Mary Kellett: When you don’t have the law on your side, when you don’t have the facts on your side, bang your fist on the defence table as loud as you can.

“The qualities of a good prosecutor are as elusive and as impossible to define as those which mark a gentleman. And those who need to be told would not understand it anyway. A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.” Robert H. Jackson (U.S. Attorney General at the time of the quote (1940-1941), went on to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 1941-1954)

Not so much the defence table, but one likes to stay true to the quote as much as one can.

Mary Kellett was a prosecutor in Hancock, Maine up until late last year. She was not retained after the elections for her office installed a new District Attorney.

Back in 2007, Kellett prosecuted a case against Vladek Filler in which allegations of gross sexual assault and assault were led, which led to a conviction. This case was prosecuted at the same time that Filler and his wife were divorcing.

During the trial, some issues had emerged. Firstly, the prosecution and police had withheld certain documents that the defence were seeking, despite having a right to access those documents. Secondly, Filler had sought at the trial to lead evidence that the allegations had been made to advance his wife’s position in custody proceedings. Kellett had objected to the evidence, on the grounds that it would confuse the jury on what it is that they were prosecuting, and the objection was upheld. Whilst Filler was allowed to make the claim during his own testimony, other evidence on the point was not allowed to be led. This would probably have been all well and good, however during Kellett’s closing, she criticised Filler’s claim, on the grounds that there was no evidence. One wonders why.

Filler appealed, arguing that these, amongst other grounds, had caused it to be an unfair trial, to which the judge agreed and declared a mistrial. Kellett appealed this decision, but it was upheld by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, who said that evidence of the custody dispute was relevant and should have been able to lead, and that further to this, Kellett’s closing had added to the prejudice against Filler.

At the retrial, Paul Cavanaugh replaced Kellett as the prosecutor. At this trial, Filler was acquitted on the gross sexual assault charge, and one of the assault charges. Filler was found guilty of the remaining misdemeanour assault charge, and sentenced to 21 days in prison. His appeal on this sentence was not upheld.  Despite these proceedings, Filler was granted custody of his sons.

Due to Kellett’s behaviour during the first trials, Filler made a complaint to the Maine Bar Association which was heard in 2012-2013. She originally denied that her conduct amounted to professional misconduct, but after the Board had conducted its investigation and recommended her suspension for breaching the following grounds:

  1. engaging in conduct unworthy of an attorney in violation of M. Bar R. 3.1(a);
  2. engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of M. Bar R. 3.2(f)(4);
  3. failing to employ reasonable skill and care, in violation of M. Bar R. 3.6(a);
  4. failing to make timely disclosure of the existence of evidence that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense or reduce the punishment in violation of M. Bar R. 3.7(i)(2);
  5. suppressing evidence that the lawyer had a legal obligation to produce in violation of M. Bar R. 3.7(i)(2)
  6. assisting the State of Maine to violate the Maine Rules of Criminal Procedure and the court’s Order in violation of M. Bar R. 3.6(d); and
  7. employing means that were inconsistent with truth and seeking to mislead the jury in violation of M. Bar R. 3.7 (e)(1)(i)

she admitted that they breached the rules. She received a suspended thirty day suspension of her license, subject to undertaking ethics training.

The full text of the decision can be found here.

Had this been all, Kellett’s inclusion here would be inappropriate – it could simply have been an honest mistake as she claimed; as honest a mistake as one can make that results in professional censure.

We now look to a 2011 case involving Keovilaisack Sayasane. He was accused of criminally threatening, terrorizing and assaulting his wife, Michelle Sayasane. There was however a bit of a problem – his wife was going to be giving evidence for the defence.

Two days before the trial, Kellett contacted Michelle with regard to the case, and told her that Keovilaisack had a prior manslaughter conviction, of which she was aware. She had believed the victim to have been another Vietnamese man. Kellett however told her that the victim of this had been his first wife, information which she said had been provided to her by the head of the Attorney General’s Office’s criminal division, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes. Further, according to Michelle, Kellett went on to say that Child Protective Services may have to be involved if Michelle continued to allow her children contact with Keovilaisack.

Michelle would go on to testify against Sayasane, despite her earlier intentions (edit: I had originally used “convictions” but realised in the context it was open to misinterpretation). When questioned by Toothaker (Keovilaisack’s lawyer) about whether the information she had been provided had impacted on her current testimony (at the time, he was still confirming that the information was in fact wrong, having only been made aware of them on the morning of the trial), she said that the information had changed her opinion of her husband. The issue became murkier when Michelle said that Keovilaisack had phoned her the night before the trial and (to quote from the news article):

“She said that Sayasane had encouraged her not to show up to testify at his trial, according to the transcript. If she didn’t, he would take care of her and they could live happily together, she said. If she did testify, Sayasane allegedly told her, his attorney would make her look like a bad mother and their children would be taken from her.”

Which of course on the face of it may be tampering with a witness. Keovilaisack was charged later with tampering with a witness, but I am unable to find any later news stories about a conviction on it. Interestingly, the DA office didn’t seem to believe that Kellett’s actions also constitute tampering with a witness.

Either way, this caused an issue – this information had been provided while the jury was in the room whereas the questioning about the provision of the false information had been done in the absence of the jury. As such (at least from what I’m getting from the piece) for the trial to be fair, the jury would also have to be allowed to hear about the false information issue, which then leads to the issue of prejudice from having to lead evidence about prior convictions, a situation which was only made necessary due to the conduct of Kellett. Kellett then argued that this was irrelevant, as knowing the gender could not impact the current allegations, but oddly enough this argument was not accepted, and the judge declared a mistrial. I am unable to find any articles on a retrial, and as such assume the matter is essentially dropped.

Michelle, in 2013, wrote a post about her experience during this case, and in it she details the reason for her decision to testify in his defence. The post is certainly worth a read. In it, she admits that he was prone to violence and had a drinking problem, however she also contextualises it. Her husband had grown up during the war in Vietnam. Both his parents were killed during the fighting, and while living with his grand mother, would occasionally have to flee and hide from Vietnamese soldiers. When he moved to America, he did not know English. In the manslaughter incident above, he has maintained that he was acting in self-defence. He says he was attacked by a Vietnamese man, and combining that with his history in Vietnam, he reacted in a panicked state. For some reason (I’m not certain about whether translators are required in American courts, and if so when those policies were instituted), he was not provided with a translator, and found himself unable to present his case. He plead guilty, and served 15 years in prison.

Michelle believed that prison would not be useful for her husbands problem; he needed counselling. This isn’t to say her husbands violence was ok, just that it can be better dealt with by being helped than convicted.

Whether or not you agree with Michelle’s conclusion is, to me, irrelevant. What is important is that she made a choice, not based on emotional attachment, not because she was trapped with him, but from a position which objectively can justify her conclusion. She analysed the problem, and made a choice on how best to get a resolution. And because that choice didn’t suit Kellett, she was put under emotional distress both by being lead to believe her husband had killed a former wife, and that her children would be taken away unless she acceded.

Furthermore, the information was wrong. Kellett said the information had come from the Attorney General’s Office, but when asked about the incident, that office said that they had searched and provided the summary of the case they had on file, which very clearly said the victim was a 21 year old man. Michelle had not initially accepted Kellett’s word on the case; a key factor was being told it was not from her, but from a government office.

As mentioned at the beginning, Kellett no longer works in the office after not having been retained in her position after the election. In fact, most of the office is changing. Cavanaugh and another attorney, Bill Entwisle are leaving to go to other District Attorney’s Offices. Mary Kellett is reportedly now in private practice.


Bobbitt and Beyond

The case of John and Lorena Bobbitt was sensational news when it occurred back in 1993, and even today occasionally gets brought up in the news.

Now, I should say up front that I am not going to say what Lorena did counts as feminist abuse. Their story is somewhat complex; there is evidence of physical abuse (in the form of friends seeing her bruised) and it seems he probably both committed infidelity and flaunted it. She alleged he has tried to rape her, however he was acquitted of an accusation of this in 1993. There’s also some evidence that she was exceedingly jealous, and some (though from Bobbitt’s own family) that she herself was violent.

Some of these are proven, some of these aren’t and are the normal he said she said. I would hope that we can agree that the “appropriate” response isn’t cutting off a guys penis. I put appropriate in “” as we do have to factor in that Lorena probably wasn’t in her right mind; temporary insanity was essentially what was found at the time. As such, even if it was not appropriate, that does not necessarily lead to culpability.

As such, I’m not going to come to a conclusion with regard specifically to the incident. What I am going to come to a conclusion on is those who sought to use this for their own purposes, of which there are a few incidents.

In early 1994, the National Feminist Association of Ecuador contacted several news outlets, threatening to cut off 100 American men’s penises if Lorena was imprisoned for the case. Because terrorism is a viable political strategy, especially when trying to influence a judicial matter.

Segue time!

It may come as a shock that there is actually historical evidence of a defence for battered women from over a hundred years ago. Professor Ramsey wrote an article in 2010 looking at cases in the American West and Australia in which she finds that men were routinely prosecuted for domestic violence, and would indeed often suffer very harsh penalties for spousal murder, whereas women would generally get much more lenient sentences if sentenced at all. The courts considered male violence towards women wrong and to be punished accordingly, but were also aware that their attempts to civilise wife batterer’s were ineffective, and were aware that many of those women were attacking a batterer. Furthermore, they would often look not simply to the immediate situation, but would look at the history of the relationship in deciding guilt.

In a later article, she suggests that the reason the law began to reduce it’s sympathy was due to the widening of opportunities for women, and so the question of “Why didn’t she leave?” began to actually be a question. When women can’t leave due to social norms and legal rules, that is a fundamentally stupid question, but with divorce laws and expanded employment opportunities of some form which would be at least self-sustaining, that question comes in to play. However, we did not know as much then as we do today; legal rules and social norms aren’t the only things which influence people. We aren’t just robots bobbing along until we malfunction. There are psychological and emotional reasons, as well as the fact that just because someone isn’t allowed to interact with you doesn’t really mean that they don’t. All of these can interact, and I’ve probably missed some other relevant ones, to make the availability of a choice not really a real choice at all.

I’d like to here link to two articles I recently read. The first is about a disabled man whose bipolar wife attempted to strangle him for the second day in a row; the second time being stopped by a Sainsbury driver, and the second is a wife who attempted to have her husband killed by a hitman to cash in on his $400,000 life insurance, as it was easier than divorce.

In both cases, the women were sentenced (in the first, an indefinite stay at a hospital – a form of order in which whilst we accept the person was acting from mental issues, we also accept they are a danger, and in the second, to the minimum amount of time despite no suggestion of abuse). However, both men have stayed with, and spoken publicly in their wives defence. The first, in which he is identified as a “devoted husband”, said she shouldn’t have been prosecuted, as NHS shouldn’t have let her leave in the first place. He still describes her as “as gentle as a lamb”. The second described his wife as a “godly woman” who “has been nothing but a great mother to [their children]” and begged for leniency.

I hope I’m not alone in thinking something is terribly wrong with both of these stances, especially the second. The first has some defence in that it is a legitimate mental health problem, but how is he meant to defend himself against that again? Why is he wilfully remaining in a relationship which is so dangerous to him, given that as much as we might like, our health systems won’t always catch these situations before they occur.  Why does he think she should not have been tried?

In the second, this woman tried to order a hit on him, and there is no suggestion from anyone of any abuse – it was for the money. She tried to deprive her children of their father for money. She tried to kill someone because it was easier than divorce. She decided to kill him, she went out looking for a hitman, she found the hitman and arranged to meet him, she got into his car, and she had a casual conversation in which she contracted the death of the father of her children. Godly?

Calling bullshit

But funnily enough, once she was caught, she showed remorse.  Oh how great it was that those men saved her from the consequences of her own plan.

If the genders were reversed, would we react differently? My point here is that whilst different, it has to be patently clear that there are psychological and emotional pressures which keep men in marriages despite clear evidence they are in danger. These were extreme examples, but in a society in which we are happy to tell a guy who is stabbed that really, he’s the problem (the first of the links at the bottom), surely we have to recognise that something is a little off.

End of Segue!

I don’t really feel that anything has to be said about the threat other than a general recommendation – if you think threatening a group of people is a good way to get your view across, you may want to have a bit of a look at yourself.

The next issue: the protests surrounding it. I have no problem with protesters. It’s perfectly legitimate for people to take issue with things and to voice those issues.

I do have a problem when your protest is designed around mocking someone for a traumatic incident, especially when we don’t really know what was going on. “Lorena Bobbitt for Surgeon General” paraphernalia was being sold outside the court (and can still be purchased today), along with many other hilarious sayings. Some drink called “Slice” and hotdogs with tomato sauce were available. Her act was hailed as a bold and courageous act of feminist self-defence; an innovative resistance against gender oppression everywhere; (in fairness, I should mention the person said it shouldn’t be the first choice).

Apparently, the idea that it was wrong but understandable just wasn’t good enough. It needed to be right.  

The utter ridiculousness and tragedy of this line of thinking can be seen when we move to a more recent event – Katherine Kieu. She also cut off her partners penis, because he had the audacity to file for divorce. She was found guilty and sentenced. By the way, she was not the only one in the intervening time to have done this. That particular google search is not particularly enjoyable.

On a show called The Talk, this incident was discussed. This incident of a woman performing extreme domestic violence against her partner with no justification was discussed and laughed at by both the hosts and the audience (“That’ll teach him. Hahahahaha. Comedy GOLD). One of the hosts, realising the callousness (how would you feel about men laughing about domestic violence to women? And if you’re answer is “it’s different”, I’d like you to provide a justification why that difference makes one serious and the other not; one laughable and the other not. Just because there is a difference doesn’t mean the difference is relevant) said “it is a little bit sexist. If somebody cut a woman’s breast off, nobody would be sitting laughing.” To which, another replied “It’s different”.

Despite the host and the audience’s own apparent joviality, with some minor pondering on whether it was appropriate or not, there was a large contingent of people who probably weren’t ok with people making light of unjustified violence. It’s telling that the hosts weren’t able to bring themselves to simply apologise for it, instead to point out that it’s hard being on a reality TV show, and sometimes you say the wrong thing, or to clarify that they don’t condone genital mutilation (for which she was thanked by the other hosts for “speaking from her heart” (the laugh at the beginning really made it feel heartfelt)) and a round of applause from the audience (whose own ethical judgment isn’t exactly a good barometer). Because that is of course the issue; whether or not genital mutiliation is condoned. Not the fact that a man’s suffering of having his penis cut off and then put through a garbage disposal unit to make it irrecoverable was made light of on national television, and possibly international given they often sell the rights. And wasn’t it interesting how what was apologised for was couched in either ungendered or gender neutral terms.

This can of course be rather interestingly juxtaposed with Ellen Goodman’s comment back during the Bobbitt case. Oh how far we’ve come. At least they weren’t actively advocating it though.  Oh, and don’t worry about those pesky Ecuadorians.  They don’t really matter.

One final note on the issues surrounding the Bobbitt case. There were also reports that the wife of the doctor who had done the surgery was harassed by women who were angry that her husband’s surgery had succeeded.

I want to let that sink in for a moment.

Women were harassing the wife of a doctor for successfully performing an emergency surgery.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather that our doctors not decide whether a person is morally good enough for surgery before performing. Seriously, what the fuck.

That’s as much as I can stomache for today.

Hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year.

Erin Pizzey: That awkward moment when you open a battered women’s shelter and then get run out of the country by feminists. Oh, and some comments on explanation vs justification.

Sorry for how long this one took – Christmas interruptions (fuck baubles (I should probably stop saying that soon)), as well as a lot of reading. On with the show!

Erin Pizzey has not had a terribly easy life. I won’t be covering a complete history here, but it’s not too hard to find. Links will be provided below for a more complete picture. One of her main achievements is having started one of the first domestic violence shelters.

She grew up in what I guess would be called a dysfunctional home. Both her mother and father were abusive, which did impact on the children. According to her, her mother hated her, which at least meant she always knew where she stood.

Her history with feminism is somewhat checkered. Her original contact with it was based on a desire to interact with other women, but she was somewhat disquieted by the messages being sold by the group she came in contact with. It all came to a head when she threatened to (and did) contact the police about a plan to bomb the retail store Biba. This chain of events led to her leaving/being forced out of the movement, and then starting the shelter.

She started the shelter in an empty home; legally, they were squatting (at least as far as I can tell – I can’t seem to find the full text of the Simmons v Pizzey (1979) case). But the house was there, the house was not being used, and there was a group of people who needed a house. Sensible, if not strictly legal, reasoning prevailed. She was regularly praised by parliamentarians for her pioneering work (see below for links to her mentions in the UK Hansard).

(Edit: Having read/listened to things a bit more carefully, I’m not certain this is entirely accurate.  It seems the issue was more overcrowding, though I guess by and large the point still remains with regard to practicality vs strict legality.  It was the refuges after this one, made necessary due to sheer numbers, that were squatting)

Pizzey also wrote one of the first books on domestic violence (Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear) which had for many women a profound affect (effect? You decide!) – even credited as being the inspiration for another woman starting similar programmes in Alaska (and possibly generally, but I can only remember having read that – I can’t find the source, and it’s wouldn’t be the first time I’ve conflated bits of information accidentally).

However, Pizzey made a fatal mistake – she asked questions. She asked the women coming through about their personal lives, and found that some of them, in fact most of the early ones, were violent to their partners as well. It is true that there were women who experienced violence but were not violent themselves, but there were more who were in mutually violent relationships. And she told people about it. Quelle horreur!

Note: I should here indicate that most of what I say regarding what will follow is sourced from Pizzey’s own comments on this period. I have applied for a library card which will hopefully allow me to do a search of newspapers during the period to see if they wrote about it (being from 30 or more years ago, they don’t tend to show up on a google search), but given both that there are stories of other people who made similar comments receiving similar threats, and that I have not seen an actual refutation, I feel comfortable mentioning it here.

For this, Pizzey and her family had to put up with protests if she was speaking at places, being put under police guard, receiving death threats and bomb threats, culminating in the receipt of a package which caused the police to want all her mail diverted to them to be examined.

After this, Pizzey and her husband decided to leave England for her and her families safety, heading to Sante Fe. She would here again help women trying to escape hostile homes.

Today, she is back in England, where she still advocates for solutions to domestic violence, based on proper research. It is her belief, which from what I can tell, much of the literature seems to back up, that the predominant cause of domestic violence isn’t gender (there are some, but it is not most), it is a host of factors such as substance abuse and/or personal family histories of violence. As well this, she is raising awareness of male victims, some of whom are in the same position as the non-violent battered women (the article linked to below by Maurice Vaughan has a story of his own personal experience of having a male victim; the relevant bit is summarised better below. I’m not certain of if I can quote it, as I had to pay to access it, so instead I ask that you trust that I’m not making it up).

This of course dovetails nicely into some comments on sociology, and the difference between justification and expectation explanation (noticed this mistake like 7 days after – woops!). How convenient!

Historically, the only centrally controlled way to try and change societal norms was the law and religion, which were pretty incestuous at the time for us Westerners. Why was there strict liability for controlling a fire many years ago, even if a gust of wind is what caused it to destroy property? Because they didn’t have a very efficient fire brigade, so the best hope was simply to frighten the bejesus out of people with “if that fire fucks up and burns down the street, guess who’s paying the bill? Fire responsibly.” Why were innkeepers strictly liable for the theft of possessions of their guests? Because it was unbelievably difficult to track down the thief, who likely absconded into the night, and because the innkeepers a) were the ones who could improve security, and b) could increase their fee to accommodate the costs (A Historical Introduction to the Law of Obligations, Ibbetson, D, 2002; though I’m fairly sure I’m also using some articles and or the lecturer’s comments during the course it was used in).  Naturally, this didn’t stop either, but it was the best they could do with the (by today’s standards) limited tools that they had.

For more social issues though, the law is notoriously bad at actually affecting social change, or at least its (and only its) intended social change, which can often lead to horrible consequences. For a more mild version of this, see the first post – separating a wife’s property from her husbands lead to a complete revising of the theory behind income taxation (some 40-50 years later). For a more tragic version, we can look at abortion laws. When abortion is illegal, some women may be diverted from it, but some will also simply be forced to use unsafe spaces or try to do it themselves, obviously drastically increasing the risks of permanent injury or death. Furthermore, you then have the courts acting as a Sword of Damocles over any doctors who are just trying to do their job in looking after their patients; can she get through this pregnancy? Is an abortion necessary for her own health? And the question every doctor loves to have to think about, “will the law agree, or is it going to do unpleasant things to me the writing of which would be indelicate?”

Making abortion illegal has all of these unintended consequences, and if you try to make it more subtle (ergo, add in more words and clauses and exceptions and exceptions to exceptions and exceptions to exceptions to exceptions (we need to go deeper) it also becomes more difficult to work, and the unintended consequences can become even worse. The law is a mace, not a surgeon’s scalpel.  The subtlest it tends to get is when it hits you from behind.

Furthermore, when you’re talking law, you’re talking justification. You’re talking about rights and wrongs, and how far one person’s rights should go before they become a wrong. Aspects of blame and fault and innocence are a necessary aspect permeating laws. You can’t really step back from that; after all, if you’re using the law the result is going to be usually either forking over money (if civil) or some form of “punishment” or mandated process (if criminal) if someone doesn’t follow it, so rights are and have to be fundamental to any revision.

But this comes at the expense of simply an explanation. If a fight happens, the law wants to know who started it, who used what force, did they need to use that for their own defence, and so on and so forth. It may ask why it happened, but that’s just so they know if one of them is provoked or something. It doesn’t care about the why for itself, just in so far as it helps with their judgment of fault; in so far as it impacts on the justification.

So now we come to the difference between explanation and justification. Explanation is simply why something happens. Nothing more, nothing less. Just finding out why. Justification is about whether it is right. It wants someone who has performed a prima facie wrong to make it a just thing to do. Lets look at three examples within the context of one situation: someone hitting someone else. The person who did the hitting is asked about why afterwards.

Answer A: I hit him because of the sound of the number purple.

Answer B: I hit him because he looked at me funny.

Answer C: I hit him because he was beating up his wife and I knew I could stop it.

Answer A is neither a justification nor an explanation. It simply doesn’t make sense; the reason provides us with no understanding of why the event happened. It is repugnant to our sense of reason.

Answer B is an explanation but not a justification. Whereas the first one would leave us looking at the person bewildered, this one would have us facepalming. Yes, we can see that someone might hit someone in that context (it explains the event) but it does not justify it. That said, in knowing the reason why, on top of whatever punishment goes along with it, maybe we should also get the person into anger management.

Answer C is both an explanation and a justification. We can see that someone in such a situation would likely hit someone else, and we can also see that it is right that it be done. Unless the person used excessive force, we wouldn’t punish the person, and we wouldn’t think the person needs some form of counselling.

Author’s Note: whilst I’ve made it gender neutral now I wanted to mention something interesting that happened while writing this. Despite using “person” and not specifying the gender in the scenarios for the subject, in the extended comments on B and C, I immediately jumped to using male pronouns for the person; furthermore, in Answer A, I did not stipulate genders. But sexism against men totally doesn’t exist, amiright? No preconceived notions at all. Certainly not in that third scenario.

A justification always builds off of an explanation, but an explanation does not always lead to a justification. The laws questions need to be asked – we need to know who should bear responsibility. But they are not the only important questions. Now we come to sociology.

Sociology doesn’t care about justifications. In fact, a sign of a bad sociologist is one who cannot separate themselves from their own ethical judgments (sufficiently). It only cares about the why. It sought to fill in a gap – the law and those who wrote it would often just use their own understandings of incidents, or just make one up, and then base the system of it. Sociology said no, we don’t actually know this, but we now have the methods and the technology to find out, or at the very least make our knowledge better.

In other words, sociology is just about the explanation. Why do people behave in the way they do? What causes them to behave in that way? How do those systems and behaviours arise?

Let’s have a look at a particular (and not entirely unbiased (but that is for another time (can you tell I like parentheses?))) situation of this. A stronger male and weaker female, who are both aggressive. I’m willing to bet that no matter how much counselling you give a guy, if he goes back to a relationship where he is being hit, or some other form of domestic abuse is occuring, and the counselling he’s received hasn’t been based on this type of a situation, he’ll probably fall back into old behaviours eventually. Again, this isn’t to say that it is right, it’s just saying that it is. Would you rather sit back moralising about who is to blame or actually get the shit to stop? If the latter, then, upon the assumption that the man’s behaviour is (non-ethically and/or legally) influenced by the woman’s actions and her own anger management, then they both should get some help. To reiterate, the man was still at fault, and the woman is by and large innocent (in this particular scenario, and assuming the man is not similarly injured by her (or injured at all I should say)), but in order to get the violence to stop, they both need some help. This is true even if the two people separate – you still don’t want them to end up in other relationships doing the same thing.

There are few things which frustrate me more than society’s incessant refusal to look beyond the ethical judgment and realise it needs to behave otherwise if it wants the situation to get better. This stupidity is all the worse when it is applied to inherently private situations, cause guess what? All it does is make the situation worse. Now, the person also needs to make sure they aren’t found out, which I’m willing to bet pretty much always makes things worse. But hey, at least we all get to feel good about ourselves in the mean time.

It becomes even worse when we begin criticising positing a fact and/or argument grounded in at least some research, not on the ground that the fact or argument is wrong, but because they “might hurt someone” or are “problematic”, or might make someone feel like they are being judged, or can’t come forward. These arguments have no place here. If these are problems, then the appropriate response is not to criticise raising the point at all, it is to work to get people to understand that they need to stop with the moralising bullshit and let society just try and understand the problem, so we can work on making everything better. Hiding the truth, or making it impossible to discuss, simply makes things worse.

Some Research on or related to Domestic Violence:

Domestic Violence, Gender, and Counselling: Toward a More Gender-Inclusive Understanding by Nathan Beel (2013)

Well worth a read, but some quotes nonetheless:

“If Johnson (2011) is correct that males are over-represented as intimate terrorists, it begs the question why domestic violence is framed as gendered violence without qualifiers in spite of his admission that intimate terrorism ‘probably represents a small part of all the violence that takes place between partners in intimate relationships’ (p. 290). This is in contrast to situational couple violence, which is ‘by far the most common form of couple violence, and… is roughly gender-symmetric in terms of perpetration’ (Johnson, 2011, p. 290). Framing the entire issue based on the exceptions is misleading.”

And the one which caused me to have to leave the computer for a few minutes:

“She stabbed me with a knife, and I didn’t even defend myself, and after I got out of the hospital two weeks later, the court tells me to go to a group they say is for victims. It turns out to be for batterers and I am expected to admit to being an abuser and talk about what I did to deserve getting stabbed” (Hines, et al., 2007)

Sex Differences in Aggression Between Heterosexual Partners: A Meta-Analytic Review by John Archer (2000)

Rethinking Domestic Violence by Dr. Donald Dutton (a book)

Dr Donald Dutton’s Website

Dutton, D.G. & Corvo, K. (2006) Transforming a Flawed Policy: A call to revive psychology and science in domestic violence research and practice.  Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11(5), 457-483 [Full Text Version]

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s Wikipedia page, for a summary of his works relating to violence and army training; interesting as it relates to male violence.

Critiques: Erin Pizzey and the Forbidden Narratives About Domestic Violence by Maurice Vaughan

Mainly just for a story from the Author of his response to a male victim who was a client of his; didn’t feel it was urgent, didn’t go through all the resources and legal rights available; accepted the man when he said it was under control. Also was the link through to most of the other articles.

Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence in Australia by the AIC

News/commentary on some research:

How Common is Female Domestic Violence Against Men?

Research Findings on Domestic Abuse Offenders Revealed – Hampshire Constabulary Domestic Abuse Project Reduces Reoffending

Sources about Erin Pizzey’s life:

A Fighter in Exile by Brian Deer 1986

Domestic Violence Can’t Be a Gender Issue by Dina Rabinovitch

When Andrew Marr Accused Me of Being a Terrorist it was like a Bomb Going Off in my Chest by Antonia Hoyle

Our Male Victimizing Myths Live On by Barbara Kay

Children Who Witness Abuse ‘More Likely’ to Suffer as Adults

Meet Alaska’s Pioneer Woman

My Interview with Erin Pizzey at JudgyBitch

On Domestic Violence No One Wants to Hear the Truth

Meet Erin Pizzey: Founder of the First Domestic Violence Shelter at AboveTopSecret

Erin Pizzey’s Website(s):

“Revelations with Erin Pizzey”

Some Pieces by Erin Pizzey

Why I Loathe Feminism… and Believe it will Ultimately Destroy the Family

The Situation for Womens Refuges is Desperate but We Need to Start Admitting Men Too

To Say Emotional Abuse is as Bad as Violence Insults Every Battered Wife

Note: Whilst I personally don’t agree that in fact it is not worse, I do think we have to think about the issues with bringing the law into this. Private matters have always been the scourge of our legal system, so whether it can even fairly deal with these types of cases in any way which preserves justice is a real question. Other methods which don’t come with so much historical and technical baggage may provide better and more manageable solutions in practice.

Some Pieces which Quote Erin Pizzey
David Cameron Criticised After Attacking ‘Runaway Dads’ by the BBC

Pioneering Domestic Violence Advocate Who Refused to Discriminate Leaves Lasting Legacy by PR Newswire

Why do Men Find it so Hard to Admit They are Being Abused by Their Partners by The Independent

Erin Pizzey in the Hansard:

Battered Wives July 1973

Battered Wives and Children July 1974

Battered Wives Right to Possession July 1975

Domestic Violence Bill February 1976

Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech November 1976

Disruptive Children and Young Persons June 1977

Voluntary Organisations Wolfenden Report January 1978

The Family May 1978

Violence in the Family June 1978

Active Citizenship May 1989

Women’s Refugees March 1992

Domestic Violence July 1993

Women’s Refugees July 1995

Family Law Bill Lords March 1996

Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Bill December 2003

Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Bill June 2004

Elder Abuse July 2004

Changing Attitudes within the English Parliament:

Some comments in 1996

Some comments in 2014

Valerie Solanas: “She also shot the artist Andy Warhol, but we all have our moments.”

Julie Bindle for the above quote

She shot Mario Amaya as well Ms Bindle. You know, just throwing that out there.

Any discussion of feminist abuse has to have somewhere near the beginning what is widely recognised as the start of the worst of it – Valerie Solanas.

Valerie Solanas was a writer and actor. She had wrote some works, but for the purposes of this post, two of them are key – The play “Up Your Ass” (which had to be advertised as Up Your A$$ when it finally got a run after the turn of the century) and of course the S.C.U.M. manifesto. In case you were wondering what the acronym is – Society for Cutting Up Men. Lovely.

As it is more relevant to the incident, we’ll start with the play.

If you’d like to read a review of the play, you can do so here.

Needless to say it is rather … visceral.

In terms of the story though, the play is more of a catalyst. Valerie was affiliated with Andy Warhol; she had done some acting in some of his works. Valerie however aspired for more. In 1967, 2 years after she had written it, she submitted it to Andy Warhol in the hopes he would help produce it. To be fair, based on reports Andy was something of a dick to her. “Did you type this all by yourself?” Classy, Andy.

What happened after that though is a bit more confused. According to some Andy Warhol thought the play so obscene that it must be a police trap. Dr. Desiree Rowe suggests otherwise, painting a picture of a disdainful Andy losing Valerie’s work for no greater reason than apathy. Either way, everyone agrees the work was lost. When Valerie tried to get it back, she had to be informed that it couldn’t be returned, as it couldn’t be found. She asked for payment for it, instead she was offered a role in an upcoming work of Andy’s for which she would be paid.

In 1968, on the fateful day, Valerie would seek to get her play published again, this time through Margo Feiden. Margo declined to produce it. To this Valerie declared “Oh, yes you will, because I’m going to shoot Andy Warhol.” And shoot him she did, along with Mario Amaya. She later turned herself in, saying she’d done it as Andy had too much control in her life. This is of course where another layer of confusion emerges. Dr. Rowe suggests that the copy she gave to Andy was the only copy. Yet Margo seems to have a copy as well, given to her in 1968, at least if my understanding is correct. I have to admit, I’m not really sure what is going on. The Margo Feiden article was released in 2009, yet the journal article by Dr. Rowe was released in 2013. Maybe Valerie rewrote the entire thing after she found out it was lost? I’ll leave what you think, or if you even think it’s important, up to you.

Valerie was admitted to Bellevue hospital, where she was diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia. By June of 1969, she was found fit to stand trial, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 3 years in prison for reckless assault with intent to harm.

Another point of interest in Valerie’s story is of course the SCUM manifesto. Ironically, even this was not free of a publishers capitalist claws. Both Margo (with personal knowledge) and Dr Breanne Fahs conclude that Valerie never went to the publishers on the day of the shooting, though the publisher certainly claimed it. Fahs concludes that this was something of a marketing ploy. Either way, it should be mentioned that the SCUM manifesto had a significant readership in its day, and can still be purchased. Personally, I haven’t read it, and don’t really want to; what I’ve read about it doesn’t make it sound like something I’d particularly like to read. Either way, it is credited as the origin of radical feminism, despite the attempts of some feminist organisations to distance themselves from her, and what seems to be either her own distancing (or indeed disdain) of them.

Valerie’s whole story is, as everything always is, more complex than it seems. Her life is the subject of a fairly recent biography by Dr. Breanne Fahs, aptly called Valerie Solanas. I’m sure it is an interesting look at her life, but as always, keep in mind perspective.

P.S. It seems that it is possible that Valerie left her own commentary on the published version of the SCUM Manifesto.

P.S.S. Some further sites I looked at while writing this are below. Naturally there are many, many more.