Category Archives: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

WAVING

Grandma and Grandpa are standing by a large window, urging two little kids around the ages of 3 and 5 to wave. Wave to Daddy! Here he comes! See him? Wave to Daddy! They have been waiting for two hours for Daddy to come. So many other people have come out one by one, but not Daddy. And now finally, Daddy comes out. The older boy waves like a practiced waver, his whole skinny arm raised as far as he can stretch above his head, and moving all his fingers. He seems to feel it is an important task to accomplish, and his face is very grave. His face lights up when Daddy sees him and nods. He is helping Daddy feel better. And Grandma is praising him. There you go, boy, good job! Little sister cannot quite see Daddy over the window frame. She is jumping, and finally Grandpa picks her up, but Daddy has his back to her now. She bursts out crying. Daddy! Daddy!!

Daddy cannot hear her through the bullet-proof glass. Daddy is not supposed to look at them at all, because he is in jail and has a hearing. The guard has gotten between her and Daddy and is warning Daddy not to turn around again, not to look at her through the window. The guard will not let him out of the locked courtroom because he hit Mommy. Then after that happened, the grownups told them that they would be safer with Grandma and Grandpa until Mommy takes some classes and Daddy gets out of jail. He will be punished for hitting, because you are not allowed to hit. You can go to jail for hitting. Which is confusing, because Mommy spanks and Grandma spanks, but the grownups say that is not the same as hitting. You can punish children, they say, when children are bad. So you’d better not be bad. You’d better behave! Or you’ll get what’s coming to you. You’re lucky you don’t get the belt! You are lucky little devils.

Daddy came over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to tell Mommy he was sorry for hitting her, but then they started yelling again. And someone called the police, and the police came. And the police said he is not allowed to come over. He cannot come over at all. He cannot be in the same room as Mommy. He cannot be in the yard. He cannot call on the phone. If he calls to talk to Sister and Brother from jail, and Mommy is there, they are not allowed to give Mommy the phone. And the phone calls from jail are all recorded. They will all get in trouble if they give Mommy the phone, and they might have to go live somewhere else again. And they might get separated. And they might never see anyone they know again. They will be fosters, and that means you have to live with strangers, Grandma says. And you can get sent to bed with an empty stomach, because the Fosters can take your money for food. So you had better behave! Shape up or ship out, Grandpa tells them. He was in the Navy and he fought for us to be free.

So they have to be careful about Daddy. But they still have to be nice to Daddy, because Daddy loves them very much. Grandma and Grandpa say so, and Daddy says so. And the judge says that Daddy can still see them, because he is safe around the children. He never hit the children. Because spanking doesn’t count. He only hit Mommy. Daddy is wearing a bright red outfit and his hands are tied together and he is in trouble. He is in trouble for hitting Mommy. And he is is trouble for talking to Mommy. And now he is in trouble for turning around in the courtroom and looking at his children through the window. And the guard steps between them and tells Daddy what to do. And Daddy turns back around so he has his back to them when Sister is finally lifted up and waving. And here she is, waving as hard as she can, but Daddy never turns around again. So he doesn’t know. It is so sad.

Sister whimpers. She rubs her eyes. She cannot stop crying. She is choking on tears. She let Daddy down! Grandma and Grandpa had them practice waving to Daddy through the window at home. She practiced over and over. She waited a whole bunch of days to wave at Daddy in real life. They came to court and went through a machine and the guard gave them each a coloring book and a sticker and a box with five crayons. But then Sister was too small, and no one picked her up on time, and now Daddy is gone again, and Sister is crying very hard as they walk back to the elevator. The hearing is over! Here little heart aches, but Grandpa tells her it’s no use crying over spilt milk. Nobody cares about your whining. So you might as well just knock it off, he tells her. And he jerks his hand away. He doesn’t want to hold hands with a crybaby! But she cries the whole elevator ride to the bottom, because that is how she is feeling. Even if nobody cares.

BEST FRIEND

Judge: I see a Domestic Violence designation on this assault. What is your relationship to this man?

Defendant: Your Honor, he’s my best friend. I love him so much. The only reason I ever even tried going to rehab is because of him. He pushed me to it and he helped me. He’s always helped me.

Prosecutor: Yes, Your Honor, I can confirm that we have designated this assault as Domestic Violence as the parties have lived together and are in a relationship. We are asking for 60 days based on the priors.

Defense Attorney: Your Honor, this is an agreed recommendation on everything except the jail time. And the reason for that is, that in this city, the standard for what constitutes assault is set so low, I mean, if you can even call this assault –

Prosecutor: Yes, we can call it assault and the defendant is here to plead guilty today. We are not disputing the facts. He is admitting guilt. There is no motion before the court to argue that the statute is unconstitutionally broad or over-reaching. The defendant has two prior convictions for assault involving the same victim, and three Violation of a No-Contact Orders this year alone. This crime victim may be, as the defendant claims, his best friend, but with all due respect I doubt very much that the defendant is the crime victim’s best friend. We believe that the best chance this defendant can have of becoming a friend is to spend his jail time, hopefully arrange for in-patient dual diagnosis treatment directly from jail, and get himself into a position where he might actually earn the friendship, trust and respect of his partner, his family, and himself. This takes time, and it is in the interest of public safety and this defendant that we ask for the 60 day sentence. Any less time brings us back to the revolving door.

Judge: Anything further from either party? No? Then this court will impose 60 days, followed by 2 years jurisdiction, the remainder of the 364 days to be suspended upon condition of No New Criminal Law Violations, follow the No-Contact Order, appear at all hearings, notify the court of any change of address within 24 hours, attend all probation appointments, pay any fines and restitution to be determined, follow the treatment recommendations including in-patient treatment…… and best of luck.

IF SHE LOVES ME

She has started complaining that I am trying to control her, but I’m not.  I just think if she loves me, she should want to please me and keep me happy.  Shouldn’t she want to know what things bother me?  But when I tell her, she just gets irritated instead of trying to change.  It really hurts me that she doesn’t want to change for me.  If she loves me.  I mean, doesn’t she want to make me happy?  I don’t understand her.

She got her own phone, and she has numbers in there and I don’t know who they are.  So okay, I don’t want her to take her phone into the bathroom, but she has.  And I don’t like it.  Because I don’t want her calling someone and not wanting me to hear.  So now I want her to go with the door open.  If she’s not hiding anything, why does that bother her?  Doesn’t she want to make me comfortable?  I let her have a phone!  I don’t think it’s weird that I want to know who she’s calling.  And I don’t think she should talk to people behind my back.

I should be able to read everything she writes, and know who all she is talking to.  Shouldn’t I?  I mean, we’re a couple.  She says I should just trust her, and I told her, sure, I trust you, but I don’t trust men.  Because I know what they’re like.  And someone is going to try and take you away from me.  And I can’t let that happen.  Because I love you.  And if you really love me, you would understand.  And you would want to follow my rules.  And you would tell me everything.  And you wouldn’t try to hide anything from me.  Or have to close the bathroom door.

Sometimes I think she pretends to be asleep when she’s not.  So one night I put on the hall light, and I sat next to the bed on a little stool, and I watched her face.  Her eyes were not moving under the eyelids, and I heard that your eyes move around if you are dreaming, so I thought maybe she was just pretending to be asleep, to avoid me.  So I blew lightly on her face, just a puff of air.  Then she opened her eyes and she screamed and said I had scared her.  But why would it scare her to have me, her own man, just sitting there looking at her?  Why is that scary?  That doesn’t make any sense.  .

I just want her to make me feel safe.  I just want her to reassure me.  It makes me really mad when she acts scared of me.  Why is she scared of me, if she loves me?  If she isn’t doing anything wrong?  Why is she afraid of getting in trouble?  It seems like she is growing colder toward me, but she keeps saying she still loves me and she isn’t going to leave me.   I wish I could get her to tell me the truth.  I wish I could read her mind, and really know what she is thinking.  How she really feels.  I wish I could be sure.  It’s killing me.

 

 

CONSULT YOUR PILLOW

Defense attorney to new client:

I am a very old public defender, so I am going to tell it like it is.  We are each responsible for our actions, like it or not.  And this is not about punishment.  So try to separate that in your mind.  Separate your responsibility from any possible punishment you might be facing.  Because focusing on punishment is the thinking pattern of someone who thinks everything is fine as long as he doesn’t get caught.  That is wrong thinking.  That is not responsible.

It seems like you have hesitations about taking responsibility for this domestic violence assault.  And from what you just said, it is based on the fact that you are hoping the victim will be reluctant to testify.  That is likely.  Domestic violence is hard to prove, and victims are reluctant for very good reasons.  Your victim may not show up.

If she doesn’t, the judge has to decide whether to let the case go to trial without a material witness.  They have to decide if there is enough in the record to let the case go to the jury without live testimony from the alleged victim.  They will consider the 911 tape, the police report, and if I cannot get it suppressed, the videotaped interview with her on the evening of the event.  The judge has to decide about all that.  But as a suspect, you have a different decision to make.

You just told me that it did happen, and that is has happened before.  So listen to an old lawyer, if you will.  You can choose to embrace treatment, with all that entails, and sign up for a dispositional continuance.  That puts the outcome of the case in your hands.  If you follow through, you end up with no conviction.  If you mess up, the judge will read the police report, you will have no trial, and you will almost certainly get a conviction, with all that entails.

Or you can go to trial.  If she doesn’t show up, they might drop the case.  Or they might convict you.  We just don’t know.  You might get lucky.

But with what you have told me, will this be the last time you end up in court?  Have any of your issues resolved, without treatment?  Don’t answer me right now.  I am going to ask for a continuance.  And I suggest you consult your pillow and decide whether you are ready to take responsibility for your actions, and pull your life together.  Because from where I sit, you are going to be coming around again unless something changes.  And honestly, you don’t seem like the kind of guy who is going to follow through on treatment unless you have something like this hanging over your head.  Forgive an old lawyer for having an opinion.  It is based on experience.

One more thing to think about overnight: This could be life-changing for you.  This could be life-changing.  And I wish – and I wish – and I wish – that my words could help you to change your life.  But whatever.  Go consult your pillow, and make your decision.  See you next time.

SEEM TO BE FINE

Was in a family law hearing for a custody dispute.  The middle-aged father stood with his private lawyer and explained to the court that the boys “seem to be fine”.  They don’t cry.  They don’t yell or fight.  They mind well.  They do as they are told.  They are doing okay in school.  They participate in their sports.  So there is no reason to limit their time with their good old dad.

The young immigrant who was brought here as second wife to the man was trembling as she testified.  “Yes.  My boys seem fine when they are with him.  Just like I always did.  But it is not because they are fine.  Please read what their counselor wrote.  The boys are unable to express any kind of emotion for fear of their father’s punishment.”

Her volunteer lawyer then went on to argue that if the boys were not kept in a safe and loving environment, they would not only lose their ability to express their emotions, but even to feel them.  And they would not only be in danger of losing their very selves, but of becoming a danger to others.

“It’s a cycle, judge.”

The father stood there shaking his head, and grimacing, pulling on his tie, and twisting about.  His lawyer had clearly told him not to interrupt, but he was struggling to stay quiet.

In the end, the judge ordered the case to family court services for a full evaluation.  I hope these boys are able to say what is on their minds and in their hearts.  I can only imagine how hard that must be.  They don’t know who they can trust, and who is going to find out what they said.  Poor fellows.  My heart goes out to them.

WEAPONS SURRENDER CALENDAR

Respondents who have had a civil Protection Order granted against them have an obligation to surrender any weapons they own, possess, or have under their control.  The idea is that the assault victims will be safer this way.  This process is managed through a Weapons Surrender Calendar.  The weapons are to be turned over to their local police, unless the judge allows for alternative safekeeping.

If there was no allegation of the use of a weapon in the assault, and likewise no allegation by the protected party that the respondent has any weapons, the party usually signs a Declaration of Non-Surrender.  In that sworn declaration, there is a warning that any ownership or control of a weapon afterwards will be a criminal offense.

Here is where a problem arises.  Due to our Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not testify against ourselves, the court cannot demand that an assaulting party admit that he has a gun under his control after signing under penalty of perjury that he does not.  Because such an admission is a crime, and he would be admitting on the record under oath to committing a new crime.   Unfortunately, this is in direct conflict with the assaulted person’s right to assess her own safety and have whatever protection the law can afford.

I was in a hearing where the man had broken a gun during an assault on his wife, so that gun was considered “out of commission” and he was allowed to sign a Non-Surrender declaration.  But a month later, he was pulled over and the police found a semi-automatic pistol hidden in his glove box.  The wife’s lawyer demanded to know what happened to that gun, whether the police had it, and whether he had access to any other weapons.

The judge interrupted to advise the husband to remain silent, explaining that he cannot be forced to testify against himself, as the gun found in the car may give rise to a criminal case.  The wife then interrupted the judge to ask: “What about my right to not get shot and killed by the man who just beat me up?  What about that?”

There is no good answer to that question under our current system.

LOVE SONGS

A dear friend of mine was discussing the male habit – in some cultures – of insisting on telling a woman that he needs her so badly he cannot live without her.  It is considered in some places romantic and loving to claim that you would literally die without this one all-important irreplaceable person to prop you up in life.  In contrast, to state what is actually healthy (I love you, but I could still be happy without you) is considered cold or distant.  My friend’s theory is that this media-propelled idea of “romance” is the dark underbelly of the domestic violence culture. Because if you need someone that much, they cannot leave you.  You have to keep them.  It’s life or death.

I have thought about this a lot, especially as I spend so many days in domestic violence courtrooms.  I also think about it pretty much every morning, when I  exercise to music and listen among other things to love song lyrics.  Take the music away from the song lyrics, or set the domestic violence perpetrator’s words to music, and they become one and the same.

When I’m without you, I’m something weak.  I can’t live, if living is without you.  You’re my everything.  Only you can make this world seem right.  Don’t let me suffer.  Without you, my world would crumble.  You’re my reason for living.  We only said goodbye with words – I died a hundred times.  You took my heart and you threw it away.   I’m broken in two.   I’ve been so lonely, I could die.

Yes, these are all song lyrics.

What did I hear in court this week in response to why a man violated a no-contact order?  “She is my whole life.  When she left me, she took my life away.  I have nothing now.  I cannot get over the heartbreak.  I lived for her.  She is the love of my life and my best friend.  I can’t do anything without her.  I am trying, but I feel so sad and desperate.   I had to try to reach her.  She is everything to me.  When she left me, she killed me inside.  I have nothing to live for without her.  That’s why I had to try to see her.”

Set it to music, and you have a “romantic song”.  Right up until the romance ends, and then you have a domestic violence scenario.

 

FEELING FRAGILE

I spent some time in jail with a slight young man who looked pained and bewildered by his incarceration.  When the lawyer asked how he was feeling, he said that he was feeling melancholy and extremely fragile.  He was in shock at his situation, and could not seem to grasp that he was considered a criminal.  He was much less able to grasp that the prosecutor was only offering him several years in prison in return for pleading guilty as charged – no reduction.  It seemed so heartless to him.  He felt himself to be a victim of fate.  He was an extremely sensitive person.

As I sight-translated the salient portions of the police report, I could see out of the corner of my eye that the defendant was staring fixedly at me, listening intently, and starting to cry.   It seemed as though he, too, was hearing for the first time about the event, and just as shocked and surprised as any member of the public would be. When I was done, the attorney let a moment go by, and then asked, “Is that what happened?” and the defendant burst into wracking sobs, bowed down his head and said yes.

The defendant had a really hard time calming down.  He just kept saying that he cannot believe that this is happening to him.  Why?

He also kept reminding the lawyer that he has a wife and he needs her by his side – they have two children.   His being away from her now was breaking him down.  It was unbearable. He begged for help and asked the lawyer to please help him get out and get back to his life with his wife and kids.  There must be a way!

The lawyer spent the full two hours comforting, explaining, educating, and questioning the defendant, carefully clarifying what his rights were, what choices he had, and what he would likely be facing.  At the end, he asked if this young, frail man had any more questions, and he said no questions, just one fervent request, which he made with sincerity in his voice and tears in his eyes:

“Can you please do your very, very best for me, Counsel, please, because I am NOT a criminal – I only beat my own wife!”

It helps to remind ourselves that denial is the first stage of grief, and hope for better things.

 

 

 

SWAY

This conversation still plays in my mind and I am hoping by writing it out, it will stop.

  • Why did you threaten your wife?
  • She likes to dance.
  • So?
  • So we went dancing.
  • So?
  • So she was dancing.
  • And?
  • Well, she was swaying.
  • Swaying?
  • You know, swaying to the music.  Swaying.
  • So what?
  • So I didn’t like it.
  • You didn’t like the music?
  • No.  I don’t like her to sway and – men were watching.
  • Well, you are still not allowed to chase her around with a weapon.
  • Yeah, but I really didn’t like it.  She was swaying, really swaying, you know?  I got really angry about it!  I lost my head!
  • Well, maybe next time, you should stay home and play chess.
  • I don’t know how to play chess.
  • Time to learn.  Time to learn.

NEEDING AND HURTING

I see a lot of people who end up in court and sometimes even in prison because they are completely convinced that they need a certain person to survive.  They cannot live without that other person – it is worth anything to try and keep that person close and connected – even via fighting, arguing, threatening – whatever it takes. They believe that they can only feel “that certain way” that is – joyful – ecstatic – fulfilled – loved – happy – safe – in the physical presence of a certain person.  Wrong!  But goodness, it feels oh, so, right!  All they have to do is get – and keep – that special person near enough, and there is that feeling again!  Aaaah.

That can be a lovely feeling, and many songs are sung about this.  But what if their love object doesn’t want to play this game with them any more?  What if the love object has some plans independent of them, like moving away, or loving someone else?  Aaargh!  They will have to fight and claw and threaten and follow – desperate to control this person they love so much and need so much and cannot live without – they have to keep the love object.  They cannot lose it and survive.  They are like a breastfeeding baby, losing the beloved mother.  They will die!  Or will they?

Sometimes I wish we could offer a seminar to people who need it, to help them develop the ability to self-soothe in a number of ways.  One of the ways would be to love themselves and comfort themselves rather than trying to force someone (who likes them less and less) to do it for them, over and over again, in an endless, increasingly painful cycle of need, jealousy, fear and distrust, in which love plays an ever-diminishing role until it is completely crushed.

At the start of the seminar, the participants would be asked to try a short meditation, along these lines:

“Keep your eyes closed and just relax where you are for a few minutes.  Remember back to the most wonderful love situation of your life.  When you felt truly seen, and appreciated, even celebrated.  Where you felt like the two of you had become one.  Where you felt the polar opposite of alone – united and joyful and complete.  It may have been during a sexual encounter, or just a wonderful moment.  It may have happened over and over in the presence of a certain beloved.  Take that feeling, choose a color for it, and put it in a disco ball above your head.  Then imagine that wonderful, delicious light, in your chosen color, cascading throughout your body all the way to your feet, filling the air around you, soaking the ground beneath you, showering you with delicious love, filling you to the brim with that same feeling of joy and connection.  Just spend a few minutes and be with this feeling.  Relax and breathe into it.  Bathe in the light of it. How does it feel?”

“Okay.  Open your eyes and remember this feeling.  Could you feel the love?  Could you feel the peace?  I hope so.   Was the love object present for it?  No.  Did the love object even know about it?  No.  Did you discover that the feelings you attributed to the love object actually originate within you?  That your own thoughts can create these positive and comforting feelings?  I hope so.  For your sake.  Because people who believe that love and joy are inaccessible to us except through a love object, can easily become criminals.  It is important to learn that all the wonderful feelings that we enjoy and relish originate within us, and are accessible to us at all times.  We don’t need to catch and keep and control someone to keep producing this feeling for us over and over like a laying hen whose eggs we need to survive. We don’t have to keep anybody in a cage in order to feel good about ourselves.”

Just a daydream of mine.  It would be one of a series of classes on self-care and autonomy.  I would love to break the cycle of increasingly desperate and needy people demanding comfort that they can never believe in anyway.  Because my experience in court tells me that it doesn’t end well for anyone involved.