'Fatal Fathers' Myth Promoted in Wake of Peterson, Hacking Cases

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In
the midst of the Scott Peterson trial and in the wake of the apparent
murder of Lori Hacking, many are declaring the murder of pregnant
women by their male intimates to be a nationwide crisis. The New
York Post thunders “Pregnancy’s Greatest Risk: Daddy,” and the
Chicago Tribune says that Peterson and Hacking represent
a “violent, horrific trend.” Media Life magazine warns that
the “Laci Petersons of the world [are] becoming more common,” and
a recent A&E special called “Fatal Fathers” declares that the
Peterson murder is part of a “frightening” and “much larger” phenomenon.

While
one cannot fault observers for looking for culprits in such heartbreaking
situations, a few facts are in order. According to the US Census
Bureau, there are nearly 100 million women age 18 or over in the
United States. Of these, only one out of every 75,000 are murdered
by a male intimate each year. Moreover, contrary to popular belief,
there are as many wives and girlfriends who murder their male partners
as vice versa.

According
to official Department of Justice statistics, there are about 1,300
female intimates and 500 male intimates murdered each year, excluding
those killings deemed to be in self-defense. However, this apparent
2.6 to 1 ratio is distorted by several blinders which greatly conceal
female murders of men. These blinders were delineated by author
Warren Farrell, a high-profile expert witness in domestic violence
cases.

One
blinder is that women generally use less detectable methods to murder
intimates than men do. One of the most popular female methods is
to poison the victim, and these poisonings are often mistakenly
recorded as “heart attacks” or “accidents” instead of murder.

Another
blinder is that women are much more likely than men to use “contract”
killers, and contract killers often disguise murders as accidents
or suicides. Even when a paid killer is caught and the truth is
known, the DOJ counts the murder as a “multiple-offender” killing
instead of as a murder of a man by a female intimate.

Also,
men who murder women tend to come from lower income backgrounds,
whereas women who murder men are more likely to come from middle-class
backgrounds. The financial disparities allow for women to have better
legal representation, resulting in more acquittals. According to
a Justice Department study, women are nine times as likely as men
to be acquitted in a trial for the murder of a spouse, and 10 times
as likely to receive probation instead of prison time.

Chivalry
and our stubborn insistence that women are innocent and morally
superior also play a role. The wife of a murdered husband is far
less likely to be considered a serious suspect than the husband
of a murdered wife. And even when women are suspected, they are
much more likely to be seen as having acted in self-defense.

The
DOJ’s statistics are further distorted by the roughly 7,800 unsolved
murders of men and 1,500 unsolved murders of women which occur each
year. If one were to combine the known number of murdered intimates
with reasonable estimates of how many unsolved murders were committed
by intimates, men would comprise over 40% of all intimate murder
victims. This is consistent with the DOJ’s survey Murder in Families,
which analyzed 10,000 cases and found that women make up over 40
percent of those charged in familial murders. In fact, the total
may be far higher, since many murders of men by female intimates
are not even recorded as murders.

Men
have no monopoly on violence, cruelty, or murder. Convicted Texas
killer Clara Harris ran her husband down in her Mercedes as the
fallen man’s daughter begged her not to kill her father. Convicted
Texas murderess Susan Wright stabbed her husband 193 times and claimed
self-defense. As tragic as the murders of Laci Peterson and Lori
Hacking are, their husbands – if guilty – are aberrations who are
no more representative of American husbands than Harris and Wright
are of American wives.

September
17, 2004

Glenn
Sacks [send him mail]
serves on the advisory board of Stop Abuse for Everyone, an international
domestic violence organization. He is a nationally syndicated radio
talk show host whose columns on men’s and fathers’ issues have appeared
in dozens of the largest newspapers in the United States. He invites
readers to visit his website.

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