McGill University Student Newspaper Smears RADAR
In December, The McGill Tribune, published by the McGill University Students' Society, printed an article (included below) that made false statements about RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting). A few days later, the Tribune's editor promised to retract the most offensive claim. But even with that claim retracted, the article still paints a misleading portrait of RADAR. So he also said he might consider publishing an op-ed by RADAR to correct the other misinformation about the reasons RADAR exists.
RADAR did submit a response, but of necessity it was much longer than the Tribune's length limit for an op-ed. That's because the information RADAR knows about is not common knowledge, so for us to simply state a position without backing it up with facts would not make a credible case. After weeks of inquiries as to whether or not the Tribune will be publishing our response, we learned just recently that they will not.
Here's the article the Tribune will not be printing.
Why RADAR Is Needed
Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting (RADAR)
The 12/1/2009 article
"OFF THE BOARD: The fight for men's rights"1 by Carolyn Gregoire repeated claims about RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting) from an article in Slate.com's DoubleX. Although the DoubleX article contained more misrepresentation than fact, at least that author interviewed her subjects. Ms. Gregiore not only failed to do that, but also added embellishments of her own, which caused the Tribune's editor to append an apology. This article was composed to counter the misrepresentation and enlighten the Tribune's readers about what RADAR is really all about, but the Tribune has declined to publish it.
First of all, we are not a Men's Rights group, as those working against us like to claim. As our mission statement says, RADAR is dedicated to improving the effectiveness of solutions to the problem of domestic violence. RADAR has always been as concerned about women abused by the system as about men. If we seem to be advocating more for men than for women, that's a reflection of the ways that DV policies are badly broken, not a reflection of our underlying philosophy.
On a personal note, I must object to the statement, "RADAR chooses to undermine the prevalence of rape and domestic violence against women." Far from wishing to deny women protection, one of my primary motivations is to see to it that no other children suffer the fate that befell my sister – a matter I've touched on in many of my compositions,2 most notably "Don't Put Your Trust In Movements"3.
Due to decades of one-sided reporting on domestic violence, explaining the issues RADAR is concerned about often feels like telling someone, "Everything you know is wrong!" In fact, DV policy in the U.S. (and Canada too) is not the solution its supporters claim. All too often, it causes harm even as it fails to help those it purports to help.
Shelters are not the refuges from abuse that people think
Many shelters keep their beds full by taking in alcoholics and drug abusers who often place other residents at risk. In Florida, Milaus Almore was killed by a knife-wielding shelter resident. Shelter staff had ignored reports of earlier death threats made by the killer4.
In Massachusetts, Nev Moore's nightmare was not the time her husband got drunk and pushed her during an argument. It was a year later when the Massachusetts DSS used that incident as an excuse to seize her 8-year-old daughter and coerce the mother to attend a battered women's support group under threat of permanent loss of her child. Moore says the group's facilitators "encouraged women to stay stuck in the victim mentality"5, and that the primary motivation is not to help the women heal and move on with their lives, but to maximize the shelter's income.
One Ontario abuse victim describes how she and other residents were subjected to sexual advances by the staff6, and penalized by the staff for spurning their advances. (Watch 33:20-36:04)
Canadian immigration sent a Russian immigrant who was not abused to a battered women's shelter for the free food and lodging. This woman also reports being sexually preyed upon by the shelter staff7. (Watch 16:46-20:15)
A little girl who stayed at a battered women's shelter with her mother found the shelter itself to be a violent place.8. (Watch 5:55-8:28)
Safeguards against false claims have been weakened to the point of virtual non-existence
In 2005, Coleen Nestler filed for a restraining order against David Letterman, claiming Letterman had used code-words, gestures, and "eye expressions" on his nationally televised show to send messages to Nestler alone. Her application9 asked the court to order Letterman not to "Think of me, and RELEASE ME from his mental harassment & hammering." Despite the absurdity of the claims, Judge Daniel Sanchez granted the order. When asked by a reporter if he might have made a mistake, he stated that he had read Nestler's application10. Sanchez is no ordinary judge. He's Chairman of the Northern New Mexico Domestic Violence Task Force11. Sanchez' actions are the model that other judges look to when deciding the appropriate way to handle an obviously absurd accusation.
In the Letterman case, the accuser was clearly out of touch with reality. But what happens when unscrupulous people simply want the benefits the government intends for the abused. A recent New York Times article12 headlined "Domestic Abuse Fraud: It's Rarely Suspected and Rarely Detected" reported on women who lied about having been abused in order to move to the front of the subsidized housing queue. Without providing any evidence to back the claim, the article asserts that such cases are rare. At the same time, the article also quotes a shelter director admitting that the system is not set up to catch people committing fraud, so they can't possibly know that cases like this are rare. If getting a break on housing costs is enough to induce some women to lie about being abused, there can be little doubt that the many benefits intended for women who truly have been abused also induce unscrupulous non-abused women to falsely accuse innocent men.
In his article "Erring on the Side of Hidden Harm"13 N.J. attorney David Heleniak explains that in addition to the merits of any particular restraining order application, judges worry about the potential damage to their careers if their name should end up in the headlines because they denied a restraining order and the applicant was later harmed. A restraining order often physically prevents children from having access to their father except under supervised visitation, an unnatural setting that clearly tells the child that their father is a dangerous person. Princeton Sociology Professor Sara McLanahan has found that "Father absence clearly diminishes a child's prospects for success in adult life."14 So, when judges issue thousands of unnecessary restraining orders against innocent fathers, they're not "erring on the side of safety" as they claim. They're choosing the harm that won't damage their careers over the harm that will.
Honest And Objective Scientific Research Has Been Warped To Produce Politically Desired Results
Fields of study like sociology and psychology are much more difficult to quantify than fields like physics and chemistry, making it much easier for "researchers" with an agenda to manipulate the results. Unfortunately, such manipulation is commonplace in domestic violence research.
One researcher who strives to hold himself and his field of study to a higher standard is Murray Straus, one of the world's leading authorities on family violence. His work from the early 1970s onward is what made the study of family violence a legitimate topic for scientific research. Straus recently published "Processes Explaining the Concealment and Distortion of Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence"15 which lists the following ways he's seen researchers distort DV research over the past 40 years:
Avoid Obtaining Data Inconsistent with the Patriarchal Dominance Theory
Cite Only Studies That Show Male Perpetration
Conclude That Results Support Feminist Beliefs When They Do Not
Create "Evidence" by Citation
Obstruct Publication of Articles and Obstruct Funding Research That Might Contradict the Idea that Male Dominance Is the Cause of Partner Violence
Harass, Threaten, and Penalize Researchers Who Produce Evidence That Contradicts Feminist Beliefs
Straus concludes the article:
"Finally, it was painful for me as feminist to write this commentary. I have done so for two reasons. First, I am also a scientist and, for this issue, my scientific commitments overrode my feminist commitments. Perhaps even more important, I believe that the safety and well being of women requires efforts to end violence by women and the option to treat partner violence in some cases as a problem of psychopathology, or in the great majority of cases, as a family system problem."
In 1975 and 1985, Straus worked with Richard Gelles, and Suzanne Steinmetz to conduct the National Family Violence Survey for the National Institute of Health. Gelles, now Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, recalls16:
"The response to our finding that the rate of female-to-male family violence was equal to the rate of male-to-female violence not only produced heated scholarly criticism, but intense and long-lasting personal attacks. All three of us received death threats. Bomb threats were phoned in to conference centers and buildings where we were scheduled to present. Suzanne received the brunt of the attacks - individuals wrote and called her university urging that she be denied tenure; calls were made and letters were written to government agencies urging that her grant funding be rescinded."
Univ. of British Columbia Psychology Professor Donald Dutton is world-reknowned in the field of spousal violence, and has served as an expert witness in family violence cases, including testifying for the prosecution in the O.J. Simpson trial. In his article "Transforming a flawed policy: A call to revive psychology and science in domestic violence research and practice"17 Dutton criticizes the theory (known as the Duluth Model) that all domestic violence is a product of "patriarchal beliefs". He writes (p. 477)
"It is unfortunate that a once pioneering model has become an impediment to effective program and criminal justice responses to domestic violence. ... The Duluth model ... maintains that unlike the bulk of similar aggressive criminal behaviors (e.g., assault, child abuse, elder abuse), violence perpetrated toward women is influenced in no way by social marginalization or psychosocial deficits, but rather is solely a product of gender privilege."
"Those with continued allegiance to the patriarchal view should stand back and ask themselves if their primary motivation is to advance the safety of women and families or to preserve a self-interested political stance."
The OFF THE BOARD article accuses RADAR of attempting "to take funding away from 'discriminatory' women's-only shelters, rather than fighting for resources for male victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment". Had the writer done her homework, she'd have discovered that people have been "fighting for resources for male victims of domestic violence" for decades, and for just as long it's been the people running the women's shelters who've been playing the role of George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door. Since the late 1970s, women-only shelters have used their huge political clout to prevent the allocation of any resources for male victims, and have made it impossible for men in need of help to find any help.
One example of this is the experience of Pat Overberg, who ran the Valley Oasis Shelter (VOS) outside L.A. for much of the 1980s and 1990s. In a 2002 affidavit18, she recounts the hostile and unprofessional way she was treated by directors of other shelters for the transgression of offering help to men as well as women. VOS was the only shelter in the nation that offered help to men, so many men traveled great distances to get help. Overberg states, "During my tenure as director of VOS I was subjected to continuous abuse by other directors for sheltering battered men." At a government-sponsored fact-finding meeting, the chairwoman, who was also director of a battered women's shelter tried to silence Overberg whenever she raised the issue of the need to provide services for battered men. And although every other issue discussed in the meeting made it into the minutes, the minutes contained no indication that the issue had even been raised.
Besides their long history of obstructing the provision of help to battered men, existing battered women's programs' insistence on believing that women can never be abusive causes them to empower such women rather than giving them appropriate treatment, thereby putting the children of abusive mothers in grave danger.
RADAR is concerned about serious issues. We're hardly the caricature of intolerance that Ms. Gregoire portrays us as. Far from it. RADAR's primary concern is that interventions are too often ineffective, inappropriate, or both. The help offered to victims encourages them to stay stuck in a victim mentality rather than to heal. The innocent are as likely to be penalized as the guilty. And too many service providers are handsomely compensated for peddling snake-oil.
As our mission statement says, RADAR is dedicated to improving the effectiveness of solutions to the problem of domestic violence.
Interview with former resident of Ontario battered women's shelter discussing being subjected to sexual advances by the shelter staff. Watch 33 min. 20 sec. to 36 min. 4 sec., http://www.vimeo.com/745927
Interview with Russian immigrant sent by Canadian immigration to a battered women's shelter for the free food and lodging discussing being sexually preyed upon by the shelter staff. Watch 16 min. 46 sec. to 20 min. 15 sec., http://www.vimeo.com/790290
Here is the article showing how it originally appeared and the changes made after RADAR contacted the editor.
The McGill Tribune, 12/1/2009
OFF THE BOARD: The fight for men's rights
by Carolyn Gregoire
Discrimination against men has, understandably perhaps, never occupied a prominent position on the feminist agenda. Recently, however, the rise of the men's rights movement has led men's rights groups and feminists alike to call issues specific to male identity into question. A recent article on Slate's women-oriented webzine DoubleX entitled "Men's Rights Groups are Becoming Frighteningly Effective" has spurred contentious debate extending beyond the feminist blogosphere as to whether feminism should encompass issues of men's rights.
The article was triggered by the actions of men's activist group RADAR (Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting) who gathered in Washington this October to lobby against issues such as false allegations of rape and domestic violence, unrecognized domestic violence against men, and child custody rights for divorced fathers.
Many women, and not only those who identify as feminists, are outraged by the measures these groups have taken. Rather than addressing the negative impact that patriarchy and gender stereotypes have on men and calling for change, RADAR chooses instead to undermine the prevalence of rape and domestic violence against women. Relying on hyperbolic claims and sensationalism - suggesting, for instance, that domestic violence laws represent "the largest regression in civil rights since the Jim Crow era" - RADAR succeeded in blocking the
passage expansion of several domestic violence bills, such as the Violence Against Women act. [*Correction appended] It is also worth noting that many of the movement's leaders are themselves accused batterers.
Though issues of men's rights and injustice towards men deserve attention, the anti-feminist approach employed by RADAR and many other men's rights groups in battling these issues is counterproductive and alarmingly reactionary. RADAR's attempt to take funding away from "discriminatory" women's-only shelters, rather than fighting for resources for male victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment, epitomizes this ineffectual methodology.
While it's true that all human rights are men's rights and that history is essentially a men's rights movement, discrimination against men should be a feminist concern because male and female rights are inextricably intertwined. Though a patriarchal society operates for male benefit, societal standards of masculinity are also harmful to men in real ways which deserve to be acknowledged. Rigid definitions of masculinity which narrowly cast men into aggressive, machismo, bread-winning roles are damaging to men, and further, they are damaging to men in ways that are also damaging to women. Following this line of reasoning, many feminists fight for fathers' rights as a means of countering the socially sanctioned notion that nurturer or caregiver must be a female-occupied role. A central objective of the feminist movement is debunking gender stereotypes, even when they apply only to men.
Male victims of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape deserve to be recognized and taken seriously, mothers should not be unjustly favoured over fathers in child custody proceedings, and individuals of both genders do not deserve to be systemically limited and harmed by rigid social definitions of masculinity. Feminist concerns and men's rights are not mutually exclusive, and should meet on the common ground of seeking gender equality - the irony of it all is that we're both fighting the same battle. As feminist Gloria Anzaldua suggests, "Men, even more than women, are fettered to gender roles ... We need a new masculinity and the new man needs a movement."
Correction: The article's original version claimed that RADAR had blocked the passage of several domestic violence bills, including the Violence Against Women act. In fact, RADAR helped block the expansion of these bills. Also, the Tribune apologizes for previously claiming that many of RADAR's leaders were accused batterers.
Date of RADAR Release: March 1, 2010
R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://www.mediaradar.org