Skepchick Quickies, 4.16


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Re: No Right Answers

    The author claims that the police are sexist when dealing with domestic violence (DV), but are they really? Police can only act AFTER a crime has been committed and only if the victim presses charges. Also, jails/prisons are filled with murderers, rapists, child molesters, etc. and a mugger is just as likely to “get off” in half a day as a DV perpetrator because there’s no room in jails anymore for petty thugs. I don’t know about you other newfangled countries, but in our justice system (I’m from Canada) we cannot lock people up preemptively like in Minority Report. So we have to do the best we can.

    The fact is, these women are adults and they have the right to make their own decisions even if they are decisions that we don’t like. Rather than blaming the police, *cough* scapegoats, maybe we should be concentrating on teaching men that it’s not ok to beat women and teaching women that it is ok to leave someone when they hurt them and that they have options and support.

    Making this a “woman’s” problem and focusing on what “she” should do is irresponsible and ignores the men involved. Making this a “police” problem is unfair because they are just doing their jobs in a system that is set up to react to crime, not to prevent it. Maybe this should be a “people” problem and we should just not frigging hit other people, period!

  2. Why can’t society prosecute rape or domestic violence even if the victim doesn’t press charges or doesn’t want to testify? That’s just a stupid law, especially since so much shame is associated with the crime. I think society should have a right to rid itself of these violent perpetrators even if a single individual is afraid to take action against their assailant. I think the police are right to make this victim testify if that’s the only way they can prosecute the fucker.

  3. “I think the police are right to make this victim testify if that’s the only way they can prosecute the fucker.”

    You can’t really make someone testify. You can force someone onto the witness stand, but then what do you do if they say that nothing happened?

  4. I don’t understand why the victim has to be locked up. Even if they are not going to press charges, they have done nothing wrong. The idea that they may be locked up for not speaking against their partner will only deter more victims. Why can’t the perpetrator be held, allowing the victim some breathing space at least?

    I agree that the police are being held as scapegoats here; society as a whole is not very supportive to DV victims, as it is not understood why they ‘go back’ by those who have never been in that situaiton. Those reasons are as varied as the people who are in the situations, and there’s rarely only one reason – or any clearly thought through reason.

    I should also add that DV is not only committed by men against women.

  5. They can’t prosecute without the victim’s cooperation because without it, they have no evidence. Most of the time it’s already a question of one person’s word against the other with almost no objective facts to go on. As a strong masochist, I’m in a special position to tell you that bruises, cuts, and ligature marks are NOT anything like proof of abuse.

  6. “As a strong masochist, I’m in a special position to tell you that bruises, cuts, and ligature marks are NOT anything like proof of abuse.”

    There are types of injuries that can only occur as a result of violence. If you have a radial fracture of the arm, it is because somebody twisted your arm…and twisted arms are not a recreational injury of any kind.

    That said, if you are in court, and you have a physician who says X injuries can only be caused by abuse and an alleged victim who says nothing happened, the prosecution is still boned.

  7. I suppose one could stretch Baker Act logic and say that the woman has to be detained because by returning home she would be putting herself into danger. I agree it’s a difficult situation for all parties, though.

  8. “twisted arms are not a recreational injury of any kind.”

    You’d be surprised. I’m the bearer of a lot of scars most people would say could not possibly be recreational injuries of any kind. It already takes a lot of trust to live this life – it’s very easy for someone to claim abuse and point to injuries as revenge for any of the normal relationship conflicts that come up without letting some outside decide that we BOTH must be lying about abuse and give them the right to lock someone up for their sexual practices.

  9. Given the nature of our justice system, which is a very good one in theory, you can’t force people to prosecute. You also can’t use incarceration as a way of coercing someone to testify or prosecute.

    There is always protective custody, of course. Ask yourself if the victim is better off in a cell or out there. If the answer is yes, than you have a duty to protect them, but I’m guessing the answer is rarely clear.

    A friend in a small town went to the police in hopes of protecting a young girl who everyone knew was being beaten regularly by her parents. The police told him to shut his mouth and threatened him not to try bringing it up again. sometimes or perhaps often the police are sexist, racist, or worse, but blaming them for lack of action in general is scapegoating. Sometimes one causes the other, but not always.

    The title is pretty accurate.

    Also, as a narcoleptic, I wish there were magic wake-up pills. And, since I spend the entire year in a near-hibernation state, there’s probably another reason for my Spring fever. As a skeptic, I suspect it’s simply a matter of feeling motivation all year long, but putting projects off in the winter. It just seems so much more stark when Spring rolls around and the projects have been piling up for 3 months (or 6 up here in MN).

  10. I agree with Kimbo, and I also think that, as a general matter, when you incarcerate (or do anything negative to) a potential witness, you are (1) increasing the risk of obtaining testimony that is more likely to give law enforcement what “they want to hear,” which may not necessarily be the truth, and (2) taking away some degree of civil liberty, which may not be significant in this paritcular context, but has a cumulative effect.

    In any case, I try to look at law enforcement from a cost-benefit standpoint. The question may not be whether they CAN attempt to prosecute an individual when the victim will not press charges or testify. (Certainly, juries have convicted defendants on less circumstantial evidence than: (1) victim has bruises in places where they could not be self-inflicted; and (2) victim lives with defendant.) The question is whether law enforcement SHOULD devote a substantial amount of additional resources to such an uphill battle in a context where there are limited resources. All they can do is try to help the victim help herself (e.g., with a social worker), but if the victim ultimately decides not to cooperate, then I support the decision of law enforcement to choose to devote limited time and energy to other matters (e.g., getting children, who are far less able to defend themselves, out of harm’s way).

  11. “And guilt. Don’t forget the guilt.” I’ve written whole essays on the topic of Christian guilt, and this might be another one all by itself. Guilt, Christian women, and the slightly freaked-out work ethic … hmmm.

    I got a good laugh out of the “Christian gene” one, too. That certainly would help explain why the doctrine of election seems to run in families.

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