There are some fascinating posts that Iíd like to bring to your attention. The first one is to be found at Glennís. He discusses a book where a woman successfully disguised herself as a man in order to gain insights into how the other side lives. One passage that made an impressions was where the author entered the dating world, only to find that many women were distrustful and downright hostile to any man because they had been through failed relationships where a man had treated them badly.
Glenn links to a post at Dr. Helenís, his wifeís blog. The good doctor was surprised to find that many men are shunning marriage, fearing jail due to false accusations about being an abuser if the relationship goes sour and a divorce is necessary.
Dr. Helen links to this essay on a blog called DADvocate. The author discusses why he and many other men are no longer interested in marriage. The potential penalties are too severe, while most women donít bring enough to the table to make it worthwhile.
The posts are all interesting. Click on the links and give them a read. But what I want to talk about are the claims that men are risking jail time every time they tie the knot.
We as a society are keenly interested in protecting those that cannot defend themselves, and the base assumption is that women are less able to do that then men are. When new laws are passed to increase the penalties for domestic violence, or to redefine DV so that it covers a broader range of situations, it is justified as a measure to protect females that stand helpless before male aggression. Most of these measures are heavily supported by various womenís rights groups.
At one time this was very necessary. Women in most states were barred from testifying against their husbands, which meant that kicking the little woman around was a crime that carried no penalties. Divorce carried such a stigma that it was extremely difficult to legally leave a marriage, and it was easier for a man to get divorced then it was for a woman. It was almost ensured that abused wives would be forced to continue living in a physically dangerous environment.
But times change. Divorce is much easier than it was in the past, and in my experience the courts favor the female when a marriage is dissolved. (More about that below.) While some states still have a legal privilege between husband and wife, that usually means that neither can be “compelled” to testify against the other, or to reveal any ďmarital confidenceĒ. This can no longer be seen as something that will prevent law enforcement or the courts from getting involved if there is actual physical abuse.
There are a few reasons why I wouldnít mind seeing some of the harsher domestic violence laws struck from the books. The most compelling is that Iím a big fan of equality. We have penalties for assault, why should the penalties be greater if the victim is living with the perp? That doesnít seem very fair to me.
Another problem is that most DV laws are weighted so the male is always considered to be guilty. Itís true that males are more likely to be the one to offer violence, but itís wrong to automatically assume that they are the one who raised their hand. Iím sure that all of our Liberal readers will join me in condemning these blatant examples of sexual profiling.
The last reason why I wouldnít mind seeing this trend reversed concerns my experiences with my self defense charity. There have been more than a few times when Iíve been approached by women who claimed that they were on the run from violent husbands. They had sworn out complaints against the men, gotten restraining orders issued by the courts, and were in the middle of divorce proceedings. The only problem is that I could tell by the way they were acting that they had never been the victim of violence.
Our society has erred on the side of caution to the point where it is just too easy to abuse the system. Claims of abuse are used by many women to gain a greater bargaining position during a divorce, and the burden of proof then falls upon the accused to defend themselves from these charges.
This is extremely repugnant behavior, and it appears to be rather prevalent. Everyone involved in helping victims of violence has limited resources, myself included. It is unlikely that an experienced and cynical old fellow such as myself will be taken in, but if it ever does happen then Iíd be wasting time and money that could be better spent on those who are actually at risk instead of on someone who is trying to get a bigger alimony check. Unfortunately, few people are as cynical or experienced as I am when it comes to this sort of thing.
This situation is fixable. The burden of proof in domestic violence disputes can be shifted to the accuser instead of the accused, courts can revise their policy of issuing restraining orders so they are more difficult to get, and judges can refuse to allow claims of abuse unless there is compelling reason to believe that the abuse actually occurred. For some reason Iím not holding my breath until this happens, though.