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July 30, 2006

An Op-Ed On Domestic Violence And The Mack Case

FROM OUR READERS: A LOSS OF CONTROL: The warning signs for violence

Mack case can provide us clues



The Darren Mack case shocked Nevada and the nation. Could anyone have predicted that this millionaire "Father of the Year" might allegedly attempt to murder Judge Charles Weller and brutally stab his wife, Charla, to death? (Mack is awaiting trial on the charges.) The answer is yes. Both of these tragedies were predictable and preventable.

Though many have stated there was no forewarning that Mack might be a "ticking time bomb" who could allegedly commit murder, the reality is there were many warning signs that were ignored. What huge red flag was missed in the Mack case? Domestic violence. This case has made national headlines, but it has been largely overlooked in the media that this is a domestic violence case. Failure to identify domestic violence in divorce cases is a critical nationwide problem in family courts that can endanger judges, the public's safety, and the abuser's partner and children. The shooting of Judge Weller shows this failure can be deadly. In order to prevent future tragedies, including attacks on the judiciary and others, policymakers should mandate the screening and identification of the well-known warning signs of abusers who pose a high risk for homicide.

The Mack case included many common warning signs of an abuser who poses a high risk to commit murder: access to guns; controlling behavior; his wife's expressed fear that he would kill her; and separation -- all of which are significant predictors of intimate partner murder, according to a 2003 study funded by the National Institute of Justice. Domestic violence murders are not typically crimes of sudden, unanticipated violence where an abuser "just snaps," but instead are often the culmination of a predictable pattern of escalating abuse and violence.

Darren Mack was accused of domestic violence by his wife. These charges shouldn't be surprising, as Mack's controlling behavior and abusive tactics during his divorce clearly indicate his actions followed a pattern common to domestic violence perpetrators. This escalating abuse, particularly after separation, can lead to homicide.

The most dangerous period for the families of violent abusers (and others) is the time following separation. Research shows that separation is a powerful trigger for homicide among abusers, who become enraged at losing control over their partners and children. Domestic violence perpetrators can be extremely dangerous after separation/divorce, as they often increase their violence to re-establish their control and dominance. The majority of domestic violence murders occur after separation.

We are not suggesting that all separated abusers will commit murder. However, a careful assessment should be conducted to determine which individuals pose a higher risk for lethality. The Mack case clearly illustrates that a thorough investigation by trained family violence experts should be mandated whenever domestic violence allegations are raised during a divorce. These investigations must include emphatically validated protocols to assess homicide risk, specifically designed for use with domestic violence perpetrators. A legal strategist Mack hired stated that Mack displayed "no propensity" for domestic violence, because he passed psychological testing with "flying colors." However, psychological tests are ineffective in screening for domestic violence or partner homicide risk because domestic violence is not rooted in mental illness -- most abusers are not mentally ill, so they often do well on such tests, and appear normal. Identification of a pattern of controlling and coercive behavior is the most effective method of assessment for domestic violence (a profile Mack fit exactly).

As seen in the Mack case, domestic violence perpetrators can also pose a danger to judges. Abusers accustomed to firm control of their partners can become enraged that a judge is now in charge, and their loss of control of the situation can lead to attacking third parties, including judges. (Judge Weller, now recovering from multiple gunshot wounds, presided over Mack's divorce case). In June 2006, in another domestic violence/divorce case, Jeffrey Phillips was accused of making a death threat to "put a bullet" through the head of Judge Peter Hurd, who had issued a domestic violence order against Phillips.

Innocent bystanders, including children, are also at risk of homicide and can get caught in the cross-fire when the predictable warning signs of lethality in domestic violence perpetrators are ignored. John Allen Muhammad, charged in the 2002 Washington, D.C., sniper shooting case (a murder spree that left 10 people dead), had a history of domestic violence and divorce. The sniper boasted, "Your children are not safe, anywhere, anytime." Reports state that after threatening to kill his estranged wife, Muhammad traveled to Washington, D.C., to hunt her down, and unable to find her, began shooting people.

In a 2003 domestic violence case, after his wife filed for divorce, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fulfilled numerous death threats by shooting and killing his wife in a shopping center parking lot, then killing himself. In another 2003 domestic violence murder/suicide case, William Hoffine, refusing to accept his divorce, ambushed, shot and killed his 14-year-old son in front of a grocery store as the boy jogged with his cross-country teammates.

Nevada U.S. Sen. Henry Reid has shown leadership in response to the Mack case by spearheading a federal bill to increase court security. However, much more needs to be done. To prevent future domestic violence-related tragedies, legislators should mandate the thorough investigation of domestic violence allegations in divorce cases as well as the identification of the common warning signs of violent abusers who present a higher homicide risk.

While many question how anyone could have predicted that Darren Mack might have committed murder, the answer lies in the words of Charla Mack: "He is out to get me and someday he will probably kill me." We need to start listening.


Sol Gothard, a retired federal appeals court judge in Louisiana, is president of the Council for Family Court Reform. Tasha Amador is the group's vice president. Jay Silverman, an assistant professor at Harvard, is a psychologist and domestic violence researcher.

Posted on July 30, 2006 at 03:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

I Am Published In The Grand Forks Herald!

It's in the Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota, in response to a column that Glenn Sacks and Mike McCormick had written.

Posted on Sun, Jul. 30, 2006

VIEWPOINT: Don't force 'shared parenting' on children
By Trish Wilson

BOSTON - Mike McCormick and Glenn Sacks have written a lot of misconceptions about shared parenting in their viewpoint, "Initiative helps children of divorce".

"Shared parenting" is a feel-good euphemism for joint physical custody. Shared parenting has been rejected in Maryland, Colorado, Tennessee, New York, Illinois, Nevada, California, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. A shared parenting bill has been shelved in Massachusetts; it is dead for the time being.

Custody should be determined on a case-by-case basis. One particular form of custody (such as shared parenting) should not be forced on parents when other forms of custody would be more appropriate for them and especially for their children.

Shared parenting already is an option for parents who choose to try it on their own. There does not need to be a presumption for it. Ninety percent of parents settle without the need for court intervention in deciding what form of custody is best for them and for their children.

Most parents do not choose shared parenting because they recognize how hard it would be on them and especially on their children. They also recognize that in most cases, the mother had been the primary caregiver of the children, and they believe she should continue in that capacity. That is why mothers most often get sole custody. It is not because of bias against dads in court.

When dads make an issue of custody, they get some form of it more than half the time.

Courts are not biased against fathers. Lynn Hecht Schafran found in "Gender Bias in Family Courts," published by the American Bar Association Family Advocate, that "despite the powerful stereotypes working against fathers, they are significantly more successful than is commonly believed. The Massachusetts (gender bias) task force, for example, reported that fathers get primary or joint custody in more than 70 percent of contested cases.

"The various gender bias commissions found that at the trial court level in contested custody cases, fathers won more than half the time." While shared parenting may work for parents who freely choose to try it, shared parenting has been shown to be detrimental to children who are exposed to conflict between their parents. When one parent wants shared parenting and the other doesn't, there will be conflict between those parents that shared parenting will not alleviate.

Shared parenting asks a lot of children. It is harmful to children who cannot handle the restrictive schedule. Many of them cannot handle the shunting back and forth between homes very well. They also must keep track of which home they are to be in on a given day, which is stressful for them.

They can lose track of their friends, and their extracurricular activities can suffer. They can miss birthday parties, sleepovers and evening school activities.

In the cases where shared parenting has worked, the families had these qualities in common: The parents had an amicable relationship, their divorce was amicable with little or no conflict, they had higher-than-average incomes, they had only one child, neither parent (especially the father) had remarried, they lived within close proximity of each other, they had flexible job schedules, the child could handle the shared parenting arrangement, the parents chose freely between themselves to try shared parenting - and they chose to make it work.

There should not be a presumption for shared parenting in North Dakota. It ignores the desires of most parents, who don't want shared parenting. It also ignores the contributions of the primary caregiving parent, most often the mother, and it ignores the needs of children. It ignores the child's development as the child ages.

Hopefully, North Dakota will reject a presumption for joint custody, as many states and countries have already done.


Wilson is a member of the National Network On Family Law Policy and the Family Court Reform Coalition.

Posted on July 30, 2006 at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

July 29, 2006

I Am So Relieved

I just submitted two articles to a publisher for a set of books. One is about the father's rights movement, and the other is about the fatherhood/marriage movement. I think the books are going to be used in an academic setting. It sure feels good to finish those articles because I worked hard on them. I'm exhausted. I have two more articles to finish, but I'm not in much of a hurry for them. There's no deadline, but I'd like to have them finished by Tuesday. Once the articles are fully accepted, I'll let everyone know where to find them. The academic publication is not likely to be online. I know that I'll get copies of the books my articles appear in as well as monetary payment. It sure is rewarding to get paid well for a job well done.

The Count and I have been in the mood for "The X Files" lately. We've started with Disc One of Season Three, and we're just watching the episodes one right after the other. Now that the big writing assignment is finally finished, I can relax a little bit.

Posted on July 29, 2006 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 27, 2006

Ash, The Trees Are Alive!!

This is so insane that I had to post about it.

"Evil Dead" is one of my favorite movies. It's the first time I saw Bruce Campbell in anything. It's a great, fun horror film about a group of four friends who visit a deserted cabin in the woods. They discover a tape and a book made of human skin. They make the big mistake of playing the tape, and in the process release the Demon Spawn Of Hell in the woods, which of course picks them off one by one in great, gory glory.

I can never get enough of that movie.

I have just learned from Alas, A Blog that "Evil Dead" is being made ... into a musical!!!!

If I'm anywhere near where the show is, I'm just dying to see it.

Posted on July 27, 2006 at 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

I've Been Very Busy Lately

I'm still here, but I don't have much of anything to post. I do have one or maybe two things, but I'm not in the mood.

I've also been busy working on four articles and two short stories. Two of the articles are due on Tuesday. I don't have a deadline on the other two, but I'm going to try to have them ready for Tuesday anyway. The sooner I submit them, the sooner they get accepted and I get paid. Money is a good thing. Money is my friend. Gak_smiley

Two of the articles are about the fathers' rights movement and fatherhood/marriage initiatives. One of the others is a travel article about unusual destinations in New England. The last one is an article about gay and lesbian blogs. I'm having trouble with one of the short stories. I can't figure out how to end it. I've rewritten it twice. I like the first half but not the second. It could easily be a story alone with the first half. That part was fun to write. The other story is more of a horror/dark fiction story, and I'm not sure what to do with that one either. I really haven't been in the mood to write fiction lately. I did come up with an interesting idea or two from watching "Amelie". I have to sleep on my ideas and figure out what to write. The sooner those stories are written and submitted, the sooner they are accepted and I get paid.

It's been beautiful outside. Very warm and sunny. I've been relaxing, watching movies, and writing. I don't expect to have much to say in the blogosphere until these articles and stories are finished. At least the articles. Knowing me, right after making this announcement I'll write a lot of posts. That's how it seems to work for me.

So, I'm still here, keeping an eye on my blog and nuking the trolls who come here. I just don't expect to post much over the next week or so. Can you get Spring Fever in the middle of the summer?

Posted on July 27, 2006 at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 21, 2006

World War III May Be No Joke

Take a moment and go read this Washington Post article about the US position vis-a-vis the conflict in the Levant (for those who don't know, the coast of Gaza, Israel and Lebanon), and then please come back.

Don't worry, I'm stll waiting, I'll go make coffee for The Countess while you read.

OK, done?

The article speaks volumes about our country's goals and how Bush plans to get us there. What is happening in the Levant today, has as much significance for this Administration as September 11th, 2001 did. Dispassionately analysing motives and intentions gets us into World War III without the need for any tin foil.

Bush is speaking honestly, though what you may take away is not necessarily what he's intending. There are a number of concerns about the fighting going on there today and the number one item is that the conflict could spiral out of control. I'm not the first to mention that we are letting the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) do what it wants for a week or two before reining them in. I may, however, be the one of the first to say that this Administration is not intending to rein anyone in.

The first clue is the emphasis Bush is making by contrasting the word "tactical" against the unspoken companion word "strategic". It is actually a moment of candor from the man. The overriding strategic policy of this administration has always been to create a Pax Americana by forcing regime change. A supporting clue can also be found in the current speeches of people like Gingrich and Kristol, who are essentially advocating World War III. That the Administration has been talking about resorting to diplomacy lately, is only due to the debacle in Iraq, which is why this conflict is a watershed moment for them.

It also appears that the US is about to revive its Cold War strategy of fighting wars by proxy. During the Cold War there were a number of hot conflicts which were funded and supported by the US. Afghanistan (opposing the Soviet invasion thereof), Angola and Nicaragua come readily to mind. The Soviets, of course, did the same. They were as gleeful of our being mired in Vietnam while they fought us through the Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong as we were when the Soviets were mired in Afghanistan and we were fighting them through the Mullahs.

That the IDF may bring down the Lebanese government is of no concern to Bush because they hadn't been doing enough against Hezbollah to please him. That the conflict could spin out of control and involve Syria is exactly what this Adminitration is hoping for. That the conflict could involve Iran militarily would be the icing on their cake.

To frame this and provide a bit of history, the Administration had wanted to do this since day one. September 11th, 2001 was a godsend because it provided the Casus Belli and the only reason for the strategic moves taken to date has been to base US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq for the purpose of surrounding Iran and putting us in position for an invasion. Securing the eastern front by defeating Iran would have put us in position to turn west and pin Syria against Israel and Lebanon. Remember the brief rhetoric shortly after the fall of Baghdad about WMDs being smuggled into Iran and Syria? More Casus Belli.

It provides a good and simple (remember Occam's Razor) explanation for why there was no post-Iraqi invasion planning and why our forces were so thin. Actually, the forces used were adequate for the purpose of invading and taking Iraq. The rest of our forces would have been kept in reserve for a push to Teheran and Damascus.

As we now painfully know, things didn't unfold as they had wished. A famous and important military maxim is that no plan survives first contact with the enemy and if you're staying the course like this Administration does, it means there's no flexibily in planning. Flexible planning and contingecy plans are the first things drilled into a cadet's head in all the military academies of the world.

The US, being what it is, still needs for Bush to justify his actions to We The People (at least for the present). The biggest gamble that the Administration made, and lost, was not finding WMDs. If Bush could have trotted out just one Iraqi atomic bomb on television, there would have been absolutely nothing to stop him. The original Casus Belli against Iraq did not materialize so democratization was played up. This is what has mired us in Iraq, because as we knew even then, the original planning did not include democratization as a goal.

The Provisional Government, the Baathist purges, the training of a pliable Iraqi police force, trying to install a puppet Iraqi government, the contracting out of security duties to non-military personnel, which were all in the original plan, are precisely what you'd need to pacify Iraq while soldiers could then be redeployed against Iran. The Kurds are in the northwest holding down that area. The British in Basra are still in an excellent position to move east and sweep along the southern coast of Iran while the American forces were originally in an excellent position to strike east out of Iraq and through the center of Iran and coordinate a pincer attack from Afghanistan, encircling Teheran. The second gamble lost was that the Iraqis didn't peacefully stand on the sidelines. One can even make the argument that Iran is stirring up the Shi'ites in Iraq for its own self-protection.

So, up until the time that Israel let loose the dogs of war, Bush had no choice but to make Iran into your worst nightmare. Luckily, no sane person was fooled a second time. The situation Bush was forced into was to use diplomacy as a stalling tactic to ratchet tensions, to find a way to disengage from Iraq and allow him to wait for something else to blow up in the Middle East (something which can always be counted on happening sooner or later).

Well, fortune smiled on Bush and now all he has to do is craft a Syria first plan with the IDF leading the way. Make no mistake, while our Army and Marine Corps may be tied up in Iraq, the Air Force and the Navy still have complete freedom of action. By tilting opinion into a final solution (and I choose those words carefully) for Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, he will be positioning us to help Israel by supporting their ground forces. Once Syria is taken, Iran will be back on the menu, pinned against Afghanistan. If Iran decides to act first, they would still have to get through the US and British forces in Iraq. Is it any wonder they and North Korea want to arm themselves?

All it will now take is for someone or something to make a mistake (whether on purpose or not) which will allow an escalation into the Levant by US forces to be sold to the American public. That Condaleeza Rice is sitting on her hands, while feeding the domestic press the hope that something is being/will be worked on, is a very big clue that this analysis may be spot on.

The rest of the world isn't stupid; I'm sure they've analysed this every way from Sunday and are now frantically trying to get a cease-fire in place. I feel worse for the moderate (?) Arab states, because they must be out of their minds with concern. Concern for what Syria/Iran/Shi'ites may do and concern for what Bush may ultimately do once Syria and Iran are pacified. Remember, countries don't have unchanging friends, they have unchanging aims.

Which segues into the final question. Should something blow up and the conflict expands, how will Europe and Asia shake out? Is it possible we could wind up fighting some European or Asian countries? Russia could certainly be suicidal enough, they don't have a lot to lose anymore. China would certainly be forced to act, though they have much more to lose than even a decade ago. We are in the backyards of both countries. North Korea would certainly be seeing their number coming up... and they are crazy enough to do anything.

The rest of Europe and Asia? They may side with us just for self-preservation. They may remain neutral and hope nothing flies their way. I'm not sure if they'd actively oppose us. However, remember that we are not all powerful enough to take on the world at once. At best we would certainly lose any friendships and alliances we have with any of them. We could even end up on the wrong end of trade sanctions. That's something that would make energy skyrocket beyond imagining and generally make life very austere here. Don't forget that we don't even manufacture many goods in any meaningful quantities anymore (televisions for example) and we manufacture even fewer component parts for the goods we do make.

What about the glib talk earier in the year about tossing around tactical nukes against the underground targets in Iran? If nothing else, it certainly means that this Administration is willing to think the unthinkable.

World War III indeed. Oh, and have a nice day!

For those of you wondering, for the last 38 years The Count ha been a military historian, a devout wargamer and for some of that time a Diplomacy player (an old Avalon Hill game, the most mindbending game you'll ever see). There's nothing he enjoys more than planning the Strategy & Tactics (an inside joke reference for the cool nerds) required to defeat the poor sap opponent on the other side of the mapboard. He is also a US Navy veteran.

My analysis is only based on public statements and facts combined with a "what would I do if I had to make a plan given the constraints" mentality. I'm probably wrong and naive, I hope I am wrong, but it is also what the events tell me may be on the minds of the planners... that and many hours playing Oil War, an old SPI wargame positing a future Persian Gulf war (the game was published in 1975, well before events turned that bit of speculative gaming into reality.)

Posted on July 21, 2006 at 07:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

The Judeo-Christian God's Jealousy

Here is something I've always wondered. You know how the first commandment is "thou shalt honor no gods before me"? Why would a god who thought all other gods honored by people in an area that early Christians were overtaking feel threatened by those gods, if those gods were so fake and ineffective? Maybe it's because God (Yahweh) felt threatened? Early Christians adapted the Mother Goddess into their religions because she was so popular with the people. Assimilation was a popular thing in those days. If you were the One True God, there would be no need to assimilate other gods into your pantheon because you would know that you are the Real Deal, and that you had more to offer to people than the fake gods they had already worshipped. Seems to me that Yahweh had an image problem.

Why does Yahweh feel so threatened by gods he claims don't exist, to the point of making his primary commandment about not worshiping them? That means that people the early Christians were trying to influence worshiped both Yahweh and their original gods.

Yahweh was jealous. It must hurt to not be the life of the party.

Posted on July 21, 2006 at 06:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Asshat Design

P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula takes out "dissembling fool" John McCain, who wants to see intelligent design taught in schools. McCain said that "From a personal standpoint, I believe in evolution." At the same time, he said, "When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down, I believe the hand of God was there."

I've been to the Grand Canyon. With my ex-husband. When he saw it, he said "it's nothing but a big hole in the ground." So much for Intelligent Design, from my ex.

P. Z. made some good points. He stated:

First of all, no one is afraid of Intelligent Design, or thinks kids need to be sheltered from the concept. American kids as it stands now get more exposure to creationism than to science—in the home and church. The fight isn't about hiding silly ideas from schoolkids. It's about not allowing crackpots to waste our children's time, and about promoting good, substantive science teaching. Do you want school to be a place where kids learn, Mr McCain? Or do you see it as a propaganda arm of the ideological apparatus of the state?

I'm not afraid of intelligent design. I know it's hoo-hah. It's no threat to me because I know it's not based on scientific fact. I can't remember where I read it - on a gay and lesbian blog, I think - but someone had made the opinion that why should human beings be convinced that there need to be laws to corral gays and lesbians, as in not recognizing gay marriage? In the Bible, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of The Tree. He told them not to kill each other. Then came Sodom and Gomorrah. Hey, if God can't get humans to stay in line with rules that he made, what makes anyone think that mere humans can get other humans to stay in line with rules that they make? That was a good point. If God can't control us, why should anyone think that mere humans can control us with laws, including feeding our children Creationist nonsense? Hopefully children will be given a well-rounded scientific education that will make them realize that Creationism is lint in their belly buttons, but McCain and others like him would not want to see that happen because it interferes with God's Word.

I don't want to see kids time wasted on nonsense either. Creationism is a waste of time that kids and teachers don't have. The DARE program was nonsense, and that wasn't even intelligent design. The Royal Spawn has to listen to that program at school when he would have been better served having his English teacher give him the low-down on improving his grades in English. English was always one of his worst subjects.

Thanks to my best friend, I came up with something about "intelligent design" that I had not considered before. I had mentioned one of my favorite jokes to him. The joke is as follows: "It's been said that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters could reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true." He replied to me that "I would be inclined to say "Intelligent Design". Judging from the products we see around, it could not have been a very intelligent design, wouldn't you say?"

I replied as follows: "I think you're wrong about "intelligent design". "Intelligent design" implies that there is a "Not-So-Intelligent Design", otherwise known as "Asshat Design". There is also plenty of that in the universe. Hmmm... you've given me the idea for a blog post. ;) "

The people who believe in that hoo-hah called "Intelligent Design" aren't really very intelligent. Maybe they are part of the contingency that promotes "Asshat Design", which misrepresent science to say things that science doesn't say. Just think, as The Count likes to say, that our Creation myth involved the world being on the back of a tortoise. How the heck would "Intelligent Design" folks explain that?

Posted on July 21, 2006 at 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

New Blog On Family Issues

The blog for the National Network On Family Law Policy is now up and running. It's a great source for news about family law, child custody, domestic violence, divorce, women's issues, and the ugly nature of fathers' rights groups. I am a member of NNFLP.

Posted on July 21, 2006 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday Cat Blogging

It nap time at the Countess's manor house. The cat in the front is Beowulf. The one behind him is Domino. The one on the dresser is their mommy, Oreo. Don't they look nice and relaxed? Don't you wish you were a spoiled lap cat?


Posted on July 21, 2006 at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)