A tale of institutional racism/ sexism perpetuated to this day
“Coercive Control – How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life”
By Rutgers Professor Dr. Evan Stark
Evan Stark is a forensic social worker and award-winning researcher with an international reputation for his work on the legal, policy, and health dimensions of interpersonal violence.
A founder of one of the first shelters for abused women in the United States, in the 1980s, Professor Stark codirected the Yale Trauma Studies with Professor Anne Flitcraft, which was path-breaking research that was the first to document the significance of domestic violence for female injury as well as its links to child abuse and a range of other health and behavioral problems. The findings from these studies appeared in Women at Risk: Domestic Violence and Women’s Health (Sage, l996). Professor Stark has served as an expert in more than 100 criminal and civil cases, including Nicholson v. Williams, a successful federal class-action suit against New York City that made it unconstitutional to remove children from mothers solely because the mothers had been victims of domestic violence.
Furthermore, he has consulted with numerous federal and state agencies and has won several prestigious awards for his work. His book Coercive Control: The Entrapment of Women in Personal Life (2007) won awards from the Association of American Publishers and the American Library Association and was recently the subject of a special issue of Violence Against Women. With a PhD from Binghamton University, State University of New York, an MSW from Fordham, and a BS from Brandeis University, he is a professor at the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers–Newark, where he is also Director of Public Health. Professor Stark holds a joint appointment in women and gender studies at Rutgers–New Brunswick and is a professor and Chair of the Department of Urban Health Administration at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s School of Public Health.
THE SPECIAL REASONABLENESS OF BATTERED WOMEN
Bonnie bought a .38-caliber handgun on the street, though she had never fired a weapon.
“I’m going to fuck you up,” [Freeman] threatened, then put his hands in his pocket. “In that neighborhood, that means a knife or a gun,” Bonnie explained. “Why did he cut me off, if he didn’t intend to hurt me.”
Joined by local police, federal authorities raided Bonnie’s home, allegedly in response to reports it was a drug den, and seized her home under the federal forfeiture provision. But the $80,000 or so expended on the forfeiture proceeding and repurchasing the house exceeded the assets Bonnie needed for bail and to hire a private attorney. The court appointed an attorney who had never tried a murder case and had little criminal trial experience. In jail, she was given medications for depression that made her so drowsy she had trouble staying awake during the trial, let alone actively participating in her defense.
Several witnesses who might have confirmed Bonnie’s version of events were neither interviewed nor called to testify.
Freeman largely confirmed Bonnie’s version of events.
She was convicted of murder and a weapons charge and sentenced to 45 years in prison, at the time the longest prison sentence received by a woman in Connecticut. We met in preparation for a habeas corpus petition, after Bonnie had served 9 years in the [Niantic jail].
Once, he broke Bonnie’s fingers for writing Christmas cards – “who told you you could write Christmas cards?” he demanded. He also beat her up for watching TV.
The drug raid on Bonnie’s house was designed to undermine her defense and confounded the problems already faced by her inexperienced lawyer. Drug charges were still pending, when she went to trial and the state’s attorney [James Thomas] portrayed her as a “known drug seller,” though he knew no drugs had been found and that she neither had a history of drug use or any drug-related arrests.
Had she not been made stuporous by medication or had her character been accurately depicted, the prosecution would have been forced to answer the question that never surfaced at her trial: why would a deeply religious woman in the throes of separating from her abusive husband, with no history of violence, a good job, and a happy family life, good home, and excellent future prospects, risk all by shooting at a man she had never met …
… Postulates that comprised the special knowledge she derived from her experience of abuse. Its most relevant tenets [include]:
• When a man has been drinking, he becomes violent.
• When a man follows you, he means to hurt you.
Had they been asked, the waitress in the club as well as other patrons could have established Freeman’s intent. As he was following her across the street, Freeman called Bonnie a blood clotter, one of the most humiliating Jamaican curses. From this, she concluded he posed a real threat.