Jim Moran: How Not to Respond to Domestic Violence
Excerpts from this article
…The police report stated that two officers saw Moran grab his girlfriend by the back of the head and smash her head into a metal trash can, breaking her nose and fracturing her skull.
Sadly, the aftermath of this crime has followed a pattern that prosecutors, police, and anti-violence activists know well: Moran successfully pled down to a slap on the wrist, in this case probation. Moran’s girlfriend is sticking by him, claiming she tripped and fell and that all this is a mistake. This entire pattern of events is what activists call the ‘cycle of violence,’ which is not—despite the inevitable media blather after any domestic-violence incident—the result either of an abuser having ‘anger management’ issues or the victim being stupid or a masochist. Domestic violence is a choice abusers make, and society makes the situation much worse by giving them a license to operate.
Representative Moran’s behavior this week, in fact, could serve as a checklist of all the ways that friends, family, colleagues, and society treat domestic violence, ways that make it difficult for victims to leave, and let abusers know they can offend without being held accountable.
Portraying domestic violence as a private matter, instead of a criminal matter that affects us all. Rep. Moran told the Washington City Paper, ‘I hope their privacy will be respected,’ and added, ‘They look forward to putting this embarrassing situation behind them.’ Sadly, framing domestic violence as if it’s a private matter, like bickering over money or committing adultery, is all too common. In fact, violent assault is violent assault, whether the assailant is a mugger on the street or purports to love the victim. By treating domestic violence as a private matter, we downplay its severity, which is why it so often leads to light sentences.
Claiming the abuser is a great guy whose behavior was out of character. Representative Moran referred to his son and his son’s victim as ‘good kids.’ We have no information about the victim, but let’s be clear: Taking someone’s head and smashing it against a trash can precludes the possibility of someone being a good kid.
Believing obvious lies or silly excuses. The police report names two witnesses who saw Moran bash his victim’s head into a trash can. The report makes no mention of the victim claiming anything other than what the police saw. Moran has pled guilty. The victim was badly injured, with a skull fracture and a broken nose. Despite all this, Representative Moran is claiming that the victim tripped and fell, citing the victim’s own e-mail saying this as evidence. But as this prosecutor interviewed by Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky explains, victim recantations simply can’t be taken at face value, especially in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Victims are guilt-tripped, bullied, and shamed into making up stories to corroborate their abusers’ lies. When we believe these stories and not the statistical and physical evidence of abuse, we’re signaling to the abuser that we’ve got his back and will believe even obvious nonsense rather than stand up to him.
Blaming the victim. Representative Moran couldn’t be more eager to blame the victim, either partially or completely, for what his son did to her. Not only is he supporting the hard-to-believe ‘broken high heel’ story, but he has gone out of his way to frame this incident as a shared-blame situation. The language about privacy and embarrassment make it sound like trouble they got in together, and calling them ‘good kids’ that were in a ‘situation, which involved drinking’ is a way to equate the two, even though only one made the choice to bash someone’s head against a trash can. Judging the victim’s personal choices as if they mitigate the violence, portraying domestic violence as a fight that got out of hand, or telling tales that make it sound like the victim did it to herself are all classic ways of shifting the blame from the abuser to the victim. When we do this, we let the abuser know he won’t be held accountable, and we make the victim feel guilty.