Monday, February 24, 2014

The City Continues to Blame Victims of Domestic Violence

Posted By on Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 7:47 AM

Brian Haas is back with a follow-up story about the 185-page report on domestic violence that Metro had been trying to keep from the public. This time Haas talks with domestic violence victims to hear from them first-hand what it's like to try to get through our system. And then he talks to the people in the justice system victims are complaining about and it's horrible.

If domestic violence victims feel condescended to and dismissed, it's no small wonder. Look at the things people are willing to go on the record with a reporter saying:

“There was a little bit more energy around it. O.J. Simpson had just happened and all of that,” [Diane Lance, special counsel to Mayor Karl Dean] said in a recent interview. “But generally speaking, I can honestly say I think that a lot of the things that were observed during the course of this assessment would have been observed back then in the ’90s.”


“Police and our office spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with her, and I’m not surprised that she would be someone that would call and voice her opinion,” [Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson] said.

“I think that we looked at that case in some considerable detail and felt that the disposition and everything about it was as good as you can expect. She doesn’t think that, I can’t help that.”

And this other gem from Johnson:

“They’re some of the most fragile, they’re also some of the most frustrating, for police and for prosecutors,” he said. “It’s where we spend so much time dealing with victims to cooperate, which is not what we have to do in the vast majority of other cases.”

So, the very people who are supposed to fix this mess think that the problems with domestic violence are a.) victims are not high-profile enough to keep Metro excited about helping them; b.) they nag; and c.) they don't cooperate (which would seem to contradict b., but maybe part of cooperating means not bothering the police or the D.A.'s office when they've decided you're not high-profile enough to be helped?).

If these are the folks who are supposed to have the "right" attitudes toward domestic violence victims, I think we might as well just go ahead and forget about ever seeing any substantive changes. I mean, those Johnson quotes are blowing my mind. Just how, exactly, is a domestic violence victim supposed to act? If she tries to keep the police and D.A. focused on her case — if she's interested in doing whatever she can to make something happen — apparently she's causing them to have to spend "an inordinate amount of time dealing with her" instead of dealing with... what? Real crimes? But, if you don't dog the police or the D.A., but instead are afraid and reluctant, then you're "frustrating."

I'd love it if Haas could get some guidelines from Johnson about just what the Goldilock zone of appropriate behavior for a victim so that the police and D.A. will take her seriously are, then we in the media could post those every so often and domestic violence victims would know the rules for how to act so as not to annoy people.

Here's the thing that really pisses me off about this — the most damaging thing we teach little girls is that, if they can earn the love of a man, he'll stop treating her like shit (this idea that all men are monsters is obviously incredibly damaging for men, too, but that's a whole other rant). We have whole fairy tales devoted to it — like Beauty and the Beast. When little boys are jerks to little girls, we don't say "Wow, that kid is an asshat. I'm sorry he's treating you that way. I'm going to talk to him and tell him to stop." Instead we say "Oh, he's just doing that because he likes you. Try being nice to him." Like a woman has to earn a man's good behavior by somehow figuring out what things might set him off and avoiding doing them at all costs. Like women are ultimately responsible for whether a man who claims to love her decides to assault her.

But these quotes show that the very people who are supposed to be helping the victims believe this same bullshit. Domestic violence victims have to somehow discern the proper way to act in order to get good attention from the police and D.A. instead of bad attention. And, if domestic violence victims can't figure out how to appease the police or the D.A., then they've brought the bad outcomes of their cases on themselves.

It's the same damn narrative, with the justice system in the position of abuser.

Which means that, at the same time Metro's justice system expresses exasperation that domestic violence victims don't avoid abusers, they're exasperated that domestic violence victims don't submit themselves to the abuse of the system. But, really, that's evidence that, in cases where they can figure out how to avoid abusive situations, they do.

That shouldn't be frustrating to Metro. It should be embarrassing.

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