Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Disaster Relief For Battered Women in Canada

image of book cover is from here

When I hear about disaster from CRAP-loaded media it is usually presented as something "natural", even while few disasters are naturally caused. This includes when fierce weather systems or deep Earth shifts contribute to the catastrophe. Nature wasn't responsible for Haiti being deforested, nor for unstable structures being built, nor for poverty being plentiful. Nature didn't destroy the wetlands off the coast of New Orleans that could have dissipated the force of a hurricane named Katrina. Nor did nature create a straight man-made path up Louisiana for a hurricane to travel uninterrupted, wreaking havoc across the interior of the state. Nature didn't make nuclear power plants in Japan either.

Here's something else nature didn't create: men's battery of women. Specifically, men who live with women and beat the shit out of them, terrorise them, threaten and control and dominate them for days, weeks, months, years, or decades as if they were powerless things to be subordinated sexually, emotionally, psychologically, and politically. That's not what women are, and any het man who believes that IS what "his" woman is for ought to pay a price. There's good news out of Canada: there's a new price to pay.

Let's hope this helps all Canadian women who live with or date physically, psychologically, politically, and sexually abusive and terroristic men, including women in systems of prostitution; impoverished and financially destitute women; Indigenous women raped or beaten on reservation land by non-Indigenous men; women who are immigrants married to immigrant men or to men who are not; and girls in the family who are similarly terrorised and abused.

Women systematically and chronically battered and terrorised by men don't really have a syndrome, in my view. They have acute survival skills honed in the most atrocious conditions of marriage (or some socially approved facsimile of it) to misogynist men. Those survival skills are grossly limited and punished because they exist in a context of patriarchal support and protection of men's violence against women--interpersonally enacted violence and institutionalised violence. That's how I view the condition of being brutalised by a tyrant. What women need is social permission to take out the patriarchal fuckers and male supremacist thugs and adult bullies who believe they have a right to beat and rape women (and children) they live with.

I firmly believe any man who threatens a woman's life and attempts to beat or rape her (or who does beat or rape her) spiritually abdicates his right to life. May any woman terrorised by one man or many men be lawfully, economically, socially, and culturally protected when using any means necessary to defend and protect herself. And let there be laws passed that forbid abusive husbands, boyfriends, and fathers from ever getting custody of children whose mother was beaten or raped, threatened and terrorised, by the grossly inhumane man who committed the crime.

Patriarchal laws and het men's peer-protected codes of conduct have ruled homes and courts long enough. At least hundreds of years too long, in fact. Every male supremacist violent act against women and girls and each and every political vestige of patriarchy needs to be wiped permanently from the Earth. ASAP. By any and all means necessary. Women who kill their male abusers, however they manage it, should be heralded socially and publicly, in media and in their cities, towns, and villages, as heroes. Speaking about and within North America, the offering of medals, honors, and "hero status" to mass murdering U.S. soldiers and generals who rape and slaughter people of color abroad is a disgusting display of racist-misogyny that is a core political practice in war, not a peripheral one.

Thank you to all the women--most of whom have never been honored or heralded as heroes, across the globe, who have been fighting for decades to liberate women from the atrocities endemic to institutionalised het marriage and other systems of subordination and lethal woman-hating harm.

What follows is cross-posted from Ms. online. Please click on the title below to link back.

Canada Offers “Duress” Defense for Battered Women

April 14, 2011 by Marla Kohlman

Nicole Ryan had endured more than 15 horrific years of domestic abuse when, in 2008, she plotted to have her husband killed. Unbeknownst to her, the hired “hit man” was an undercover police officer who quickly had Ryan charged with “counseling to commit murder”.

But last week, Ryan was acquitted in a Nova Scotia provincial court under the defense of duress–a new plea for abused women in Canada. The decision represents a beacon of hope for traumatized women who lash out under extreme violence.

The defense of duress provides a new standard against which to judge the so-called “criminal” actions of battered women. Previously, only women facing imminent threats of violence or death had a hope of pleading self-defense in Canadian courts. The same is true in the United States, where women must be able to prove their safety was immediately threatened by an abusive spouse in order to successfully argue self-defense. In light of Ryan’s case, Canadian judges can now account for rash, out-of-character actions taken against violent spouses by abused women who are “living in a state of terror.”
Said Chief Justice Michael MacDonald:
The rationale for the defense of duress is quite different. It involves excusing a wrongdoing in circumstances where the accused is left with no other alternative. Therefore, unlike self-defense, it is not the type of action society would support, let alone applaud.
From the time Nicole Ryan and her husband married in 1992, it was clear that Michael Ryan’s temper was out of control. He frequently pummeled his wife with his fists and threatened her with guns.
She was separated from her husband at the time she was arrested in 2008, but, she testified, her husband “was sexually assaulting her weekly, threatening her life and specifying where he would bury her.”
Given the circumstances, the court ruled, her actions were a result of normal human instincts of self-preservation.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has raised the bar for courts all over the world in adjudicating cases involving battered women who have sought to defend themselves against their attackers. Elizabeth Sheehy, a Canadian legal scholar, called the decision a “legal breakthrough.” She told The Globe and Mail,
This was a planned and deliberate murder because she had no other way out. It was her life and her child’s life versus his.
Lenore Walker, the foremost advocate for battered women and battered woman’s syndrome in the U.S., has argued that women like Ryan may turn to murder in self-defense as a result of “learned helplessness.” Walker argues that women in such violent relationships come to believe that any attempt to resist their batterers is doomed to failure. This is compounded by the batterer’s repeated threats to kill the woman if she leaves, and his insistence that she has no escape. Moreover, as in Ryan’s case, battered women’s actions are often taken in an effort to protect the lives of their children.

For abused women in the U.S. who find themselves before the court as Ryan did, the plea of self-defense will rarely succeed unless the woman kills her abuser while he’s abusing her—and even then the defense is not without risk. As in Canada, the defense is frequently rejected, and battered women who may not otherwise pose a threat to society can find themselves behind bars. The defense of duress may very well change that.