Recently I met with our DA to address various concerns related to the handling of DV cases. One issue I addressed is the fact that approximately 1 in 4 victims/survivors I’ve known has been wrongly arrested for “domestic violence”, or had a protective order placed on them by their abuser. Some studies have found that mandatory arrest policies have resulted in higher arrest rates of battered women, and one British study found that women were arrested for DV 3x more often than men.
If you have worked in this field for very long, you know that abusers routinely set up their victims up to be arrested, and take out protective orders against them. These are textbook coercive control tactics that help abusers establish system supported dominance, show their victims “who’s boss”, punish them for asserting themselves, defending themselves or threatening to expose the abuse, or planning to leave the relationship. I have advocated for multiple survivors whose abusers have gone so far as to physically injure themselves in an effort to falsely accuse them and legally get the upper hand.
When women are arrested for DV against a male partner, it is frequently following an episode in which they resisted violence, defended themselves or retaliated for on-going abuse. Although females are certainly capable of violence and aggression, research suggesting that large numbers of men are battered by female partners is suspect.
In a 10 year laboratory-based study of 200 couples experiencing DV, researcher sociologists Neil Jacobson and John Gottman found not one female batterer, leading them to conclude in When Men Batter Women, “For us, fear became a ‘barometer of control.’ The women consistently manifested it in the laboratory during the arguments, whereas the men did not. The women reported fear when describing arguments at home, whereas men did not. The men were the perpetrators in each and every case. This is not to say that women never batter men. But if it occurs, it is rare.” Author Gavin De Becker (The Gift of Fear) wrote, “It may be politically correct to speak of domestic violence in terms of gender neutrality, but it is statistically incorrect.”
Victims who are arrested or have protective orders taken out against them by their abusers usually receive no support or advocacy. Deemed “perpetrators”, they are ineligible for victim services, while their abuser qualifies for them. This injustice frequently begins a long, slippery slide into multiple re-victimizations that end tragically.
While it would seem that after making DV training for law enforcement and criminal justice professionals widely available for decades, the secondary abuse of victims by systems created to help would not be a huge problem, but that is not so. Poorly trained magistrates, law enforcement officers, district attorneys, judges, child protective workers, GALs and even victim advocates are frequently fooled by abusers who claim to be the victim. Bias against women who claim abuse and seek relief from the courts is often an undeniable factor. Victims who are wrongly labeled as abusers are at great risk of losing their jobs, their support systems and even custody of their children making them even more vulnerable to abuse. Abusers know this and use it to their advantage.
Not infrequently, both parties are arrested or granted mutual orders of protection. This makes no sense and should never be the case since there is no such thing as "mutual domestic violence", and this practice has been outlawed in many states. With excellent predominant aggressor identification training and protocols widely available, such injustices should not be happening so often. There is never a good excuse for arresting both parties and “sending them to court to work it out" as so often happens. In a true DV situation, only ONE partner is the victim and ONE partner is the perpetrator. Arresting both partners is inexcusable and frankly just lazy. This will likely continue to be a problem, however, as along as coercive control is not outlawed in the U.S., and DV continues to be narrowly and incorrectly defined strictly in terms of physical assault. Until this changes, batterers will continue to wield false arrest and protective orders as powerful tools of abuse.
A very healthy and well-established CCR (Coordinated Community Response) team is required for a meaningful and effective DV response in any jurisdiction. The mutual trust and respect a CCR affords is a necessary prerequisite to addressing and averting the mishandling of DV cases. Such partnerships are invaluable and necessary to ensure that justice is served. A number of possible procedures could be developed and implemented by a CCR to address this concern. Some things that might be considered are
Requiring a commitment from all CCR partners to allocate the resources necessary for adequate on-going training and implementation of best practices protocols for identifying the predominant aggressor and supporting victims who are wrongly accused by their abusers
Creating and adopting a CCR red flag checklist of possible indicators someone is a DV victim
Creating and adopting a CCR flow chart for proper handling when a victim has been wrongly accused
Working with a legislator to draft a state law addressing the problem of dual arrest. (See CT bill)
Establishing an agreement policy amongst CCR agencies that dual arrest and mutual protective orders for DV will be disallowed, and that if they do occur, a written explanation will be required explaining why the policy was not followed.
Establishing a routine DV arrest/prosecution/protective order CCR case review process, with an emphasis on dual arrest, mutual restraining orders and suspected or confirmed wrongful accusation cases
Tracking and documenting cases in which women are arrested for abusing male partners, and in which male partners take out protective orders against female partners
Implementing a schedule of regular supervisory case reviews with anyone handling DV arrests and/or protective orders
Creating a special CCR team of victim advocates and BIP facilitators for tracking all DV arrests and DV protective order cases, for the express purpose of noting any red flag indicators (i.e. women are arrested for DV against a male partner, or DV protective orders are taken out against females by male partners). Flagged cases could then be individually assessed and addressed.
Establishing a procedure to be followed when a determination is made that a victim has been misidentified as a perpetrator. The DV advocate-BIP team could partner with law enforcement officers and court officials to discuss the proper handling of such cases.
Assigning to victims who have been arrested or placed under a protective order a victim advocate to support them , accompany them to court hearings, and advocate for them as necessary with CCR partners. This could include writing and submitting letters of advocacy to the CCR partners in each agency.
Creating a process whereby CCR partners work together to ensure that criminal charges or restraining orders resulting from false claims against victims are dropped.
Offering support services to these victims, such as safety planning and shelter.
Referring females identified as true perpetrators of DV to an intervention program specifically designed for women who use violence (Duluth "Turning Points" curriculum.)
Offering males identified as victims all the same services available to female victims.
While implementing such changes might seem extremely difficult or even unlikely, we are obligated to not “do nothing”. This is what abusers are counting on. It is up to us to advocate for all victims, including those wrongly accused and re-abused by any system. I’m so grateful for the excellent advocacy and training work of professionals in the criminal justice system like Mark Wynn, our featured Advocate of the Month, who have devoted their careers to promoting best practice protocols that focus on safety, justice and empowerment for victims.
Quote of the Month
“I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I’m changing the things I cannot accept”
American political activist, academic, and author
Advocate of the Month
This month we are happy to spotlight and honor the advocate & DV expert Mark Wynn of Wynn Consulting (Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Training and Consulting). For 11 years as a child, Mark hid from both his stepfather and the cops when they showed up at the front door. But rather than grow up to be an abuser, he grew up to become a decorated Detective Lieutenant, member of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team with the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department and a pioneer in DV policing best practices. Mark started the first ever dedicated Domestic Violence police response unit in America. He is the recipient of hundreds of commendations and awards for his work and is a national and international trainer, educating police executives, patrol officers, police trainers, prosecutors, judges, legislators, social service providers, healthcare professionals, victim advocates, police academies, the American Bar Association, the National College of District Attorneys and many other entities. A film detailing Mark’s life story, This is the House Where I Learned Not to Sleep, is in production. He is much beloved and respected not just for his expertise and experience, but also for his unwavering support of victim/survivors, his personal warmth and his willingness to freely share his knowledge and resources with others. His website is a wealth of excellent information. I highly recommend Mark as a trainer and consultant. He’s a real pioneer and the true “Top Cop” in the anti-DV movement.O.
Dishonoured and Unheard: Christian Women and Domestic Violence - a new book by Julie’s good friend Daphne Marsden of NZ
Pathways to Family Peace, a Pilot Project of a Live Video Conference Abuser Intervention Group. Melissa Scaia is the former Executive Director of Duluth DAIP, home of the Power & Control and Equality Wheels, the CCR model & other innovative programs and tools. She worked closely with the late Dr. Ellen Pence, and with her wrote the Turning Points curriculum for groups with women who use violence. Melissa has worked with DV offenders for many years and co-directs the project with Jon Heath, Director of Menswork in Maine.
RUSafe -a free interactive app for iOS and Android devices that assesses the potential for domestic violence and harm in a dangerous relationship. (Recommended by Mark Wynn)
Detailed police procedure for lethality/dangerousness assessment, from the Brooklyn Park Minnesota Police. (Recommended by Mark Wynn)
News you can use
Phenomenon of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women Has Become an Epidemic in the US “About 46% of Native American women have been raped, beaten, or stalked by an intimate partner. . .nearly every Native American family has a story of a female relative who has gone missing or been murdered.” A documentary, “When They Were Here” discusses the large numbers of missing women and girls from Montana’s reservations. It features the Blackfeet reservation where Julie has led many women’s retreats and has developed close personal relationships.
Operation Lighthouse: Reflections on our Family's Devastating Story of Coercive Control and Domestic Homicide by Luke and Ryan Hart, whose mother was murdered by their father. In this video interview, Luke discusses his father’s coercive control
House Republicans Call on Leadership to Re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act
VAWA has never been a partisan issue, however this year it is supported by the House Democratic leadership & all the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, but Republican leaders aren’t a sponsor of VAWA. In 2013 Republican incumbents opposed VAW. Six current members House Judiciary Committee, Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa (Committee Chair), John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah all voted against the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. The measure ultimately passed the Senate, was approved by the House and was signed into law by President Obama. The current draft, which was introduced by House Democrats in July, includes expanded youth education and prevention programs, as well as policies to help victims have stable housing. It would also act on the known link between domestic abuse and gun violence by expanding gun control laws to keep convicted domestic abusers and stalkers from possessing a firearm. The House is expected to vote this week on a stopgap spending bill that includes an extension through Dec. 7 of the landmark anti-violence law, but many lawmakers would prefer a full reauthorization.
Marsy’s Law is a national movement calling for states’ constitutions to be amended to include more expansive victims’ rights. Most victim advocates support the law in theory. Various states have written their amendments differently, however, and some fear potential unintended negative consequences. The Iowa Coalition Against DV and the ACLU of N.C. are among organizations that have expressed concerns.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACTIVISM
Support the Violence Against Women Act (H.R.6545.) URGENT! NOTE: When calling your state representative, don’t leave a message! Insist on talking to a staff member working on this issue! See action alerts by the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence offers a toolkit of ideas for educating lawmakers about the importance of VAWA and its reauthorization. Download free here download.
Participate in October DV Awareness Month events in your community. Contact your state coalition against DV for a list of events. Find your state coalition here
Sign the petition asking that the charges be dropped against Jacqueline Dixon. DV victims shouldn't be punished for defending themselves, especially in a "Stand Your Ground" state where citizens have the right to use deadly force in protecting themselves.
Oppose Firearms in Schools. The U.S. Department of Education is currently considering whether to allow money from federal grants to go toward the purchase of firearms in schools. Congress must ban federal funding to arm teachers and administrators in K-12 schools. Call your Senators today and tell them to support Senator Murphy’s amendment to block the arming of teachers.
Support Asylum for DV Victims. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently reversed long-standing asylum protections for survivors of gender-based violence. Denying asylum to women who faced unimaginable violence and sending them back home into dangerous, even deadly, situations is abhorrent. To advocate on behalf of these survivors, use this new online toolkit.
Join the new #SurvivorSpeaks campaign of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), designed to empower survivors to share their stories and raise awareness. Download the toolkit here for action ideas.
Sign The Petition: Keep Firearms Out Of The Hands Of Domestic Abusers
Contribute to defray medical expenses of an uninsured battered mother of 4 who was shot in the head by her ex-husband
Take Action to Support Survivors and Oppose Brett Kavanaugh
October - National DV Awareness Month
October - National Bullying Prevention Month
Oct. 14-20 - National DV Week of Action
October 15: My Voice Monday
October 16: Twitter Chat Tuesday
October 17: #WokeWednesday
October 18: #PurpleThursday
October 19: Fame Friday
Oct. 28 to Nov. 3 - White Ribbon Against Pornography Week (WRAP)
UPCOMING ONLINE OPPORTUNITIES
October 1 - 3 Conference
National Association of Forensic Counselors annual conference “Modern Day Slavery: from Sexual Exploitation to Forced Labor”,
Las Vegas, NV REGISTER HERE →
5 Week Online Series Beginning October 1
National Victim Assistance Academy, Effective Management Series: Program Evaluation by OVC-TTAC. For those working in victim services organizations who are or will be conducting a program evaluation REGISTER HERE →
5 Week Webinar Series with Lundy Bancroft and Patrice Lenowitz of The Nurtured Parent Support Group
Tuesday, October 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd from 1PM-2PM EST / Live Q&A on Tuesday, October 30th 1PM-2: 30 PM EST
October 12 & 13 Conference
Justice to Light, annual conference of Called to Peace Ministries, Raleigh, NC Registration fee $45-$50; Online access available for just $20. Scholarships available. Workshops will highlight and offer solutions to the multiple injustices and barriers victims of DV often face. Special breakout sessions for church leaders and helpers. See pre-conference interviews with pastors here. REGISTER HERE →
October 15 & 16 Training
Veterans and Domestic Violence: Improving Safety, Accountability & Intervention, Free 2 day training, Jacksonville, FLREGISTER HERE →
October 19 & 20 Conference
The Courage Conference, Raleigh, NC REGISTER HERE →
November 14 & 16 Conference,
Religion, Faith, Spirituality, Science & Research: Engaging for Safety and Accountability international conference, Lansing, Michigan.
Julie will present several workshops and plenaries. REGISTER HERE →
Webinar with Julie: Overlapping Issues: Domestic & Sexual Violence, Mental Health, Trauma & Substance Use. December 12, 3PM-4:30 PM ET (2CT/1MT/12PT)
Free for NAADAC Members. REGISTER HERE →