Murder Is Not a ‘Domestic Incident’

Geraldine Newman was murdered alongside her two children Shannon (11) and Shane (6). Two days later the body of Paul Newman, father of Shannon and Shane, was found in North Wales. Police believe Paul committed suicide after killing his ex-wife and children. The police have also claimed this was a “domestic incident”.

The murder of a Geraldine, Shannon and Shane are not ‘domestic incidents’. Burning dinner is a ‘domestic incident’. Making the choice to kill your ex-partner and children are criminal acts predicated on a patriarchal culture of male entitlement and male ownership of the bodies of women and children. Using the term ‘domestic incident’ minimises both Paul’s personal responsibility for his choice to perpetrate domestic violence, which resulted in a 17-week custodial sentence in 2013, as well as his choice to kill. It is crucial to recognise that the man is the risk factor: not the relationship or the woman. Focusing on the victim implies that they are responsible for the actions of the perpetrator.

Obviously, the police want to allay fears in the wider community, however the correct statement is NOT: “We believe this was a domestic incident and we are searching for only man known to the family”. It is “We believe these murders were perpetrated by a man known to the family and we do not believe he is a risk to the wider community at this moment”. …

 

Read the rest of the article at the Huffington Post.

 

This Is a War on Women: Erasing Jed Allen’s Choice to Kill

Janet Jordon is responsible for her own murder and that of her partner Philip Howard and 6 year old daughter Derin.

At least, that’s what Victoria Ward has written in the Telegraph this week: Jed Allen isn’t responsible for killing his mother, his half-sister or his mother’s partner because he “had a troubled family life and had struggled with his mother’s alcoholism”. Or, as the title states: ” Didcot Triple Murder: Suspect always had family issues and anger problems”.

These statements come from an unnamed ex-girlfriend and Jane Ilott, the former mayoress of Kidlington and one-time landlord.

Ilott claims that two of Jordon’s children were adopted due to her alcoholism. It’s worth pointing out that we only have Ilcott’s version of event since child protection services are legally prohibited from sharing information about minors. We do not know when the children were adopted, how old Allen was and why he remained in the house with a mother who needed support when his two siblings were removed – if he did indeed remain in the house. Ilott mentions numerous examples of Jordon struggling with alcohol dependency but doesn’t mention once contacting social services as a way of accessing support for Jordon.

Ilcott also helpfully suggests that “it must have impacted on (Allen) when when two of Jane’s children were adopted”. There is no reference to the impact it would have had on Jordon or the other two children.

This is the real problem with Ward’s article: there is no mention of Philip Howard and Derin only gets a brief mention at the end. Ward has effectively excused Allen’s criminal act because Jordon deserved to die since she was a ‘bad mother’.

Ward has not questioned why Jordon had problems with alcohol dependency. She hasn’t bothered to ask if Jordon grew up in an abusive home – and, the links between women’s substance use and child abuse are fairly well established.

This is the reality of the war on women and victim blaming culture: the perpetrator’s agency and choice are erased in favour of a narrative of woman-blaming. Predictably, there is no mention of Jed Allen’s father in this article – and, statistically, fathers are the majority of perpetrators of child neglect and abuse. Yet, there is no pattern of children killing their neglectful or abusive fathers.

Karen Ingala Smith, who runs the Counting Dead Women campaign tracking femicide in England and Wales, makes this double standard clear:

Jed Allen made a choice to kill three people. He is responsible for his actions. Yet it should be understood that his actions took place, not in isolation, but in a context: a society where men and women are unequal, a society that is thick with toxic hyper-masculinity. In this same society, too many are quicker to blame women for men’s choices, even where women are victims of that man’s violence. Jed Allen is at least the 15th UK man to have killed his mother in the last year. He is the second to have killed his mother and sister this year.

Jed Allen may have had a very difficult childhood but so do many children who do not grow up to kill. We need to be very clear here: this is about male violence. It is very rare for women to kill and the context is very different. Women who kill their children tend to have a history of post-natal depression rather than the history of domestic violence of fathers who kill. Women who kill their partners do so in self-defence. Men who choose to kill their current or former partners and children do so as part of the pattern of coercive control that defines domestic violence and abuse.

Our organisation monitors media coverage of male violence. Whilst this is the most egregious coverage we have seen in a while, it follows the normal pattern: blaming the victim, erasing the perpetrator’s agency, and justifying violence without recognising the patterns or contexts of male violence.

Janet Jordon is not responsible for her own murder or that of her daughter and partner. Jed Allen made a choice to kill his mother and sister. He made this choice within a context of endemic male violence against women and girls. These types of murders are not isolated or tragic. They are simply the extension of patriarchal control over women’s bodies and lives.

If we want to end familial violence, we need to start tackling our culture of hyper-masculinity and male entitlement which leads men to believe they are justified in killing women and children. Otherwise, we will continue to read stories of families being slaughtered by a male member and the victims held accountable for their own murders.

The war on women exists because we allow these narratives of justifiable male violence to continue. Until men start examining their own privilege and entitlement, women and children will continue to pay the price with their lives.

 

First published on Huffington Post as Everyday Victim Blaming

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Family Annihilators: The Murder of Luke Batty and the Reality of Domestic Violence

This was first published at Ending Victimisation and Blame: Everyday Victim Blaming on 5.2.14.

Luke Batty was brutally murdered with a cricket bat by his father Greg Anderson in a cricket ground in the presence of his mother.

Greg Anderson was then shot by a police officer in what was apparently a “suicide by cop”.

For 3 days, the media has been reporting Anderson’s poor mental health and writing sympathetic articles about how we must empathise with Anderson for feeling upset at being denied contact with his son. Excuses were made as were demands for empathy with Anderson.

Yet, the evidence of Anderson’s history of domestic violence has been clear from the start. There is also no evidence of a formal diagnosis of mental illness. This line appears to have come from a quote from Luke’s mother Rosie Batty and has been picked up as fact by the media. As far as I have been able to ascertain Anderson had no formal diagnosis of mental illness which has been released to the media although he was homeless for many years; people who are homeless are statistically much more likely to have mental illnesses and ones which remain undiagnosed and untreated than the general population.

We know now that Anderson had been questioned by the police in January for assault and let go despite 5 outstanding arrest warrants. We know that Anderson had multiple interactions with various agencies because of his history of violent behaviour. We know he was only allowed contact with his son in public places because of his violent behaviour. We know that Rosie Batty had an AVO against him because of his violent behaviour. We also know that the murder was premeditated since Anderson took a knife to the cricket pitch.

Despite this, the media have been writing about how much Anderson “loved his son” and that it wasn’t known why Anderson “snapped”.

Anderson took a knife to his son’s cricket practise. He had a history of domestic violence. These are not the actions of a man who loved his son. They are the actions of a violent, controlling man.

As it stands, we do not know the exact nature of Anderson’s health but we do know that men who murder their children very rarely have mental illnesses and that people with mental illness are far more likely to harm themselves than to harm anyone else. This is one of the biggest myths about mental health: that those who have clinical diagnoses are violent.

Men who kill their children, themselves and/or (ex-)partners are referred to as family annihilators. These men have one thing in common: a history of domestic violence.They are controlling men who choose to harm their children and former partners to punish them. If Anderson did suffer from mental health problems, then he is an anomaly rather than representative of men who murder their families.

We need to contextualise the brutal murder of Luke within a pattern of male violence. It is not an isolated event nor is it one which could not have been predicted. Domestic violence does not happen in a vacuum. In the UK, two women a week are murdered by violent partners. 1 in 3 women in the world will experience domestic and/ or sexual violence. Children and women experience violence in the home on a daily basis.

Domestic violence costs the world economy billions every year yet we continue to pretend that family annihilators are “isolated events” and “tragic incidents”. The truth is the opposite: domestic violence is an everyday occurrence for many women and children.

We need to start addressing the issue of domestic violence properly. We need to stop pretending that domestic violence is an isolated, non-gendered crime. Men are the vast majority of perpetrators of domestic violence. These men do not have mental illnesses. They make the choice to be abusive.

I am waiting for the results from an official inquest into the murder of Luke because I do not trust the media to report accurately about the mental health of Anderson. The media is complicit in perpetuating male violence through inaccurate reporting and victim blaming. If it turns out that Anderson did suffer from mental illness that went untreated, then the agencies involved with him will need to be held accountable for their failures. If Anderson was not mentally ill and was a family annihilator, then the media needs to be held accountable for perpetuating damaging myths about mental illness and myths about male violence.

We need to the media to stop writing articles which make excuses for violent men. We need them to follow the guidelines set out by the National Union of Journalists on how to report domestic and sexual violence appropriately. We need the media to take responsibility for perpetuating the myths on domestic and sexual violence.

We need to prevent more children being murdered at the hands of their fathers and we can not do this without being clear what caused their death.

 

Update : Anderson had brought a knife with him to the cricket ground and threatened an officer with it which is what lead to his death by shooting. Reports now suggest that he also used the knife to harm Luke. Arriving with a knife suggests premeditation.

Valid Excuses for Murdering your Wife and Child

On Thursday June 29, the Independent published an article on a murder-suicide involving a British family living in Costa Del Sol. Apparently, the man murdered his wife and child because he lost his job and they were ill. 

Because, it is completely reasonable to murder your wife who is ill and your daughter who is disabled when you find yourself unemployed and in debt. 

A woman and her adult daughter were murdered by a man who was supposed to love them but who believed he owned them. Family annihilators are almost always male and financially stable. They kill their families when they learn they aren’t the centre of the universe.

This is male violence. 

There is no excuse for killing your partner and child and we need to stop making excuses for these men. They are not mentally ill. They are violent and controlling men who kill their family because they can. 

No more excuses. 

No more victim blaming. 

We need to name the problem: male violence. 

Then, we need to hold individual perpetrators responsible for their own actions.


Andrew Parsons: Wife Murderer but still a “Good Father”


Andrew Parsons has been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of his wife Janee Parsons. Andrew murdered his wife in front of their young son. The murder was captured on a dictation machine that Andrew had hidden under Janee’s bed to spy on her. He stalked his wife and then he murdered Janee.

Janee’s crime: having an affair and ending her marriage to Andrew. Andrew murdered Janee because she ended their relationship. Yet, the judge, Patrick Eccles, summation includes the following phrases:

“You were overwhelmed in my judgement by jealous rage.

“Nobody can predict the psychological harm which will be significant to your son.

“You were and no doubt are a good father, you will suffer for the rest of your life knowing the harm you have caused to them.”

Eccles has not only excused Andrew’s violence by labelling it “jealousy” and, therefore, abnormal, he has also chosen to claim that Andrew was a “good father”. Jealous men are not good fathers. Good fathers do not murder their former partners in front of their children. Any man who chooses to abuse or murder his (former) partner is not a “good” father. He is a violent man.

Andrew Parsons lawyer, who at least should be expected to engage in victim-blaming, claimed that Parsons was “clinically depressed” and under “extreme pressure”. Many people are clinically depressed and under extreme pressure and they do not murder their (former) partners.

Janee Parsons was brutally murdered by her former husband, yet the judge has implied that it is her fault for making Andrew jealous.

There are no excuses for violence.

Jealousy is used as an excuse to diminish men’s responsibility for their violence.

Jealousy is used as a way of blaming women for their brutal murder at the hands of violent current or former partners.

Janee Parsons was brutally murdered. Her son saw his mother being murdered. They are the victims of this crime; not Andrew.

2 More Family Annihilators Being Glorified in the Press

There have been two murder-suicides this weekend: Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins before killing himself.  Keith Johnson killed his wife Andrea before killing himself. Today, two sets of families on two different continents are mourning the loss of their daughters; both murdered by their partners. Two women a week in the UK are murdered by the men who claimed to love them. Despite this fact, press coverage is always about what “nice” men they were. The coverage does not focus on the women murdered but on the careers and personal characteristics of the murderers. The coverage of the deaths of Kasandra Perkins and Andrea Johnson are no different.

The BBC coverage of the murder-suicide in Cromer includes these statements:     

Mr Johnson, a former mayor of Cromer, became Conservative leader of North Norfolk District Council in May.

Fellow Conservative councillor Trevor Ivory, a friend of the couple, said: “It’s a complete shock. I last saw them both on Thursday evening and they were both very happy and seemed to be enjoying life.  

“The words Cromer and Keith Johnson are synonymous. He typified what’s good about the town and the district of North Norfolk.” 

In a statement, North Norfolk Labour Party paid tribute to Mr Johnson. Chairwoman Denise Burke said: “The death of Keith is a tragedy and a massive loss to Cromer and North Norfolk, too.

“Keith has been a real public servant throughout his life and will be sorely missed by the whole community. He was much respected across the political spectrum.

“Our thoughts are with Keith’s friends and family at this time.”

If Johnson typified all that was good about Cromer, then they have some serious problems. This man murdered his wife and he will be sorely missed? What about his wife Andrea? Will she be sorely missed? Andrea barely gets a mention in the article. We know that the man who murdered her was a well-respected career politician but, his wife, just an addendum to the story. Was Andrea’s death not a tragedy? Just the death of her murderer? 

Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins before shooting himself in front of the coach and general manager of his football team, yet this story focuses on the fans and the team:

Although the game was unimportant — especially with neither the Chiefs (2-10) nor the Panthers (3-9) bound the playoffs — it did provide some relief for the team and community. 

Kasandra is just as absent from this article as Andrea. There is no discussion of the grief of her family and friends. There is no mention of her life at all. Both Andrea and Kasandra are being written out of the story of their murder whilst the eulogies of their murderers begins.

This is the War on Women. Not only do we pay for the hyper-masculinity within the Patriarchy with our bodies through rape, torture and our deaths but we are also written out of the stories of our own lives.

I await with sadness the inevitable stories to follow which will blame the women for their own murders.

UPDATE: This is an excellent article by Heather Harvey on the issue of male violence within patriarchal family structures.


Family Annnihilators: Victim Blaming at its Most Offensive [TRIGGER WARNING]

I was saddened to hear of yet another family devastated by the murder of 3 innocent children. I am firmly of the opinion that in these cases the families deserve the right to privacy. I’m not sure quite how to articulate my criticisms of how these cases are portrayed in the media without participating in the same media frenzy around the family. The family deserves privacy and the right to grieve without the BBC writing ridiculous articles like this one.

As a feminist, I find the police and media language around this case, and others of a similar nature, to be extremely insensitive and, effectively, minimising violence against women. The murder of women by their male partners is frequently dismissed as “isolated” incidents despite their being 2 women a week murdered by their partners or ex partners. That isn’t an isolated incident. It’s systemic violence against women; just as domestic violence and rape. The murder of children by their fathers, and its generally fathers who kill their children and then themselves in order to punish their ex partner for some perceived slight, are referred to as “tragic family situations” or “isolated incidents” by the police; catch phrases which the media repeats without any attempt at political analysis. These aren’t “tragedies“; that implies an accident. These are the deliberate murder of children. The perpetrators have clear histories of controlling or violent behaviour and they are preventable.

The reporting of these cases, known as family annihilators, in the media always imply that there was something the mother did to “push” the father into killing his children and then himself. The assumption that the mother brought the crime on herself by having an affair or leaving her husband is constant in news reports. Or, the poor father was stressed at losing his job that he couldn’t bear the “dishonour” of public knowledge and therefore had to kill his children and wife as well. It’s this kind of victim-blaming which makes it hard for women to seek help in leaving violent or controlling partners. It’s this kind of victim-blaming which minimises male violence and further punishes women. We need to start changing the language around how we report these stories. We need to stop blaming the victims and putting the blame squarely where it belongs: on those fathers who think they have the right to kill their children and/or current or former partners. We need to stop pretending these men have histories of mental illness because they don’t. They have histories of domestic violence and controlling behaviour but those aren’t signs of mental illness and its incredibly offensive to those who suffer from mental illness to pretend otherwise.

My friend Kritique is far more eloquent on this issue than I. This is her response to the case on this Mumsnet thread.

Family annihilators don’t always have a history of mental illness. Many have been abusive towards their partners or at least have had quite “controlling” tendencies related to their families. Sometimes, they have careers where they are required to compete and/or are in positions of power and status. Conversely, they are in jobs of a lower status, but play out their need for power and control in the domestic sphere. 

It seems they are most likely to kill if they feel their control over their partner and family is at risk. For example, they might have lost their job or been convicted of a crime or something else that means they feel they can no longer be the “provider.” Most commonly, however, it happens when the relationship is breaking down or has ended, which signals to them that they are losing control of their family. Some will kill the children as the ultimate punishment for an ex partner, but it has also been suggested that those who kill their children and not their ex partner may do so simply because it is easier to get the opportunity to do so. 

Once their family are dead, the man then literally has no purpose in life, if his obsession in life was to control them, so that’s when he commits or attempts suicide. Basically, the phenomenon seems to stem from a belief in male entitlement taken to an extreme. Although there are often signs that something could happen (e.g. man with history of abuse and/or control, experiences sudden change in his position and/or end of relationship, etc.) which agencies could pick up on, they are rarely noticed until after the incident. Even where the woman, a relative or friend reports concerns to the police, these concerns are rarely acted upon. Lives could be saved if there was greater awareness of the problem and a commitment to intervention to protect women and children at risk.

The media tend to be very, very coy in describing incidents where women are killed by their partners. Quite frequently it will be something very brief like, “A man and a woman in their mid 30’s were found dead in Acacia Avenue this morning. The incident is being regarded as unexplained but no one else is being sought in connection with the killings.” If you aren’t paying attention and don’t read between the lines, you won’t “get” that it was probably a man who killed his partner then himself. While tabloids will splash lurid headlines about murder and violence, particularly where the perpetrators fit the model of “villain” quite neatly, it’s as though hacks are afraid to frighten the horses if they more than whisper that a man has killed his partner in cold blood. 

But, sometimes the stories break big, particularly where there are children killed. Then something of a “formula” is followed for reporting. Lots of photos of cute children, children smiling with their dad and happy family shots. Statements from friends, neighbours, teachers, etc. about how happy/pretty/clever the children were. Statements from co-workers, neighbours, friends about what a loving/caring/hardworking/committed father the killer was, with much hand wringing about what would “drive” him to do this. Comments about him being under pressure/depressed/stressed/worried generally follow.

Then there are almost always insinuations about the dead woman. She left him/was threatening to leave/was restricting access to the children/was having an affair/he thought she was having an affair/he was worried she would have an affair/she was demanding/she spent too much money, etc. Dead women tell no tales but there are always plenty of people willing to tell tales about them, whether there is any truth or not.

The goal of such reports really seems to tug the heartstrings over the loss of “innocent” children’s lives, attempts to excuse or justify the man’s actions and efforts to demonise the dead woman. If they succeed in this goal, then we can swiftly forget that women are far more at risk of being killed by a partner than a stranger. This stops us worrying about the inequity in many male / female relationships and the serious risks many women face from their partners.
It’s late and I don’t have time to look up more links, but most of the literature suggests that women who kill their children are more likely to have a previously diagnosed mental illness than men who kill their children. Women very, very rarely kill their partners then kill or attempt to kill themselves.

We owe it to the children who are murdered and their mothers who have to live with the grief to start taking this crime seriously. We need to stop blaming the victims of violence and place the blame squarely where it belongs: on the men who perpetrate domestic violence or who decide to kill their children.

Some links to research and news reports on Family Annihilators:

This 2008 report on murder-suicides in the US, found that only about 5% of murder victims of murder-suicides are male and 74% were murdered by an intimate partner (who then committed suicide.)

This File on 4 programme from March of this year discusses similar features of cases where men kill their families and then themselves.

BBC: What Drives a Father to Kill His Children?

Newsweek: Inside the Minds of Family Annihilators

Guardian: Leave the Children Out of It

Marie Claire: Why Men Kill Their Own Children