Feminist Fallacies Hurt Police Training by Ilana Mercer

© 1999 Ilana Mercer

Originally published in The North Shore News February 26, 1999

Used with permission of the author.


 

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Terri Petkau is a young sociologist, who has been brought up sharp against the fallacies of the feminist perspective, while completing with distinction a tightly argued MA thesis at McMaster University, Hamilton. Ms. Petkau had endeavored to evaluate the perceptions patrol constables had of the wife-assault sensitivity training they received. And what these front-line workers had to say threatened to overturn her once firmly entrenched feminist sensibilities. The training, informed completely by feminist strictures, is doing more harm than good.

Says Ms. Petkau: "I saw the male species as oppressors of women since time immemorial." "I marched, I drew up petitions, I camped out at city hall." When told by the men and women of the force that the feminist training was failing, her own feminist bona fides notwithstanding, Ms. Petkau set out to find out why. "I listened to the accounts of the police officers," she relays, "and I couldn't believe what I was hearing." The following is my crude precis of Ms. Petkau's study in which she traces the dubious constructs employed in a typical feminist sensitivity training course.

While the feminist perspective now poses as the truth, in reality it is nothing but a theoretical understanding. Its take on wife assault is "just one of many competing perspectives." The feminist orthodoxy, moreover, "appeals to carefully selected studies that support its view and overlooks, discounts, or ignores those studies challenging it." How does this perspective ingratiate itself? First, it offers up carefully crafted, mutually exclusive categories of victim and offender: the woman is pure, moral and blameless, while the male is cast as inherently immoral, deserving only condemnation and punishment. This one-way process in feminist training does not permit shades of gray.

The men and women of this particular patrol constabulary are also taught to perceive the couples with whom they intervene as being mired in relationships of power, control and escalation. Feminist trainers speak authoritatively about the triumph of terminating the abusive relationship, the cycle of leaving and returning to the villain, and the inevitable revictimization by a patriarchal society. These concepts are the scaffolding of this perspective and are not to be questioned.

Telling patrol constables that wife assault exists equally across the socioeconomic board is another fallacy foisted on the officers. Research, however, confirms what the officers' experience: in reality, wife assault is largely a lower class phenomenon. But feminists, who need people to believe domestic violence is an equal-opportunity offender, would sooner fortify this mythology than direct resources where needed. The feminist training scrutinized by Ms. Petkau is also geared at making frontline officers disregard the difference between the rare cases of extreme violence and the minor levels of violence they encounter on their patrols. By the time they complete this sensitivity training, police patrol trainees have been exposed repeatedly to visuals of rare atrocity stories.

This feeds into the concept of a continuum of violence-against-women. If every incident between a man and a woman can be framed as a prelude to an atrocity, then all men can be branded as predators. Indeed the slippery slope logical error, which allows feminists to link a wide range of separate attitudes and behaviors, for which there is no evidence of a connection, also allows them to condemn the mild mannered man given to the occasional caustic comment, to sharing an axis with OJ Simpson

Another training-totem has it that a woman's problematic behavior such as drug addiction or child abuse is a consequence of her victimization, whereas a man's behavior is always his responsibility. The feminist counselor refuses to hold women accountable for their role in the violence. Plagued by the same dysfunctional patterns over and over again, yet being assured by their helpers that the problem lies with the man, these women are fated to shuttle from one violent relationship to another.

Anyone who has attended a feminist training course is familiar with the rampant anti-intellectualism routinely adopted. Dare to venture an explanation for human behavior that doesn't mesh with the feminist credo and one is warned about perpetuating unhelpful myths. But patrol constables in Ms. Petkau's sample are having a hard time swallowing all this. Is it because the men and women on the shop floor are part of an oppressive system? Not in the least. Apparently, constables that interface with couples in strife simply don't see what their feminist trainers want them to see. They don't report formulaic escalation. They find instead that men and women are equally capable of initiating violent acts.

Patrol constables have a strong commitment to neutrality and a keen sense of justice. But the policies they must follow are "often based on extreme examples and do not reflect the complexities of social life." Thus the feminist straightjacket is forcing constables to abandon a nuanced understanding of violence between couples and settle for reductive scripts.

Despite the fact these officers are uniquely positioned to make pronouncements on domestic violence, their perceptions don't seem to count in the precinct Ms. Petkau examined. Presently the officers reject the feminist account of wife assault because it isn't consistent with what they encounter on the beat. When it comes to formulating policy, front line workers are given little credibility because, in Ontario at least, the feminist lobby gets to define "what occurs in intimate violence as well as suggest solutions."

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| EJF Home | Join the EJF | Comments? | Get EJF newsletter | Newsletters |

| DV Home | Abstract | Contents | Authors and Site Map | Tables | Index | Bibliography |

 

| Chapter 6 — Domestic Violence And The Law |

| Next — Railroaded for domestic-violence defendants, El Paso County's "fast track" may not always lead to justice |

| Back — Innocence is no excuse in domestic violence |


 

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