Our society must move beyond violence against women


Domestic violence_20b10e08caby Pamela Powers Hannley

This week the story of domestic violence charges against former Mexican American Studies (MAS) Director Sean Arce bubbled up on the Arizona Daily Independent (ADI) blog and on Facebook, where discussions continue to roil. Prior to ADI's initial blog post on December 27, 2012, rumors were swirling around regarding what happened on December 9, 2012, the night Arce and his compadres celebrated his birthday. Now we have ADI's account– written from the police report and reaction from people across the political spectrum, including this blogger. Unfortunately, none of the lame stream media outlets have chosen to cover this story.

Did Arce aggressively confront his ex-wife in a local restaurant? Did he follow her home, break into the house, and break windows– causing Essence Arce to flee? That is for the courts to decide, but, in my opinion, the police report (which alludes to dried blood on Arce's hands when he was arrested) is very damming. 

My goal here is not to try Arce's case in the court of public opinion, but to point out that IF the domestic violence charges against him are true, we have yet another local case of a powerful man abusing his power and acting in a violent or at least highly inappropriate manner toward women. In recent months, Arizona has seen SIX powerful men charged with domestic violence or sexual harassment.

Women are murdered every day in this country by husbands, lovers, and former partners. In the workplace, women are subjected to harassment and discrimination. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. For more details, continue reading after the jump.

Four of the six powerful Arizona men acused of behaving badly toward women and charged with domestic violence are: former State Senate Majority Leader Scott Bungaard, former State Representative Daniel Paterrson, former Maricopa County sheriff candidate Paul Penzone, and now Arce. The other two were charged with multiple counts of sexual harassment: City Councilman Paul Cunningham and former Pima Community College Chancelor Roy Flores.

All of these men dealt with charges differently, and all were treated differently by the media. Three denied the charges– Bungaard (who pushed his girlfriend out of a car on Phoenix freeway), Patterson (whose ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, and former co-workers all accused him of aggressive or violent behavior), and Penzone (who eventually was forced to address the charges during the campaign). Patterson and Bungaard were skewered by the press, and both eventually lost their jobs in the Arizona Legislature.

Two remained silent– Flores and Arce– and have been pretty much left alone by the press (except for passing mentions of the charges against Flores in articles about his retirement). The silence on the blogs about Arce is deafening– except for this blog post allegedly written by a Latina Ethnic Studies student. Bloggers who regularly post "news" stories everytime Arce catches a cold are mute, and none of the mainstream media have touched his story.  

Cunningham dealt with the charges against him in the most honorable manner. He admitted that he had had too much to drink that night he and other city officials were in San Diego on a political junket, he apologized publicly and profusely, and he went into treatment for alcohol abuse. You'll note that Cunningham is the only one still employed.

The larger point here is not to rehash the stories of how these powerful men fell from grace because they lost control but to highlight the societal patterns of abuse by powerful men against women. The US has a culture of violence– particularly gun-related violence. In the Sandy Hook massacre, 28 people were murdered– 20 children and eight women. People worldwide were shocked and saddened– as they were after the other massacres in Tucson, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, and other places. After each incident, hundreds of blog posts and news stories expressed outrage and called for something to be done about gun control and, more recently, about the availability of mental health services.

Why are we outraged over these massacres when our culture allows innocent women and children to be murdered and/or physically abused everyday in the US? Where is the outrage about domestic violence? Where is the outrage about rape?

Yes, we need stronger gun control laws. Yes, we need to hold gun owners responsible with programs like firearm liability insurance and stricter laws. Yes, we need better, more accessible mental health and addiction treatment services.

But, until we change our culture of violence, innocents will continue to be murdered, and wives will continue to flee from their homes in fear. This is unacceptable in a "free" society.