MENZ Issues June 1998: Volume 3 Issue 5
The Denial of Female Violence Why it is important we pay attention. In early 1996, following the T.V. movie about battered men called "Men Don’t Tell", which advertised the Men’s Centre phone number, our co-ordinator Martin Lewis received almost 150 calls.
Will U.S. Feminists Score $3.6 Billion to Fund the Gender Wars? Opposition to the new Violence Against Women Act grows
An Intervention that Supports Marriage. First details of Positive Partnerships / Strong Families program
Book Review: Current Controversies on Family Violence
Rape Crisis Media Campaign Falsely Accuses NZ Dads of Incest Letter to N.Z. Herald
Rape Crisis Incest Awareness Week – COSA Press Release
Rape Crisis Left with Zero Credibility
Battered Man Charged with Assault Refuses Diversion Member’s case history.
The Denial of Female Violence
In early 1996, following the T.V. movie about battered men called "Men Don’t Tell", which advertised the Men’s Centre phone number, our co-ordinator Martin Lewis received almost 150 calls.
34% of the calls were from parents, siblings, friends, neighbours saying that they have clear evidence (including being assaulted themselves) that a man is being attacked and either is not speaking out or has spoken to a doctor, a social agency or police and not been believed.
32% were calls from men who had experience of an abusive relationship and who had eventually left. They often expressed that there was a high cost physically, emotionally and materially in extracting themselves. There was a lot of grief around loss of children and home.
26% were calls from men who are currently in such a relationship. These calls were characterised by a fear of disclosure of contact information in case the wife or partner should intercept mail or telephone calls.
8% were calls from women who are in relationship with men who have been abused. Often they are suffering the consequences in that the woman from the previous marriage is still violent towards both of them.
We don’t really know what proportion of domestic violence injury victims are men. Researcher Murray Straus estimates it is around 15%, while others point to women’s greater use of weapons and suggest that there may be as many battered men as women.
Given that most organisations currently working in the field are hostile to the very idea that women can be just as violent as men, it is likely that the few statistics that do exist reflect under-reporting of male victims.
Straus points out in his paper ‘Physical Assaults by Wives -A Major Social Problem’ (reviewed here), that at the very least we should be concerned with female violence because it exposes women to danger of more severe retaliation from men.
We think however, that the most compelling reason why we need to make resources available for intervening when women are violent is best articulated by Patricia Pearson, in her book When She Was Bad (reviewed in April here), when she says: "Children who are beaten by their fathers tend to grow up to become victims, whether they are boys or girls. Children who are beaten by their mothers on the other hand are more likely to become victimisers."
As ‘Current Controversies on Family Violence’ (reviewed here) makes clear, there is a lot we don’t know about domestic violence. We do, however, have enough data to know that the insistence that female violence is of no consequence is simply not true. As Donna Laframboise points out in The Princess at the Window:
"A lie is still a lie, even when it’s told by feminists with good intentions."
Lies should not form the basis of our social policies. To claim to be too busy to read the research is an unacceptable excuse for error.
Rape Crisis’ blatent use of lies about fathers and incest to support a fundraising campaign with CYPS endorsement is discussed here.
Although people like Gabrielle Maxwell, a senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Criminology at Victoria University claim that Women’s Refuges don’t get public funding, and stories regularly appear in our local papers stating that the refuge is about to close through lack of support, ‘stopping abuse of women and children’ has become a very profitable industry, employing many feminists.
In a recent letter to the NZ Listener, manager of the NZ Community Funding Agency Wendy Reid, detailed the tens of millions of dollars that have been spent during the last 15 years by feminist groups claiming to be addressing family violence.
So is this serious social problem diminishing? In this and future MENZ Issues we will show how current interventions, based on faulty statistics and distorted definitions, sometimes make matters worse.
more on ‘Men Don’t Tell’ movie here.
Will U.S. Feminists Score $3.6 Billion to Fund the Gender Wars?
"Be afraid!" The e-mail from the United States began, "be very afraid – VAWA II is coming!" The American Coalition for Fathers & Children website: www.acfc.org/ is rallying opposition to the proposed update of the 1994 Violence Against Woman Act, which proposes to spend $3.6 billion on feminist programs.
A feature area of their site, the Special ACFC Father’s Day 1998 Call To Action says:
"Would any organisation stand up and admit to condoning, permitting, or enabling domestic violence?
Would any organisation blind their eyes and ears to half of all serious acts of domestic abuse in America?
The National Organisation of Women, with the occasional help of various Congressmen and Congresswomen have done exactly this in proposing and passing the original Violence against Women Act. VAWA pretends that domestic violence is a male-only trait. Not one dollar of VAWA money is used to help men and children who live in relationships with abusive women.
VAWA was not about healing, preventing, or intervening in situations domestic disagreement. It was about propagating the antifamily agenda of NOW. The vast majority of domestic violence resulting in injury to a spouse occurs after the date of separation, yet NOW’s approach is to break up families and send them into the serious forms of violence that they supposedly wish to prevent!
Within VAWA, NOW perfected the art of making pork out of lies about domestic conflict. In sexist manner, NOW selectively reports only male-on-female violence, and even goes so far as to suggest that female-initiated violence is somehow a form of ‘self defence’."
There is a contribution to the site by Erin Pizzey, author of several books on domestic violence. She begins by quoting Professor Ruth Wisse, from Harvard:
"……Women’s liberation, if not the most extreme then certainly the most influential neo-Marxist movement in America, has done to the American home what communism did to the Russian economy, and most of the ruin is irreversible. By defining between men and women in terms of power and competition instead of reciprocity and co-operation, the movement tore apart the most basic and fragile contract in human society, the unit from which all other social institutions draw their strength."
Pizzey continues: "I believe that we stand on an abyss in the last two years of this dark century. Those of us that believe that the family is the cornerstone of Western civilisation are embattled with feminist forces that seek to destroy the role of men in the lives of women and children.
In 1971, I opened the doors of the first shelter for victims of domestic violence in the world. Men, women and children came to my door. The feminist movement hungry for funds and public recognition, hi-jacked my movement and turned it into a war against men.
I recognised that children born into violent and dysfunctional families were most likely to grow up into violent and dysfunctional adults. I realised that both men and women who were not able to make harmonious and loving relationships needed help.
The feminist movement’s agenda was to declare all men as potential rapists and batterers. Under cover of the shelter movement which gave them funding and accommodation to wage their gender war against men, they began to disseminate misleading information. Legislation against fathers was put into place and family courts became hostile to men.
Feminists declared a ‘gender war’ against men. Part of this war is reflected in legislation that ignores the reality of domestic violence and insists that only men are perpetrators of violence against women. The suffering of men who are physically and sexually abused and stripped of their right to have access to their children goes unnoticed.
Proposed VAWA II legislation must be stopped. Sane legislators must throw this piece of lying rhetoric out on its ear. Women who love their husbands, lovers and sons must join with the men’s movement in seeing that this legislation never gets passed. This is our last chance to right a horrendous wrong. Millions of men and their children have suffered in the hands of this evil feminist movement. The time has come for the people of America to say ‘NO’ to VAWA II." Philip W. Cook is the author of Abused Men-The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. He says "If Pizzey and others are right, powerful forces are intent in keeping the the truth about domestic violence hidden. It will take attorneys and politicians with uncommon courage willing to challenge these forces in order to establish fair and equitable programs that will in the end provide more meaningful results in the battle against domestic violence for women, children, and men."
Warren Farrell, Ph.D wrote: "Two-thirds of people who are murdered are men. Men are the only sex required to register for the draft. Since 1954, over 50,000 men have been killed by women, but none who have killed only men have been executed. The VAWA and VAWA II are blatant violations of the 14th Amendment’s provision for equal protection under the law. The VAWAs are unconstitutional. See ‘The Myth of Male Power,’ Part III, for why."
Dave Usher, who runs the site, also asked for a short article from Felicity about her perspective from New Zealand. Her contribution is next.
An Intervention that Supports Marriage.
Epidemiological research, both here in New Zealand and in the USA, indicates that a significant proportion (probably the majority), of violence occurring between heterosexual couples is mutual, with both men and women initiating and actively participating.
However protocols and policies of service providers and governmental institutions are driven by the pro-feminist stand that violence between partners is predominantly perpetrated by men against women. This is exemplified by the VAWA II bill which equates spouse abuse with wife-bashing. In NZ domestic violence is often defined as psychological (verbal) and physical abuse of women by male partners. If a child witnesses such an act the man is also guilty of child abuse.
Remedies focus on treatment programmes for male perpetrators (battering men) and female victims (battered women). The primary consideration is the ‘safety’ of women and children, which usually means supporting her to leave her partner, and severely limiting or preventing his access to their children. This is despite the fact that almost every possible social indicator demonstrates that children who are raised by solo mothers, without input from fathers, do worse.
Women’s Refuge data indicates that the most dangerous time for a woman is after she leaves, and a man who previously has never been physically violent may become so when he loses his wife, his children and his home. Refuge workers also acknowledge that a client might return to her violent relationship several times, and needs on-going support until she finally separates. Even if her man is attending a perpetrators’ treatment programme (which emphasises that he is to blame for any violence in the relationship), women’s support services stress that he is unlikely to change.
Despite this, no programmes are offered to assist violent couples who wish to stay together in dealing with their interpersonal conflicts and breaking their cycle of violence. Indeed, the NZ Domestic Violence Act 1995 specifies that group programmes for domestic violence victims must be presented to one gender only.
In dramatic contrast, I subscribe to a pro-family model, based on the knowledge that children do best when cared for and parented by both mothers and fathers.
Clearly there are extreme situations where lives are endangered by physical violence, and separation is the appropriate solution. Where violence and conflict is on a more minor scale however, interventions should aim to assist parents to stay together, or if they do separate, help them share parenting by improving their communication and conflict resolution skills.
My colleagues and I are developing a psychoeducation programme (‘Positive Partners – Strong Families’) for parents in conflict which uses behavioural / cognitive techniques to teach communication, negotiation and conflict resolution skills. It does not aim to resolve past problems and grievances. There is no attempt to assess who is right or wrong; who has done what to whom; or who is to blame for any past interpersonal conflicts or violent acts. The course is about present and future acts. Participants acquire skills and knowledge which enable them to have more choices in their future responses to their partners and to other people in their lives. The focus is on changing interpersonal relationships rather than individuals per se.
As individuals, the two people concerned may have conflicting needs, wishes and goals, and may have developed patterns of behaviour based on competing with each other to get what they want. This sets up a dynamic of win-lose, and may contribute to an escalating situation where both are trying to win, to ‘get even’ for perceived past losses.
One of our programme’s goals is for couples to see their relationship as a partnership. From this perspective, both are ‘on the same side’ hence their aim is to find solutions to conflicts and problems with a win-win outcome. Parental partnerships have a number of goals common to many families, such as a happy, secure family life with adequate resources to meet the family’s needs. Parents generally wish the best for their children and want them to be happy, healthy, and have access to a good education. Our programme aims to equip couples with the knowledge and skills to develop win-win partnerships; to be able to identify their common goals and put into place strategies to achieve these. We want to help families stay together if possible.
Similar to the changes that have allowed uncorroborated sexual abuse allegations to be presumed true by the authorities, if VAWA II is enacted, all that women will have to do to win in court is claim that domestic violence has occurred. This may be ‘psychological’ or ‘verbal’ abuse rather than physical. Such a gender-biased piece of legislation will further accelerate the break-up of two-parent families and will be a major contributor to children growing up without their fathers.
Whoever the perpetrator, one act of violence does not justify or condone another. Both men and women have equal capacity for good and evil. All adults have equal rights and responsibilities and women should not be assigned special status in jurisprudence nor in health and social services.
More on Positive Partners – Strong Families here.
Book Review:Current Controversies on Family Violence
– edited by Richard Gelles and Donileen Loseke (Sage Pub.1993).
In the introduction, the editors write: "By highlighting controversies, the chapters in this volume also challenge popularly held beliefs that a group of experts, such as experts in family violence, hold a united vision of ‘the truth’. Just as idealised images of home and loved ones often stand in stark contrast to lived realities, public images of professional groups of experts as holders of singular and agreed-upon objective truths most often stand in contrast to the realities."……. "We are all a family in the sense that we share common goals – in one way or another we all want to change some aspect of how the public evaluates and responds to violence."….. "Yet, as with families in general, and professional groups in particular, there is much that members of this family of family violence experts do not share or agree on."….. "We do not agree on how to define this thing, how to measure it, how to think about the causes; we do not agree on what should be done about it."
Chapters in the book explore issues around the conceptualisation of family violence, with contributions from the three main professional and academic disciplines that deal with it. Writers outline the theories behind the different bodies of scientific literature that express the psychological, sociological and feminist viewpoints.
A section on issues in definition and measurement looks at whether violence by woman is a major social problem or not, at whether the incidence of date rape is exaggerated by feminist advocacy research, and at whether battered woman’s syndrome is a psychological or social problem.
Part III examines causes; do alcohol and drugs cause violence, or are they just associated with social dysfunction generally; is child abuse intergenerationally transmitted; and which of the two parties is dependant in the situation where the elderly are abused by their offspring?
Part IV discusses social interventions; questioning whether child abuse is over or under-reported, if child abuse prevention programs are appropriate and effective, and whether or not arrest of the offender is the most effective policy when dealing with wife abuse.
An example of the necessity of paying close critical attention to the work of ‘advocacy researchers’ is part of a response by feminist Lenore Walker to another critical paper, which argues that a battered woman’s problems are social rather than psychological. In her article titled: The Battered Woman Syndrome Is a Psychological Consequence of Abuse, Walker states that "The pattern of symptoms in BWS is similar enough to the category of post-traumatic stress disorder found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition, revised; that it is considered a subcategory of PTSD." A reader who was not aware that in fact BWS was not included by the compilers of DSM III could easily be fooled by this technically accurate but misleading statement.
The fact that the opposing arguments are made by some of the leading researchers in their fields on both sides of each controversy means that this book has to be taken very seriously. Contributors include Murray Straus, Mary Koss, Lenore Walker, Suzanne Steinmetz, Douglas Besharov, and David Finkelhor. Each argument is examined from opposing perspectives, with the implications of the differing underlying conceptual frameworks explained at the beginning of each section. All workers and ‘experts’ in the field of family violence should be aware of these unresolved areas of uncertainty.
Review of chapter 4:
Physical Assaults by Wives -A Major Social Problem. by Murray A.Straus.
"The first purpose of this chapter is to review research that shows that women initiate and carry out physical assaults on their partners as often as men do. A second purpose is to show that, despite the much lower probability of physical injury resulting from attacks by women, assaults by women are a serious social problem, just as it would be if men ‘only’ slapped their wives or ‘only’ slapped female fellow employees and produced no injury. One of the main reasons ‘minor’ assaults by women are such an important problem is that they put women in danger of much more severe retaliation by men. They also help perpetuate the implicit cultural norms that make the marriage license a hitting license. It will be argued that, to end ‘wife-beating’ it is essential for women also to end the seemingly ‘harmless’ pattern of slapping, kicking, or throwing things at male partners who persist in some outrageous behaviour and ‘won’t listen to reason’."
This chapter is an excellent review of the literature and the arguments on this topic. The 1985 United States National Family Violence survey asked a representative sample of 3,000 women about their experience of partner assaults. While 366 reported violence by husbands, 372 admitted initiating assaults themselves.
The difference is not statistically significant. The equal rates applied to both minor and serious assaults. Every study that uses a random sample (that is: participants are not self-selected, or from a pre-selected group such as battered woman shelter residents) shows a similar result.
Straus quotes Barbara Hart, writing in the 1986 book Naming the Violence: Speaking out about Lesbian Battering "[It] is painful. It challenges our dream of a lesbian utopia. It contradicts our belief in the inherent non-violence of women."
Editor Gelles was recently barred from speaking at a hospital because his talk was advertised on the website of a pro-father organization.
Rape Crisis Media Campaign Falsely Accuses NZ Dads of Incest
Letter to N.Z. Herald:
Ministerial support for last week’s Rape Crisis incest campaign is shameful, unconscionable and inappropriate. I understand it was given taxpayer funding. Supported by CYPS, and opened by Ms Morris, that campaign was Rape Crisis scaremongering at its worst, based on fictitious, exaggerated "statistics", and distorted definitions.
Hamilton Police commented it had just one reported case of incest last year, not the 59 claimed by Rape Crisis, and dismissed those claims as misleading to the public and causing undue public concern. The Crimes Act definition of incest is crystal clear. But Rape Crisis spokeswoman Ceridwyn Roberts reckons "feminist thought and bicultural commitment also contributed to the definition of incest. We go by our clients’ definitions…….."
That is breathtaking sophistry and arrogance. The Ministers of Youth Affairs and Social Welfare must now explain why they supported this absurd campaign, and quantify and justify the expenditure of public resources on such arrant nonsense.
COSA Press Release:
Most fathers do not commit incest. COSA is concerned about information regarding incest promulgated by Rape Crisis over the past week. COSA acknowledges that incest does occur and is an abhorrent practice. We are however most alarmed about the ‘statistics’ they are presenting.
The vast majority of natural fathers do not sexually abuse their children. Studies indicate that a step-father is many more times likely to offend than a biological father. New Zealand has good incest prevalence data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study which has followed a birth cohort of over 1200 youngsters since 1977. They found a 3% rate (31) of incest in a sample of over a 1000. The offenders in these cases had been the natural parent in 6.5% (i.e. in 2 cases), the step-parent in 22.5%, a sibling in 29% and another relative (e.g. grand-parent, cousin) in 41%.
These figures are dramatically different from Rape Crisis data which promotes the view that father-daughter incest is common-place.
Rape Crisis does not acknowledge false allegations. In the years 1992 to 1996, Rape Crisis says that they received 25,331 calls alleging sexual abuse, of which 2,081 were allegations of offences committed by blood relatives (classified as "incest").
These are presented as ‘incest victims’ without any corroboration of the claims. The figures are based on the assumption that anyone who telephoned a Rape Crisis office with a complaint about sexual abuse was relating an actual event. Rape Crisis has not validated the accuracy of the alleged event by investigation or through external corroboration. 90% of the cases referred to events said to have occurred more than a year before, many of them decades before.
Rape Crisis does not acknowledge the possibility that a percentage of these allegations are certain to be false. Rape Crisis figures include women who contacted them believing they are victims of incest which never really occurred. In the early 1990s there was wide-spread use of ‘recovered memory’ techniques by therapists. COSA has extensive documentation of a large number of families where allegations were made by adult women about their fathers based on ‘recovered memories’ and which have been proven to be false, or are likely to be false (for example, the women claim that their parents abused them as part of satanic cults). Rape Crisis’ claim that a high percentage of natural fathers are abusers is consistent with a number of their cases being based on false recovered memories.
More about COSA here.
Rape Crisis Left with Zero Credibility
Rape Crisis may be fooling a couple of government ministers, but they are not fooling the editor of North and South magazine and The Post’s Auckland columnist Warwick Roger:
"……..Well I for one don’t believe the advertisements.
I don’t believe them because I don’t trust the people who came up with the figures.
I don’t believe them because in the past, in my opinion, the sex abuse industry has used dubious figures to mislead the public.
I don’t believe them because I suspect the latest figures are just the most recent manifestation of the lesbian driven, anti-family, anti-men campaign that has been going on for more than a decade now.
…….Oh, so incest is now anything you choose to call it then?"
Battered Man Charged with Assault Refuses Diversion
"They are trying to buy my silence", claimed 55 year old Walter Holt, a battered husband charged with assaulting his ex-wife who has just refused to accept a police offer of diversion. "If I had hit her, I’d take the easy way out, pay the donation to charity and do a bit of community service. I wouldn’t have a conviction and it would all be over. But if I did that," he said, "I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. I never laid a finger on that lady."
Walter’s troubles began soon after he met Christina, who had immigrated to New Zealand with her daughter Suzie from Taiwan. Her previous husband died of cancer, and her son had been killed in a motor vehicle accident. "She had lots of problems", Walter told me. "When I met her she was suicidal, and needed heaps of support." Christina often became very angry, and usually it ended in violence. "She always belted me around, but a man’s supposed to take it isn’t he?"
Christina’s violence was well known to the authorities. On two occasions CYPS had to put her Suzie in foster care because she was being beaten, on one occasion with a rubber hose. Walter said he supported Christina through all this because "I planned to spend the rest of my life with her. WÃƒÂ¨en she went off the rails I tolerated it because I wanted us to stay together." Walter did his best to be a good stepfather, searching city night-clubs to find Suzie when she sneaked out at night, and attempting to set limits on her behaviour. Christina often lost control of her temper with her daughter, and Walter told me: "I was the mediator in the family. I’ve got a pretty laid back attitude. Things can always be worked out."
But the 15 year old became increasingly resentful and rebellious, playing one adult off against another, which meant there was always tension and stress when she was around. One day when Walter was cooking breakfast, Suzie walked into the kitchen in front of him wearing only the briefest pair of panties. Shocked and embarrassed, and by now reluctant to confront Suzie directly, he went to Christina and told her that her daughter’s behaviour was totally unacceptable and that he couldn’t handle living around her.
Not long after that, Walter spent a couple of weeks away on his own at a bach his family owned. When Christina came to pick him up she seemed quite shaken and upset, and he learned that she had been in yet another vicious, physical fight with her daughter. Walter thinks that during this fight, Christina received the bruise on her arm that was to get him locked in jail.
Three days after this, the couple began arguing about Suzie’s immodest clothing yet again. Christina lost her temper as usual, throwing a hair-drier and the telephone at him before tearing all his clothes out of the wardrobe and throwing them out the door. Walter told her "If you’re going to throw any clothes outside it should be these ones," and grabbed a handful of Suzie’s skimpy apparel and sent it after his own. Christina snapped completely, and ran across the room to attack him with arms flailing. Walter raised his arm to protect himself and pushed her away. "I fended her off, that’s all – I didn’t hit her even once – a 55 year old doesn’t knock women around," Walter maintains. Off balance, Christina fell to the floor, but immediately jumped up and screamed at him that she was going to call the police and have him locked up. True to her word, she ran to the neighbour and it wasn’t long before the boys in blue arrived.
“Actually, I’m a white-collar criminal. I strangled the bastard with his shirt!
"The younger cop was not too bad, but the sergeant was pretty abusive and rude," Walter said. "He told me I was a low-life for hitting a woman." Neither policeman was very interested in Walter’s side of the story. "I was completely calm and polite. I’m not the sort of guy who gets angry, so I tried to reason with them. I suggested that they sit down with Christina and me and sort it all out, but they wouldn’t let me see her. They told me that she was injured and that she had bad bruising on her arm. I knew I hadn’t done anything to her so I insisted they take her to a doctor for an examination, but they refused." In the end the police took a Polaroid photo of the bruise as ‘evidence’. Police are trained to believe that domestic violence is ‘men hitting women’ and that ‘women and children never lie about abuse’. Most of them follow the policy of always taking the man into custody ‘to ensure the safety of the woman and children’, no matter what actually happened. These two police made no attempt to investigate the background or the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. They told Walter he was under arrest. If Christina had been the one arrested she would have been charged with common assault, but because Walter is a man he faces the much more serious charge of ‘male assaults female’ which attracts a longer prison sentence.
Before they returned to the station, the police asked him if he had any guns. Walter hasn’t fired a gun in years, but he did own a shotgun and a 22 that had belonged to his dad. Naturally, being a law abiding citizen he had kept his licence current. "The guns were stored in the basement of a house I rent out." Walter explained. "The cops insisted on picking them up there and then. I asked them to wait until morning to avoid waking the tenants, but the rude one told me he would tear the entire house apart if I didn’t co-operate." In the end they agreed to approach the property discretely and go in quietly without making a disturbance. With the guns safely in their possession the police photographed and fingerprinted Walter, and locked him up.
When you’ve never been in any kind of trouble before, the holding cells at Auckland Central come as a bit of a culture shock, particularly when you arrive after midnight. "I’d never seen anything like it. I was the only white guy there, and everyone looked dangerous – I was too scared to sleep." Walter sat by himself all night, freezing cold, terrified that one of the junkies huddled in the toilet with a syringe would stick a needle in him if he closed his eyes.
Because lawyers know it is often to the client’s disadvantage to give information to the police Walter received the advice not to make a statement. After he was released on bail, the lawyer said ‘Leave it to me, I’ll sort it all out for you." A few days latter, he called Walter to tell him there was some good news.
"I’ve never been in any trouble with the law in my life before this, I’m squeaky clean, so they offered me the chance of diversion", Walter told me. The lawyer also said that he was lucky to be getting off so lightly and seemed pleased with the turn of events. After all, Walter faces a long prison sentence if he is convicted. But Walter began finding it hard to live with himself. "I haven’t done anything. Why should I have to buy my way out. It’s extortion!"
Walter and Christina were sent to see a psychologist for a report, and she told him that after interviewing them both she believed and supported him. Unfortunately though, it turns out her job is to remain neutral and she told him "I can’t be seen to be trying to influence the court in any way". Although Walter went to more counselling, he became increasingly depressed as the date for his police interview (to organise the terms of the diversion) came closer. He ended up having to see his G.P. to get medication prescribed because he wasn’t coping. "There was just too much stress, I couldn’t even think straight; my brain wasn’t working."
Christina meanwhile received support from an organisation that looks after ‘battered women’. One victim advocate who interviewed her over the phone helpfully wrote a report to the judge explaining that even though Christina’s statement to the police said correctly that Walter had never showed any violence towards her or her daughter in the past, in fact he had been ‘mentally abusive’ to her throughout their relationship. The advocate claimed that Walter often accused Christina of killing her first husband and son and of being promiscuous. "She painted a real bad picture of mental cruelty," he said. Although just two days before Christina spoke to the advocate she had requested in a letter that she and Walter attend counselling, the report stated that now she was "very happy that Mr Holt cannot contact her due to the non-association condition of bail," and "all I want is to never see him again."
Finally, and after much soul-searching, Walter realised that he couldn’t admit to something that wasn’t true, which would be a necessary condition of the diversion. "I couldn’t carry that through my life. If I signed it would be a lie." The injustice of the situation was more than he could handle, and after talking it over with several friends and counsellors (including Men’s Centre North Shore), Walter decided to tell his lawyer that he would have to go to court after all.
He is taking a considerable risk, as the New Zealand justice system these days is far from a level playing field, particularly where domestic violence is concerned. As Christina made her written statement at the police station, her injuries increased dramatically. After telling her side of the original story about the bruised arm, she invented a new detail – he had grabbed her by the throat and pushed her back when she tried to get up. Then, as if perhaps that still wasn’t quite bad enough, she made an even more serious allegation – that before Walter grabbed her by the arm, he kicked her in the stomach! By the time the Victim Impact Report was made Christina was so badly wounded she needed to take a week off work to recover. Unaccountably, she failed to get medical treatment, even though she works for a doctor.
When Walter talked to his lawyer, he received some more bad news. While the hearsay evidence of the victim advocate about his ‘mental abuse’ forms part of the case against him, it turns out that the documented evidence in the hands of the authorities of Christina’s violent abuse of Suzie is not admissible. Apart from a photograph of an old bruise, the case rests on the credibility of each witness. With the admissibility of evidence stacked in this way, Walter is fighting an uphill battle to prove his innocence. If he fails, and receives a conviction for violence, his career will be automatically destroyed, but Walter feels he has no choice. "I have to try and clear my name, even if it means risking prison. It’s cost me $3,000 in legal fees so far and it will cost a lot more to go to trial, but I have to do what is right."