Monday, 3 December 2012

Is Violence Against Men a Growing Problem?

Dear Readers,

In my continuing focus on victims of crime in the Toronto area, I bring you one of the more unusual cases but not for the reason you think. This horrible situation, alas all to common goes sadly under reported and although 2012 crime stories abound, the following most disturbing crime had so many victims, I lost count! Well reported by Liam Casey and Jayme Poisson, staff reporters for the Toronto Star, and as usual, I bring it to you verbatim....and as usual, i'll leave space at the bottom for your comments...

(note: not for children or the faint of heart!)

Neighbours haunted by Toronto man’s torture in their midst!

from Sunday January 15, 2012

Josie Nicodemo visited the victim every day in the hospital after he was rescued by police. In an interview with the Star, the victim referred to doctors, police and neighbours including Nicodemo "the reason I'm alive." (photo by Jayme Poisson/Toronto Star)

Two years after police rescued a man who was tortured for three months in a Toronto apartment, area residents remain plagued with guilt that they didn’t act sooner. Of course, they didn't know then what they know now. At the time, it was impossible to fathom something so unspeakable was happening to a fellow neighbour.

Josie Nicodemo said she cried for a week after finding out the gruesome details of the man's ordeal. He was brutally assaulted and tortured. Lighter fluid was poured on his skin and set on fire. He was beaten with broom handles and hammers until they broke. But the victim, who spoke exclusively to the Star over the weekend, said he would not be alive today if people like Nicodemo and others hadn't called for help.

“I would like to say thank you for helping me and saving me,” said the man, who cannot be named because of a publication ban protecting his identity. “The person at the coffee shop who saw me a couple of times, that lady who was at the apartment, the police officers and all the doctors who worked on me, they're the reason I'm alive today.”

Nicodemo, 38, was the woman at the coffee shop near the apartment where the abuse took place. She saw the victim with cuts, bruises and a swollen head. She and her mother often spoke with John Michael Siscoe and the victim’s wife, who both pleaded guilty last week to charges including endangering a life and sexual assault causing bodily harm.

“He told us that (the victim) got beat up because he tried to rob people,” said Nicodemo of the excuses Siscoe would concoct. Nicodemo described Siscoe as a guy who went out of his way to talk to people, even delivering food or giving away DVDs. “He was dying for friends,” she said. .

After the couple was arrested, Nicodemo visited the victim every day in the hospital. She brought him a cake for his birthday and he opened up to her about the ordeal. When the victim's family didn't have the money to pay for a plane ticket to return to his mother’s home out west, it was Nicodemo who worked with a local church that donated the money.

“It’s just scary, I mean, he was beaten so bad that his ears looked like cauliflower,” Nicodemo said. “And all this happened just next door.” If something was truly wrong, Nicodemo thought, surely the nurse who visited the wife during her pregnancy would tell authorities. It was Nicodemo who found the mother of the victim's wife on Facebook and reached out to her. The family travelled from out west the same day the couple was arrested, she said. Nicodemo housed them in her small west-end apartment.

Jan Foster befriended Siscoe and the victim’s wife after they met at a local bar, often discussing the couple’s pregnancy. In mid-January 2010, Foster was walking to the grocery store with her young daughter in a stroller when she ran into Siscoe and the victim’s wife. They invited Foster back to the apartment to show her what they had bought for their unborn child.

During the tour of the apartment, they showed Foster their bedroom and Siscoe asked if she wanted to see the victim, pointing to the closet. Foster thought he was referring to their dog. Instead, a man emerged from the closet, his head eight times larger than normal, she later testified at a preliminary hearing.

“You guys are sick,” Foster said as she grabbed her 2-year-old daughter and fled. It took her a week to go to police. “I wish I would have gone to the police sooner,” Foster told the Star. “I was just scared. I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked — it didn’t feel real.”

So she talked about the situation with a man named Robert Canavan, who knew the couple from the local bar, according to court documents. He had previously noticed the victim’s injuries as well as the bruises on Siscoe’s knuckles. Questions to Siscoe were again met with lies.

On Jan. 19, Canavan told Siscoe he had a job for the victim, which was itself a lie, in order to gain access to the apartment. Siscoe refused to let him see the victim. So Canavan, who could not be reached for an interview, called Foster and together they went to a local police station. At 7:38 p.m. police entered the apartment and discovered the broken man hidden in a closet.

Nicodemo and her mother still cannot believe it took two years for the savage torturing to make the news. Police never sent out a news release. The victim’s current girlfriend, whom he lives with in suburban Vancouver, said she is grateful someone noticed the abuse.

“To anybody who sees something or hears something that may need to be dealt with, the worst that can happen is the firemen or the police make a trip that didn't need to happen and you're not going to get into trouble for making a false report,” said the girlfriend.

“Look out for your fellow human being and be willing to take the chance you could be wrong because you could be right, too.” Siscoe is in custody and will undergo a psychological assessment. The victim's wife is out on bail and under the watch of a surety as assessments and sentencing move forward.
                                                                      Tiger and Elin, after!
my response.....
Regardless of whether the assault is female on male or female/male on male, the fact remains that a male is the victim of a heinous crime. That so many heard this victim's cries of agony for so long and did nothing may just be the subject of a follow-up article. Having said that, this victim was rescued by the Toronto Police and fortunately, murder charges did not apply. So why did this crime happen?  Why does any crime where a male is abused happen? Isn't the magic of divorce supposed to protect us from this kind of behaviour?

Looking back at the media frenzy surrounding Tiger Woods and his then wife, Elin who reportedly came at him in his Cadillac with a 9 iron as he tried to get away, did a key aspect of the story slip through the cracks? 
Woods was reportedly; judging by the photos the next day flashed around the world at least, the alleged victim of domestic violence perpetrated by his wife. Without getting into a long discussion into the why, the fact that Woods rear driver's side window was smashed in belies the argument that justice fits the crime. Was she aiming for that window or the driver's window? An eyewitness said that just after the accident, Woods had a bloody lip and was not wearing shoes, possibly indicating that he may have run out of the house before he had the chance to put shoes on. It is against Florida law to drive without shoes. Woods might have lived with his 9 iron but there is no justification for him to almost die with it!

Tiger's broken window

Be that as it may, local Police decided not to lay charges against Elin and the matter was dropped with Tiger being fined for a traffic violation but beyond its brutal physical and psychological costs, domestic violence against men generally exacts a cruel economic toll on the personal, societal and national psyche. For the most part, the media, authorities and ordinary citizens see domestic violence as a crime that is committed by men and victimizes women. Consequently, funding to combat the problem has overwhelmingly been spent on programs that support women as studies show that domestic violence is just as likely to victimize men, as well as women. In fact, the overwhelming mass of evidence indicates that half of all domestic violence cases involve an exchange of blows and the remaining 50% is evenly split between men and women who are brutalized by their partners.

                                                            Tiger's crushed fender

Part of the reason that this problem is widely ignored lies in the notion that battered males are weak or unmanly. A good example of this is the Barry Williams case. The former Brady Bunch star sought a restraining order against his live-in girlfriend, who had hit him, stolen $29,000 from his bank account, attempted to kick and stab him and had repeatedly threatened his life.

While it is hard to imagine a media outlet being so crass as to mock a battered woman, E Online took the opportunity to poke fun at Williams, comparing the event to various Brady Bunch episodes. Similarly, when Saturday Night Live ran a segment in which a frightened Tiger Woods was repeatedly brutalized by his wife, the show was roundly attacked for being insensitive to then musical guest Rihanna, herself a victim of domestic violence.  
                                                          Tiger and Elin mocked?
Sometimes it is impossible to ignore the problem, but when domestic violence against men turns deadly, as in the case of actor Phil Hartman, the focus tends to shift to mental illness. The same can be said of the Andrea Yates case, which many pundits presented as the story of how an insensitive husband can drive a wife to murder. A double standard if ever there was one as much of the information on domestic violence against men is anecdotal, largely because of the lack of funding to study the problem. Although several organizations do explore domestic violence, the focus remains on Violence Against Women.

Researchers Denise Hines and Emily Douglas completed their study to scientifically measure the mental and social impact of domestic violence on male victims. Interestingly, their research suggests that male battering is perceived as a mental health issue, not a crime. This decriminalization of domestic violence against men affects research conclusions. While survey-based studies have found that men and women commit domestic violence in equal numbers, crime-based studies show that women are far more likely to be victimized. This inconsistency begins to make sense when one considers that man-on-woman violence tends to be seen through a criminal lens, while woman-on-man violence is viewed more benignly. 
                                                      Tiger and Elin, before

A 32 nation study revealed that more than 51% of men and 52% of women felt that there were times when it was appropriate for a wife to slap her husband. By comparison, only 26% of men and 21% of women felt that there were times when it was appropriate for a husband to slap his wife. Murray Straus, creator of the Conflict Tactics Scale and one of the authors of the study, explained this discrepancy: "We don't perceive men as victims. We see women as being more vulnerable than men." Without a doubt, the preponderance of domestic violence resources should be made available to women. They are injured more often, are more economically vulnerable, and are often responsible for the couple's children. That having been said, more resources need to be made available to men.

This trend becomes particularly striking when one considers the 1996 case of former Edmonton Eskimo quarterback Warren Moon, who tried to restrain his wife after she threw a candlestick at his head and kneed him in the groin. Subsequently charged with spousal abuse, he was only acquitted after his wife admitted that she attacked him and that her wounds were self-inflicted. Ironically, her admission of fault did not result in charges being brought against her.

                                               Edmonton Eskimo quarterback Warren Moon
While Moon's trial was particularly high profile, his situation is actually very common. For male victims of domestic violence, the legal system can become another tool for abuse. As in the Moon case, battered men are often likely to find themselves arrested, even when they are the ones who call the police. And, even after the arrest, the process of incarceration, restraining orders, divorce court and child custody hearings continue to disadvantage men.

There's nothing vague about the effect of restraining orders! They can often turn men out of their homes, deny them access to children and result in further personal costs as millions of men have to find new places to live, hire lawyers and pay other expenses. For some men, as Hines and Brown point out, the legal system gives abusive wives and girlfriends tools to continue attacks even after their relationships end.

There is no doubt that domestic violence against men can be reduced; the domestic violence initiatives of the past 40 years have brought a hidden crime to light and provided protection for millions of women. The next step is to admit that domestic violence is not a male or female problem, but rather a human problem, and that a lasting solution must address the cruelty and suffering of both sexes. 
(post script: while walking downtown with my grandson the other evening, I heard a commotion at the next corner and upon arriving, we noticed a lady had been knocked down by a Jeep as she attempted to cross at a light and then the most incredible event happened in recent memory as the folks in the immediate area rushed to assist and while two of them pulled the lady from underneath the Jeep, 8 or so picked the 3,000 lb Jeep up off the ground high enough to get her out. That warmed my heart so much that I sent a note to our Mayor and Police Chief to nominate these individuals for an award for their sacrifice and willingness to assist those in need! I don't even know if the City/Police offer such an award but regardless, these kindly folks deserve the nomination!)


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