more costly to treat in the short-run than physical injury. Many of the physical injuries sustained by women seem to cause medical difficulties as women grow older. Arthritis, hypertension and heart disease have been identified by battered women as directly caused or aggravated by domestic violence suffered early in their adult lives.

Battered women who have been employed have lost their jobs because of absenteeism due to illness as a result of the violence. Absences occasioned by court appearances also jeopardize women's livelihood. Battered women may have to move many times to avoid the spouse who has subjected them to violence.

Moving is costly and can interfere with continuity of employment. Battered women often lose family and friends as a result of the moving away from the man who is battering them.

The batterers often isolate them from family and friends. Battered women then become embarrassed by the abuse inflicted upon them and many subsequently withdraw from support persons to avoid embarrassment.

It is most unfortunate that some churches have abandoned the fleeing women since some religious doctrines prohibit separation or divorce regardless of the severity of abuse the fleeing wives have been subjected to.

Many battered women have had to forgo financial security to avoid further abuse. As a result they are impoverished as they grow older unless they are employable.

One-third of the children who witness the battering of their mothers demonstrate significant behavioral and/or emotional problems, including psychosomatic disorders, stuttering, anxiety, fears, sleep disruption, nightmares, excessive crying and school problems.  When a mother is abused, the children may feel guilty that they cannot protect her, or that they are the cause of the strife. They may themselves be abused, or neglected while the mother attempts to deal with the trauma. The rate of child abuse is 6-15 times higher in families where the mother is abused.

Children can get emotionally hurt when they see their parents being yelled at, pushed, or hit. They may feel confusion, stress, fear, shame, or think that they caused the problem. Such children grow up learning that it's okay to hurt other people or let other people hurt them. A third of all children who see their mothers beaten develop emotional problems. Boys who see their fathers beat their mothers are ten times more likely to be abusive in their own adult intimate relationships.

Boys who have witnessed their fathers' abuse of their mothers are more likely to inflict severe violence on their wives as adults. Data suggest that girls who witness maternal abuse may tolerate abuse as adults more than girls who do not. These negative effects may be diminished if the child benefits from intervention by the law and domestic violence programs. But that wasn’t always available to them.

In the past, the police, lawyers, prosecutors and even judges felt that they shouldn’t get involved in the so-called family problems. Many of the women were encouraged to try to resolve their problems with their spouses through civil channels. Many of those women who were trying to escape their violent spouses found themselves traveling a path that took them on a circular route to nowhere.

The problem was not a lack of laws covering spousal abuse. The problem was that the existing laws were rarely enforced. Sometimes the women took the law into their own hands and killed their violent abusive husbands. Then they were sentenced to long terms of incarceration in prison. In reality, only a very small percent of battered women kill their abusers to end the violence. Most suffer in silence or are able to leave the relationship.

When the police failed to help them, the abused women turned elsewhere such as crisis centres (if they existed in their communities) churches (if they were willing to assist them) shelters (if they existed in their communities) or friends (if they had any). Many would flee to their parents or siblings homes or the homes of other relatives but if the battering spouse knew where they lived, they would stalk their fleeing wives to catch them alone. Often they would barge into the homes of those who were protecting their wives from them. There have been cases where the violent husbands murdered their wives and those who were protecting them.

The first cry for help is to the police. They expect them to come to their aid as white knights. I will tell you of a case where the police did come as white knights carrying shining armour.

I was personally involved in that case and every time I think of it, I get all tingly just remembering the joy I got when the police actually intervened.

Back in the 1960s, while I was still practicing law, two women I knew came to my home late during Christmas Eve. One of them was carrying her two-month old baby in her arms. They were on welfare and lived in a tenement house in Toronto. They told me that they had been kicked out of their room by their landlord because they hadn’t paid their rent that had been due for three days. They told the landlord that their welfare cheques hadn’t arrived because of the onslaught of mail still not delivered because of the overflow of mail during the Christmas season. He told them that when they get their cheques, they could return. Then he kicked them out of his building and onto the street with the cold snow blowing in their faces. I don’t even think that Charles Dickens’ Scrooge would have sunk that low on Christmas Eve.

I put the women and the baby in my car and drove to the building they lived in and while they were in my car, I walked to a nearby phone booth and called the police. Hey. No-one had cell phones in those days. I called an police officer I knew at headquarters and told him what had happened to the two women. He told me that he would send some officers to meet us. They arrived ten minutes later. They were big. When I say big, I mean, they were really BIG.

The police escorted me and the two women and baby into the building and to their room which was on the main floor and fortunately, by then the door was still unlocked. Then they woke up the landlord and told him to meet them in his office. We kept the women’s door slightly ajar so we could hear what was going on the manager’s office.

Now this is the time when I get all fuzzy and tingly. I will paraphrase what we heard.

POLICE:  “Did you throw two women and a baby out of their room tonight?”

MANAGER:  Of course I did. They are three days in arears with their rent money.

POLICE: “You threw them out in the snow on Christmas Eve?”

MANAGER:  “What does Christmas Eve have to do with it?  They don’t pay their rent, OUT they get!”

POW…ohh….POW ohh…POW….ohhhh.

MANAGER:  “You can’t do that to me.”

POLICE:  “Do what?”

MANAGER:  “You are assaulting me.”

POLICE OFFICER to other POLICE OFFICER:  “Did you see anyone assaulting this man?”

OLICE OFFICER responding:  “What assault?  What man?”

MANAGER:  “I will file a complaint against you.”

POLICE: “Don’t forget to tell them how you also threw two women and a baby out of your building on Christmas Eve.”

OTHER POLICE:  “When they learn what you did to these women and the baby on Christmas Eve, the beating you get from them will make the beating you got from us seem like we tickled you with a feather.”

MANAGER: “What do you want from me?”

OFFICER:  “What do you think we want you to do?”

MANAGER:  OK. They can stay as long as they want.”

The officers went to the room we were in and said to the women, “Apparently the manager says you can stay as long as you wish.” Then one of them said Merry Christmas to you.”

I replied, quoting Dickens, “And a Merry Christmas to all.”

When the women got their welfare cheques later in the week, they moved out and into another rental building. They didn’t pay the former manager anything for the final week they were there. That was their way of getting even with him for what he previously had done to them.

That Christmas was a happy one for all, except of course, that Scrooge who had previously turfed two women and a baby out of his building on Christmas Eve. All he got for Christmas was bruises as a result of his outrageous conduct.

Here is a case that shows how stupid the police can be when they don’t come to the aid of a battered wife.  It happened in the city of Detroit.  A woman beaten by her husband called 911. The operator at 911 asked if the woman’s husband had a weapon. The caller said that he didn’t. The operator replied, “I am sorry. We won’t be able to help you.” Then the 911 operator disconnected the call. That call was made during those years when the Detroit police had a policy not to intervene unless the husband had a firearm in his house. Hey DUMMIES. Isn’t a kitchen knife a weapon?

And when the police would come to the home of a battered woman, the police would tell her that laying a charge against her husband could have financial repercussions if he loses his job because of him being sent to prison. They would tell her that she and the kids could then end up on penniless on the street. The result of the call? Lions one, Christians nothing as the cops walk past the husband and out the front door leaving the Christian with the lion whose jaw is still open ready to pounce on the helpless victim again.    

Research shows that when women kill it is much more likely to be in self-defense than when men perpetrate homicide. Battered women who resort to homicide have often tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to obtain protection from their abusers by calling the police for help. If the community fails to help ensure battered women's safety through law enforcement and other systems, it runs the risk that lives will be lost.

On January 19, 1996, in Stanton, Michigan, District Court Joel Gehrke had convicted Stewart Marshall of spousal abuse when the man pushed and threw his wife to the ground after she admitted having an affair with her husband’s brother. As per the sentence, the judge told Stewart Marshall to approach the bench and told him to roll up his sleeve. When he did, the  judge slapped the man’s wrist with his three fingers and then said, “Don’t do it again.”  What the man’s wife had done was wrong but so was the slapping of Marshall’s wrist. It sent the wrong message to others who attack their spouses.

Most spousal abuse charges in the United States are misdemeanors with possible jail time of six months up to one year and probation of up to two years in most jurisdictions. Typically, a defendant is placed under a restraining, or protective order that imposes limited or no contact with the abused spouse, and orders to complete a batterer’s intervention program or other counseling.

If a weapon was used to inflict physical injuries, or the defendant has a criminal record of assault, the defendant will usually be charged with a felony (indictable offence in Canada). Depending on the circumstances of the abuse, the defendant’s prior record, and the severity and pervasiveness of the abusive conduct, the defendant can face incarceration from several months to 10 years in prison.

Admittedly, what Marshall did to his wife was very minor but the judge could have at least ordered marital counselling as part of the sentence.

Trevor Edwards of Newmarket, Ontario took all of his wife’s earnings, punched her in the face, broke her nose and bruised her eyes. He once left her bloody and unconscious at the side of the road. Despite his lengthy record of spousal abuse, after pleading guilty to 12 charges, including five counts of assaulting his ex-girlfriend Jessica McKenzie and another count of unlawful confinement, in 2012, the judge sentenced him to three years in prison.  However since he had been incarcerated for two years in pretrial  custody; he was given credit based on the 1.5 for 1 formula and immediately released.

Sometimes women are forced to take steps to stop the assaults of their abusive husbands when the police refuse to come to their homes after they have phoned them. Take the case of Judy Hartwell, a 28 year-old housewife living in Bellville, Michigan. She had endured beatings from her husband, once with a sledgehammer and often with rubber hoses. He beat her once too often one day and she stabbed him five times in his chest to ward him off. He died. Her attorney told her jury that the killing of her husband was the result of a moment of sheer desperation. I don’t know if she was convicted or not.

The victim and the police sometimes view the immediate problem of the battered wife in entirely different ways. That being as it is, it is very frustration to the wife when she realizes that she is on her own without the intervening assistance of the police. When she calls the police, it is for protection from her abusive husband. That is her right to demand protection.  She wants her attacker to be taken away so that he will be prevented from attacking her again.

The police on the other hand, often view the complaint from a different perspective. They believe that rather than arrest the husband for violently attacking his wife, they are there to merely calm things down, to keep the matter unreported and try to settle the matter without making an arrest and going to court.

Now such thinking is appropriate when the attack only involves a slap in the face.  More often than not, a strong lecture to the husband is enough to settle the matter once and for all.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened to a friend of mine. He is an architect and was also a governor of a University on Ontario. One night, many years ago, he and his wife got into a very loud argument. H went to the washroom to avoid her nagging him and when he tried to close the bathroom door, his hand slipped and struck his wife in her face.  She called 911 and seconds later, she realized that the call really wasn’t necessary so she called back and said she made a mistake in making the call.

It is the policy of all police forces that once the call to 911 is made initially, the police have to respond and in this case, respond they did. When they arrived at the couple’s home, the wife said that her call to 911 was a mistake on her part. But when they saw a bruise on her face (as a result of the inadvertent slap) they asked the husband if he had somewhere else to spend the night.

Now two mistakes were made at that precise moment—one by the husband and the other by the police. The husband asked, “Why do I have to spend the night somewhere else?” If he did, things would cool down and the next morning, everything would be back to normal between him and his wife.  He had other places he could spend the night. The mistake by the police was a big one that would later cost them a lot of money. They charged him with assault and arrested him.

They should have explained to him that spending the night somewhere else would make it possible for the matter between him and his wife to be settled when they are both more relaxed the next day.

But that is not why he later sued them. Before they put him in the squad car, they handcuffed him and the cuffs were so tight, they left permanent scars on his wrists. They refused to loosen them. When they arrived at the police station, they ordered him to strip naked in front of a closed-circuit TV camera in which the female officers at the front desk could see him in all of his nakedness.

He was released on bail the next morning and called me and asked me to represent him at his trial. During the trial, the prosecutor was the senior prosecutor in the city. He treated the matter as an auspicious moment to get the message across that you don’t strike your wife. What a dummy. He could have chosen a case where serious injuries were the direct result of the spousal abuse.

The wife testified that her husband’s hand had slipped off the bathroom door and inadvertently struck her face while she was trying to push the door open. She also said that after she made the initial 911 call, she immediately tried to cancel the call.

It was then time for me to argue for an acquittal and as I stood up to speak, the judge motioned me to sit down. He then said, “Mister Batchelor. I don’t need to hear from you. I am satisfied that the slap was an inadvertent mistake and for this reason, the case against you client is dismissed.” 

Then immediately after the judge ruled in my client’s favour, the prosecutor asked the judge to order that my client consent to certain conditions.  Both I and the judge were aghast. How stupid was that prosecutor? Really STUPID. The judge reminded this idiot that once a defendant is found not guilty of the crime he was accused of committing, a court cannot order the defendant to abide by conditions after his acquittal.

Many people are of the impression that once a wife is physically abused, she should pack up and leave.

There are many reasons why women may not leave. Not leaving does not mean that the situation is evidence that the victim wants to be abused. Leaving in some cases can even be dangerous. The most dangerous time for a woman who is being abused is when she tries to leave.

Many abused women stay in the home for the children’s sake.  Many remain home because they have nowhere else to go.  I should point out however that many of these abused women do leave their home and the men that abused them and settle down elsewhere without their abuser and lead peaceful and productive lives.

People who feel that they are being abused in some manner and the abuse is done a great deal of the time should get away from the abuser. I remember many years ago going with a woman who consistently abused me emotionally. I was often tempted to smack her face but I didn’t since she was proficient in Karate. What I did choose to do however was simply leave her and never have anything more to do with her again.

Here is another story you will like. I get all tingly when remembering this one also.

One day in the mid-1990s, when I was working in a a friend’s law office, a very sad woman came to see us. She wanted to escape her violent abusive husband. My boss (an accomplished lawyer) came up with a scheme that would solve her problem. 

First of all, we found her an apartment where she and her two sons could live. Then we arranged for her kids to be transferred to another school with instructions to both schools that that the schools would not tell anyone that about the school transfer without our client’s permission.  Then we had her driver’s licence information changed with respect to her address and the Ministry of Transportation agreed not to disclose to anyone where she lived. Now came the best part of our plan.

While the brutish husband was at work, we arranged to have movers go to her previous house to pick up all the furniture she paid for which was all of the furniture in the house.  She left the hall mirror behind with a message written on it with a black felt pen. The message was; “I have left you with our kids but you can have the stove and fridge as I have one already in my new home. By the way, you were terrible in bed. It was like having sex with a dirty smelly pig.” Now we all knew that he would go berserk when he came home and read that message and berserk he became.  That was the day when his neighbours heard him screaming so loud, his screams could be heard a block away.

His wife wanted one more opportunity to wreak revenge on him for all the years he beat her. As part of our plan, I called him at his home and said when he answered the phone, “Do you want to know where your wife is?” He replied, “Yes. Tell me where that bitch is.” I gave him an address that was in Niagara Falls, Ontario. We had someone follow him from his home to a point just east of Hamilton where the highway then heads towards Niagara Falls. Now we all knew he was going to go directly to the house I told him where his wife would be.

We later learned that when he knocked on the door of the house I had sent him to, he told the frightened women that she was protecting his wife and then barged into the house searching for his wife. The woman called the police who arrived in minutes. Their speedy response was because she was the wife of the chief of police. Two days later, he was released from custody after he apologized to the chief and his wife. What fool said that revenge isn’t sweet.

Often an abuser may apologize for the physical abuse and promises that it will never happen again, If in fact it doesn’t ever happen again, then that is good. However if there is a repeat of the physical abuse, that is the time to leave. To remain under those circumstance just causes the abuser to believe that there isn’t any consequences to follow with respect to his or her abuse.

When battered women are killed by their abusers, it frequently occurs after they have been separated from them and their abusers have found them. That is why it is important that the abused women who have escaped from their homes where the abusers live, should relocate somewhere where their abusers will never find them. Imagine what would have happened to our client if she hadn’t relocated where her violent husband could never find her. 

Domestic abusers may blame the victim for causing the abuse, deny any abuse actually took place or even say that it was not as bad as the victim claimed. That form of rationalization is generally recognized as hogwash. Imagine an abuser who leaves bruises on his partner and then tells the police that his partner’s injuries are not as bad as she claims. The officers would then be sorely tempted to smack him around and leave some abuses on him and then later say that his injuries are not as bad as he claims.

As I see it, each community that has more than 3,000 inhabitants should have shelters for woman and children who are suffering from physical abuse from the man in the house. Woman and children living in Communities who have less than 3,000 inhabitants should be able to go to shelters in the nearest cities. Communities in larger cities should have facilities that includes; 

24-hour crisis line

An emergency shelter for battered women and their children

Preparation for longer-term transitional housing 

Shelter classroom for ‘at-risk’ children 

Counseling and therapy 

Support groups 

Help with legal options 

Hospital advocacy 

Child development

An expanded network of emergency shelters and legal assistance  including zaero tolerances have existed in Canada since the 1980s. In the province of Ontario, we have special  courts that have specifically trained and experienced officials dealing with this kind of crime. Some jurisdiction are giving relatively cheap cellphones with special police numbers already put in them that be dialed by punching one number on the keypad. Certainly those persons who are accused of domestic violence and released on bail who then repeat the abuse while on bail should have their bail revoked and remain in custody at least until their trial is over.

For far too long, domestic violence has been framed and understood exclusively as a women's issue. While most attention is given to women who are abused by men, men are often overlooked victims of domestic violence. Men can be hit, kicked, punched, pushed, or bitten by women abusers. Women can also use weapons, such as knives, guns, or any object that can be used to strike. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief in 2003, men in the United States accounted for approximately 15% of the victims of reported intimate partner violence. I don’t see why those figures would change that much since then. I don’t think these men need shelters to go to since they are the wage earners but there should places where they can seek professional help. 

Many children have also suffered at the hands of their fathers and mothers as such, they also are victims of domestic violence.  For example, the NFL’s Vikings’ running back, Adrian Peterson has been accused of whipping his very young child with a switch, thereby leaving bruises and cuts on his small body. In September 2014, in Beijing, China, a father tied his 12-year-old daughter to a ladder and beat her to death with a rubber hose to get her to confess that she had stolen some things from their home. Last year, a father in Mwenezi, a small district situated in southern Zimbabwe whipped his nine-year-old son to death after accusing him of playing hooky from school. That same year, a disturbing video has gone viral of a father mercilessly whipping his two teen-age daughters with a cable wire after he discovered that the girls had posted a video of themselves performing a sexually suggestive dance known as twerking on Facebook. In 2012, Chinese father whipped his six-year-old son to death after the boy's teachers complained that he was extorting money from classmates.  In 2010, a father in Miami; put on punching gloves and punched his two-year-old son to death. In 1944, I was beaten for five minutes with a ski pole because I was fighting with my younger brother and in 1948; I and my brother were beaten for the same length of time with a leather strap because a farmer’s wife didn’t want us to live with her on a farm.  

Domestic violence takes all forms of cruelty and is done by both men and women on their spouses or girlfriends or boyfriends and also on children of both sexes and of all ages. In my opinion, the perpetrators of these crimes should be severely punished.


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