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MENZ Issues April 1998: Volume 3 Issue 3

Battered Justice System Article about judicial gender bias.

Men’s Centre North Shore News Financial crisis, Northcote office to close, new logo.

Prostate Cancer Screening Not On Article discussing reply from Minister of Health.

Separated Fathers Support Trust Haven for men opens in Glen Eden.

AIT Violence and Trauma Studies Course Warrick Pudney appointed tutor to create gender balance.

Social Security (Conjugal Status) Amendment Bill Men’s Centre North Shore’s Submission to Select Committee on Battered Woman Syndrome

Big Buddy Programme Man Alive’s new mentoring programme for boys.

Repeat Victims of Violence New statistics from Justice Dept.

When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence by Patricia Pearson – Book Review:

Battered Woman Syndrome A clinical psychologist argues against it.

Wellington Men’s Newsletter started

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Battered Justice System

Recent attempts in NZ to introduce pepper sprays and other disabling agents for women’s sole use against men has so far met with welcome, cynics might say surprising, opposition from the police. But this conservative stance by the police on this particular weapon may soon change. Already we have seen an eagerness by the police to adopt many of the proposals and procedures put forward by radical lobbyists. In the area of allegations of sexual assault or child sexual abuse, for example, television is showing us repeated instances of sloppy police investigation and an incredible willingness to believe that if a man is accused of a sexual crime he is likely to be guilty. The cases of Peter Ellis, Nick Wills, and Alan Rust spring to mind.

Add to this the lead the judiciary and politicians have given to the police to arrest any man subject to a domestic violence allegation without corroboration or evidence, and the willingness of judges to order domestic protection orders against men on the flimsiest of evidence, and it can be seen that what we have developng in this country is a dual justice system that is even more "in your face" for men than a dose of pepper spray.

I put it personally to the Minister for Justice, Mr Graham, in a meeting with him last July, that he was in charge of a justice system that was increasingly being split on gender lines. He scoffed at the suggestion. But Mr Graham and his Ministry would do well to look at the following three areas of major concern:

First- The Family Courts are deeply biased against men and fathers. There is a prejudice against joint or shared custody; an unwillingness to believe the man’s point of view; the rapid and heavy penalties against men as non-custodial parents who break conditions imposed by the court as against the lenient or nonexistent penalties against custodial mothers who break their conditions; the all too often unjustified supervised access provisions that make a father feel that he is a criminal when he is with his children; the allegations of domestic violence or child sexual abuse that are all too often made by a separating mother for no other reason than to put the man on the back foot legally in the ensuing battle for house possession, property and custody; the absence of evidence, the presumption of male guilt; the lack of any penalty to the woman when charges are dropped once the tactic has succeeded; and the abject compliance of the legal profession in this sorry state of affairs simply because they are not going to rock the boat that feeds them – if I may mangle a metaphor.

Second- We are beginning to see a sentencing gap develop, on gender lines. For example, several months ago in the Manawatu a women was given an 18 suspended sentence for shooting her unarmed partner in the leg as he walked out of the room, causing serious injury. She was upset after questioning him about where he had been earlier in the day.

Recently a man was sent to prison for 2 years for firearm presenting, even though he didn’t fire it and certainly didn’t injure anybody. Also recently four 16 year old males were sent to prison for various offences, not all involving violence, for from 17 months to four years. Sentenced by the same judge on the same day was a 16 year old girl who smashed a bar employee on the side of the face with a bottle causing severe injuries requiring 32 stitches. Sentence? Suspended for two years.

Both in this country and overseas we are starting to see moves to keep women out of prison altogether. Initially the emphasis is on mothers in prison and how it would be much better for them and their children not to have to remain in prison. I confidently predict that once we have agreed to that, the next step will be to free all women from prison, and to henceforth to avoid sending them there at all. The Louise Woodward trial with all its publicity was no accident, no coincidence. There is a growing denial that women can commit crime. Witness the rapid suppression and ridicule in our press of the recent study done by Dr Southall in an English hospital of hidden TV cameras disclosing mothers beating and suffocating their young children when they thought no one was watching.

Third- whether we look at developments in the area of rape, sexual abuse allegations, sexual harassment or domestic violence, we see a pattern emerging – that the criminal standards of proof [beyond reasonable doubt] are giving way to civil court standards [proof on the balance of probabilities] – a much lower standard. Either politicians, judges and lawyers haven’t noticed, or they don’t care, or they believe that there are strong social justifications for giving away these safeguards that British and New Zealand law fought so long and hard to evolve and maintain.

The end, and for some activists, the intended result? The demonisation of men, a future world we are asking our boys to grow into where males are routinely and stereotypically portrayed as violent, drunken and abusive. And we wonder why young men are killing themselves at a rate four times that of young women, and accelerating.

The result of a separate justice system for women? Long term their disempowerment, as we treat them increasingly like innocent children who can do no wrong. Already we are seeing the consequences of this denial in our glaringly ineffective social welfare treatment of child abuse and neglect. What the politically correct Justice and Social Welfare people won’t tell you is where most of this abuse and neglect is coming from.

Mark Rowley.

Men’s Centre North Shore News

Financial Crisis Deepens – Northcote Office to Close

In mid-March our bank balance briefly dropped to less than $20. Fortunately, a generous member came to the rescue and donated $500 to keep the phone going for a few more months. The reason the newsletters are getting less frequent is not due to shortage of material – we have lots more interesting MENZ Issues to discuss. The only problem is lack of funds – it costs around $200 for paper, toner, and stamps to send one to all of the 350 people on our mailing list. If you are a regular reader who gets it for free, please consider subscribing.

If you have a business that wants to advertise to a group of men like us, we’ll insert a flier if you pay the postage.

About the same time we received a letter from Jill Nerheny, the Community Co-ordinator of Birkenhead and Northcote Ward, asking for a meeting to discuss the use of our rooms in Northcote. Jill is the Men’s Centre’s "fairy godmother" who provided the inspiration and energy to get this organisation started way back in 1993, and has continued to provide accommodation and support ever since. Because we can no longer pay for people to staff the centre, the space is seldom used. As there are no immediate prospects of this situation changing, Jill suggested that she find us a new venue for evening meetings, and we move from Ernie Mays Rd.

John Potter.

New Logo for Men’s Centre

Some of our more alert members may have noticed the disapearance at the end of last year of our bird logo (here) and its replacement with the current male symbol, which was created by Chris Piper for the Men’s Health Day in 1997. Chris was the key member of the Health Day Project team and provided the focus and the structure for the management process.

At the time there was considerable comment about how much better his design represented our organisation than the bird. It is positive, energetic and unambiguous, all qualities the current executive aspire to.

As it turns out, despite the fact that we paid a designer many $$$ to produce it for us, the bird had an uncanny resemblance to the logo used by "New Warriors", so we decided to make the change to avoid confusion.

J.P.

Prostate Cancer Screening Not On

Reply from Minister of Health:

In February, we received a letter from Ian Revell MP, with a copy of a reply from the Minister of Health to my questions about prostate screening.

The Hon Bill English MP started by asserting incorrectly that I "advocated screening for all men", and then demolished this straw man by pointing out that "nearly half of older men die with prostate cancer, not from it". He went on to inform us that "The National Health Committee considers that because of the poor performance of screening tests, uncertain benefits from early detection and/or intervention, and the high rate of side effects from the treatment, this is not an area where men should be encouraged to seek early diagnosis and treatment".

Mr English did however acknowledge that in my letter I had "correctly identified that there is a subgroup of prostate cancers in young men that are clinically aggressive and might benefit from earlier diagnosis. However, such tumours are very rare…".

Just how rare are they? How can the screening tests be improved? Why are the benefits of early detection and treatment uncertain? It sounds like research dollars are needed to answer these questions.

The minister also enclosed the NHC pamphlet Prostate Cancer Screening: Issues Explained and an extensive, but now out of date report on the subject by the Australian Health Technology Advisory Committee. This month’s NZ Doctor reports that the Australians have just begun an A$5 million case-control study of twenty thousand men to look at the benefit of prostate screening.

We were very gratified to read that Mr English is "aware of the excellent work being done at the Men’s Centre". He concluded by saying "The Men’s Centre can play an important role in encouraging men to see a health professional as soon as they experience prostate problems." Sadly, for some men, by then it will be too late.

We wish to express our appreciation to Ian Revell for assisting us with this matter.

J.P.

Haven for Men in Glen Eden

wpe2A.jpg (7022 bytes)The Separated Fathers Trust was the subject of a sympathetic story in a West Auckland newspaper last month. Men who have previously had to sleep in cars, at work or on friend’s sofas now have somewhere to stay after a relationship split. Now that the house is up and running, they want to hear from fathers who need emergency accommodation. The trust was reported to have received praise and support from Waitakere City Mayor Bob Harvey and Victim Support.

The Men’s Centre has already referred several men to the trust, one as a result of a request from Age Concern here on the North Shore. After several attempts, I managed to produce a brochure for them which folded in the right places, so now the main challenge they face is to secure adequate funding.

For further information or support contact Warren Heap:

Ph 267 5632.

More on Separated Fathers Support Trust here.

Warrick Pudney employed as tutor – Violence & Trauma Studies at AIT

Warrick recently wrote to us:

I receive and read regularly MENZ Issues via Man Alive, an men’s agency [in West Auckland] which I manage. We deliver programmes and services to men from a pro-male perspective. I write concerning your comments on the AIT Certificate and Diploma in Violence and Trauma Studies.

I have recently been employed as a part-time tutor on the programme. The intention of the department has been to create gender balance in the Diploma and I will be holding a pro-male perspective alongside the pro-feminist perspective of my colleague Helen Curreen. There are about one third men on the course and we deal with the problem of how to remain male-positive amongst the negativity of largely male domestic violence.

I recommend the course to any men wanting to work in this area and think that AIT should be commended for this step in an industry that often discounts men.

Men’s Centre North Shore Submission to Select Committee on Social Security (Conjugal Status) Amendment Bill

We object to this Bill on several grounds:

  1. that its effect is highly likely to be damaging to the social fabric of New Zealand society by its several attacks on the family.
  2. that the Bill appears to be a back-door method of introducing the concept of Battered Women’s Syndrome into legislation by a seemingly innocuous amendment to social welfare provisions, but thereby clearing the way for later infiltration into redrafted criminal law.

The effects on the New Zealand family

In the Explanatory Note to the Bill, it describes how a woman may be granted an emergency benefit for up to 6 months "where battered woman’s syndrome is present or there are grounds for believing that it is present". It goes on, crucially for the purposes of this submission: "During the 6-month period the woman will be case-managed to help her move out of the violent relationship. Protocols will be developed for Income Support staff to help achieve this. The protocols will cover procedures for referral to specialist help from organisations and people such as women’s refuges, lawyers, police, and child specialist services, accessing the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, and the establishment of a case management plan involving reciprocal obligations and a safety plan."

At the outset, this submission is not attempting to suggest that domestic violence does not occur, nor is it considered the appropriate forum to argue the view that half of all domestic violence involves physical violence against men, as demonstrated in the Dunedin study, reported last year by Dr Phil Silva from the Otago University Medical School. Rather, we take issue with the underlying assumptions in the Bill as exemplified in the paragraph quoted above.

Nowhere is it suggested that independent corroboration is required for a claim that battered women’s syndrome is present nor are any criteria presented. Nor is any mention made that in cases where violence may be present but that one or both partners may desire it, that counselling or conciliation might be offered or available. The Amendment seems to take for granted that any evidence of violence will automatically set in train the protocols mentioned above. This is at best a cynical view of relationships, and at worst would suggest that there is an agenda behind the Bill to seek the termination of all relationships where there are grounds to believe that violence might be present. Our experience with the application of Protection Orders is that they are issued on the grounds that it is better to be safe than sorry. That is no comfort to a father who has been falsely accused as part of a legal strategy to deprive him of his home and children.

Our experience both with allegations of sexual abuse (generally in tandem with ACC involvement) and with allegations of domestic violence under the Domestic Protection legislation is:

* that allegations are all too easy to make,

* that they require no corroboration,

* that they are rarely pursued to the extent of involving police much less a prosecution, much less a conviction

* that there are few if any adverse legal consequences on the accuser for allegations subsequently shown to be false,

* that the consequences for the accuser can be particularly rewarding. In the case of sexual abuse allegations, until the Act was amended, perhaps up to half a billion dollars was paid out under Accident Compensation, with few hard questions asked. Violence allegations are sufficient to deny a man access to both his children and his home, and in the case of false allegations can involve him in the needless expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs,

* most important of all, that there has developed in all countries which have this anti-family legislation, and this Amendment is an integral part of that, evidence that the legislation per se is destroying families, assisting women to leave their not-always-abusive marriages and de facto relationships for financial gain and state assistance.

We have no difficulties in situations where a woman is being seriously physically harmed that discretion could be granted to provide her with an Emergency or Domestic Purposes Benefit. But this legislation, as drafted, is too open to abuse, knowing as we do the abuses that have already occurred, and are still occurring daily, to the huge detriment of men, children and family life in New Zealand.

Nor are we filled with confidence that among the agencies referred to in the Bill’s Explanatory Note are women’s refuges. Again, it has been our experience that many if not most of these organisations work to both an anti-male and an anti-family agenda. Add in a financial incentive, as the Bill presumably will, for women’s refuges to be involved in case-management to help a woman move out of the violent relationship, and the scene is set for an explosion of spurious claims, from women in nothing more unsatisfactory than a bad relationship but taking the advantage of more state-funded largesse to make a move away from a man they no longer wish to live with. In fact, as the Bill states, the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act will be accessed, with the inevitable result that it will be the man who will be forced to leave the home and his children. As a parallel, ACC’s experience is salutary. Prior to their involvement, sexual abuse allegations ran steadily at about 200 annually. With the generous financial incentives, there was a mushrooming of claims to reach a high point of 13,000 in 1983. With the removal of the lump sum but with the incentive of free ACC-funded counselling, claims in the last 12 months are about 8,500. Parliament must ask itself the serious question: does it want to finance yet another fiasco, yet another potent law to speed the demise of families?

Battered Women’s Syndrome

We note considerable confusion in the use of this so-called syndrome, both by the Court of Appeal and in the drafting of this Bill.

For example, according to the Court "The existence of the [battered woman] syndrome does not in itself provide a defence but it is a factor available to be taken into account in the determination of whether a relationship in the nature of marriage existed."

However, under this Amendment, the syndrome will specifically NOT be a key factor for the consideration of the Director-General in determining conjugal status and thereby entitlement to a benefit. But on the other hand, it does have utility in that part of the Amendment affecting Section 61 of the principal Act, allowing a benefit of up to 6 months, case-management to get her out of the alleged violent relationship and so on.

In other words, activist Lenore Walker’s original conception, deeply flawed as it was, and is, has now become nothing more than a political and legal football, used in various ways and for various purposes for different ends.

While our Court of Appeal has, unfortunately, given the construct some respectability by its decision last year, it is interesting to note that in the United States, whence it originated, moves are now occurring away from according it much credibility at all. The authors of one law review are quite clear:

"the use of syndrome evidence, especially in domestic homicide cases, has devastating consequences for women. Too often, courts in these cases focus more time debating the mental deficiency and relative helplessness of the female defendant than the reasonableness of her actions. The use of syndrome evidence has served only to solidify some of the most archaic and destructive stereotypes about women who kill their batterers. [We] conclude that battered women syndrome expert testimony will fall into disuse as courts come to appreciate that it lacks any basis in valid science, and proponents come to realise that it is inimical to their political cause." [The Battered Woman Syndrome in the Age of Science David l Faigman & Amy J Wright, Arizona Law Review V.39 (1) p.67]

Is the government, through Social Welfare, prepared to anchor part of its case for this Bill using a quasi-legal increasingly discredited construct, the battered woman’s syndrome, a syndrome with no scientific basis? Or is the syndrome being used merely as a convenient fiction, with the accent on convenient, enabling the government, or sections of it, to push a sexist agenda, denying due process and the normal rules of evidence and natural justice to men? It is our firm view that this Bill contains a huge capacity to spawn unfounded and uncorroborated allegations against men generally and fathers specifically. Its passage can only hasten the demise of the family, the sort of family that most if not all the members of this Committee grew up in.

M.R.

The COSA Submission on BWS is here.

Big Buddy Programme

The Big Buddy Programme is under way and presently needs male volunteers who have the interest and ability to relate to a young person and be able to devote around 2 hours a week to seeing a young Buddy to do everyday activities.

The Programme aims to provide support to boys and youths through the development of trusting one-to-one friendships with healthy men. We seek to enable the young person to develop self-worth through the experience of being accepted, understood and respected.

The young people on the programme are aged between 5 and 18 years old and come from a variety of backgrounds. One thing they all have in common is that they do not have a significant male figure presently in their lives, and therefore often have needs that are not met by their current support system.

The Big Buddy Programme offers these young people the opportunity to have a one-to-one friendship with a responsible adult on a regular and on-going basis, By spending time with a Big Buddy doing everyday activities, the young person is able to explore different skills and experiences that increase their self esteem, improves relationships, have a lot of fun and gives them a chance to realise their potential.

The impact of a dedicated person who can provide this influence can be far reaching and can impact greatly on the life of a child.

A Big Buddy is not a substitute parent but an ally who can help a young person through the most challenging and crucial time of their lives. The sensitivity and simplicity of a Big Buddy relationship can provide the balance needed for a young person to grow into a healthy, productive adult.

Volunteers participate in an interview process and are provided with training before being matched with a Young Buddy. Each match is carefully screened and supervised from the very beginning. The family’s needs, the child’s interests and the volunteer’s interests are all taken into consideration in making the best possible match. Ongoing supervision and support is provided to the volunteer throughout the involvement in the programme.

The Big Buddy Programme is modelled on the successful USA/Canada Big Brother mentor programme and operates in Auckland under the services of MAN Alive. MAN Alive provides services for men, adolescents and boys so that they can change to live positive whole lives in harmony with their families, whanau and community.

Big Buddy relies on volunteers for its success. We presently have boys on the waiting list to be matched with suitable mentors. Male volunteers are needed to meet the demands of the waiting lists in Central and West Auckland.

If you are interested in becoming a Big Buddy or would like more information on the programme please contact the Programme Co-ordinator, Andy Ewan on 835 0509.

More on Man Alive here.

Interview with Big Buddy here.

Repeat Victims of Violence

From our very own New Zealand Ministry of Justice come these interesting revelations:

"The results of the first comprehensive national survey of crime victims in New Zealand were released in October 1997, providing much food for thought about crime and how it affects people in this country…"

"The victimisation survey, which was conducted in 1996, used a random sample of 5,000 people over the age of 15. In addition, a subset of 500 females was re-interviewed about partner violence to assess the safety of women in New Zealand."

"The surveys were designed to provide an alternative measure to police statistics of crime victimisation and to identify the extent to which the risks of victimisation vary between social groups, and the circumstances surrounding crime and the effects of crime on victims. Violent offending and sexual offending, including threats, made up almost two-thirds of the offences revealed in the survey."

"One of the most outstanding features of the victimisation survey was the extent of repeat victimisation, particularly for violent offences. Although only 0.5 percent [sic] of the sample were victims of a violent offence five or more times, this group was subject to a massive 68 percent of violent offending. Thus while most people have little exposure to even minor violence or threats, for a small number of multiple victims violence seems so common as to be virtually part of everyday life. Among these victims, the average number of violent and sexual offences suffered was 12 in the previous year. Although this finding is well established by overseas surveys, such as the 1992 British Crime Survey, this is the first time a survey has confirmed such an occurrence here."

"However, if victimisation, especially involving violent offending, is concentrated in small pockets of the population, it would seem that substantial crime reductions are possible if crime prevention efforts are focused on those at particular risk of repeat victimisation."

"As expected, women reported a much higher level of both sexual victimisation and partner abuse than men over a lifetime; 15 percent ofwomen who had been in a ‘partnership’ reported some form of partner abuse, compared with only 7.3 percent of men. And although this difference persisted across all ethnic groups, it was particulaly marked for Maori." (‘National Survey of Crime Victims Published’ by Tetu Wichman, in "Justice Matters" NZ Ministry of Justice, November 1997)

I have yet to receive the full survey, but several points leap out:

1 The annual and lifetime figures are much MUCH lower than the advocacy figures forever bandied about. Yet no-one can accuse the Justice Ministry of being unsympathetic to women. I doubt they understand the theoretical implications of these findings.

2 This survey has not to my knowledge been even mentioned in our media. No surprise there.

3 The small repeat-victim pool supports Erin Pizzey’s observations contained in her censored book "Prone to Violence"(1982).

4 There is an emerging awareness here of males being subject to partner violence also.

5 There is an emerging openess that some groups in the community are more prone to violence than others, both victims and offenders. This goes against the PC line of denying or at least hesitating to mention that ethnic factors are significant, and the radical feminist line that patriarchal domestic violence is rampant across the whole of society, irrespective of race or class or nature of victim – the only common thread, they say, is that it is males of all types who are the potential and actual offenders. This official survey gives the lie to that.

M.R.

Book: When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence

by Patricia Pearson, New York: Viking, 1997

On the jacket, Patricia Pearson is described as a feminist writer. To avoid confusion, it should also have stated that she is prepared to present data which contradict many of feminism’s current assertions. As well, she is prepared to criticise other feminists who have attempted to generate undue sympathy for women.

While the book concentrates on extreme violence, much of what she says can be adapted to refer to more common interaction. Much insight can be gained from shifting one’s perspective away from a prevailing paradigm, and Pearson presents a convincing and more honest alternative. I would recommend it to any man who has suffered in an abusive relationship.

As she herself realises, it is necessary to acknowledge unpleasant truths where they exist. As she suggests in her chapter on women in prisons, we will not solve a problem if we deny its existence or its true nature:

"Our ability to interpret what is really going on is confounded, however, by the advent, in feminist scholarship, of ‘standpoint epistemology’ This research framework holds that history must be told from the standpoint of woman/victim."

There are two dimensions which we should be aware of. Firstly that of violence as commonly ascribed to men, and secondly other forms of expression of violent intent. On the former, Pearson presents some alarming information. The rate of women’s physical violence is rapidly rising, especially among the young. "In Canada young women now account for 24 percent of all violent offences in their age group: in the United States, it is 18 percent."

She describes women in prison, suggesting that they do not have men’s experience of impersonal hierarchies. This makes them potentially more dangerous as there are fewer accepted ground rules. Hence in England the incidence of violence in women’s prisons is two and a half time higher than in men’s. Women in prison also use different tactics, being more willing to involve guards, frame each other, etc.. This is an example of the other dimension, violence expressed in "indirect aggression."

"… as soon as girls hone their verbal and social skills, at around ten or eleven, they become aggressors of a different kind. They abandon physical aggression, even though their pre-pubescent hormones are still no different than boys’, and adopt a new set of tactics: they bully, they name call, they set up and frame fellow kids. They become masters of indirection."

Indirect aggression, as the Finnish psychologist Kaj Bjorkqvist defines it, is "a kind of social manipulation: the aggressor manipulates others to attack the victim, or, by other means, makes use of the social structure in order to harm the target person, without being personally involved in the attack".

Pearson follows this theme through to describe men being set up, how false claims of abuse can be effective, especially given current police policies on domestic violence, and how women can use their victim status and presumed innocence to avoid detection or get lighter sentences:

"Women can operate the system to their advantage. Donning the feminine mask, they can manipulate the biases of family and community in order to set men up. If he tries to leave, or fight back, a fateful moment comes when she reaches for the phone, dials 911, and has him arrested on the strength of her word: ‘Officer, he hit me’."

On domestic violence she says: " … the dynamic of domestic violence is not analogous to two differently weighted boxers in a ring. There are relational strategies and psychological issues at work in an intimate relationship that negate the fact of physical strength. At the heart of the matter lies human will. Which partner – by dint of temperament, personality, life history – has the will to harm the other?"

She also points out that the abused partner in an abusive relationship may not be the weaker person. He/she is frequently the stronger, more stable one who is trying to hold things together and help the other to cope with perceived problems. Thismakes it hard for those familiar with the "victim" model to see themselves as abused.

Pearson discusses women serial killers, who are more numerous than might be imagined. She suggest that they achieve less notoriety because they tend to be "place specific" rather than prowlers. She gives the example of Dorothea Puente who killed eight of her tenants and buried them in her back yard. She covered herself by presenting an image of a dear sweet old lady who took care of people. Even hardened professionals found it hard to see through the pretence. Perhaps people don’t want to believe that women can be nasty and vicious because it destroys a faith in women as motherly and nurturing. That they can both be the former and appear to be the latter is particularly unsettling.

Pearson concludes:

"… it is increasingly urgent that our culture acknowledge violence as a human, rather than a gendered phenomenon."

And:

"Perhaps above all, the denial of women’s aggression profoundly undermines our attempt as a culture to understand violence, to trace its causes and to quell them."

This is an important book.

Reviewed by Stuart Birks,

Massey University.

Battered Woman Syndrome

Michael Marris

A few months ago, Chuck Bird wrote to Michael Marris, an Auckland clinical psychologist, to ask him about B.W.S. He received the following reply:

"Battered Woman’s Syndrome is not, so far as I am aware, a recognised medical or psychiatric entity. In that respect it has no formal status as an "illness". Some people try to give legitimacy to what would be otherwise unacceptable behaviours by labelling them, in this manner. It is a devious ploy to somehow justify actions. It is true, in my view, that people can become oppressed both physically and psychologically. That however does not give them – or you or I – license to behave in ways that are unlawful or even unacceptable. Labelling such as Battered Woman’s Syndrome establishes a victim class, and essentially passes off responsibility to some other person (e.g. if he had not treated me in this way I would not have behaved as I did). That is a fallacious argument.

Battered Men

From a clinical perspective I have seen as many – and perhaps more – men who would have reason to label themselves as "battered" in this manner. It would, I suspect, be very difficult for a man to raise this as some justification and excuse for illegal actions – especially those involving violence. One act of violence does not either excuse, justify or condone another."

Wellington Men‘s Newsletter Started

Recently we received the first issue of the newsletter WellMen, put together by a team that came out of the 1997 Wellington Men’s Festival. About 60 men attended the event, which featured a range of workshops, groups and social activities. Highlights of the weekend included a powerful ritual opening ceremony, feasting fire and fun, and a contemplative walk through the seasons of life in nature.

After the festival, about a dozen men began meeting to plan how men’s activities in the Wellington region might be better co-ordinated, and this quarterly newsletter is the result. It lists details of events and courses, including the second Men’s Festival in November.

To subscribe to WellMen, contact:

Peter Crosland, 85 Moxham Ave, Hataitai Ph (04) 386-4577

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