He Did The Crime, But She’s Doing Time

Sometimes staying in an abusive relationship means enduring more than beatings. Alex Campbell reports on the horrifying case of Arlena Lindley, a domestic violence victim who was sentenced to 45 years in prison after her child, Titches, was killed by her abusive boyfriend, Alonzo Turner, for failing to prevent the child’s death:

Lindley’s case exposes what many battered women’s advocates say is a grotesque injustice. As is common in families terrorized by a violent man, there were two victims in the Lindley-Turner home: mother and child. Both Lindley and Titches had suffered beatings for months. But in all but a handful of states, laws allow for one of the victims — the battered mother — to be treated as a perpetrator, guilty not of committing abuse herself but of failing to protect her children from her violent partner. Said Stephanie Avalon, resource specialist for the federally funded Battered Women’s Justice Project, “It’s the ultimate blaming of the victim.”

Lindley’s not the only woman to suffer this injustice, either:

No one knows how many women have suffered a fate like Lindley’s, but looking back over the past decade, BuzzFeed News identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children. In every one of these cases, there was evidence the mother herself had been battered by the man.

Almost half, 13 mothers, were given 20 years or more. In one case, the mother was given a life sentence for failing to protect her son, just like the man who murdered the infant boy. In another, the sentences were effectively the same: The killer got life, and the mother got 75 years, of which she must serve at least 63 years and nine months. In yet another, the mother got a longer sentence than the man who raped her son. In one more, a father fractured an infant girl’s toe, femur, and seven ribs and was sentenced to two years; for failing to intervene, the mother got 30.

Amanda Hess comments:

Campbell’s story demonstrates how the criminal justice system is scapegoating domestic violence victims in order to cover for its failures to properly investigate and prosecute instances of child and intimate partner abuse. Shortly before he began dating Lindley, Turner was charged on two separate occasions, first with burglary and later “unlawful restraint,” after he broke into an ex-girlfriend’s home, pushed her, and stole her belongings, then returned three weeks later, grabbed her by the neck, covered her mouth, and forced her outside. The woman escaped after a neighbor stabbed Turner in the leg; months later, Turner was out on probation from the burglary charge and was still awaiting trial on the restraint charge when he murdered the boy. On the day of Titches’ murder, another neighbor called police after she witnessed Turner kicking Titches on the floor, but when police arrived and couldn’t locate Turner or the toddler, they failed to pursue the report. It is outrageous that the justice system in this case only took a hard line against domestic violence after a child was killed.

Husband Beaters, Ctd

Another reader shares his story:

I am a large, physically capable male who worked as a bouncer in bars through most of university. My ex-wife was emotionally and physically abusive. She would hit/attack me without warning, sometimes when I was asleep, sometimes during sex (out of the blue), rarely in front of witnesses, even though the kids saw her do it a couple of times.

When my ex-wife would hit me, I would challenge her later (after a cool-down). I would ask her why she did it, and why she felt it was ok to hit me, but not ok for a man to hit a woman. Her response was a few apologies, many deflections and dismissals, and often “My mom did a lot worse to my dad.”

FYI: for very personal reasons, I am a violence-against-women activist and have been since my late teens. I do not strike or abuse women. I am a firm feminist. My ex-wife would use that to her advantage, knowing I wouldn’t respond other than verbally and to try to protect myself without striking back. I didn’t even grab her wrists – except once, when she attacked me while I was sleeping and I was disoriented on awakening.

My ex-wife was abused/beaten by her mother and sexually abused by a family member. I tried very hard to be understanding and accommodating of her life trauma. Some of the writers on this thread, and in articles on other sites, have minimised the kind of injury a woman can effect on a large male. Some writers even call them “little taps” and “harmless taps”.

I still have PTSD flashbacks from my ex-wife hitting me, with her fists or other objects, or a pillow or fists during sex, because she had a sudden flashback to the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and she lost self-control (and chose to lose it).

My two now-adult children are still edgy around the subject. They were witnesses to their mother hitting their father – however “little” the blows were. The blows she landed caused no permanent physical injury, but they were in no way harmless. While I understand the context of my experience and my ex-wife’s issues, the lasting pain of those “little taps” is pretty profound (that and the emotional abuse that accompanied it). I have difficulty getting people to believe the deep emotional injury those “harmless taps” caused, and I have been mocked for my ongoing anguish.

Under male stereotypes, I should be just brushing off the fact that the person I ostensibly loved most (my spouse) perpetrated physical violence against me on a regular basis.

Another sends the above video:

Long-time reader, sometime emailer here (you’ve actually published a couple of my emails a few years back, about Bioshock/Ayn Rand and about loyalty to a sports team). Full disclosure: I’m male, I have never been the victim of domestic abuse, so this is not something I’ve ever experienced (thank goodness). I’ve been following your “Abuse In The Public Eye” thread for some time, and I am not at all surprised that there are stories of women domestically abusing their husbands/boyfriends.  When I was a teen and a college student, I assumed that if there was a case of domestic violence it would be a man striking a woman.  That is, until I saw a stand up routine by Christopher Titus.

This is a man, in his 40s, who’s had a very rough life (psychotic mother who committed suicide, alcoholic father) and the way he deals with it is basically making a comic routine out of all the awful things he’s had to deal with. His awful experiences include an ex-girlfriend who would physically abuse him.  Now, much of the information is from a comedy routine, so it’s played for laughs, but as Titus puts it, his girlfriend would routinely lose her temper (because she was bipolar) and “crack me in the face”.  But he doesn’t leave.  He stayed for months, even moving in with her after she beats him up watching a Christmas special.

Husband Beaters, Ctd

A reader sharpens the discussion over female domestic violence, which the Dish broached back in June:

I think both readers you recently quoted regarding Janay Rice hitting Ray Rice have valid points. What bothers me is that it seems to be treated as a zero sum game when we talk about reciprocity in domestic violence. Do women have it worse than men? Of course! Does that mean that violence against men shouldn’t be mentioned? I don’t think so. If anything, I think it would help the conversation if men understood how universal it is. Not talking about it seems like it only encourages men to accept abuse until they snap back. That by no means justifies when they snap, but it does contribute to it. And just making that point clear definitely doesn’t mean men have it anywhere near as bad as women in domestic violence.

This should not be a contest of who is more oppressed. Everyone suffers from toxic or outdated expectations about gender. The more open and nuanced the conversation, the better.

Two male readers share their stories of abuse:

Never thought I’d be writing to someone about this, but your discussion is prompting me to write. I suffered a severe beating at the hands of a former girlfriend – broken nose, splinters (from a 2×4) in and around the eyes.

The incident, for lack of a better word, went on much longer than it should have simply because for me to defend myself would have involved my committing violence against a woman – such an ultimate “no no” that it’s practically etched on most (stressing “most”) men’s DNA.  I have sisters.  If I had touched my sisters in ANY WAY, my dad would’ve killed me.

I finally realized that if I didn’t do something, the woman in question might literally not stop, and I was somewhat disoriented as a result of the nose-breaking shot to the face with the 2×4, with which I was still getting hit.  I finally took her down to the floor as gently as I could and – I can hardly believe I’m writing this – put a hand around her neck, just enough to let her know it was there – and said “Stop.”   This served to make her snap out of the rage she was in.  It was like a light switched off, and then it was over.

I woke up the next morning and didn’t even recognize myself.  I have a driver’s license photo taken seven weeks after the event in which a black-and-blue shadow can still be seen along one side of my face.  It took two years for a splinter lodged near my temple to finally dislodge itself, and I have some scarring around one eye.  This was almost 30 years ago.

For a long time I thought I must have brought this on myself.  I mean, isn’t this kind of thing unheard of?  All I can say is that I found out years later that she got physical with her next boyfriend, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that a great burden was lifted from me upon hearing that news.

I’m not saying in any way that Ray Rice was justified in hitting his fiancee/wife.  But sometimes – stress “sometimes” – these things are more complicated than they appear.

Another quotes a reader from another post:

Men are far, far more likely to injure, abuse and murder their partner than women are; it’s not a remotely equal situation, and treating it as such undermines the very real danger millions of American women are facing every single day.

What an absurd argument for the second writer to make regarding the need to crack down on female abusers.  This is not a zero sum game. Abuse is abuse, and the message can be universal without detracting from the fact that women are the more likely victims.

And quite frankly, speaking from experience, when you are on the receiving end, even as a man, it is your own personal hell and statistics go right out the window.  My partner liked to attack me while I was sleeping.  I would wake up in total confusion and then immediately try to restrain her.  I outweighed her by 80 pounds, but to hold a physically fit person by her wrists in the hope she will calm down when she is amped on adrenaline is an exhausting test of stamina.  Trust me: the person’s legs are free to kick out and a determined person can reach a neck with her teeth.

Even in a progressive city like Seattle, she counted on the expectation that she could shame and endanger me by calling out loudly for help as I held her back.  When the neighbors knocked on the door, you can bet your life I opened it as fast as I could, brought them inside and explained exactly what was going on (she often had been drinking and was still “ornery”). I consider it a modern miracle the police never came.

But that is the problem. Neighbors and society, in general, still shrug off the acts of female abusers.  It can’t be that bad, or “legitimate,” if the bad guy is a “bad gal” who is cute as a button and a hundred ten pounds in her stocking feet.  It even worked on me. The aftermath would be tears and apologies that left me feeling sorry for her and guilty about not doing a “better job” to avoid bruising her wrists in the act of holding her down.

#WhyIStayed, Ctd

The reactions to the Ray Rice story continue to roll in. CBS Sportscaster James Brown speaks out:

Amanda Marcotte rejects lines of commentary that suggest Ray Rice is a victim:

Because of this vast gulf in male and female experiences of domestic violence, unsurprisingly the impact also varies dramatically. On Tuesday, Catherine Cloutier of the Boston Globe published an examination of how much more seriously women’s lives are impacted by intimate partner violence. The CDC surveyed around 14,000 people to determine the impact of domestic violence on their lives. Men and women were somewhat similar in rates of having endured some kind of assault, at 27.5 percent for men and 29.7 percent for women.

But looking beyond counting individual touches, a different picture emerges. Twenty-four percent of female victims report feeling fearful, compared to 7 percent of men. One in five female victims suffer from PTSD symptoms, whereas only 1 in 20 male victims do. Only 3 percent of male victims suffer physical injury, but over 13 percent of female victims do. Twice as many female victims as male victims missed work because of domestic violence.

The disparity is likely the result of male abuse simply being way more violent and chronic than female abuse. Asking people if they’ve been hit once is relevant, of course, but in measuring the realities of domestic violence, the more important question is if you’re being hit frequently, being terrorized by violence on a regular basis, being stalked and controlled, or being threatened with your life if you try to leave.

Yes, no one should hit anyone else. But that statement is the beginning of the conversation about the problem of domestic violence, not the end of it.

And the Dish is channeling that conversation here. Josh Levin wants the NFL’s other abusers to held accountable:

The best analogy here is to the awful scourge of sexual assault on college campuses. In addition to going to local police, a student can have her complaint heard through a campus adjudication procedure, one that uses “the preponderance of evidence” as a standard of proof rather than a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. (As Emily Bazelon has explained, preponderance of the evidence means “reviewers must find only that it’s more likely than not that the sexual assault or harassment occurred.”) There are problems with these campus systems—the New York Times story on Hobart and William Smith Colleges offers a harrowing account of all that can go wrong—but at least they acknowledge the existence of something akin to institutional responsibility.

At least before TMZ released the Rice video, such a concept did not exist in the NFL. Teams have long operated on the assumption that they could say they’re “aware of the situation,” and then just pretend like nothing happened as soon as the news blew over. At some point, individual teams may decide that it makes sense for them to move to a preponderance-of-evidence standard—to decide that it’s in their best interest to cut a player if it’s more likely than not that he’s a domestic abuser. I don’t know if we’ve reached that point yet, but the Rice video has gotten us closer to that day. Seeing a sports star clock his fiancée in the face has changed something—for fans, for the media, and ultimately, I think, for the teams. If it doesn’t, then the NFL’s problem with domestic violence runs even deeper than we thought.

Alyssa Rosenberg finds wanting NFL Commissioner Goodell’s standard operating procedure:

When it becomes impossible to deny that bad news utterly, his task then becomes to respond in a way that has minimal impact on the NFL’s finances and on the week-by-week play on the field. As long as Goodell is willing to accept the public perception that he is dishonest or in denial, absorbing the damage on behalf of the league, I suppose it is a viable approach to protecting “the integrity of the NFL.” But no matter how much pain Goodell is willing to accept, this is a way of operating that leaves his league a little more battered with every incident. In life, unlike on the gridiron, sometimes it is better to take the hit and move expeditiously to heal from the damage.

Robert Silverman thinks the NFL needs more women:

If the league actually wants to solve the problem, instead of treating it as a particularly thorny public relations issue; if the league had a vested interest in trying to win back a semblance of trust from the 46 percent of their fan base that happens to be female and the unknown percentage of men who are equally repulsed? Here’s one solution: Hire more women and place them in positions of real power.

Abuse In The Public Eye, Ctd

A reader broadens the conversation on domestic violence:

I watched with full video of the Ray Rice incident, and one of the first things I noticed is that outside the elevator, when Ray is waiting for his fiancée (now wife) Janay, she walks by and hits him in the face. She definitely did not connect hard, but it is clear she did connect. Then inside the elevator, she attempts to elbow and punch him in the head, and when he retreats, she comes at him with her fists up in a fighting stance. It is only at this point that Ray punches her. You can see the full video here. [Update: Another notes, “It has been reported (ESPN etc.) that Rice spit in Janay’s face twice – before they entered the elevator and right after they entered the elevator, and her physical movements were reactions to both events.”]

I am a man and I was once the victim of domestic violence from a woman. She would hit me and take advantage of the fact that I would never hit back.

It is likely that this was not the first time Janay hit Ray, and based on the fact that she had no hesitation to square off with him, she may have done it many times before and he never hit her back. He may have gotten tired of this and warned her he would start hitting back.

It is certainly wrong of Ray to punch Janay. It is also wrong for Janay to punch Ray. It is certainly wrong to blame the victim, and at the moment Ray hit Janay, she was the victim. But every other time she hit him, including just moments before he hit her, he was the victim, and being the victim of
repeated domestic violence can make someone stop thinking clearly.

It seems we all want to talk about Ray punching Janay, but no one wants to talk about the punches Janay directed at Ray. Until we do that, we aren’t really talking about the truth of what happened there and what happens all the time in our society. We are only talking about a made-up narrative that does not match reality. So let’s start talking about reality. We need to talk about how men can avoid being the victims of violence from women, and what they can do to protect themselves without striking back.

Update from a reader, who elaborates on the first update:

I have no idea what video your reader watched, but it doesn’t appear to be the same one the rest of the world did. While, yes, Janay Rice lightly taps Ray Rice on the chest before they get in the elevator, I don’t think you could even call that a “hit”. It’s somewhere between a light brush and a tap, and it doesn’t look particularly malicious – let alone violent. Also, when the two are in the elevator, Ray Rice is closing in on her, and it looks like he’s trying to intimidate her when she sort of pushes him away. He spits on her, etc. Then, she clearly loses her temper and moves toward him, and he knocks her the hell out.

This statement, from your reader, gives the game away: “We need to talk about how men can avoid being the victims of violence from women, and what they can do to protect themselves without striking back.”

Yes, men certainly can be the victims of domestic violence – I’ve been one myself. But treating the issue as if it’s even remotely an equal problem is the trademark of a men’s rights advocate, who sees the plight of poor, oppressed men as equal to the violence propagated toward women – this would be laughable, if it weren’t so tragic. Men are far, far more likely to injure, abuse and murder their partner than women are; it’s not a remotely equal situation, and treating it as such undermines the very real danger millions of American women are facing every single day.

#WhyIStayed, Ctd

The conversation about domestic violence continues, with several reflections on Janay Rice. Robin Givens shares a personal experience:

People ask why I didn’t leave after the first time he hit me. But you feel such inner turmoil and confusion. You want it to be only one time. And for three days after that incident I did the right thing. I said: “Don’t call me. I never want to see you again.” But then you start taking his phone calls. Then he asks to see you in person, and you say yes to that. Then you have a big giant man crying like a baby on your lap and next thing you know, you’re consoling him. You’re the protector. One minute you’re running from him, the next you’re protecting him. And being a black woman you feel you want to protect your man. You think, the black man in America has it so difficult anyway, so now you’re turning them in. It feels like the ultimate betrayal.

Feminista Jones expands on the race angle:

These events have forced the country to face difficult truths about how prevalent domestic and intimate partner violence (DV/IPV) is in America.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an estimated 1.3 million American women experience DV/IPV each year. Women make up 85% of the victims of DV/IPV. Despite this, most cases are never reported to the police and most women are victimized by people they know.

And for Black women, it’s an even bigger problem: Black women are almost three times as likely to experience death as a result of DV/IPV than White women. And while Black women only make up 8% of the population, 22% of homicides that result from DV/IPV happen to Black Women and 29% of all victimized women, making it one of the leading causes of death for Black women ages 15 to 35. Statistically, we experience sexual assault and DV/IPV at disproportionate rates and have the highest rates of intra-racial violence against us than any other group. We are also less likely to report or seek help when we are victimized.

Emily Bazelon considers Janay Rice’s position:

As Jodi Kantor wrote in the New York Times, “it’s not at all clear that she views herself as a victim of abuse.” Palmer married Rice the day after he was indicted for hurting her. She has stood by his side at news conferences and rallied to his cause on social media. She tried to take the burden off Rice’s shoulders in the spring when she said, “I do deeply regret the role that I played in the incident that night.”

Rice and Palmer met in high school. They have a child together. She’s probably financially dependent on him. She has a lot of reasons to back him up. But that doesn’t mean prosecutors should take her statements at face value, Gandy said, or excuse Ray Rice because Janay Rice is still with him. Maybe she’s staying because she’s afraid to leave. When domestic violence ends in murder, it’s often after the victim tries to get out of the relationship.

Caitlin Dickson focuses on the impact of Rice’s firing on his family:

Almost everyone except Janay Rice applauded the move, though questions remained as to whether, contrary to what Goodell has said, the NFL saw the second video prior to its public release. But Monday’s news, and Janay Rice’s subsequent response, raised a different set of questions for domestic violence experts that highlight just how complicated the issue of domestic violence is.

While Rice inarguably deserved to lose his job, could the NFL have done more to ensure that he gets help? By suspending him indefinitely, did the NFL do more to disassociate itself from Rice’s heinous actions than to make the player, their employee, take responsibility for them? After all, the new domestic violence policy does not require offenders to go through any kind of counseling before they can petition for reinstatement after a year. What incentive does Rice have to change his behavior?

Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, the controversial GOP pundit flirting with a presidential run, describes another reason why some abuse victims stay:

There are situations in which domestic abuse is so violent and dangerous that nothing short of a total separation from the abuser is the only way of assuring the physical and emotional safety of the victim(s). But there are situations, especially where there is strong spiritual and community support, in which the best option may be counseling or mediation or other less drastic measures. This does not in any way excuse the act itself, but it may help prevent further harm: the harm caused by children growing up without a parent; the harm of losing economic opportunities that would help to strengthen the family; the harm to the community of destroying a family unit. While I firmly believe that individual freedom is essential to a healthy democracy, I also believe that a strong family is the foundational unit of a healthy society.

Often the knee-jerk reaction to the shock of violence and other betrayals of trust within relationships is for the aggrieved party to leave and never look back. In the heat of the moment separating two highly emotional people might be the best option until their emotions cool. But to imply that a woman or man is displaying weakness by staying in a relationship, or conversely, showing strength by leaving, is far too simplistic. Often it takes great strength to overcome difficult issues in a relationship. There should be a determination on the part of both parties– as well as sometimes courts, counselors, pastors and other community resources – as to whether the relationship is worth saving, and if so, what steps should be taken to try and heal the wounds and rebuild strong bonds of trust. When a family is involved the stakes are too high not to try.

Abuse In The Public Eye, Ctd

A reader is worried:

My first thought on hearing that the Ravens finally cut Ray Rice was that his wife is now in even greater danger.  How long before he works himself up into a rage over his lost career and blames her?  And what will he do to her then?  If the Ravens and the NFL had acted immediately, and if strings hadn’t been pulled to allow Rice to avoid jail time, maybe Janay Palmer would have gotten the counseling she needs and found the courage to leave her abuser while he was at least temporarily unable to inflict more pain on her.  As it stands now, as the Ravens and the NFL concentrate on “moving on” and the media eventually segues to the next Big Story, Palmer is in worse jeopardy than before – a lot worse.

Another ties in a related thread:

I think that #whyistayed and #whyileft are really powerful and valuable ways of helping people understand the victims’ perspectives. I wonder if a #whyiabused or #howistopped conversation would also be possible. (Certainly, anonymity would be required, as admitted abusers would be vilified.) I don’t want to suggest that the two paradigms are equal, but I think that a critical part to ending the cycle of abuse is to get the abusers to understand where their rage comes from and how to deal with it.

Another zooms out:

The Ray Rice video not only highlights the horror of domestic violence, it also shows the sanitizing effect of words alone.

We should have been able to deduce what had happened in the elevator, but many chose not to. The reasons are many and varied but the results were the same, denial of the intensity of the attack. The video eliminated that ability.

The same thing was true of the Abu Ghraib photos. The sanitizing slogan of “enhanced interrogations” could no longer hide the horrors that were going on. Seeing what stress positions actually meant was shocking.

Our ability to dismiss actions as not as bad as they sound, seems also to be effected by how much we support the perpetrators. Look at how many supported Ray Rice or his version of events until this video came out. Fans, teammates, coaches, all offered support until now. Look at how many still support George Bush and Dick Cheney. Let’s use the latest Ray Rice video not just to discuss domestic violence, but apply its lessons to broader aspects of public life.

Another is roughly on the same page:

I appreciate the mimetic appeal of sports as warfare, but must the NFL leadership – namely Commissioner Roger Goodell – do their best Donald Rumsfeld impressions as well? To me anyway, the parallels are uncanny. When chronic prisoner abuse and torture turned up in pictures from Abu Ghraib, Rummy and the Bush administration expressed shock and outrage. They claimed to have no idea about the violent misbehavior of “rogue individuals” but promised to get to the bottom of it with promises of harsh justice and zero tolerance. Of course, only the small fry unlucky enough to find themselves caught in the picture frame were punished. Execute a “find and replace” search of “Rumsfeld” for “Goodell” and “Lynndie England” for “Ray Rice” and voila, you hardly have to rewrite the story.

Then, of course, there is the deplorable way both institutions serve the needs of ex-soldiers and ex-players with traumatic brain injuries. In February, 41 senators voted against a $24 billion dollar VA funding bill to create 27 new facilities (in particular, satellite centers to deal with TBI). And now,only two days ago, NFL lawyers filed a motion to narrow the class of petitioners eligible for the league’s $765 million dollar TBI/Concussion settlement (see ya, NFL Europe players). They also moved to lower by 75% payouts to those who also suffer strokes. In years past, the NFL illegally administered Toradol, an anti-inflammatory, to its players. Toradol has been linked to strokes (it would not surprise me in the least if they sprayed Agent Orange on the gridiron to kill weeds).

I can’t think of a better way to end this two-step than to fire Goodell and hire Robert Gates to clean house. Without a Congress to gum up the works, Gate’s moral decency and competence might just save the NFL from itself.

The reader follows up:

I did a Google search to see if anyone else had noticed the similarities in style between Goodell and Rumsfeld. I didn’t find anything, but I did discover that Goodell’s father, Senator Charles Goodell, was good friends with Donald Rumsfeld. They along with Gerald Ford and others staged the Young Turks rebellion against the Republican House leadership in the early 1960s. Goodell, Sr. was a good Rockefeller Republican, an anti-Vietnam enemy of Nixon, who lost his seat to James Buckley. Rumsfeld survived by learning to keep his own counsel and evolve; seems Roger learned that lesson as well. (THIS aspect was covered in a Grantland article.)