DEAR ABBY: "Distraught in New Jersey" (7/12), who stated that he was in an abusive relationship for about a year," made himself sound more like the victim than the perpetrator of domestic violence. His comment that he "enrolled in an anger management class" after being arrested for domestic violence also reflects a lack of personal responsibility for his crime. Perpetrators rarely, if ever, voluntarily "enroll" in such programs. They are mandated by the courts.
I also take exception to his use of the term "anger management." Spousal abuse has little to do with stress or anger, and everything to do with significant character flaws and psychopathology. I should note that such men rarely beat anyone but their wives and girlfriends. If their aggression was rooted only in "anger," the violence would be directed at everyone.
The abuser's statement that he wants to personally contact and apologize to his victim, who had a restraining order issued against him, also reflects his denial and manipulative qualities. Battered women seek restraining orders against their assailants because they want protection, not apologies. Restraining orders are also a means by which a victim tells her batterer that the relationship is over.
Domestic violence perpetrators are cunning and often use treatment as a means of manipulating their victims back into a relationship.
"Distraught in New Jersey" needs to understand that the completion of a program, even when the restraining order has expired, does not give him the right to contact the woman he previously victimized. If he does, he could once again find himself in the slammer. -- MICHAEL GROETSCH, PROBATION OFFICER, NEW ORLEANS MUNICIPAL COURT
DEAR MICHAEL: Your letter is important, and thank you for writing it as a wake-up call not only to perpetrators of domestic violence, but to victims as well. As you so aptly stated, domestic violence is not about the inability to control one's temper; it is about control over the victim. In the case of "Distraught in New Jersey," if he succeeds in contacting his victim "to apologize," he will be in violation of the terms of his restraining order, and if he does so after it expires, he could be arrested for trespassing or stalking. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Speaking as a criminal defense attorney who handles domestic violence cases on a regular basis, I must warn "Distraught in New Jersey" not to contact his victim!
The police and the courts take these orders very seriously. If "Distraught" -- or any other reader, for that matter -- is the defendant in a restraining order, he should have not contact in any way, shape or form, with the plaintiff, or he stands a very real chance of being charged criminally.
I have had clients charged for doing something so simple as sending a birthday card, or merely being present at the same high school graduation, as the person who holds the order. Is this unfair? Perhaps, but it is the law and must be obeyed.
So, "Distraught" should complete his counseling, obey the order, and realize the best apology is letting his former girlfriend get on with her life. -- CHRISTOPHER S. TODD, SPRINGFIELD, MASS.
DEAR CHRISTOPHER: I couldn't agree more.