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June 26, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

This piece of agitprop is so astonishingly bad you’d have thought it would be beneath the standards even of the New York Times (New York Times, 6/21/14). But no, the more we see of the Times, the more it reminds us of doing The Limbo — “How low can you go?” The simple truth seems to be that the country’s “paper of record,” will publish anything — anything at all — as long as it promotes certain views on certain subjects. And the article linked to certainly does so.

From its headline (that oddly has nothing to do with the article) to the last sentence, the piece is a naked exercise in manufacturing consent for policies that are (a) unconscionably flawed, (b) seriously detrimental to society and the individuals living in it and (c) agreeable to the editors of the Times.

More specifically, the article is about domestic violence and how the writer’s research reveals that our fealty to two-parent child raising increases women’s chances of suffering abuse at the hands of a domestic partner. The writer, Sara Shoener, pushed all the right buttons to get her piece in the Times. She thinks that marriage is dangerous to women, that women remain in violent relationships because the culture tells them to and that dual-parenting of children is suspect due to the threat of DV. With opinions like those, how could she miss?

Reasonable conclusions to draw from her article include such gems as dual parenting is dangerous for children and mothers, children and mothers are better off without fathers/husbands, marriage is dangerous for women, no one in authority, like the police, judges, etc., cares about any of the above and they don’t care because they’re in thrall to a dangerous narrative about the virtues of married childrearing.

Indeed, that’s a reasonably accurate distillation of Times articles on the subjects of men, women, marriage, children, etc., i.e. entirely divorced from reality, and ardently cheering for the most destructive trends of our time.

About that headline. It’s “Two-Parent Households Can Be Lethal.” Yes, and so can drinking a glass of water, and, like that glass of water, the claim is never mentioned in the article. Shoener says nothing about the lethality of domestic violence. Not a word.

Moving on from there, she lets us know in her first sentence that she’s “spent two years studying,” and in her second paragraph that she “began my research,” leading the gullible among her readers to believe that she might actually know some facts about domestic violence. And she does! One.

I began my research in 2011, the year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than one-third of American women are assaulted by an intimate partner during their lives.

After that, the entirety of her article consists of anecdotal conversations she says she’s had with women in DV shelters, observations she claims to have made in family courts, DV courts and the like. Yes, the facts from which she draws her conclusions that our support for two-parent families is the bane of our — and particularly women’s — existence comes from her talking to women who say they’re victims of domestic violence. That’s it.

Where to begin? The flaws, the frank stupidity, of such an approach is truly daunting. How to do it justice?

Shoener knows about the CDC’s study. Did she read it? Did she notice that almost 30% of men experience DV in their lifetimes? Apparently not. Is she aware that the huge majority of what we call domestic violence is either a one-time thing or a rarity that’s usually associated with things like financial stress? Did she notice that domestic violence is now defined to include behaviors that are in no way physical or violent? Does she know that the vast majority of what qualifies as domestic violence is either entirely non-injurious or results in what one Scottish study called “a minor cut or bruise?”

None of that comes across in Shoener’s piece of course because those facts don’t comport with the preferred narrative whose goal is the separation of women from men and men from their children.

False allegations of violence? Shoener’s never heard of them. For her, if a woman says her partner is abusive, then he is. Period. Do any of the male partners of the women she interviewed have a story to tell? They all do, but Shoener’s not interested. For her and the Gray Lady, there’s only one side to the domestic violence story, the woman’s, so they keep the men voiceless.

What about the fact that women who are married to the fathers of their kids are far less likely to be victims of DV? Nope, for what should be obvious reasons, Shoener either doesn’t know the fact or will never admit it. And for the same reason — narrative consistency — she’ll never admit that children of married, dual-parent households are also safer than their peers with single mothers.

No anti-father/anti-marriage/anti-child article would be complete without the claim that courts don’t care about mothers who claim DV.

In court, I watched a judge order the very first woman I interviewed to drop off her son at his father’s house every week for visitation. When she tried to tell the judge that she had a protection order against her child’s father and that she was concerned for her safety, the judge responded: “You know what? You are just trying to keep this child from his father, aren’t you?”

I saw women lose custody rights because they had moved with their children to friends’ houses or even into domestic violence shelters to escape abuse, and judges considered these “unsuitable living arrangements.” The children were sent back to their abusive fathers, who could provide “more stability.”

Now, even if every word of that is true, several things leap out. First, she’s taking the women at their word, but never lets us know the rest of the story. We know that, where one person in a relationship engages in violence, the other likely does too. That means that many of the women Shoener would have us believe play no role in the inter-partner dynamic of violence in fact play a major role. As we’ve known since Erin Pizzey opened the first DV shelter in the U.K. in 1971, when couples hit each other, women are in there slugging with the men and often started the fight.

Needless to say, Shoener isn’t interested in those facts or the science that bears them out. She’s far too interested in peddling the fiction that courts turn a blind eye to allegations of DV. If she were to ever take an hour or so out of her busy schedule to actually read some laws on the subject, she’d find out that courts are generally required to investigate allegations of violence and that all statutes in the country require DV to be considered as a factor in custody decisions. But again, the facts of the matter can be so inconvenient to the propagation of nonsense of the type Shoener is so fond.

Consider her two paragraphs quoted above. In the first, she never considers the fact that, for example, the woman’s protection order against the man may mean essentially nothing. Those orders are handed out like candy and can be based on nothing beyond a bare assertion on the part of the mother seeking same. Does the woman have a real concern about real injury to herself? Or did the father’s arrival at her house one day to pick up the child “place her in fear” of some unknown and never before engaged in behavior? I’ve written about a case in which exactly that formed the basis for a protective order against a father, and similar stories are legion. But of course Shoener didn’t inquire into the facts of the case, just the mother’s claims. Did the dad have his side of the story to tell? Of course he did, but naturally Shoener doesn’t want to hear it.

The judge said the mother was “just trying to keep this child from his father,” but Shoener wants her readers to believe, as she apparently does, that the judge had no basis whatever for saying so. After all, it’s not unheard of for mothers to raise allegations of DV for the purpose of limiting - or denying altogether — fathers’ time with their kids. Indeed, for decades, scrupulous family lawyers have been complaining that bogus claims of DV are used as a matter of routine in family courts for precisely that reason.

Shoener says she did “research,” but of course it didn’t extend to things that would be obvious to one less doctrinaire. She never asked the dad for his side of things, never checked the court’s file to see what the facts were and never called the lawyers to get their take on the case. She’s the type of “researcher” who doggedly avoids looking into areas that might produce information upsetting to her narrative.

And, when it comes to the subjects of men, women, marriage, children, DV and related topics, that’s just the type of “researcher” the Times loves.

Predictably, Shoener’s piece is so bad, I couldn’t do it justice in a single post, so I’ll write more about it next time.

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