Domestic Violence is an Every Day Issue

This is a guest post by Katherine Greenier. Katherine Greenier is the director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.

While October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it may be the grim August murder of Crystal Ragin and her three children in Newport News that serves as the year’s most dramatic reminder that more must be done to protect women from violence.

As reported in the Daily Press, on August 19 a Newport News sheriff’s deputy arrived at John Moses Ragin’s house to serve an order issued by a judge the day before protecting John’s wife, Crystal Ragin. However, when the deputy got there, he found Crystal and John’s three stepchildren stabbed to death. The case has raised serious questions about whether the police department waited too long – 24 hours – to serve the protective order.

Only two days before the murder of Crystal and her children, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found in favor of a petition brought by Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales), a survivor of domestic violence whose three daughters were killed after police failed to enforce a restraining order she had obtained against her abusive husband.

In June 1999, Lenahan’s three young daughters were abducted by her estranged husband and killed after the Colorado police refused to enforce a restraining order against him. Although Lenahan repeatedly called the police, telling them of her fears for her daughters’ safety, they failed to respond. Hours later, Lenahan’s husband drove his pick-up truck to the police department and opened fire. He was shot dead by the police. The slain bodies of the three girls were subsequently discovered in the back of his pickup truck.

Lenahan filed a lawsuit against the police, but in June 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that she had no Constitutional right to police enforcement of her restraining order. She then filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, saying that the inaction of the police and the Supreme Court’s decision violated her human rights.

The Commission published its decision on August 17, 2011, holding that the United States violated Lenahan and her daughters’ human rights by failing to adopt reasonable measures to protect her and her daughters from her abusive husband’s acts of violence, when the police should have known that they were at risk of being harmed.

This decision is the first time an international tribunal has ruled on the United States’ legal obligations towards an identified domestic violence survivor. The decision vindicates Lenahan’s 12 years of fighting for justice, and affirms that the police should have done more to protect her and her children from her abusive husband.

The Commission’s decision – which finds that gender-based violence is one of the most extreme and pervasive forms of discrimination against women and girls, and that the United States engages in this discrimination when it fails in its duty to protect those at risk – creates an opportunity for advocates to hold police departments and other governmental bodies accountable when they fail to proactively address domestic violence.

Sadly, the tragedies that befell Lenahan and Crystal Ragin are not isolated. Social stigma, patriarchal values, and institutional neglect and resistance have in many ways perpetuated the treatment of domestic violence as a private matter undeserving of a robust law enforcement response. The result: nothing short of an epidemic.

When authorities do not enforce protective orders, abusers feel they can act with impunity. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Every day more than three women in the U.S. are killed by their intimate partners. One in four women in the U.S. will be abused by a partner at some point in their lives. An estimated 3.3 million children each year are exposed to violence against their mothers or female caretakers. Domestic violence is the single most common precursor to child death in the U.S. The failure of police to enforce the law directly contributes to the epidemic of domestic violence in the United States.

The Commission’s decision requires that the U.S. enact comprehensive reforms at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that victims of domestic violence receive adequate protection from their abusers and makes clear that the government has a duty to protect domestic violence victims, including through the enforcement of restraining orders. Protective orders are critically important to victims of domestic violence, but they are just pieces of paper unless they are enforced.

While state and federal laws exist to provide some protections and remedies for victims of domestic violence, human rights law requires that responsible government entities, including law enforcement agencies, take a more proactive role in preventing and responding to the epidemic of such violence.

The Newport News Sheriff’s Office took one such step towards progress shortly after Crystal Ragin and her children’s murder by changing its policy to improve how quickly protective orders are served. Deputies no longer wait until the next day to serve orders that were issued late in the afternoon; they do so the evening they were issued.

The cases of Ragin and Lenahan remind us that both Virginia and the United States still have some progress to make to fulfill their human rights obligations. Law and policy reforms to improve police protocols and directives for responding to domestic violence are needed to ensure accountability when police departments and other governmental bodies fail to proactively address domestic violence.

Additional Information:
Hear first hand from Lenahan about her landmark victory at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and why she urges the United States to “stop domestic violence in its tracks” in this video.

Author: has written 216 posts for this blog.

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46 Responses

  1. Jim Beam
    Jim Beam October 31, 2011 at 3:43 pm |

    I’ve heard before that many times, restraining orders are given out too freely, particularly in divorce cases, when one party might get one in order to gain the upper hand vs their ex. If that is the case, then that might be part of the problem with failure to enforce a restraining order, or failure to do so quickly enough, that if there are frivolous ones, the cops might not take it seriously. In your experience, is that true, or is that an overblown thing?

  2. Rufus
    Rufus October 31, 2011 at 6:26 pm |

    Domestic violence is a serious crime that should not happen. My question is, why do women find the sort of men who would commit such crimes to be attractive in the first place? There is a saying, nice guys finish last, which applies somewhat to the dating scene, insofar as women do seem to prefer jerks. I have a theory that in some cases jerks prefer jerks. A woman fights back against the same tactics she herself deploys, only to fall victim because she is physically weaker. In other cases perhaps it is more like Stockholm’s syndrome.

  3. xenu01
    xenu01 October 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    Rufus:
    Domestic violence is a serious crime that should not happen. My question is, why do women find the sort of men who would commit such crimes to be attractive in the first place? There is a saying, nice guys finish last, which applies somewhat to the dating scene, insofar as women do seem to prefer jerks. I have a theory that in some cases jerks prefer jerks. A woman fights back against the same tactics she herself deploys, only to fall victim because she is physically weaker. In other cases perhaps it is more like Stockholm’s syndrome.

    WTF No.

  4. xenu01
    xenu01 October 31, 2011 at 6:40 pm |

    When I met the man who tried to kill me, he was very charming. His decision to abuse me and ultimately attempt to end my life was not my responsibility, for choosing him. I left. That was my responsibility. I left and I protect myself by never joining social networks, by having a panic attack every time I find my real name somewhere unprotected and connected with another aspect of my life. Keeping my name after marriage was an act of courage for me because if I had taken my partner’s name it would have been one more layer of protection in my favor. If I had kids? If I had reasons that I couldn’t leave and go as far as I could go within the same country? If I had not had the money to move? If if- a million other things? I might be dead right now. I might be dead because the system does not protect victims of domestic crimes. Because the public dialogue is often garbage like that comment above.

  5. Sarah
    Sarah October 31, 2011 at 6:41 pm |

    This might sound a little bit out of place, but I would be grateful if there would be some kind of referencing at the end of articles including some kind of statistics (like 2 million women each year etc) since I would like to be able to follow up on where those figures come from!

  6. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie October 31, 2011 at 7:45 pm |

    Restraining orders do not stop men from killing women. They are useless.

  7. Diana
    Diana October 31, 2011 at 7:49 pm |

    Rufus, I suggest you go do some damn reading so you don’t sound like an ignorant piece of shit.

    Abusive people do not wear signs on their foreheads. By the time the abuse manifests, the relationship is usually well along, and abusers employ emotional manipulation (“You know better than to make me angry like that”) and/or physical threats to keep their victims in line.

    As someone who got out of an abusive relationship four years ago when my online friends (the two roommates who shared the apartment with my abuser and me over the course of the relationship either did nothing, or yelled at me for “fighting”) finally convinced me that what was happening to me was not my fault, keep your toxic, misogynist “theories” to yourself, and go fucking learn something if you actually give a crap.

  8. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage October 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    And we get to victim-blaming and “waaah waaah I’m a nice guy it’s just the womenz don’t like me” two posts in.

    Sadly, I guessed that would happen within the first five posts.

  9. calioak
    calioak October 31, 2011 at 8:52 pm |

    The Lenahan case is about kidnapping as much as domestic violence. The idea that the police department should just sit on their hands when three young children are kidnapped by someone who has no legal custody of the kids is infuriating. They chose to let him kidnap and murder those children because he had beaten the children’s mother. Somehow I don’t think the average American supports ignoring child abduction.

  10. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie November 1, 2011 at 1:06 am |

    Yet somehow, a plain old ordinary beating conferred on a mere women garners little more than a “tsk” and a turn of the page.

  11. JS
    JS November 1, 2011 at 8:18 am |

    I disagree that VPOs don’t work.

    I had been married for 19 years when I discovered my spouse’s secret other life. I immediately filed for divorce, and after pleading and begging didn’t work, he resorted to threats of bodily harm/death to me. I filed for a restraining order because he really scared me…his comment (via phone) after receiving it was, “this piece of paper won’t protect you. I can do anything to you that I want.”

    Luckily I lived in a place where they took VPOs seriously. I reported that comment and the subsequent harassment over the next day (by phone, banging on my door, verbal threats), and he was arrested. He was so angry that he struggled with the deputies who came to talk to him and wound up with a rotator cuff tear when they had to cuff him.

    I have no doubt that he was escalating to more violent behavior, which may very well have resulted in my death or serious harm (the threats certainly indicated that, and he had a gun); his struggling with the police was out of character for him. I also know that the threats stopped after he was jailed. I feel very lucky.

    Did it make him angrier to get the VPO? Yes, but he was already pretty angry and had already violated boundaries that I didn’t feel comfortable with; that wasn’t going to get any better and could only get worse.

    Sometimes, if the guy is already at the violent behavior point, I can see where the police might be too late, but it doesn’t hurt anything to at least try.

  12. BHuesca
    BHuesca November 1, 2011 at 9:19 am |

    Bravo for the article!

    I just hate how it’s gendered, though, it kind of seems to erase intimate partner violence for those whose intimate partnerships don’t fit the male/female binary.

  13. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT November 1, 2011 at 9:34 am |

    Rufus: it’s not “nice” of a guy to explain away domestic violence the way you just did, with a large dollop of victim-blaming.

    I’ve whined the nice guy whine at times myself, so I won’t be too hard on you here (others may not pull their punches). The simple fact is that the jerk that you can see is a jerk from day 1 doesn’t present himself that way to the person he (or, less commonly, she) later abuses.

    I’ll close with The Doors: “Women seem wicked, when you’re unwanted. Faces seem ugly, when you’re alone.”

  14. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 1, 2011 at 9:42 am |

    Rufus, pull your head out of your ass. I am dog tired of answering ignorant, whiny, and entitled trolly posts like yours. If you had half a clue, you’d know that a) most abusers are seen by everyone as “nice guys” and b) they don’t abuse right off the bat. The fact that Nice Guys (TM) moon after women who take them for granted and don’t give them the time of day says more about their own issues than about women in general. FFS.

  15. africaturtle
    africaturtle November 1, 2011 at 10:08 am |

    Rufus:
    Domestic violence is a serious crime that should not happen. My question is, why do women find the sort of men who would commit such crimes to be attractive in the first place? There is a saying, nice guys finish last, which applies somewhat to the dating scene, insofar as women do seem to prefer jerks. I have a theory that in some cases jerks prefer jerks. A woman fights back against the same tactics she herself deploys, only to fall victim because she is physically weaker. In other cases perhaps it is more like Stockholm’s syndrome.

    Your question seems sincere, so i will answer it sincerely as I was disapointed to see the hatred and sarcasm that others replied with. I personally thought the same way as you (“why would a girl choose to mary a jerk?”) before i found myself married to an abusive man.

    The problem with domestic abuse is that the men who indulge in it are most often (occassionally you find one who is an across-the-board jerk) very charming very convincing and very successful in many other areas of their life. The bad side comes out once they beleive you are “theirs” (usually following marriage, moving-in or getting pregnant) and is always in private . By this point usually you have kids or living arrangements that keep you “trapped” to a certain extent and it isn’t always a black eye …often it starts with bullying or other psychological abuse…then there is threats, veiled threats or threatening behaviour. Since he hasn’t actually “touched” you, you can’t really say he’s abusive, or can you?? Most women (including myself) that i’ve talked with go through lengthy periods of questioning themselves and feeling confused since our general immage of abuse is furnished from hollywood (very EXTREME cases) and we are also trying to work out understanding “why” since what we “thought” we knew about this man is suddenly conflicting with the way he is acting…then even though you know something is not right there is shame associated with it and wanting to believe his promises that he won’t act like that again. Because abusers still know how to charm even once they’ve started acting badly… I would encourage you to research the topic more to be able to help those around you and be more sensitized to recognizing patterns of abuse… we can all find ourselves victims as one point or another but the more you know of the subject the more empowered you will be to walk away from abuse instead of getting sucked into it’s cycles of power and control.

    And personally i’m glad you put your point of view out there b/c i’m sure you are not the only person who honestly misunderstands the dynamics of an abusive relationship!

  16. Domestic Violence is an Every Day Issue | ShareInc News and Resources

    [...] Domestic Violence is an Every Day Issue Source: Feministe [...]

  17. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 1, 2011 at 10:43 am |

    He was greeted with sarcasm (not hatred, FFS) because many of us are ALSO abuse survivors and are sick and tired of being shamed for it. I was not at fault, I do not “go for bad boys” and we hear the Nice Guy Whine (TM) a lot on feminist blogs. Trust me when I say that his view is not rare, nor do people like him hold back on giving it, repeatedly, on feminist blogs.

  18. Kathy
    Kathy November 1, 2011 at 11:17 am |

    Sarah:
    This might sound a little bit out of place, but I would be grateful if there would be some kind of referencing at the end of articles including some kind of statistics (like 2 million women each year etc) since I would like to be able to follow up on where those figures come from!

    That’s not out out of place at all; here you go: An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States 1 (2003), http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/IPVBook-a.pdf); Every day more than three women in the U.S. are killed by their intimate partners. (Id.); One in four women in the U.S. will be abused by a partner at some point in their lives. (Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, NCJ 181867, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey (July 2000), http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/181867.pdf.); An estimated 3.3 million children each year are exposed to violence against their mothers or female caretakers (American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family: Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family,1996); Domestic violence is the single most common precursor to child death in the U.S. (Mills, L. G., Friend, C., Conroy, K., Fleck-Henderson, A., Krug, S., Magen, R. H., et al. (2000). Child protection and domestic violence: Training, practice and policy issues. Children and Youth Services Review, 22(5), 315-332.)

  19. Kathy
    Kathy November 1, 2011 at 11:26 am |

    BHuesca:
    Bravo for the article!

    I just hate how it’s gendered, though, it kind of seems to erase intimate partner violence for those whose intimate partnerships don’t fit the male/female binary.

    Point well taken, thank you for keeping me in check there. You’re right, DV does not discriminate across gender and occurs at the same rate in both homosexual and heterosexual relationships.

  20. Adaquinn
    Adaquinn November 1, 2011 at 11:36 am |

    Sheelzebub: He was greeted with sarcasm (not hatred, FFS) because many of us are ALSO abuse survivors and are sick and tired of being shamed for it. I was not at fault, I do not “go for bad boys” and we hear the Nice Guy Whine (TM) a lot on feminist blogs. Trust me when I say that his view is not rare, nor do people like him hold back on giving it, repeatedly, on feminist blogs.

    Gotta say, “Pull your head out of your ass” seems more like hatred than sarcasm to me. I understand your knee jerk reaction. It’s one that I often have myself. It was my first reaction to Rufus as well. However I think that AfricanTurtle’s response is more constructive and more informative than many of the others I read. And far more constructive than one I would of written.

    Domestic Violence is a horrid crime that has more of a stigma for the women who endure it than for the men that commit it. No one hears about a man doing it and goes “Wow, you’re a bad person for mentally, socially, and physically harming someone you profess to love” They look at the woman and go “Well, it can’t be too bad if she’s staying” or “She’s stupid for putting up with it” While Rufus’ remarks are wrong, they are popularly held.

    The only way to combat the current social view of domestic violence is to speak up, speak loud and be informative rather than combative.

  21. Kathy
    Kathy November 1, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    tinfoil hattie:
    Restrainingordersdonotstopmenfromkillingwomen.Theyareuseless.

    That’s a very crucial issue, and I think strengthens the point about why protective orders must be better enforced and police departments and the government held accountable when they fail to protect victims. Police inaction directly contributes to the continuing prevalence of violence, and the inadequate responsiveness of police departments around the country is well documented. One study found that protective orders are violated in 67 percent of rape cases, 50 percent of physical assault cases and 69 percent of stalking cases. (1) Because restraining orders are often violated, women who obtain them rely on and expect the police to protect their safety—one study found that even though 86 percent of battered women seeking protective orders believed their assailant would violate the order, 95 percent were confident the police would respond rapidly to the situation. (2) Yet, one study found that only 20 percent of domestic violence cases resulted in the police arresting the assailant. (3) Even in states with laws that require an arrest when there is reasonable cause to believe a restraining order has been violated, the likelihood of arrest increased only by five percent. (4) When police fail to enforce restraining orders, it means that the women who hold these orders may be endangered by a false sense of security. Women who believe that their protective order promises police protection are less likely to take steps – such as going into hiding or taking other self-defense measures – that they might otherwise take if they knew that the police would not respond to a violation of the order. In some instances, the establishment of a restraining order will lead an abuser to retaliate against a victim of domestic violence. When police do not adequately enforce such orders, they can actually increase the danger to victims of domestic violence.

    (1) Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, NCJ 181867, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey (July 2000), http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/181867.pdf
    (2) Karla Fischer & Mary Rose, When “Enough is Enough”: Battered Women’s Decision Making Around Court Orders of Protection, 41 CRIME & DELINQUENCY 414, 417 (1995)
    (3) Lawrence A. Greenfeld et al., U.S. Dep’t of Justice, NCJ-167237, Violence by Intimates 20 (1998), http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/vi.pdf.
    (4) David Eitle, The Influence of Mandatory Arrest Policies, Police Organizational Characteristics, and Situational Variables on the Probability of Arrest in Domestic Violence Cases, 51 CRIME & DELINQUENCY 573, 591 (2005).

  22. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 1, 2011 at 11:42 am |

    And telling women they deserve it by going for men who are assholes is pretty fucking hateful. Also? Tone arguments? Don’t tend to go over well in this space. It’s quite telling that the concern is over being nice to Rufus, who posted some hateful and vile garbage, and that you and Africaturtle would rather call out abuse survivors who’ve been at the business end of that rhetoric than the guy who’s posting that hateful rhetoric.

  23. Adaquinn
    Adaquinn November 1, 2011 at 11:59 am |

    Sheelzebub: And telling women they deserve it by going for men who are assholes is pretty fucking hateful. Also? Tone arguments? Don’t tend to go over well in this space. It’s quite telling that the concern is over being nice to Rufus, who posted some hateful and vile garbage, and that you and Africaturtle would rather call out abuse survivors who’ve been at the business end of that rhetoric than the guy who’s posting that hateful rhetoric.

    Yes. I’m sorry but I do believe that women who have been abused should talk about it. We should tell people what happened. We should explain how we found ourselves in that place. Because no one who is abusing their loved ones is going to explain their actions or tell people how they manipulated a perfectly logical, strong willed indivual into staying with them. Yes that means being nice to the people that have misconceptions and people that make comments like Rufus did.

    This isn’t about “all women must be nice” this is about making honest communication with ALL of society about what it means to be in a domestic violence situation.

  24. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm |

    Except we’ve had this flung in our faces oh, a thousand times before and I am fucking. tired. It is not my job to be the world’s instructor. Especially when the same arguments get trotted out time after time, no matter how many times we answer, no matter how reasonably or kindly we answer. I am fucking tired. I am tired of handholding men like Rufus who barge in here and make it about his dating woes. They do not listen, they do not take what we say into consideration, and they decide to mansplain to us what our situations really were. They derail and act generally hateful (in an oh-so-civil fashion, sometimes).

    I am tired of people pulling out tone arguments for the ladies while overlooking the hateful and nasty rhetoric that the likes of Rufus has posted. If you’re so up for educating Rufus, spend your energy doing that instead of lecturing the rest of us on How To Behave Like Proper Ladies. Because here’s the thing: both of your posts so far has been to scold abuse survivors about reacting to a type of comment that we see all too often in spaces that we would hope would be free of this shit, after hearing it from friends, family, and the general peanut gallery.

    And yes, this does smack of “all women must be nice.”

  25. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    And when you overlook hateful shit like this:

    A woman fights back against the same tactics she herself deploys, only to fall victim because she is physically weaker

    in favor of lecturing those of us who heard, repeatedly, how we deserved our abuse, I cannot take you seriously.

    That is what is hateful. Not people reacting to Rufus’s vile comment.

  26. Adaquinn
    Adaquinn November 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm |

    Yeah. I’m tired of it too. Yeah I wish we didn’t have to do it. You think I don’t talk to people like Rufus all the time? I live in Topeka Kansas. I was so angry about what the city council did I was in tears. You think I haven’t told every person that would stop and listen to me about how it’s not the people who endure the violence that are to blame but the people that commit the violence? You don’t think that I haven’t heard “Well if you just wouldn’t of dated someone like that you wouldn’t of had that problem.” I’m not saying that any of the remarks were made towards Rufus were wrong. I said that African Turtle was more constructive.

    But just like every other major social change that has happened, the education has to come from the people who have endured the stigma. No one but a survivor knows how it happens, or how to escape from it.

    I’m sorry that the wrong information is so prolific in our society. I’m sorry that people would rather blame the victims of these crimes than blame those who commit the crimes. I’m sorry that after enduring YEARS of abuse from someone who supposedly loved us we have to endure a LIFETIME of stigma. I just don’t know how to do that other than speaking up, speaking out and teaching people that -WE- are not to blame.

  27. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 1, 2011 at 12:41 pm |

    So then would it be too much to expect empathy for your fellow survivors who are ALSO tired, who have spent FSM knows how much time educating people like Rufus, only to be told that we probably deserved it, we go for the wrong type of person, it was probably mutually abusive, etc? Repeatedly and for years? This is one of the sites I go to where I’d like to not focus on 101 shit with people like Rufus who parrot some bigoted, destructive, and hateful crap.

    Again, what he said isn’t anything new. I can’t imagine why he or anyone else would be shocked at the blowback at a comment that essentially says women who are abused are getting what they give (or else they are stupid women who refuse to date Nice Guys like him). Especially when we’ve seen a version of it here in on other feminist blogs, oh, a hundred thousand times already.

    Just because I wasn’t nice to Rufus doesn’t mean I wasn’t speaking out, BTW. But when someone posts that kind of hateful BS, I’m not going to be nice in response. I’m all out of nice.

    So how about this: stop lecturing us on what is constructive. I am bone fucking tired, like you, and I am not inclined to show kindness to someone who said (not particularly constructively, BTW) that abuse survivors somehow deserved it. If he’s actually interested in understanding WTF is going on, he can lurk more, he can read, he can actually visit the sites that focus on DV and emotional abuse, instead of saying that women somehow deserve it.

  28. Norma
    Norma November 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    Adaquinn: The only way to combat the current social view of domestic violence is to speak up, speak loud and be informative rather than combative.

    No. No way is there “only” one way to “combat” violence, which involves being “informative” but not “combative.”

    There are times to be patient and to play the teacher, and there are times to be screaming and angry, and there are times to check out and not be involved in advocacy, and there are times to criticize other advocates. All of that can be part of dealing with abuse, and all of that can be part of responding to people like Rufus.

    It’s laudible, Adaquinn, that at this at this moment in time you’re up to dealing with people like Rufus patiently. But Sheelzebub can tell Rufus to fuck off if s/he wants to, and Rufus, as a person who made the choice to come in here and ask why women go for abusive men, can deal with it.

    Adaquinn: This isn’t about “all women must be nice” this is about making honest communication with ALL of society about what it means to be in a domestic violence situation.

    And Sheelzebub’s communication was honest. Honestly fucking angry. Which is how a lot of survivors of abuse/assault feel, and the world needs to deal with it. Scolding Sheelzebub for a “hateful” response to Rufus’ post is what’s unconstructive here.

  29. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos November 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm |

    The only way to combat the current social view of domestic violence is to speak up, speak loud and be informative rather than combative.

    *facepalm* here we go again. The 7 billionth rendition of the panty-sniffing tone-troll derail.

    Didn’t you know, Sheelzebub, social changes magically appears whenever abuse victims play nice with abusers and bigots?

    And, then, after the abuse victims genuflect before the abusers and bigots enough, the abusers and bigots magically fart rainbows and piss glitter.

    Everything is magically set to right, if and only if bitches play the doormat.

  30. Norma
    Norma November 1, 2011 at 1:22 pm |

    Sheelzebub: So how about this: stop lecturing us on what is constructive.

    This. Some of the most upsetting post-abuse experiences I’ve had have involved supposed anti-violence allies telling me what is and isn’t constructive, and what I should and shouldn’t say about abuse. It’s like, I expect most people to be ignorant about abuse/assault. But I never expect women’s rights activists and the like to tell me that I’m off message, or my tone is unconstructive, or I should be nicer and quieter. It is SO upsetting, every time. I don’t know if this is my particular issue or what, but comments like Adaquinn’s (we MUST talk about our abuse, but we MUST NOT be combative) freak me out.

  31. Adaquinn
    Adaquinn November 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm |

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that perhaps verbally attacking someone wasn’t the most effective way to get people to listen to you. Obviously, your experiences have taught you that telling people they have their head up their ass and saying that people are ignorant for not listening to you have proven to be very helpful to women’s causes.

  32. IrishUp
    IrishUp November 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm |

    MANG! I knew there’d be more of the whaddaboutthemenzers when I saw all those links in New York Mag. Hey y’all, if you’re gonna saunter on over to a feminist site linked to in an MSM article, at LEAST get your 101 on. Recognize that the people ALREADY HAVING the conversation are more, well CONVERSANT, and follow along for a while before jumping in with your “Have you thought about..?” thinky-thoughts.

    On topic: What concerns me is HOW we go about DV law and policy reforms. It isn’t simply a matter of taking those restraining orders more seriously. If we treat DV with the same 3 strikes you’re out/ 1 size fits all approaches that have been used for other crimes, we’re STILL ignoring the needs of the women and children victimized by DV. From a study of revictimization after an initial DV incident with police involvement in a proactive DV system:
    ” … What is troublesome is that this research has found that despite the victim’s experience with a “model” intervention program, rereporting was still a major concern as the majority of victims did not report subsequent offenses to the police. In fact, this research adds credence to earlier
    expressed fears that a too aggressive criminal justice response that did not reflect diversity of victim desires might have had the unintended effect of deterring future reporting. [emphasis original]
    Our findings suggest that a latent outcome of aggressive law enforcement and court response that includes the dismissal of victim preferences may be to discourage the future use of the system by both victims who wanted the system to do more (those who wanted more severe criminal charges brought against the offender) as well as those who wanted it to do less (those who felt taking the case forward would decrease their safety).
    … This suggests the significance of victim empowerment and the importance of its integration into the current goals of the criminal justice system. A critical policy question is how this should impact the criminal justice response to domestic violence—should it mean that offenders whose cases could clearly be successfully prosecuted are not charged when the victim has made an informed decision not to proceed?”
    – Hotaling & Buzawa, 2003 https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/195667.pdf

    I do NOT want a legal system where, for instance, surviving family members get to choose whether someone convicted of murder dies or not (because I am against vigilantism and capital punishment). But I think that in the case of DV, there is no way to serve justice without taking into account the victim. There are going to be LOTS of instances where helping someone victimized by DV is going to mean really challenging current USian jurisprudence and penal models.

    Katherine, I hope you’ll understand that the following comment really isn’t at *you*, although it’s inspired by this that you wrote: “Social stigma, patriarchal values, and institutional neglect and resistance have in many ways perpetuated the treatment of domestic violence as a private matter undeserving of a robust law enforcement response. The result: nothing short of an epidemic. ”

    How about “Patriarchy sanctions domestic violence. The result: nothing short of ENDEMIC?” Can’t we just say, that it’s a Patriarchy, and it’s a hierarchy that is enforced by physically, economically and legally beating down the other half of humanity?

  33. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    Indeed, adaquinn. And focusing on the unseemly behavior of your fellow abuse survivors, and scolding them for “verbally attacking” a troll while ignoring said troll’s verbal attacks against us, is hypocritical.

    You know? Scolding women who’ve been through abuse and who are reacting to a hateful and misogynistic screed is not the best way to build credibility or to get people to listen to YOU. Since you seem to be all about the advice today.

  34. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub November 1, 2011 at 3:16 pm |

    Didn’t you know, Sheelzebub, social changes magically appears whenever abuse victims play nice with abusers and bigots?

    You know, if I had a dime for every time I played nice only to see the abusive troll not listen, continue to derail, and continue to make bigoted remarks, I could retire in a mansion in Geneva. Ooops. I’m not being nice, am I? Must think of the menz!

  35. Jim Beam
    Jim Beam November 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm |

    So I made the top comment, which I think was reasonable enough, and the second comment was something that everyone here really disliked. As a result, everyone focused on the second comment and not on mine. So in the interest of not being buried under a big stack of comments I’ll ask again.

    I’ve heard that, particularly in divorce cases, there are often a lot of frivolous restraining orders issued, less for protection and more for gaining the upper hand vs one’s (soon to be ex) spouse. And maybe this leads to restraining orders being enforced less closely by the police, who see a lot of unserious ones. Do yall think that’s the case, or is that a non-issue?

  36. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 1, 2011 at 7:32 pm |

    Jim Beam: In general, from what I’ve seen around the ‘nets, lots of divorced guys like to whine about the evil she-demon who filed for divorce and tried to blacken his name. In short, if your main source is divorced dude-bros, I’d suggest taking anything they say with a saltshaker. Women don’t usually go through all the hassle of filing restraining orders without a damn good reason. (Not saying there aren’t a few fraudalent restraining orders floating around, but probably not as many as you think.)
    The main issue is that police departments haven’t changed much in makeup and mindset from the 1950s. Police departments are mainly manned by straight white men, for the protection of straight white guys. They don’t want to tackle abuse cases, and find it really easy to sit on their hands whenever abuse cases pop up. Judges and sherriffs don’t really care either.

  37. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie November 1, 2011 at 7:36 pm |

    I’d say, Jim Beam, that you oughta saunter right back out of here and google your stupid, inciteful “serious question,” and chase your answer down your own damn self.

    I’m not very nice, either. Nor am I sorry about that fact.

  38. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. November 1, 2011 at 7:46 pm |

    @Jim Beam,

    I don’t know where you heard that, but its untrue. Its not easy to get a restraining order. If you discuss with police officers why they don’t enforce restraining orders they say (1) the situations are complicated, (2) they don’t want to get involved in a “domestic disagreement”, and (3) they (meaning the victims of DV) want it that way, so its not their job to clean up other people’s personal lives. Unspoken is the fact that many, many officers are also domestic abusers.

  39. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl November 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm |

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that perhaps verbally attacking someone wasn’t the most effective way to get people to listen to you. Obviously, your experiences have taught you that telling people they have their head up their ass and saying that people are ignorant for not listening to you have proven to be very helpful to women’s causes.

    Passive-aggressive much?

    Incidentally, Adaquinn, nobody is stopping you from talking to Rufus. Please, feel free to keep talking to Rufus, and explain things to him constructively, and all those good things. People aren’t pissed off at you because you’re willing to talk to Rufus. People are pissed off at you because you WON’T. Because you’d much rather lecture your fellow survivors for being too angry than talk to Rufus. Just go talk to him and leave Sheezlebub the hell alone.

    Signed, not a DV survivor myself, but someone who spent the first 13 years and 11 months of my life in my parents’ abusive marriage. My mother got herself and her kids out, with fuck all in the way of help from all the people who were supposed to help her. My mother is the strongest person I know (if a little nuts sometimes), and guess what, She. Gets. Angry. DV survivors are allowed to be angry. You don’t like it, fine. Just go away and talk to the Rufuses of this world instead of wasting oxygen on us unconstructive types. Or just go away, period.

  40. Norma
    Norma November 2, 2011 at 4:02 am |

    @Jim Beam, what kind of restraining orders are you even talking about? Emergency civil ones? Criminal ones?

  41. Jim Beam
    Jim Beam November 2, 2011 at 11:16 am |

    @Norma Dunno…last thing I read about it said emergency order of protection, but didn’t specify civil or criminal, I am hardly an expert on this stuff so don’t know which.

  42. Norma
    Norma November 2, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    @Jim Beam: The problem with enforcement has nothing to do with frivolous applications for restraining orders. The problem is that restraining order delivery/enforcement policies are a mess.

    An emergency order probably means a temporary restraining order (TRO), which allows a battered person can apply for immediate protection without waiting for a hearing. Because it’s ex parte relief, judges have high standards for what it takes to get a TRO. In my state the success rate upon application for a TRO is depressingly low. Usually judges just order a hearing two weeks later instead of issuing the restraining order, *especially* if there is a divorce underway. Most people I’ve worked with have only gotten TROs after trying repeatedly (spending hours during working days at a court house do it it), and usually only when violence has gotten really bad. Even then they’ll sometimes lose. You don’t get to talk to a judge– you just write down your application. This is very hard for people who struggle with writing or English.

    Serving restraining orders is dangerous and time-consuming, and there’s only a short period to serve before the TRO lapses. Sometimes victims are responsible for getting a state employee to serve the TRO, and this can be a nightmare– no one answers the phone, no one follows up with them. In my state, the police department has no record of TROs– it’s the victim’s responsibility to tell the police about it. But courts don’t tell victims that. So victims think that the TRO has been served, but they’re not actually protected by it.

    And in my state, the state marshals (not police) who serve get paid whether they successfully serve or not, as long as they say they tried. I’ve had terrible experiences with marshals who clearly are lying about serving– like, they say they tried to serve and got paid for it, but they never took the respondent’s address. It’s very difficult to get a marshal disciplined, much less fired.

    If you can get the order served, you have a hearing pretty soon to determine whether the order should be extended, and then it’s only for a limited period.

    So, it can be fucking hard to get an emergency order, and it’s a lot of work to get it served and extended. People definitely don’t get them for fun, and judges don’t grant them for leverage in divorce cases.

  43. EG
    EG November 2, 2011 at 11:56 am |

    Rufus: My question is, why do women find the sort of men who would commit such crimes to be attractive in the first place?

    Because violent abusive assholes do not generally have “I am a violent abusive asshole” tattooed on their foreheads. It is not that blatant. There are certain signs that trouble could be ahead, but even if taught to understand what they are, women have been socialized to forgive men who are “doing their best” or who “really love them.” Women have been socialized, over and over again, to blame themselves for men’s behavior. Women have been socialized to see controlling behavior as evidence of love. A friend of mine once put together a list of signs that your man is being abusive and brought them with her to the opening night of the first Twilight movie. She surveyed a bunch of the young women waiting on line about these signs, every single one of which Edward displayed toward Bella. And almost universally, the response from the young women was “I wish somebody loved me enough to do that.”

    Sheelzebub: I was not at fault, I do not “go for bad boys” and we hear the Nice Guy Whine (TM) a lot on feminist blogs.

    Well, and also, plenty of “bad boy” types do not abuse women. To my knowledge, there is no connection between adopting an adversarial attitude toward authority and being an abusive asshole.

    Adaquinn: Obviously, your experiences have taught you that telling people they have their head up their ass and saying that people are ignorant for not listening to you have proven to be very helpful to women’s causes.

    Amazingly enough, sometimes “helping” an abuse-enabler to “understand” just isn’t at the top of Sheelzebub’s priority list. Is that all right with you? That an abuse survivor just might decide to put her own needs and feelings ahead of what is helpful to the menfolk or good for the “movement”? Or is she once again supposed to subordinate her own feelings, needs, and anger in favor of somebody else’s agenda?

    For fuck’s sake. Can anybody show me one example of a member of a dominant group learning to “understand” that abusing members of the subordinate group is not only wrong, but entirely the fault of the abusers because they were spoken to nicely?

    Quite frankly, if Rufus is the kind of asshole who thinks abuse is the result of ladies not wanting to fuck the right men, and so bringing the abuse on themselves, what on earth makes you think that if we’re just kind enough, gentle enough, patient enough, he’ll change his mind?

  44. Miss S
    Miss S November 2, 2011 at 2:49 pm |

    I’m not buying the idea that protection orders can prevent murder. If someone is contemplating murder, they’re obviously not concerned with the law.

    I don’t have a lot of faith that anything society does is going to stop abusive people from being abusive. It would be nice if they lost their freedom, because I read far too many stories of women being assaulted and/or murdered by men who had previous records. If you can’t exist without violently assaulting people, you shouldn’t be on the streets. I can’t for the life of me figure out why our courts take possessing a dime bag of marijuana more seriously than bashing a woman’s face in.

  45. Razz
    Razz November 2, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    I want to thank those that are brave enough to identify as DV victims. It can be hard to even admit that much personal info with trolls amuck.

    I’m part of the ranks, too. It would be great if there was a fool proof equation for handling how to fight against DV, but even just judging off my experiences, there doesn’t seem to be. Which makes sense; each situation is different, each victim is different.

    I had people demand I not speak for fear of aggravating my attacker. I had people want to stage a confrontation “for healing purposes” between me and him, demanding I was still “allowing” him to victimize me unless I behaved…well, like him.

    By the way, he was charming, excelled in lots of areas, and looked devoted to me for several years before I got to see the darker, less guarded parts come out.

    We don’t pick abusers. We aren’t communicating some deficit in ourselves by someone we associate with deciding to become abusive.

  46. justsaying
    justsaying November 4, 2011 at 11:35 pm |

    Sheelzebub, I bow to you. I want you to know how much it is a joy to watch you stand up for yourself. Thank you.

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