pitcher Scott Erickson was arrested after an altercation with
his girlfriend last week--the latest example of how police often
arrest men who have been attacked by their female partners.
According to the
Associated Press, the Baltimore police concluded that Erickson's
girlfriend Lisa Ortiz: initiated the fight by hurling objects;
decided to come back twice after Erickson carried her out of the
apartment; repeatedly kicked the apartment door; caused Erickson
two minor injuries, one of them to his pitching arm; and herself
suffered no injuries.
police, who were operating under Maryland's mandatory arrest
law, interpreted Erickson's actions as excessive and are
charging him with second-degree assault. Ortiz states that
Erickson, who did not pursue her either time after carrying her
out, "has never been physically abusive toward me, and in no way
do I feel threatened or felt fear from Scott."
Ortiz was not
activist Greg Schmidt, a police lieutenant who created the
Seattle police department's domestic violence investigation unit
in 1994, says that cases like Erickson's demonstrate the way men
are often presumed guilty in domestic disputes. He notes that
mandatory arrest laws, such as California's, frustrate police
officers because they are "expected to make arrests in petty
incidents, often where the woman is the aggressor, the abuse is
mutual, or it is unclear who the aggressor was."
"The domestic violence
industry--the trainers, the shelter directors, etc.--can spin
things however they want," he says, "but most street cops know
that women are just as likely to start domestic disputes as men
are. But arresting women puts you under lot of scrutiny. It's
bad for your career."
criticizes the dominant aggressor doctrine which discourages
dual arrests (which are often an appropriate measure) and
instructs police to downplay who struck the first blow. Instead,
police are asked to focus on who is (supposedly) in control of
the situation and who is more fearful--often code words for
"arrest the man."
Part of the problem is
the training that police officers receive from the domestic
violence industry, which insists that 95% of domestic violence
is committed by men. Southern California domestic violence
consultant Anne O'Dell, who has conducted over 500 domestic
violence trainings of police officers and commanders, judges,
district attorneys, and victim advocates, tells her trainees
that "if a police officer is arresting more than 8% women,
you've got a real problem. When an officer arrests 12% or 15%
women, I'm outraged." O'Dell says that dual arrests should occur
in no more than 3% of incidents.
There is virtually no
current data which supports the "95%" myth. According to the US
Department of Justice's 1998 Report on the National Violence
Against Women Survey, men comprise nearly 40% of all
domestic violence victims. California State Long Beach
University professor Martin Fiebert has compiled an on-line
which examines 130 scholarly investigations (104 empirical
studies and 26 reviews and/or analyses) which demonstrate that
women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men
in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The
aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 77,000.
researchers Susan Steinmetz, Richard Gelles, and Murray Straus,
early advocates for battered women and authors of the
influential and groundbreaking Behind Closed Doors: Violence
in American Families, conducted two major studies for the
Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire,
both of which found similar rates of abuse between husbands and
As Gelles explained in
"The Missing Persons of Domestic Violence: Male Victims,"
"Contrary to the claim that women only hit in self-defense, we
found that women were as likely to initiate the violence as were
In addition, studies
by researchers R.L. McNeeley and Coramae Richey Mann show that
women compensate for their lesser physical strength by their
greater use of weapons and the element of surprise.
According to Phil Cook, author of Abused Men the Hidden Side
of Domestic Violence, while abused women tend to be
seriously injured more than abused men, often it is men who
receive the most serious injuries, because of the weapons
Once a man is arrested
for domestic violence it can be difficult (and expensive) for
him to extricate himself. Family law attorney Lisa Scott,
founder of the domestic violence activist group Taking Action
Against Bias in the System, says that district attorneys are
rarely willing to drop domestic violence cases against men, even
when the evidence is scant and the female "victims" themselves
ask that charges be dropped.
Many women's advocates
correctly note that these drop requests can at times be
motivated by economic dependency or because women are unfairly
made to feel guilty for nonviolently "provoking" violent men.
However, Scott explains that it is much more common that women
request drops because they know that they initiated the
violence, or that they participated equally in it, and they do
not want their male partners to be prosecuted unfairly.
Men in Erickson's
position often face an agonizing choice. If they do nothing,
they allow the abuse to continue and possibly escalate. If they
attempt to defend themselves, they take the chance that someone
will call the police and they will be arrested. If they call
the police, they are in danger of being arrested and prosecuted
for what is really their female partners' violence.
According to Gay
Kennedy, formerly the domestic violence adviser on the LAPD
Harbor Division advisory board, "the system has become very
unfair to men."
"Studies show that
there are many male victims of domestic violence but that they
don't report it," she notes. "It's not hard to see why. Anyone
who is attacked by their partner should call the police, but
male victims don't want to risk being sucked into a system which
is hopelessly stacked against them. And the domestic violence
industry, which is rife with anti-male prejudice, is part of the
Note: The second-degree assault charge against Erickson was
eventually dropped. According to a police spokeswoman, "The
victim was interviewed by the prosecutor, and her testimony
bordered on a recantation. With no other independent evidence,
the case just could not proceed." The "victim" the police
spokeswoman refers to is Ortiz, not Erickson. Ortiz, who
initiated the violence which left Erickson with a bruised and
swollen right arm (his pitching arm), was not prosecuted.
This column first appeared in the
Los Angeles Daily Journal and the San Francisco Daily
Sacks' columns on men's and fathers' issues have appeared in dozens of America's
largest newspapers. Glenn can be reached via his website at
via email at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.