How Not to Advocate for Domestic Violence Victims

Lynn Giovanni, 45, apparently had a very unhappy divorce and an even unhappier experience with the legal system. In 2004, using the pseudonym Faith Hope, she wrote a self-published book, Comprehensive Study of Judicial System Loopholes in Relation to Domestic Violence: The Victim’s/Child’s and Society’s Nightmare . . . from a Victim’s Perspective.

The book apparently slams the legal system for failing the victims of domestic violence.

Giovanni apparently didn’t take the message in her own book to heart. In early February, she took a hammer and a shovel, and walked into the room of her 14-year-old daughter, Nicole. While Nicole slept, Giovanni hit her skull several times with the hammer and then once with the shovel for good measure.

Giovanni then fled the scene and attempted to commit suicide with her vehicle, but survived crashing her car into a guard rail near a high exit.

Giovanni is now charged with murder, and hopefully will get a firsthand look at how the courts should handle domestic violence.


Slain by Mom. Perry Chiarmonte and Leonard Greene, New York Post, February 8, 2005.

Blaming the Victim in a Domestic Violence Case

When is it okay to blame the victim in a case of domestic violence that leads to murder? When the victim is male.

Consider the case of Ruth Anne Willis and her ex-husband Russell Bailey. Willis and Bailey were divorced in 1996 and Willis was granted sole custody of their two daughters, and Bailey was granted visitation every other week and one evening per week. Ms. Willis later relocated her daughters in the Summer of 2001 over Bailey’s objections.

As divorce lawyer Larissa Fedak told the Dundas Star News, the family law process worked very well for Willis until recently when a dispute arose about where her youngest daughter would attend the Canadian equivalent of high school.

The daughter wanted to attend a private school near Bailey’s residence. Willis apparently was vehemently opposed to any sort of private education. After discussing with his daughter her desire to attend the private school, Bailey decided to file for sole custody of his younger daughter in order to allow her to attend the school. Apparently Willis believed that he was likely to succeed.

So on one of the weekends in which Bailey’s younger daughter was visiting him, Willis drove with her 15-month old baby to confront him. While Bailey was on the phone with a 911 operator, Willis put the baby down in its seat, picked up a semi-automatic gun, and shot Bailey 8 times, including once in the head while he was on the ground. Willis tried to continue shooting, but the gun failed to fire on the 9th shot.

Willis was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first 13 years of her life sentence. She is considering appealing the sentence.

Anyway, what caught my eye was this assessment from Sally Palmer, professor emeritus of McMaster University’s social work program, who told the Dundas Star News,

The seeds for the murder are in the violent relationship that started long before the custody issue, and it’s really impossible for us to know whether one parent contributed more to this than the other. But they were both guilty of putting their own needs before those of their two daughters by engaging in mutual violence.

Color me skeptical, but I can’t imagine Palmer making the ludicrous claim above if Bailey had murdered Willis rather than vice versa. It’s amazing how there’s no excuse for interpersonal violence . . . except, of course, when there is.


Dundas shooting highlights emotion of custody battles. Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News, January 28, 2005.

Oregon Researcher Finds Young Women More Likely to Engage in Interpersonal Aggression than Men

Research involving domestic violence has suggested that men and women tend to be equally likely to engage in acts of violence, though due to size and other differences women are more likely to sustain a serious injury from such violence. Deborah Capaldi, a researcher at the Oregon Social Learning Center wanted to study interpersonal violence in a controlled setting and was surprised by the results — young women in her study were four times more likely to initiate physical aggression such as slapping, poking and kicking.

Capaldi brought young couples in to her lab and gave them problem-solving exercises they had to work together to solve. Capaldi then recorded their behavior and analyzed who initiated physical aggression. She found that women aged 18 years old were four times more likely to initiate aggression than men. This effect gradually went away with age, until 26 when women initiated aggression only slightly more often then men.

Capaldi told The Register-Guard (Oregon),

Who were the primary initiators of such slaps, pokes and kicks? The women. . . . Women engage in aggression and we’re not doing them any favors by denying they have any part in it.

According to The Register-Guard, Capaldi was surprised at some of the acts of physical aggression they observed in a laboratory setting,

Capaldi said she and her colleagues expect some verbal arguments but were surprised by the extent of slaps, pokes and kicks as partners discussed such assigned topics as planning a party, where to go on a date, or how to deal with such issues as jealousy and lack of money.

If hit or poked, the men and women were about equally as likely to respond in kind. None of the physical aggression was severe, which researchers would have halted, Capaldi said.

Capaldi’s research is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Family Violence.

Finally, The Register-Guard interviewed for its story Margo Schaefer, who runs Womenspace which is a domestic violence shelter. Schaefer told The Register-Guard that there is a difference between men and women when it comes to violence,

The most common cause of injury for women between the ages of 15 and 44 is domestic violence — you don’t see that for men.

The claim that domestic violence is the number one cause of injury for women or some subset of women is one of those myths that simply won’t go away. In fact, the number one cause of injury for both men and women are accidental falls. Domestic violence doesn’t occupy the second spot either, with that being claimed by automobile accidents. In fact, only about 1 percent of women’s injury-related visits to the emergency rooms appear related to assault by a male intimate.

It doesn’t benefit anyone to either downplay or exaggerate the extent of domestic violence as Ms. Schaefer and other domestic violence advocates routinely do.


Fingering the aggressor. Jeff Wright, The Register-Guard, January 29, 2005.

Solicit A Murder, Spend Two Years In Jail

Johnnie and Melissa Blankinship’s 2003 marriage apparently wasn’t working. In 2004, Johnnie told Melissa that he wanted a divorce. Melissa, in turn, told her ex-husband that she wanted to have Johnnie murdered so she could collect on his $500,000 life insurance policy.

The ex-husband contacted police who set Melissa up with an undercover agent. Melissa gave the undercover agent $10,000, a sawed-off shotgun and a color picture of her husband.

Given the evidence, Melissa plead guilty to soliciting murder. She might as well have plead guilty to embezzlement as the judge in the case sentenced her to just two years in jail and eight years probation.

Melissa’s attorney claimed that Johnnie had physically abused her. Which, of course, would explain why she wanted to kill him when he tried to divorce her. A court-appointed psychologist testified that Melissa was suffering from postpartum depression, a personality disorder and battered woman’s syndrome from her previous marriage. All of which, of course, are universally recognized as excuses for coolly planning a murder-for-hire.

According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, when the judge announced the verdict,

Johnnie Blankinship looked to his family and said, “You’re kidding me.”



Wife confesses in murder plot. Eric Stirgus, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 2, 2005.

France Deports Imam Who Defended Domestic Violence

After a miscue earlier this year, in October France deported Muslim imam Abdelkader Bouziane after Bouziane made comments in defense of domestic violence in a magazine interview.

Bouziane, who has Algerian citizenship, was quoted in Lyon Magazine in early 2004 as saying that “beating your wife is authorized by the Koran.”

Bouziane was arrested in February and deported in April for inciting violence against women. That deportation was overruled by courts, however, and Bouziane was allowed to re-enter the country in May. The government appealed that ruling and on October 4 a higher administrative court ruled that the deportation order was proper, and Bouziane was arrested and put on a flight to Algeria on October 5.

Bouziane’s lawyer told Agence-France Presse that his client disputed the accuracy of the quotes in the interview saying, “Mr. Bouziane contests the passages which caused trouble or infuriated women in France, for he was only making reference to the Koran.”

Mohamed Bechari, the head of the National Federation of French Muslims, told Agence-France Presse that his organization did not approve of the comments attributed to Bouziane,

The associations should sack imams like him. We condemn this type of slip, which shows a fundamentalist reading of the Koranic text that is not part of Islam nor the Muslims in France.

Bechari added that Bouziane’s views do not reflect those of the general population of Muslims in France.


France deports controversial imam. The BBC, October 5, 2004.

Imam’s claim that wife-beating is Koranic earns him deportation from France. Agence-France Presse, April 21, 2004.

Radical Muslim Cleric, Deported For Backing Wife-Beating, Returns To France. Agence-France Presse, May 22, 2004.

France Deports Muslim Cleric Who ‘Defended Wife-Beating’. Jean-Pierre Benoit, Agence France Presse, October 6, 2004.

Mayor of London Praises Muslim Cleric Who Defends Domestic Violence

The Scotsman reports that feminist and gay activists in Great Britain protested the arrival of Muslim cleric Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi is an extremist who has praised suicide bombers, defended domestic violence, and views homosexuality as something that needs to be punished by law. Of course, this being Europe, he was welcomed with open arms by London Mayor Ken Livingstone who describe criticism of Al-Qaradawi as anti-Muslim “hysteria.”

For example, here’s al-Qaradawi on how far a husband may go in punishing his wife,

It is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive parts. In no case should he resort to using a stick or any other instrument that might cause pain and injury.

Peter Tatchell, leader of UK gay rights group Outrage!,

Ken Livingstone would not give a platform to the BNP. Dr. al-Qaradawi is even more extreme. He is an apologist for violence against women, Jews and gay people. We urge the Mayor of London not to host this misogynist, anti-Semitic homophobe.

Instead, Livingstone apologized to al-Qaradawi for the criticism he had to endure and invited him to return to London later this year.


Now cleric faces protests from gay group and feminists. John-Paul Ford Rojas and Neville Dean, Press Association, July 12, 2004.

Controversial preacher with ‘star status’. Magdi Abdelhadi, The BBC, July 7, 2004.

Livingstone invites cleric back. The BBC, July 12, 2004.