Thank goodness we are all paying more attention to rights violations at airports. Yet, for the past thirty years or so, the second largest identifiable group of citizens across the western world has been silently subjected to arbitrary arrests and other indignities, based merely on an allegation of maybe nothing more than a professed fear of potential abuse. The definition of the feared, but not yet perpetrated, abuse encompasses everything that the complainer perceives to be uncomfortable.
Millions of men have been, and continue to be in ever increasing numbers, awakened in the middle of the night by the police, guns drawn, no explanation offered. At times the hapless victims are surrounded by a swat-team at their places of work, or after work at their doorsteps while they in vain try to open their front door which has had its lock changed.
They are handcuffed in front of their co-workers or gawking neighbours, terrified children and grinning wives, hauled into jail, without a single question asked or explanation given. In the morning, or on the following Monday morning if the arrest happened between Friday morning and Sunday night, still not knowing what they have done, they are shackled into leg irons and attached to all others, including murders, who are to appear in front of the judge that morning.
They may be released if they promise not to communicate with their wife and children and to keep within a prescribed distance from their homes and places which they know that they wife and children might attend. If they accidentally happen to see their children on the street they are told to cross to the other side or face a penalty for breaching the “no-molestation” order.
They will be told that they still are responsible for paying the mortgage or the rent of the property that they are not allowed to enter, they will not have access to any of their belongings, and they will be ordered to pay a monthly sum to the person who caused all this because she wants to have a divorce and the exclusive possession of his home and sole custody of his children. If men are lucky, they are left to live with about a quarter of their take home pay, at times more than their entire pay is confiscated by various orders which are issued independently of each other.
To add insult to injury, they may see another man walk in the back door while they are being hauled out from the front.
Before they are allowed to see a judge they are given the choice between the carrot and the stick: plead guilty to whatever you are being accused of, whether you know what it is or not, and you can go home provided your partner agrees. After that you will be on probation for a year, and as long as you do your partner's bidding, and she does not complain about your behavior, you will not have a criminal record.
On the other hand, if you do not plead guilty, you will be presumed to be guilty and you will have a heck of a time to prove that you are not as no witnesses are needed. Your partner's word is enough.
Cannot happen? It is happening all across the world to thousands of men each day under VAW.
Bear with me as I tell you a true-life example: Last year an Ottawa, Canada, woman got furious at her husband and dialed 911. The police were there in a flash, he was carted out to jail and issued a restraining order. Being penniless, he ended up sleeping in the furnace room of a highrise.
However, the little woman had a problem: one of the kids needed surgery and she needed help with the others and the household. No problem, he can go home until she is able to cope alone again and then he has to go back to the furnace room, while, of course, paying her rent though he was not able to carry on with his business that he had run from home. No clients, no money.
Ten months later the charges were withdrawn and he was able to return home, presumably until his wife has the urge to reach for the phone.
Even airport officials can't compare with the partner assault teams.
January 13, 2003
Eeva Sodhi (send her mail) was born in Finland almost 65 years ago. A former head of serials cataloging at the University of Ottawa, she lives with her husband in a tiny Ontario village.