The problem with zero tolerance and domestic abuse | Jewish Tribune (Canada)
Monday, August 13, 2012
One in Three Campaign

Ontario has a zero tolerance policy and police officers are instructed that they must lay a charge “if there are reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed in relation to the Criminal Code, Child and Family Services Act, Children’s Law Reform Act or Family Law Act.” In the politically-charged atmosphere of “domestic violence,” ‘reasonable grounds’ is often as a complaint of a single event of domestic violence, even if there is no visible evidence, no corroborating witness and even if the event took place years ago.

Once interviewed, the person alleged to have committed the offence may protest that nothing happened whatsoever, that the whole allegation is fabricated or that it was a minor mutual struggle (i.e., they pushed each other with the person alleging the assault starting the altercation). It makes no difference. In many such situations, once the person goes to the police, the police often video tape the complaint made and arrest the person complained about. In almost every one of these situations the complainant is a woman and the person complained about is male. Men rarely go to the police to complain about women attacking them. 

In those cases where women have truly been assaulted this process appears to be quite fair and works well to protect women and their children who witness violence in their families. Much has been written in this column over the past 31 years about domestic violence against women and how difficult it is to obtain their cooperation when I attempt to interview them; many are so abused that they cannot break out of such relationships. They are psychologically trapped by the men who victimize them into a pattern of abuse to which they have become “accustomed,” especially if they are financially tied to the man’s purse strings. No matter how much I explain that the law will protect them with spousal/child support, property division and restraining orders, most don’t believe me or find greater comfort in the abusive relationships to which habit has chained them to these monsters. When I offer to get them medical or psychological help, many simply walk away, comforted in the “knowledge” that their partners have taken away all their self-esteem in exchange for a Faustean devil’s bargain: a roof over their heads, an allowance and a way of life that they “know.” 

What is less known is the hidden problem of domestic violence against men. I have had several male clients over the years who have been punched, had items thrown at them, stabbed with pens and other implements, bruised, spat on, kicked violently and even hospitalized. These men are terrified to fight back. Some are badly intimidated by their partners, don’t have the personality to “fight back” or are very concerned about the impact of how their reactions will impact on their children. Others seriously worry about the police and getting arrested should they defend themselves, so they walk away and don’t tell anyone, especially the authorities. They are also understandably embarrassed. It may not be ‘politically correct’ to even suggest this problem exists, but it sadly does, and often in wealthy homes, not just modest ones. 

When a person, inevitably male, is falsely accused, several of my clients have been summarily arrested, falsely imprisoned, kicked out of their own home, sometimes where their businesses are located, strip searched and thrown in jail. They are then alienated from their own children and their possessions inside the home, often for several months to a year until their criminal lawyer was brave enough to conduct a full blown trial to obtain a complete acquittal that can cost $10,000-20,000, which they have never recovered, unless they have successfully sued their wives for wrongful dismissal. So in many such cases, such a victimized spouse might settle for “peace bond” in which he agrees to “keep the peace” even if he didn’t do anything because its cheaper than a trial! And just how fair is that? Unfortunately, by that time, his wife has effectively won the war on custody, since she has had the children in her care for the better part of the year and “exclusive possession” of the house, since her intention of falsely accusing her husband of assault and having him arrested was designed solely to create “facts on the ground”: i.e., get sole possession of the house and control of the children since once your husband is arrested the court imposes a court order, called a recognizance or “bail order” pending trial (a year later) that prevents the husband from coming back to the house. The victimized spouse, usually male, has now spent thousands of dollars for the privilege of (a) being thrown in jail, (b) being shut out of his own home, (c) suffering the embarrassment of being charged with a criminal offence in front of the community and (d) not seeing his kids except on terms his wife will accept, unless the Family Court intervenes, which costs even more money – a lot more money. Moreover, it takes time to have a Family Court make an order on parenting issues. In Newmarket, ON, one can wait several months for a case conference and then a motion on the issue. And since the fellow is no longer living with the children, the court will normally side with the parent who has lived with the children since the separation when awarding “custody” or “primary care and control.” Hence, by kicking out the father on false charges, the mother wins this fight by underhanded means. Then when the father goes to Family Court, he fights only for “better terms of access.” Is this really fair?

Surely more careful investigations must be carried out before the Zero Tolerance rule is applied so summarily in this province.

Meanwhile, men better make sure that they marry or partner with women who play fair. Otherwise, a jail cell may be awaiting them – if she decides to simply pick up the phone and dial three digits: 911. 

Article originally appeared on One in Three Campaign (http://www.oneinthree.com.au/).
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