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Using the System to Batter

Auburn, WA Municipal Court Helps the Batterer Batter



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Chuck (not his real name) is a likeable, outgoing young man. Dynamic, well-paid sales manager sought after by other companies.

Or he was, until he was battered, first by his ex-girlfriend Samantha (not her real name, either) and then by the system.

Samantha was arrested and jailed for domestic violence, and a no-contact order was issued against her. The case is scheduled to come to trial in December, 2001.

Today, Auburn Municipal Court Presiding Judge Patrick R. Burns made his own contribution to the battering by the system, with the assistance of the Domestic Abuse Women's Network. DAWN was there to represent the interests of the batterer, Samantha. Chuck had phoned DAWN and New Beginnings, the two King County domestic violence programs for assistance, and was ignored. One told him "I'm not saying your call isn't important, but I have a call that's more important," and hung up.

Samantha has turned around and petitioned the Auburn Municipal Court for a domestic violence restraining order against Chuck, the guy she had battered.

When Chuck showed up for court, he saw Samantha and a domestic violence advocate standing outside. It sure looked like the system was stacked against him, and he wasn't sure he could handle her lies and accusations. So he turned around and left.

The batterer and her domestic violence courtroom advocate from DAWN saw Chuck come and go before the hearing was called. In the true spirit of advocacy, the DAWN advocate did not say anything, but sat patiently in the court for an hour and a half until the case was recalled.

Judge Burns, who is slated to hear the woman's case for domestic violence assault issued the order, quipped, "Mr. Jones is still not here. This one's easy." as he signed another instrument in her battering of Chuck. A court observer tried to speak out, "I have information pertinent ...." and Judge Burns snapped, "You're not a party. I won't hear you."

The domestic violence programs that refused to help Chuck will be quick to tell you that domestic violence is about power and control. DAWN and Judge Patrick Burns demonstrate how the batterer can use the system as another battering weapon, to assert more power and control.

Chuck doesn't want any power and control. He just wants Samantha out of his life. He rues the day he met her and bailed her out of jail on a DUI. He stood by her with her second DUI. She came over to Chuck's mom's for holiday dinner one time and got belligerent, before she (to put it indelicately) "barfed all over the floor." One time when Chuck was not there, Samantha belted his brother in the face. Her drinking was out of control. But she has a handle on it with her own version of the AA 12-Step program—Step 1 is to sign your own court slips or have your friends sign them.

Enough is enough. Chuck stopped seeing Samantha. He wanted her out of his life, so his life could return to sanity.

The domestic violence programs that refused to help Chuck will also tell you that a person is at more risk of domestic violence when they try to break off the relationship. Chuck's story is familiar to everyone who has worked at a domestic violence shelter. Samantha begged and pleaded to get back together, and swore she had "reformed." He relented, and said she could come over if she wasn't drinking. She came over, drunk, assaulted him, and ended up being hauled away by the cops.

Now Samantha will demonstrate her power and control, and get back at Chuck, for the sin of being on the wrong end of her punches. She does it with the full cooperation of the DAWN domestic violence program and Judge Patrick Burns of the Auburn Municipal Court.

DAWN, the Domestic Abuse Women's Network, receives funding from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services and King County specifically for the purpose of discriminating by race, religion, gender or gender orientation in providing services to victims of domestic violence. In addition to shelter services they provide client advocacy and legal advocacy to everyone meeting their discriminatory service criteria.

DAWN takes pride in their discrimination, on the home page of their Web site: "Domestic Abuse Women’s Network is the only community-based agency in South King County, Washington dedicated to offering comprehensive, free services for women and children experiencing domestic violence."

Their exclusionary policy is listed in their statement of client advocacy and legal advocacy services that people, all victims of domestic violence, need. In this case, for example, DAWN provided legal advocacy services to the batterer, to help her avoid or minimize the consequences of her domestic violence assault. Ironically, when Samantha goes to her criminal trial for domestic violence assault, an advocate for Victim/Witness Services will be standing for the victim, while a DAWN advocate will stand for the batterer. The state and King County will be providing free advocacy services to both sides of this criminal matter, even if the perpetrator doesn't meet the indigency test for free legal counsel.

Member organizations in WCSAP, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs and domestic violence programs Longview/Kelso and Vashon Island, by contrast, comply with Washington's constitutional Equal Rights Amendment and do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender or gender orientation. They provide services to the people who need them, regardless of gender.


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