Disorder in the Courts: Mothers and Their Allies Take on the Family Law System is an electronic (download) publication featuring a collection of essays by experts addressing the critical issues mothers face in contentious custody and divorce cases. The contributors offer advice, encouragement and personal experiences to other mothers and their allies facing cases of their own, or working to address the crisis for mothers and their children in the family law courts. With an introduction and afterword by the editors, the collection includes essays by: Phyllis Chesler, Karen Anderson; Dr. Lundy Bancroft; Sharon Bass; Dr. Robert Geffner; Judge (ret.) Sol Gothard; Dr. Mo Therese Hannah; Karen Hartley-Nagle; Paige Hodson; Kristen, Diane and Charles Hofheimer, Dominique Lasseur, Kristen Lombardi, Dr. Geraldine Butts Stahly, Garland Waller, and Trish Wilson.
‘It’s What I Do,’ by Lynsey Addario
By SCOTT ANDERSON FEB. 4, 2015
The modern battlefield can induce a peculiar strain of skewed logic among those sent to chronicle it. Upon a landscape where it is often mortally dangerous simply to stand in one place, how much worse can it be to venture a little farther, to get a bit closer? And having assumed the added risk of getting closer, how then to leave before you’ve taken the perfect image, conducted one last interview? What makes such calculations especially tricky is that most modern battlefields have no recognizable boundaries or rules of conduct; they bear less resemblance to any traditional war movie than, say, to “Mad Max.”
In the opening of her affecting memoir, “It’s What I Do,” the photojournalist Lynsey Addario provides a harrowing account of just where such moth-to-the-flame thinking can lead. In March 2011, Addario was in Libya covering the civil war when she, along with a local driver and three other journalists on assignment with The New York Times, ventured into the exposed front-line town of Ajdabiya. (Although we have both covered conflicts for The Times, I have never worked with Addario, and we are only passing acquaintances.) Addario had feelings of foreboding from the outset, fears that amplified amid reports that loyalists to Muammar el-Qaddafi were encircling the town. Working against this, though, was the call of her profession.
“We are greedy by nature,” she notes of war photographers and reporters. “We always want more than what we have. The consensus in the car at that point was to keep working.”
As the only woman in that car, Addario felt further pressure to keep her concerns to herself. “I didn’t want to be the cowardly photographer or the terrified girl who prevented the men from doing their work.”
When at last the group decided it was time to get out, it was too late: Captured by Qaddafi’s soldiers, the four journalists were bound and blindfolded and taken away; their driver was dead, summarily executed or killed in the crossfire. What ensued over the next several days was a horrifying ordeal, as the journalists were paraded through loyalist towns, to be punched and hit with rifle butts — and in Addario’s case, sexually groped — by both soldiers and the crowd. In the most unforgettably ghastly moment, Addario remembers how one of the captors caressed her face and hair “like a lover,” while softly “repeating the same phrase over and over.” She assumed the man was trying to comfort her, until an Arabic-speaking fellow captive told her the truth: “He’s telling you that you will die tonight.”
Eventually transferred into the far gentler custody of the Libyan Foreign Ministry, the journalists were ultimately released and flown out of the country. In Addario’s case, her Libyan nightmare had at least one happy side effect: Acceding to an entreaty her husband had been making for years, she soon became pregnant with their first child.
Although there is no academic credential that boosts one’s odds of becoming a successful combat journalist (ironically, one of the more common traits in the profession is a dearth of journalism degrees), there surely is a personality type: plucky, adventurous, intensely curious, ferociously driven. From early on, Addario showed signs of possessing all these traits, and in abundance. The youngest of four girls born to a fun-loving and rather bohemian Italian-American couple, Addario grew up in the affluent suburbs of Westport, Conn. She found her calling at the age of 13, when her father gave her a simple Nikon 35 mm camera to play around with. Immediately fascinated, she began to photograph obsessively, even if she never imagined it might lead to a career.
That started to change when, after graduating from college, Addario saved up her waitressing money to move to Argentina; along with teaching English she began peddling her photos to the local English-language newspaper at the princely rate of $10 a picture. It was while attending an exhibit of the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado that she experienced an epiphany. “Something I had perceived until that moment as a simple means of capturing pretty scenes,” she writes, “became something altogether different: It was a way to tell a story. It was the marriage of travel and foreign cultures and curiosity and photography. It was photojournalism.
|As Addario points out, hitting it big in journalism often carries an element of luck, of being in the right place at the right time. For her, that came in the summer of 2000. Living in South Asia and eager to examine the role of women under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban regime, Addario, under the cloak of a chador, spent several weeks insinuating herself into the lives of Afghan women, emerging with a remarkable portrait of a culture few outsiders had glimpsed. That portfolio might have received limited attention, until the United States went to war with the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks.Moving back to New York, Addario scrambled for any assignment that might come her way, no matter how lowly or poorly paid. The club she hoped to join was very much a fraternity, and she felt the constant need to prove herself as single-minded and intrepid as any man. This came at a personal cost. As better assignments started coming her way, her relationships foundered time and again on her absolute devotion to her craft and her lengthy absences in the field.|
“Editors suddenly found news value in the Taliban,” Addario wryly notes, “in the plight of Pakistani women, in Afghan refugees living in Pakistan — all stories I had done while living in India.”
Amid the rush to cover the war, Addario was put on freelance “rotation” by The New York Times, a status that became all but permanent when the American military adventures in the region extended to Iraq. By the end of that tumultuous decade, and at extraordinary personal risk, Addario had covered conflicts across the Middle East and Africa for some of the world’s most prestigious publications. She also received the affirmation she had long sought, including a shared Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.
In the photographs liberally scattered throughout “It’s What I Do” are clues to how Addario rose to the top of her field. The very best photographers develop an ineluctable bond with their subjects, an intimacy built on patience and trust; in the strongest photos here, such as her portraits of women rape victims in Congo, her ability to capture their strength and vulnerability is profoundly touching.
Yet the qualities that make for a brilliant photographer may not make for a brilliant memoirist. Only occasionally does Addario linger long enough to render the kind of fully sketched scene that makes the account of her kidnapping in Libya so riveting. Instead, she has a tendency to tell her story in a summary travelogue fashion, with people and places and events — even the succession of disappointing boyfriends — flitting by at such a rapid clip as to blur to dimness. What makes this doubly frustrating is that when Addario does slow down, she is incisive: In the acutely observed account of her negotiations with a young Taliban visa clerk, for example — a complex dance requiring her to shift constantly between submission, flirtation and defiance — the reader is likely to learn more about the capricious nature of Islamic fundamentalism than from a dozen essays or position papers.
One also wishes for a bit more self-reflection. Like every combat journalist, Addario grapples with the psychic dissonance of inhabiting parallel universes, one in which unspeakable atrocities regularly occur, another in which children play happily in safety-tested playgrounds; yet she has little more to say on the matter than she has learned to live with it. But maybe such glibness is a necessary defense mechanism. In her uncommon ability to connect emotionally with her photographic subjects, Addario has been given entree into a world of sorrows and hardships that most would find too much to bear, and that require a certain amount of stoicism to withstand.
IT’S WHAT I DO
A Photographer’s Life of Love and War
By Lynsey Addario
Illustrated. 357 pp. Penguin Press. $29.95.
Patricia Bosworth met her future husband in a bar when he punched out a drunk who pinched her bottom. She was only 19, but they married with dizzying speed.
He began to abuse her almost as quickly. One night they argued about money, in the back seat of a taxi, and he started hitting her. Screaming and sobbing, she begged the cab driver for help, only to have him shrug off her pleas.
“He’s the boss, lady,” the driver said.
Bosworth finally left her husband when he tried to choke her to death because he was angry that his pet bird escaped. Now 83, she has since had a long career as an actress and author. Her latest book—The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan—describes the harrowing story of her first marriage in an era when the prevailing culture simply assumed that men were entitled to beat their wives.
“I was brought up to believe the husband was always right,” Bosworth recalls. “That’s the way things were in those days.”
As the women’s movement gained strength, feminists raised public awareness about the prevalence of domestic abuse, and laws were passed to protect women from violence by intimate partners. But Donald Trump’s candidacy alarmed a wide range of women’s advocates—and things quickly got worse.
Although many activists had assumed voters would reject a nominee caught boasting on tape about grabbing female genitalia, Trump’s victory signaled a disturbing public acceptance of such retrograde behavior. His actions since then have generated growing fear that the Trump administration heralds a return to the policies—and the predations—of the past.
Women’s advocates were particularly dismayed by the news that Trump is planning “dramatic” federal budget cuts that include all 25 of the grant programs managed by the Office on Violence Against Women, which is housed in the Department of Justice.
“We’re deeply concerned about cuts in the funding that enables us to provide legal and social services to victims,” says Jennifer Friedman, managing director of the Center for Legal Services at My Sisters’ Place, a nonprofit organization in New York’s Westchester County that provides shelter and counsel to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.
Such cutbacks would be dangerously counterproductive, according to activists in a broad range of women’s rights, civil rights, faith-based, labor, and law enforcement groups. “I don’t think it is extreme if I say to you that women will die,” Lynn Hecht Schafran, senior vice-president of Legal Momentum, warned in a call for action sent to the organization’s supporters.
The proposed budget cuts don’t even make economic sense, according to experts. “VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) has saved taxpayers billions of dollars in costs for medical and mental health services, as well as costs for law enforcement and justice system expenditures,” Schafran wrote. “VAWA’s 25 grant programs are not wasteful, and they represent just over one hundredth of one percent of the federal budget.”
Despite considerable progress, the need for such assistance remains acute. “Domestic violence is still happening in huge numbers,” Friedman says.
‘People think that if women have money, they can get out, but my mom was making well over six figures when my dad held her underwater in a hot tub.’
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 40 percent of female murder victims are killed by their intimate partners. Two-thirds of all women who report being raped, assaulted, or stalked are victimized by current or former husbands or boyfriends, and more than a million American women are physically assaulted by their intimate partners every year, according to the Department of Justice.
And yet male office-holders have long neglected the problem, preferring to focus on other priorities. President Trump emphasizes the potential threat from foreign-born terrorists, but far more Americans die from domestic violence, as was made painfully clear by a recent headline on a New York Times op-ed column: “Husbands are deadlier than terrorists.” In the United States, the death toll is exacerbated by ready access to firearms, as Nicholas Kristof pointed out: “In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.”
Equally curious is the ongoing failure of male-dominated legislatures to address the economic consequences of such abuse, which are enormous. “One in three women is the victim of domestic violence in her lifetime, and it costs the U.S. billions of dollars a year in loss of productivity, health care, and other costs,” says Alyse Nelson, president and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, a non-profit organization that works with women leaders on economic empowerment and human rights issues.
Popular stereotypes often assume most victims are women of color and those in poverty, but domestic violence occurs in all socio-economic, religious, racial, and cultural groups. Steph Wagner, a San Diego-based financial consultant who specializes in divorce, sees women in every income bracket. “I had a prospective client whose estate was 15 to 20 million dollars, and we had to create an underground-railroad safety plan before we could even talk,” says Wagner, who grew up in Texas with an abusive father. “People think that if women have money, they can get out, but my mom was making well over six figures when my dad held her underwater in a hot tub.”
The stubborn persistence of such assaults only highlights the fact that most men have not joined the battle. “The majority of men are non-violent, but unfortunately the majority, for the most part, stay silent,” Nelson said at Vital Voices’ annual gala last December.
Seeking new ways to address the problem, some organizations are now enlisting men. “Violence against women is one of the greatest challenges facing the human race, but it’s always been thought of as a women’s issue, and it’s only going to get better through engaging men,” Nelson says. “We can’t expect to eliminate violence against women without men as active partners and allies. We have to show them that this is where they need to lead.”
The Vital Voices event, Voices of Solidarity, honored male leaders who are helping to fight violence against women in countries around the world. The honorees included a Heineken executive in Mexico, the mayor of Dallas, and the actor Patrick Stewart, whose abusive father served in the British Army. All spoke eloquently about their efforts, and the mood that night was hopeful.
But Trump’s rise to power has ratcheted up fears of a return to the bad old days. During the presidential debates, many viewers perceived his behavior toward Hillary Clinton as threatening, and therapists and service providers saw a surge in abuse survivors who reported that the public conduct of the GOP nominee had triggered a flare-up of their post-traumatic stress symptoms.
“Women felt Trump’s presentation was that of a batterer, and all of us saw an increase in women coming out of the woodwork to tell their stories,” says Friedman. “People you never knew had a story came out and said, ‘This is what happened to me.’”
Many survivors felt traumatized by Trump’s bullying tactics, which included verbal abuse and the denial of objective reality, known as gaslighting, a tactic abusers often use to assert their dominance by creating confusion and anxiety. “The fear is so great it’s like living under Saddam Hussein,” says Wagner. “It’s about mental control. The humiliation and control are just as painful as being punched in the eye.”
That perspective reflects an evolving understanding of domestic violence, whose treatment increasingly incorporates a recognition of its psychological and economic dimensions. “The word ‘violence’ implies injury, but domestic violence is defined by advocates as a whole range of behaviors, including emotionally abusive power, and control issues that may not be physical,” Friedman explains.
Trump’s history includes an accusation of rape by his first wife, Ivana, the mother of his three oldest children. But despite such charges, 53 percent of white women still voted for him. “No matter how far we’ve come, I still think the majority of women are traditionalists,” Bosworth says. “They think it’s a man’s world, and men should have control.”
When Trump assumed office, he chose other alleged abusers as close advisors — including Steve Bannon, the far-right media executive who became his senior strategist and White House counselor. During their divorce, Bannon’s second wife accused him of abuse, and he was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery, and dissuading a witness. The charges were dropped after his ex-wife failed to appear in court, although she said her absence was due to threats made by Bannon and his lawyer.
Bannon’s divorce and custody files also included charges that he was abusive toward his children; didn’t see them for a full two years, during which time they had no idea where he lived; threatened school administrators; and failed to pay child and spousal support.
A Trump cabinet nominee raised similar concerns. Trump named Andrew Puzder, chief executive of the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., as his secretary of labor. Puzder’s first wife Lisa Fierstein had appeared in disguise on an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” titled “High Class Battered Women” to accuse Puzder of domestic abuse. Fierstein, who had called the police during one incident, said Puzder told her, “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this.” Fierstein later retracted her charge of spousal abuse as part of a child custody agreement; the couple divorced in 1987. Despite Puzder’s history, Trump was apparently unperturbed, and it was only when the Oprah tape became public—and senators from both parties reportedly saw it at private screenings—that Puzder finally withdrew his nomination.
Yet President Trump’s apparent tolerance for assault has raised fears of a growing male backlash against women’s empowerment. “Violence against women is an age-old problem, but it isn’t getting better—it’s getting worse,” says Nelson. “We have seen great progress in the U.S., but men are threatened by women’s rise in power.” Their reactions will soon be measured in dollars and cents, with decisions made by the aging white men who dominate both Congress and the new administration.
“If Congress cuts funding, it would be turning back the clock,” says Friedman. “People don’t give up privilege that easily, because privilege is power. The notion that women and men are equal only became embedded in our law a few decades ago. You’re challenging all of human history in a generation or two. We’re waiting to see what’s going to happen, but there’s an atmosphere of trepidation now.”
Leslie Bennetts is a longtime journalist who has covered presidential politics since the 1970s and a best-selling author whose latest book is Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses and Liberation of Joan Rivers
A Message from District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
Thank you to everyone who worked on this Domestic Violence Initiative, especially those who
committed countless hours participating in working group sessions convened by my office over the
last two years. The recommendations in this report and the improvements that will result from their
implementation will transform the lives of innumerable New Yorkers and would not have been
possible without the wisdom and experience brought to this initiative.
The prevalence of domestic violence is not just a criminal justice crisis. It is a national public health
crisis that affects all neighborhoods and communities, and threatens our most vulnerable family
members, particularly women and children. In 2015, the NYPD responded to nearly 33,760 domestic
violence incidents in Manhattan—that’s more than 92 incidents each day.
Because of the seriousness of intimate partner violence and the tendency of perpetrators to become
more violent as time passes, New York City and State officials have undertaken a variety of reforms
targeted at this crime and other forms of domestic violence. In 2010, I created the Special Victims
Bureau as a way of centralizing oversight of this critical set of cases. And in 2014, we opened a
Manhattan Family Justice Center to integrate essential services for domestic violence victims under
one roof, after successful advocacy from my office and others. Working with our partners in Albany,
in 2012 the Legislature enacted the Aggravated Domestic Violence Law, which created a new felonylevel
crime for perpetrators who have been previously convicted of certain DV crimes within a fiveyear
period. The law took effect in early 2013 and as of October 1, 2016, 394 individuals have been
charged with committing the new crime, of which 353 cases have been concluded. There were 254
that ended in a plea or conviction. Sixty-nine percent of those charged under the new law were
convicted of a crime, a much higher rate than the typical domestic violence misdemeanor. Even more
striking, nearly one-third of those charged under the new law ultimately pleaded guilty to a felony.
Yet despite efforts targeted at preventing these crimes, domestic violence has resisted the trend of
declining crime in New York City. It takes a tremendous amount of courage for survivors to come
forward, and as a society we must do everything we can to provide resources and support for them.
The roots of this problem are numerous and diverse. That’s why we recognize that in order to respond
effectively to domestic violence, we need to work together—across systems, with multiple partners at
the table sharing their experiences, knowledge, and recommendations. And that’s what we have done
here. Thanks to the participation and efforts of numerous community-based service providers and
stakeholders, we have developed a set of recommendations—informed by community experiences to
improve the way we address domestic violence in our city. Thank you again to all those who
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
Manhattan District Attorney