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Sunday, May 17, 2015


I will go through some of the ideas which led to the model of Coercive Control.  I don't go to these conferences deliberately, because I ordinarily work with custody cases and I understand how much pain is in the room.  

I had a man come to my men's group who had fired his psychiatrist.  The first week of the group he told this story--he said there was a medicine man (he was half Ojibway) who was very ill and was going to die.  So he wanted his son to meet this medicine man before the medicine  man died.  He looked very ill; his hands were palsied.  The fellow asked the medicine man why are you retiring?  The medicine man replied, I've been at this business for 30 years and every time someone comes to me with an illness, I take a little bit of it inside of me.  

What did this story mean?  The fellow had left his old psychiatrist and was coming to me.  The question was he had taken so much pain; could he open up with our group?  

The reason why I haven't come here before and I've been doing this for 50 years, the reason is that we have experienced a lot of this pain.  

I know Sharon Horn who started the domestic violence shelters; last weekend she was killed in a car accident.  She is the reason why I started in this field.  At one point, my wife and I tracked her down to this house.  A woman answered the door and slammed it in my face.  It was around the time I had very young kids, and one of my babies was in the car.  So I took him out of the car, poked him a bit to make him cry, knocked on the door again, and the women opened the door and let me in when they saw this bald fellow with a crying baby.  

Inside there were women all over the place, and this woman came downstairs looking like Katharine Hepburn with long sweeping skirts and told us this was a battered women's shelter--that was Sharon Horn.  Originally, the group found a home, but ran out of money within a week.  However, when the word went out that there was no money, envelopes arrived in the mail from grateful women who wished that there was something like this when they were experiencing DV.  Eventually, the amount of money collected was $30,000 so that the Center stayed open.  

Women battering is not about what men are doing to women.  Women battering is what men keep on doing to prevent women from doing for themselves.  No woman can be free  from oppression unless she is free and equal, and you cannot  be free and equal if you are not that way everywhere.  

Family Court is not a safe place.  It is a place where people allow litigants to be treated in ways they would never allow themselves to be treated. Then they expect litigants to be rational and calm or else they will take your children away from you.  Scenarios of this kind happen all the time in court testimony, "Your honor, he pointed a gun at the woman and pulled the trigger." Judge, "Oh, Doctor, you know the gun wasn't loaded."  

Women who have succeeded in custody want to leave the situation behind and they leave thousands of women behind.  Women need to stay to fight for their sisters, even when they have resolved their own circumstances.

We should not allow men to diminish what we have achieved.  

Originally when we talked about sexual violence, we would advise women to simply talk about violence.  

The U.S. is the only country in the world that defines the abuse as physical abuse not as gender violence.  

We are the only country that does not subscribe to the Istanbul Convention which states as follows:

"Violence against women is...a violation of human rights & a form of discrimination against women and sell mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in...physical, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty." 

The more trivial the rule a man demands we obey, the more degraded we feel.  The only reason we obey is because of fear and domination.    

I ultimately want to talk about politics because this is how we can get positive change, particularly through demonstrations.  Building alliances, and talking about rights and liberties.  

The Ray Rice case threw into relief that 90% of domestic violence doesn't appear as if it is.  If we only think of the deaths, if we only respond to the deaths, then we have only a narrow picture of what is going on.  

The vast majority of women who scored the highest on battered women's scales have never experienced physical violence.  

In 2001-2002 out of the reports to police of domestic violence only 3.6% of them result in convictions.  For every 100 calls to police, only 2 will be convicted.

Last year over a million men were arrested for DV.  In the last ten years, serious violence against women has dropped considerably and so we have been very successful in our work.    

Part of the problem we are going to evaluate tonight is the question of whether we are dealing with stupid venial judges, and stupid venial GALs or are we dealing with systemic bias.  Of course, they are not mutual exclusive.  But it is important to know what we are dealing with.  

Educating people who are systematically prejudiced and biased against women only provides a limited payoff.  

So with the situation we are talking about, are we dealing with bad police?  Way back when if a woman was the victim of DV then DCF would take the children away stating that the couple had engaged in domestic violence.  I then put together a group, we took this to federal court, and won so as to stop this practice.  

I had a major prejudice against DCF, but when I was placed on a board with them I found they were such dedicated people.  

Yes, I agree that women can be as violent as men can be.  I am against the use of violence as an instrument of control.  We need to understand that when we talk about DV, we are talking about a lot more than violence.  We are talking about a liberty crime in which assault is simply one weapon.  

We have reduced homicides dramatically among men, among African American's by 80%, but the drop in homicides against women has not dropped that much.  Part of this has to do with the context in which the violence takes place.  Men tend to kill women around the time that women leave.  Women tend to kill men when they feel themselves and their children at risk.  By establishing the shelters, women had an alternative to killing men.  

How is DV treated?  A man can have 50 to 100 assaults and no convictions.  This is because the assault is treated in traffic court.  Further, our system considers each incident separately; it does not consider the accumulation of incidents.  If the police aren't putting men in jail, it is because they are considering each incident separately.  99% of DV is trivial; it consists of pushes, shoves, kicks, hits.  In the history of abuse in a particular relationship--95% is non-injurious and non-serious.  No one ends up in jail with non-serious incidents.  

In Europe they recognize the accumulation and history of abuse.  But in American, they see a series of separate incidents which have to be proved and which each present evidentiary problems.  Family Court, juvenile court, and criminal court are like separate planets.  For instance, how many people have a restraining order in criminal court and your ex cannot get near you, and then you go to family court and they say you will lose custody if you don't allow access.  

The system is crazy making.  

The guy on Monday is the offender and is treated as a bad person, will come the next day to Bergen family court as a good enough Dad.  If a Dad shows a modest amount of interest in the child, he is a great Dad, but if a Mom shows the same interest she is entrapping, enmeshing, alienating.  

Family Court has no constitutional basis; its very shaky.  This is because there has to be a level of congeniality there, which is not required elsewhere.  

There has a been a considerable improvement in the Family Courts in Colorado because a change in the law.  Now, a woman cannot be prosecuted if what she does arises from her belief that what she is doing is for the safety of the child.   

In terms of abuse experienced, the frequency of being choked is considerably lower that being slapped, pushed, or shoved.  

Physical abuse is incredibly frequent.  

What informs the system is the concept that there are "episodes of violence" and "time between violence"  The vast majority of DV is non-injurious.  There is a pattern of low level but frequent assaults.  It is typical of women to be assaulted up to 100 to 500 times.  What happens in those situations is that it develops into a hostage situation.  

I asked did he ever prevent you from leaving when you wanted to?  

The cumulative effect of those minor incidents was the same as if she'd been beaten.  

However, the fragmentation of the abuse into separate incidents has taken the problem off the map.  

In reality, there is no decline in forms of low level violence.  

Thus, the vast majority of incidents of dv go under the radar.  

The guys are not being convicted.  

Women and children's reality:  DV is ongoing; rape and DV fall on a continuum; there is a cumulative effect; crosses social space; "help" often makes things worse.  

The vast majority of deaths of children are the result of men.  

There are some highly publicized cases of women killing children, but the vast majority of men.  DV  has been associated with high rates of homelessness, suicide rates.  Not every one, but DV is associated with highest levels of substance abuse.  40% of caucasian women attempt suicide with the context of DV and 50% of African American women attempt suicide within the context of DV.  At Yale-New Haven Hospital these battered women were being labeled as victims, but not in the ordinary sense.  

The question was why is this happening?  The answer was trauma.  But trauma is associated with severe violence and the violence we were seeing was non-serious.  

For example, with one wealthy couple, the wife was told she had to give up her job to take care of her husband's 20 something children.  Further, her husband told her that she had to pick up the phone before the 3rd ring.  So he would come home, check out the phone to see that no phones had rang more than three times, get in her face if any had, and eventually locked her in her room at 8:00p.m.  In my office, when I interviewed her if a phone began to ring, she would be covered with hives.  It would be terrible what that phone did to this woman.  

You cannot be a person without rights.  Within this framework of violence we normalize and trivialize abuse in a way you would hardly think possible.  So what we have is for the better part coercive control in up to 60-80 percent of cases, not the major assaults in the 20 - 40 percent of cases.  

Some people fight, hit each other and use a lot of violence.  That's not the issue here with the coercive control I am talking about.  

When violence is linked to inequality and oppression that we want to step in and intervene.  This is what should concern prosecutors.  

There are some cases in which physical violence is the problem, but usually in these cases of low level assault, the woman retains her job, and some of her autonomy.  

Women who manage to mother through domestic violence are amazing.  

Thus, around 60 percent of women we are seeing in family court, criminal court, and child welfare system are they are experiencing this pattern of coercive control.  It is often and frequent.  This involves sexual coercion.  Men get a lot out of abuse--economic privileges, social privileges, status privileges.  This is about men who plan, scheme, strategize.  Being abusive and controlling is hard work.  Such men use  rational, instrumental thinking within their pathology.  Combine manhood along with opportunity for exploitation then you have coercive control.  It is not about conflict; it is about control.

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