Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is There a Domestic Violence Double Standard?

After months of investigation MTV's "Teen Mom" star Amber Portwood has finally been arrested and charged with felony domestic battery for her assaults on her now ex-boyfriend Gary Shirley and her toddler daughter. You might ask, "Why did it take so long?" That's a great question given the fact that the police have had documented proof of Portwood's physical attacks (attacks that happened in front of their toddler daughter) on Shirley, that were caught on tape, for months now.

Could there be a double standard when it comes to arresting females vs. arresting males for domestic battery? Let's compare two celebs highly publicized domestic disputes and I will let you be the judge.

The police investigation into Portwood's alleged domestic assaults on Shirley, again caught on tape, began in September 2010. Reportedly there were at least three documented domestic violence incidences where Portwood is said to have assaulted Shirley between July 2009 and August 2010. Numerous viewers of the 'Teen Mom's" tv show were said to have called into the child abuse hotline to report Portwood's mistreatment of toddler daughter and Shirley back in August 2010.

The investigation dragged on leaving Shirley and the baby vulnerable to more of Portwood's rage and violence. Still on the loose, having not been arrested for the previous assaults, Portwood reportedly physically attacked Shirley yet again two weeks ago and threatened his new girlfriend Ashley.

An arrest warrant for domestic battery wasn't issued against Portwood until December 27, 2010 over three months after the start of the investigation. According to news reports Portwood turned herself in yesterday and was charged with two counts of felony domestic battery, one count of misdemeanor domestic battery and one felony count of neglect of a dependent. She was placed on a 24 hour hold in jail (24 hour hold is mandatory for these types of charges in Indiana) and her bail was set at $5,000.00.

Now back in 2009, Chris Brown, a popular R & B singer, age 20 (same as as Portwood), had a domestic dispute in public with his then girlfriend Rihanna. The altercation happened in an automobile and concerned passers by felt compelled to call 911 to report the incident. When the police showed up Brown had left the scene. Within hours an arrest warrant was issued against him for two felony counts, criminal threatening and domestic battery. Brown turned himself in the next day and was arrested. Brown's bail was set at $50,000.00.

I am not sure of what to make of the $45,000 difference in bail costs between Brown's bail and Portwood's. Sentencing and bail costs vary from state to state and given that Brown was in California when arrested and Portwood is in Indiana that could be why bail costs are so vastly different. However, what explains the inertia of the police in arresting Portwood? I find it interesting that the arrest didn't come until after she viciously attacked Shirley in public once again.

If Portwood was a man and Shirley was a woman would the investigation have taken over three months and an additional publicly witnessed physical assault before an arrest was made? If Brown had been a woman and Rihanna a man would Brown have been arrested within hours of the assault on Rihanna? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wait Your Turn Mister!

Right on the heels of Domestic Violence [against women] Awareness Month (October) comes the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Nov.25th) and 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Concurrent with these last two campaigns is the White Ribbon Campaign which is the time for men and women to wear white ribbons and pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. Following these two and one-half months of awareness of violence against women January brings National Stalking [against women] Awareness Month, February, the Go Red for Women in National Women's Heart Disease Awareness Month, March is Vulva Awareness Month , April is Sexual Assault [against women] Awareness Month, May is Women's Health Month, August is Child Support Awareness Month, September is National Ovarian Cancer and Menopause Awareness Month and finally we are back to October again with, Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But I digress. Now I'm as much for bringing awareness to serious social and health issues as the next person. However, I have to wonder, have we gone too far with all this awareness when someone feels they have a right to publicly humiliate and minimize another person's pain and suffering? I came across an opinion piece in a Johannesburg newspaper online the other day titled, "Men are victims of violence too, but that's not the point." The writer, Pinky Khoabane, was irate that a whimpering, whining (her words) man had called a radio station to discuss domestic violence perpetrated against him by a former female intimate partner at a time when, according to Ms. Khoabane, the focus should be on violence against women and children. Ms. Khoabane wrote that she found herself screaming into her radio '"Hello, this isn't your day, Mister..."' She was fuming and horrified that others who called into the radio station were empathetic to this man. She asked, '"When did women become such abusers of men for this campaign to literally be hijacked by the cries of men?"' In her written tantrum she went on to say that men need accept and acknowledge that men are mostly the aggressors [of domestic violence], women the victims and that most of womens aggression is in self defense. She ended by telling the abused man who called the radio station that his day will come but that the gender violence referred to during [the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence] is not that perpetrated against him and they aren't interested. Sadly, Ms. Khoabane reflects the same sentiments that I have heard from other women's rights activists (both male and female) here in the US, abused men should just take their lumps and shut up about it already, it's not their time to get attention or services. When will it be "their time?" It's been nearly forty years since the movement to end violence against women began and much progress has been made as evidenced by the number of awareness campaigns, services and the amount of funding that has been put in place to end all forms of violence against women here in the US. How many more years do we need to wait to see attention and like services made available to men (and children) who suffer abuse at the hands of their intimate partners? It's not as if we don't have proof of the need for services for abused men. Research has shown that men with violent partners have most of the same needs as abused women. Will abused men's "time" ever come? I guess we will just have to stop whining and whimpering and wait silently to see. NOT!