These are thoughts.
These are the thoughts of a fangirl, of a feminist, and of a member of this community,
These are the thoughts of a girl who was once in an extremely emotionally manipulative and coercive relationship.
But most importantly to the context of this situation, these are the thoughts of a fucking pissed off Probation Officer who works almost exclusively with a domestic violence caseload.
What does that mean exactly?
Well it means that my job is to work one on one with individuals who have been accused, charged, and convicted of emotional, physical, and sexual manipulation and abuse of their partners or various family members. I interact with them on a daily basis. I sit down and listen - sometimes for hours at a time - about the circumstances in their lives that have brought them to this point.
The first time I sit down with any offender, after all the i’s have been dotted and t’s have been crossed, the first question I ask is this: “In your own words, tell me what brought you here today.” I’m well acquainted with getting their side of the story, uninhibited and unfiltered. When a convicted offender sits down in my office, it is often the first chance since their arrest that they’ve had to speak without fear of further incriminating themselves, because as far as court is concerned, their case is closed. It means that the stories I hear are the most unfiltered, most raw, most misogynistic, most biased version of the truth. And despite the fact that people come from different backgrounds with different circumstances and are acting as a result of different situations, these individuals all have one thing in common: they have been convicted and found guilty of domestic violence.
And after asking the same question time after time, you begin to notice a certain pattern in how they typically construct their version of events. Despite the differences, these individuals and these stories have - in Canada, at least - statistically common patterns.
What I’m saying is that these stories tend to look the same.
And if you’re wanting a choice example of what a perpetrator’s version of events typically looks like, I recommend heading over to Luke Conard’s tumblr for some insight as to what I have listen to every fucking day.
These are not thoughts. These are facts, pulled right from my own experiences with my own caseload, based on risk assessments that I conduct on a daily basis. Strap yourselves in, because we’ve got a numbered list up in this joint:
1. Of the approximately 200 domestic violence case files in my office, 95% of the perpetrators are men. I don’t want to diminish male survivors or excuse female perpetrators, but it needs to be acknowledged that this is a gendered crime. Capish?
2. We divide the circumstances in an individual’s life based on risk and protective factors. Risk factors are what make an individual more like to re-offend. Protective factors do the opposite. 70% of our DV files have protective factors relating to: Stability, Social/Cognitive Processing, and Mental Health. This means that these individuals often have A) A DECENT INCOME, B) FEW OVERT MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS, and C) ARE REALLY FUCKING GOOD AT REASONING AND VERBALIZING.
3. We get the detailed circumstances of every assault in the city. Whether it was punching, choking, biting, pinching, dragging, etcetera. Every single offender that I have ever, ever sat down with has described their ‘assault’ as a ‘push.’
Why is this significant? The language is fucking key, here. A push acknowledges that there was physical contact but implies that it was rightfully done and done in an attempt to defuse or distance themselves from the situation.
4. When confronted with the full details of their actions - which sometimes include my summarizing it back to them, or even, if warranted, reading it to them from the police report, most of my offenders have reacted with disgust and repulsion - not at themselves, but at the suggestion that they would be capable of doing any what I had described. This is because of a mis perception of their own actions. They tend to honestly believe that what they are doing was warranted, fair, and not wrong. I don’t doubt that every person who walks into my office sincerely believes or believed at one point that what they were doing is okay. THE BELIEF DOES NOT MAKE IT SO.
5. Most offenders know better than to directly blame the victim in my office. But these are some examples of some of the things that I’ve heard:
- "People make mistakes."
- "There are two sides to every story."
- "Not every relationship works."
- "I know how terrible [being dumped/abused/heartbroken] feels"
- "[Name of victim] is important to me."
- "[Their conviction, the fact that they were charged] is confusing" (because they’ve done nothing to warrant it)
- "I wish they had said something to me" about the abuse, how the abuse made them feel, etcetera.
Recognize any of these one-liners? Maybe you will if you’ve read Luke Conard’s ‘apology.’
They will also dwell on small details (the miscommunications prior to the event, for example, rather than the assault itself), rationalize behaviour by claiming that they didn’t understand it was abuse, and apologizing for ‘misunderstanding’ rather than for ‘doing.’
6. In the cases where there is a secondary element to the relationship - financial, or more typically, familial (because of a child) - there is always an attempt to SEPARATE the two. Let me be very clear here. In fact, this gets its own line because if anyone reads this, I want this sentence to be clear as fucking day:
An abusive relationship affects EVERY aspect of that relationship. EVERY INTERACTION IN THAT RELATIONSHIP ties into the cycle of abuse. You CANNOT separate custody, financial, or citizenship matters (what I most commonly see in my office) from the ABUSIVE NATURE OF THAT RELATIONSHIP.
7. Domestic violence treatment is out there. And it works.
As pessimistic and as fucking pissed off as I seem, there is treatment. It does work. It is geared at improving a partner’s attitude towards the relationship. It shows what healthy communication looks like. It practices ‘active listening’ and disables harmful beliefs about female roles. It teaches appropriate methods of dealing with anger. It empowers perpetrators to recognize conflict as an opportunity for growth and not as an opportunity for further manipulation.
It’s long. It’s difficult. It often comes far too late in the game. But it’s out there, and it works.
Here’s a great resource for Canadians: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/fv-vf/laws-lois.html . It links to further provincial standards and programs as well.