The Grammar of Male Violence

The Grammar of Male Violence
By Jenny Ruby

in Off Our BacksOur use of language in discussing violence works to disguise to the point of invisibility the perpetrators of most of the violence done in the world. One especially egregious and pervasive misuse of language is the focus on women as the victims and not on men as perpetrators. Crime reports are written in the passive voice, with no mention of the perpetrator. The result is that the gender of the victim is clearly stated but the gender of the perpetrator is completely hidden: “A woman was raped” rather than “A man raped a woman” or “A man raped someone” or even “An unknown male assailant raped a person. . . . ”

What if we changed the way we talk about male violence against women? The author offers a rewrite of a press release by Amnesty International to demonstrate the impact of using the active voice rather than the passive voice so we turn our focus from the victims to the perpetrators. Perhaps, then, we can begin to address violence committed by men rather than pathologizing and blaming women victims.

Woman killed after police failed to arrest man who violated restraining order

One day before Andres Vargas shot his wife Bonnie with an assault rifle, San Antonio police contacted Vargas and told him to leave his wife alone, but did not arrest him for violating Bonnie’s protective order.

Last year, all officers were told to secure arrest warrants immediately for most family violence suspects, including those who commit an assault or threaten to commit an imminent one. Yet each time that Bonnie Vargas called police to report that her ex-husband had violated the protective order — filed as a condition of the couple’s divorce Aug. 6 — police did not arrest Andres Vargas.

Police spokesman Gabe Trevino said he did not know why officers had not sought the arrest but drew a distinction between violating a protective order and committing family violence.

“A violation of a protective order is not necessarily family violence,” Trevino said. “It’s a disturbance that needs to be followed up on.”

Marta Pelaez, president and CEO of Family Violence Prevention Services Inc., which runs San Antonio’s battered women’s shelter, disagreed.

“When a protective order has been issued, any attempt to get close to the victim can be taken as a threat, yet another threat,” she said. “If an order has been issued to protect a victim from domestic violence, (then) absolutely” any threat is an instance of family violence.

She added: “It makes me so angry to know that sometimes it’s one step forward and three steps backward. I don’t think that (signs of family violence are) very clear to all the policemen in the force, and some don’t understand what’s at stake for themselves or the victim.”

Complete story: Warning Signs Missed?

Troubling link in domestic violence cases

Source: Boston.com

Immigrants account for a disturbingly high share of domestic violence deaths in Massachusetts, advocates say, raising fears that the nation’s heated immigration debate is deterring abuse victims from seeking help.

In Framingham last week, an undocumented immigrant whose husband had beaten her for two days called a hot line in tears, saying she was too afraid to call police. In Boston’s Chinatown, women fear becoming burdens to relatives back home if they leave their husbands.

In some cases, the fallout affects families far from Massachusetts. In hurricane-ravaged Haiti, relatives of Norma Dorce Gilles are struggling to survive without her frequent care packages of spaghetti, peanut butter, and $400 in cash. Gilles, a Malden beautician, was smothered and dumped in the trunk of her car in February, allegedly by her former boyfriend, Lesly Cheremond, an illegal immigrant who had been ordered deported and is now awaiting trial in the killing. He has pleaded not guilty.

“We need to shore up services or this will continue,” said Mary Lauby, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition of sexual assault and domestic violence programs. “What we are afraid of is the deeper isolation felt by immigrant victims. That is the danger point.”

Immigrants make up an estimated 14 percent of the state’s population, but accounted for 26 percent of the 180 domestic violence deaths in Massachusetts from 1997 to 2006, according to the most recent figures from the state Department of Public Health. Nearly all of the 47 victims were women and children.

Complete story

Law enforcement response after Macias

The Purple Beret web site has a story on what, if anything, changed in Sonoma County, California, after the Maria Teresa Macias case

In October 1996 the Macias civil rights lawsuit was filed against the Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Ihde. The suit claimed that the Sheriff’s Department repeatedly denied Maria Teresa Macias’ constitutional right to equal protection in its response to Teresa’s more than 20 calls for help before she was finally murdered by her violent husband. The suit claims that the Sheriff’s Department discriminated against Teresa as a woman, a Latina, and as a victim of violence against women by never once arresting or even citing her husband despite a county mandate to do so, by failing to write reports, failing to investigate, ignoring evidence, and discouraging Teresa from calling.

In a unanimous, 9th Circuit Court Appellate  decision, Macias established women’s constitutional right to hold law enforcement legally accountable for failing to provide equal protection of the law. Then, in June, 2002, an unprecedented million dollar award marked the first time police have been ordered to pay the family of a domestic violence homicide victim for failure to properly protect.

Purple Beret reports:

In the Wake of Macias:
How Does Law Enforcement Respond to Domestic
Violence Today?
More than three years after Teresa Macias’ murder put the lie to local law enforcement’s claims that they take domestic violence seriously, a host of new programs and people have been put in place to improve the county’s handling of this deadly violence against women.

But just how differently is a domestic violence victim today treated by police, sheriff’s deputies and the D.A.’s office? Before you get ready to congratulate us on a job well done and move on to other things, get a load of this:

Restraining Orders
Although changes mandated by the state make it more likely that police can verify that a restraining order is in force, local changes have made the process of obtaining a restraining order even more difficult — and less certain — than when Teresa Macias got her court orders in 1995 and 1996. It now takes two days and two trips to the courthouse instead of one; and even at that, judges refuse to sign the orders more often than in the past. Emergency Protective Orders, which should be issued routinely on the spot of any domestic violence incident, are becoming more and more rare.

But what killed Teresa Macias wasn’t that she couldn’t get a restraining order, it was sheriff’s deputies’ utter refusal to enforce it. And that hasn’t changed one bit.

To this day, we have never seen a perpetrator arrested if his only crime was a restraining order violation. Both of the other victim advocates in the county report the same. Often an arrest isn’t made even after 10 or 15 violations are reported; and the victim is more than likely to be told that she is somehow to blame. No doubt, as with Avelino Macias, perpetrators are only emboldened by this failure to enforce the law.

Mandated Arrests
In January, 1996, our local police protocols changed to include a mandated arrest policy in domestic violence incidents where there is visible injury. This was a big step for a county known for its law enforcement officers’ failure to even write reports, much less make arrests to protect women from their violent partners.

Unfortunately, the most striking result we’ve seen of the mandated arrest policy is a dramatic increase in retaliatory arrests of women for domestic violence. In some police jurisdictions, as many as 1 out of 3 domestic violence arrests are of women, with even more women reporting they were threatened with arrest if they insisted on reporting the violence against them.

With California Department of Justice statistics showing that only 6% of all domestic violence convictions involve a female perpetrator, these alarming rates of female arrest are retaliation, pure and simple. And the message they send is not lost either on women victims or on their batterers.

Women who’ve been arrested or threatened with arrest are far less likely to call law enforcement the next time. And the men, seeing the cops will let them get away with it, only escalate their violence and control. It’s a potentially lethal one-two punch, and a cruel perversion of laws intended to protect women, not to sink them deeper into despair.

Domestic Violence Court
The designation of a special court to handle all misdemeanor domestic violence cases has been lauded as evidence the county is finally taking this violence seriously. Instead, it seems to be just one more fancy way to ghetto-ize violence against women, lumping it once again with victimless crimes (see footnote 1 *) and sentencing batterers to counseling instead of jail.

In fact, all modern (read NOT Sonoma County) domestic violence policy is based on the fact that the only thing that has been proven to stop the violence is swift and early intervention by law enforcement, with incarceration each and every time while the violence is still at the misdemeanor level. Otherwise it surely escalates, all too often into homicide.

In fact, as it stands now one judge is handling all misdemeanor domestic violence and drug cases, which means he must be handling the majority of all criminal cases in the county! That’s what they call giving domestic violence the attention it deserves.

DV court also creates an easy way to blow off serious domestic violence without creating any of those pesky jail inmates. We continually see cases of repeated and potentially lethal domestic violence charged as a misdemeanor and shuffled off to DV court, rather than correctly charged as multiple felonies and taken to trial. In short, DV court is a dog-and-pony show that creates a gold mine for counselors, a stroke fest for batterers, and a dead end for victims.

Victim Services
Both outside investigations sparked by Teresa Macias’ murder severely criticized the way victims are treated by county agencies. In response, a gaggle of “domestic violence counselors” have been added to the D.A.’s office and the larger police departments. While victims are led to believe these women are there to fight for them, the truth is the counselors can do little more than act as a referral service and as mouthpieces for their law enforcement bosses, creating yet one more level of bureaucratic sugar-coating in the continuing practice of dumping or minimizing these cases.

Lest you think this is a personal attack on DV counselors, there’s a reason these women won’t fight for prosecution. While ostensibly hired by the YWCA (which runs the domestic violence program in our county), the counselors work directly with police and district attorney staff. If they were to actually stand up and demand police and prosecutors do their jobs, the counselors would soon find themselves without a job. And if the YWCA were to back up a counselor in a demand that police and prosecutors do their jobs, they would soon find themselves without funds. We know that’s true, because that’s exactly what happened to Women Against Rape.

The Cops’ Predictable Response: Retaliation
When the results of our Macias investigation began rumbling through the press, it didn’t take law enforcement long to respond in their all-too predictable way: Sonoma County’s ten police chiefs and the District Attorney set out, not to correct the problem, but to silence and strangle the messengers.

Most people don’t know that the core grant money for rape and domestic violence centers requires the annual signature of approval of all the county’s police chiefs and the District Attorney. Since at the time of carrying out the Macias investigation, Marie De Santis worked at the county’s rape crisis center, Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association retaliated by refusing to give their signatures to Women Against Rape’s annual grant application unless De Santis’ access to the press was curtailed by the agency.

For awhile, Women Against Rape held to principle and stood up to this extortion by law enforcement. But finally, unable to survive without the funds, they caved in to the police chiefs’ threats. (Later they even went so far as to change their name to “United Against Sexual Assault,” banishing both the words “women” and “rape” from their masthead!) Soon thereafter, De Santis went on to establish Women’s Justice Center, a women’s rights organization which, like the Purple Berets, is completely independent of government funds.

Silencing the Purple Berets was a little harder — first of all, we didn’t have any funds they could grab. Instead law enforcement employed the age-old tactic of divide and rule. Using whisper campaigns, disinformation and outright lies, they sought to divide the “good girls” from the “bad girls” (us).

Fortunately most women aren’t fooled; still, we must be vigilant and support those who still provide truly independent advocacy for victims. Otherwise, we are literally condemning our sisters — and particularly poor women — to an early death.

(Footnote *) Only drug offenses are similarly treated with such paternalism (periodic check-in with the daddy-judge) and diversion into “programs” instead of jail cells. While completely appropriate in non-violent drug offenses, such handling of society’s most deadly violence once again sends the message that domestic violence isn’t a crime, but only a counseling problem. Women’s rights groups fought hard to end this “diversion” in the wake of mounting evidence showing that such counseling completely fails to stop the violence. (Back)

© Tanya Brannan, Purple Berets

World Rural Women’s Day & Domestic Violence Awareness Month

TAKE ACTION IN OCTOBER

World Rural Women’s Day and Domestic Violence Awareness Month:
An Intersection of Issues

One of the uniquely rural issues around domestic violence is found at the intersection of violence against women and the lack of recognition for and undervaluation of rural women’s work, including the contribution of farm wives to family farms and of rural women to the sustainability of rural communities.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
October 15 is World Rural Women’s Day.

World Rural Women’s Day provides rural women and their organizations with a focal point to raise the profile of rural women, sensitize both government and public to their crucial, yet largely unrecognized roles and promote action in their support. Rural women the world over play a major role in ensuring food security and in the development and stability of the rural areas. Yet, with little or no status, they frequently lack the power to secure land rights or to access vital services such as credit, inputs, extension, training and education. Their vital contribution to society goes largely unnoticed.

World Rural Women’s Day aims to change this by bringing rural women out of obscurity at least once a year – to remind society how much they owe to rural women and to give value and credit to their work.

During October, we have a unique opportunity to do public education on both of these issues and how they are related. Take advantage of this opportunity by addressing them together in your public education efforts for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Suggestions:

Public Information and Relations
In your Domestic Violence Awareness Month press releases, news letters, brochures and public speaking events, include information about World Rural Women’s Day and its purpose.

Highlight the contribution of rural women in your local area.

Use activities and events to demonstrate concrete and visible examples of the value of rural women’s work.

Include posters about World Rural Women’s Day in your office. Put up banners and distribute flyers.

Go on your local radio station to explain why it is important that the role and work of rural women is recognized. Discuss how undervaluing rural women’s work relates to violence against rural women.

Create an award for exceptional local rural women or women’s groups.

Contacts
Inform local authorities, such as local extension agents, mayor, city council, local business associations, etc. about what you’re doing and why.

Special Events
If your local domestic violence awareness month activities have had low attendance in the past, change the perspective in order to reach a wider rural audience. Focus on World Rural Women’s Day as the primary topic, and add your domestic violence awareness month materials as a secondary issue. Use the event to draw attention to women’s contributions to agriculture and sustainable development in your communities. Invite the mayor, local authorities and civic leaders as guests.

Collaboration
Collaborate with other local groups, including sustainable ag organizations, to organize a regional workshops. Help raise awareness in community development groups about the negative impact of violence against rural women on the sustainability of rural communities. Begin with this quote:

“Policies attracting women and young girls to stay in the countryside must be encouraged since those policies which lead to their leaving will eventually result in a total abandonment of rural areas.”

Educate your state coalition.

Provide information to your coalition about how the lack of regard for rural women’s contributions is related to violence against rural women. Provide written materials for them and ask them to include this information in their newsletters and brochures.

“Society in general, and even rural women themselves, have greatly undervalued and often completely ignored the role of women in maintaining and developing the living countryside with its rich and diversified heritage and traditions.”

Ask your coalition to schedule a panel discussion on this issue at your next statewide meeting. Invite women farmers and others from outside your program to participate on the panel. Have them discuss their experiences and needs, what works and what doesn’t work. For example,

Are they treated equally by farm service offices?
Do government payments come in their name or only in their husband’s name?
Is the land in their name?
The farm assets such as expensive farm equipment and machinery?
Do they know the financial status of their family farm?
Do they have access to the farm resources?
Do rural women undervalue their own work?
Does their unpaid work result in a lack of financial resources for continuing education and financial independence?
How do these things affect their ability to act independently from violent relationships?
How can local women’s groups help change this attitude?

Background and information on World Rural Women’s Day

World Rural Women’s Day & Domestic Violence Awareness Month

TAKE ACTION IN OCTOBER

World Rural Women’s Day and Domestic Violence Awareness Month:
An Intersection of Issues

One of the uniquely rural issues around domestic violence is found at the intersection of violence against women and the lack of recognition for and undervaluation of rural women’s work, including the contribution of farm wives to family farms and of rural women to the sustainability of rural communities.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
October 15 is World Rural Women’s Day.

World Rural Women’s Day provides rural women and their organizations with a focal point to raise the profile of rural women, sensitize both government and public to their crucial, yet largely unrecognized roles and promote action in their support. Rural women the world over play a major role in ensuring food security and in the development and stability of the rural areas. Yet, with little or no status, they frequently lack the power to secure land rights or to access vital services such as credit, inputs, extension, training and education. Their vital contribution to society goes largely unnoticed.

World Rural Women’s Day aims to change this by bringing rural women out of obscurity at least once a year – to remind society how much they owe to rural women and to give value and credit to their work.

During October, we have a unique opportunity to do public education on both of these issues and how they are related. Take advantage of this opportunity by addressing them together in your public education efforts for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Suggestions:

Public Information and Relations
In your Domestic Violence Awareness Month press releases, news letters, brochures and public speaking events, include information about World Rural Women’s Day and its purpose.

Highlight the contribution of rural women in your local area.

Use activities and events to demonstrate concrete and visible examples of the value of rural women’s work.

Include posters about World Rural Women’s Day in your office. Put up banners and distribute flyers.

Go on your local radio station to explain why it is important that the role and work of rural women is recognized. Discuss how undervaluing rural women’s work relates to violence against rural women.

Create an award for exceptional local rural women or women’s groups.

Contacts
Inform local authorities, such as local extension agents, mayor, city council, local business associations, etc. about what you’re doing and why.

Special Events
If your local domestic violence awareness month activities have had low attendance in the past, change the perspective in order to reach a wider rural audience. Focus on World Rural Women’s Day as the primary topic, and add your domestic violence awareness month materials as a secondary issue. Use the event to draw attention to women’s contributions to agriculture and sustainable development in your communities. Invite the mayor, local authorities and civic leaders as guests.

Collaboration
Collaborate with other local groups, including sustainable ag organizations, to organize a regional workshops. Help raise awareness in community development groups about the negative impact of violence against rural women on the sustainability of rural communities. Begin with this quote:

“Policies attracting women and young girls to stay in the countryside must be encouraged since those policies which lead to their leaving will eventually result in a total abandonment of rural areas.”

Educate your state coalition.

Provide information to your coalition about how the lack of regard for rural women’s contributions is related to violence against rural women. Provide written materials for them and ask them to include this information in their newsletters and brochures.

“Society in general, and even rural women themselves, have greatly undervalued and often completely ignored the role of women in maintaining and developing the living countryside with its rich and diversified heritage and traditions.”

Ask your coalition to schedule a panel discussion on this issue at your next statewide meeting. Invite women farmers and others from outside your program to participate on the panel. Have them discuss their experiences and needs, what works and what doesn’t work. For example,

Are they treated equally by farm service offices?
Do government payments come in their name or only in their husband’s name?
Is the land in their name?
The farm assets such as expensive farm equipment and machinery?
Do they know the financial status of their family farm?
Do they have access to the farm resources?
Do rural women undervalue their own work?
Does their unpaid work result in a lack of financial resources for continuing education and financial independence?
How do these things affect their ability to act independently from violent relationships?
How can local women’s groups help change this attitude?

Background and information on World Rural Women’s Day