Friday, July 4, 2008

Utterly Preventable

The Midcoast has been bludgeoned by domestic violence again. A 23 year-old Hope man, Steven Pomeroy, allegedly admitted to police that he hit a 22 year-old Waldoboro woman, Jessica Nichols over the head with a frying pan, then stabbed her repeatedly Tuesday evening. According to the Bangor Daily News report she made an unflattering remark about the young man's ex-fiancee.

Pomeroy appeared in Knox County Court--a court generally inundated with more run-of-the-mill domestic violence cases--Thursday. He entered no plea. An affidavit states that the two had been drinking and that Nichols' body was found in the trunk of Pomeroy's car naked and in the fetal position.

As it's the Fourth of July and I'm headed to the Round Pond Parade with Mike, Eli and maybe Kathleen, I have no intention of reporting on this today. The AP report will have to do for now. 

I can add context, however. First, one of the leading murder risk factors for women in Maine is dating, loving, living with or marrying men. Murdered women in this state are almost exclusively done in by their lovers, stalkers or husbands. Effective consequences for domestic violence only exist in counties where there are resources for creativity, like domestic violence courts.

The biggest problem in this state and around the world is the context in which domestic violence can exist. While we are not Pakistan where courts look the other way when men murder wives they suspect of adultery--sickeningly named honor killings, we do have a culture of patriarchy and too often violent male supremacy. 

According to Craig Haney's Death by Design: Capital Punishment as a Social Psychological System our denial of the day to day incidents promoting this culture of sexual violence and male dominance is fueled in part by the media's focus on the bizarre. "And because the media present us with the most distorted and extreme possible versions of violence--individual grotesques that so little relationship to the rest of us that no one in the audience can identify with them--we are saved the unpleasant task of confronting the potential of violence that we all share." (p. 44)

Every time a Maine woman, and I can think quickly of three Midcoast victims,  Boothbay Harbor's Chevelle “Chellie” Calloway, her mother Sarah “Sally” Murray and Rockland's Maxine Witham, is killed by a man, we all must take stock and perhaps begin to take responsibility. Listen and look this holiday weekend for how women are treated on a day to day basis in this state. Drunken weekends are always a good social psychology laboratory.

Knox County is not one of Maine's handful of Domestic Violence Courts. One can only hope that its judges and prosecutors can achieve what justice is available after this, another woman's utterly preventable violent death.

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