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News - Love 'em to death

Another day, another murdered woman

Last Saturday, Phyllis Wooten was laid to rest in a closed casket. She had been stabbed so many times that family members had to forgo seeing her one last time. They said their goodbyes through six inches of steel and wood.

The next morning, the AJC published an op-ed by psychiatrist Alfred Messer, who recommended that women being stalked by exes might deter future threats by eating garlic cloves and then kissing their stalkers, who then might be driven away by the odor of their breath. Apparently, Messer was serious.

Phyllis Wooten didn't try garlic. She did try to get the courts to protect her after her husband threatened her with a Glock pistol. She tried to get the courts to enforce the law against Eric Wooten after he held her hostage in their home, tearing out the phones so she couldn't call the police and disabling her car so she couldn't flee with her children.

When police arrested Wooten in 1999, he was carrying the Glock and a boot knife. But a judge in Cobb County decided to let him go. No evidence of violence, the judge said. Who cares about the gun, the knife, the 911 calls and imprisoning women and children?

It's too bad the AJC didn't publish the judge's name. That would make it easier for the public to hold him responsible for the judicial neglect that played a role in Phyllis Wooten's murder.

It's also too bad that they did publish Alfred Messer, whose Jung-addled musings about ideation and sexual desire are a skin-crawling road map of misconceptions about the root causes of violence against women.

Of course, Messer's underlying argument is that men have to fear violence from women in the same way that women must fear men. That's crap, and the good doctor knows it. So do the people who manufactured the Rutger's study he cites, which defines stalking in wildly broad terms in order to imply that gender has nothing to do with domestic violence.

Sure, some women hit men. And some pitchers throw no-hitters, and both of these events are rare enough that they capture our attention. But during a week when our city is knee-deep in dead women's blood, could we just try to stay focused on the fact that real crime statistics (as opposed to ideology-driven phone surveys) show that women are eight times more likely to be victimized?

Is that enough gender bias? How about this? Nearly all of the women who do hit men are actually hitting back against chronic abusers. Or this? While the number of women killing men (in self-defense or otherwise) has dropped faster than any other type of domestic crime, one abuse statistic remains stable: Men are the aggressors in significantly more than 90 percent of all cases of domestic violence.

A jilted girlfriend might call your pager a hundred times or spray-paint your Miata, but she isn't likely to stab out your eyes or send you a bomb at work or kill you and your children before turning the gun on herself.

You don't need a degree in sociology to figure any of this out. All you need is the Yellow Pages, which lists more than a dozen emergency shelters for battered women. There are no shelters for men. They don't need them.

Whenever a man hunts down his ex and kills her, we chatter on about the weather, the economy, the rare female batterer and everything else except the one thing that ties these crimes together, which is our ongoing unwillingness to protect women from men they know, even though we know men kill women every day.

It's all very exciting that Eric Wooten sparked a national manhunt. Now his lawyers are positioning him to play the famous client game with an all-too-willing local press. What if, instead, the press went to the judge in Cobb County and demanded to know why he didn't put Wooten in jail before he killed his wife? What if they found all the other judges who refuse to punish batterers and made a case for Gender Profiling — where the courts do nothing to punish men if women are their victims?

What if we stopped pretending it's OK that we have to maintain emergency shelters to hide women from men who want to make them bleed?

Unlike many in the media and the courts, important elected officials in Georgia really do "get" the problem of domestic violence. Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, Gov. Roy Barnes and House Speaker Tom Murphy all have helped pass laws making the state more responsive to such crimes.

Now what is needed is more enforcement of these laws — and a public backbone. "Criminalize criminal behavior," pleads Julianna Koob, director of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence.

Put the Eric Wootens away before they have reason to believe they can do anything they want to their wives with no consequences. Because right now, Eric Wooten is right. Thanks to that judge in Cobb County, his wife might as well have tried chewing garlic.??





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