Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Wet Wet... What?

Ok, just spotted this on the news this morning.

I think I've gone over the shameful way that celebs seem to be given a free pass when it comes to rape, DV and even borderline child abuse (Roman Polanski, anyone?) so I'm not going to dwell on that aspect too much.
Suffice to say, why is it that DV offenders seem to always get reffered to counseling or other psychiatric programs, rather than prison/something that's actually punishment, when the same injuries sustained in an assault/GBH/ABH case would result in a jail term? What's so special about DV that it should be treated so leniently? Oh wait, it's because they hit a woman, and women aren't really people.
Not that I'm saying that advocating rehabilitation rather than retribution is a bad thing necessarily, but the way it seems to be being applied here is problematic to say the least. Apart from anything else, it sends a really screwed up message about the relative severity of DV as a crime. And the threat of being made to attend a few seminars is hardly much of a detterent.

Actually though, the bit I wanted to look at was the closing remarks of the article:

Sentencing, Judge Shani Barnes ... said: "It is shameful that you should come before the courts at all - let alone for using such violence against your partner.

"I have no doubt that you are a mild-mannered gentle man by nature.

"Domestic violence is never acceptable, even if the young woman gave as good as she got, the injuries she sustained were far more impactful than anything she could have done to you."

I'm sorry... what??

"I have no doubt you are a mild-mannered gentle man by nature"?? To someone who punched his wife in the face??
Aside from the obvious disconnect there, that statement has a lot of worrying implications. The obvious one being, if he was so mild-mannered, what (or should we say, who) provoked such a violent response? And that's one step away from outright victim-blaming in my book.
The other thing is; criminals don't obviously look like criminals. Often don't behave like criminals outside of their crime. And that goes double for crimes commited within the household, like DV and a lot of sexual abuse. So to say that Mitchell is a gentle man (apart from when he decides to hit his wife) is really not helpful, because it perpetuates the myth that otherwise "nice" people don't commit attrocities. Which is what makes it so hard for victims of abuse to come forward. Because everyone thinks that that lovely bloke you know who lives round the corner couldn't possibly be beating his wife because he's such a nice guy. I'm sure he didn't mean it, maybe the silly bitch was asking for it... etc etc etc.

Also, the rest of that comment; "Domestic violence is never acceptable, even if the young woman gave as good as she got, the injuries she sustained were far more impactful than anything she could have done to you" shows an utter ignorance of the circumstances under which DV is usually perpetrated - where the woman has usually been isolated and had her self-confidence broken down to the point where she doesn't feel able (or sometimes justified) to fight back. And wtf? Is that chivalry I see coming out of that last part? Don't hit women because they're weaker and can't hit back? As opposed to don't hit women because they're people too and violence against other people is never the answer?

Really, seriously, I think we should expect more from the judiciary. And if there was ever a case for judges to specialise in the kind of crimes they are equipped to deal with, then how much more evidence do you need, your honour?

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