Domestic Problems

By Cole, Susan G. | Herizons, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Domestic Problems


Cole, Susan G., Herizons


Pity those poor feminists fighting for the rights of "wifeassault survivors. They got creamed in April at the trial of Chris Harbin in Toronto after a series of bizarre events that saw his abused spouse get arrested for refusing to testify.

Here's how it "went down. Noelee Mowatt called 911 to complain that she "was getting beaten up by her boyfriend. The police came and arrested Harbin, but then Mowatt, 19 years old and pregnant, refused to take the stand against him. The cops, under orders from the judge, promptly used the material "warrant clause, a Ia-W designed to force "witnesses to testify, and threw her in jail.

The case "was a sensation in Toronto. In interviews undertaken by just about every media outlet in the city, Mowatt vowed never to call 911 again and urged other women in her situation to stay away from police.

Women "working in the field of violence against "women "were beside themselves. How could police revictimize this "woman? Having previously cheered law enforcement's new policies of zero tolerance for wife assault, they "were astonished that those policies could backfire in such "ways.

Racism flared as right-wing bigots wrote letters to the editor advocating that Mowatt be released from jail and shipped back to Jamaica, and by the time the actual trial rolled around, the hands of every feminist in town "were chapped from all the hand-wringing we "were doing.

Mowatt "wound up stepping into the "witness chair and, in a barely audible voice, recanted every syllable of her original report to police.

She phoned 911 because she "was angry at her boyfriend for throwing her out of their house. Her injuries "were the result of a fall, she said. There "were no problems in her relationship "with Corbin and she hoped they could raise their child together.

Front-line "workers deal "with this kind of bullshit all the time. The "I bumped into a "wall" story is classic, but this case was particularly painful. You could interpret Mowatt's initial refusal to testify and the testimony she "wound up giving as examples of a "woman taking action in order to save her ass. But it became obvious that Mowatt's testimony "was designed to save her relationship. …

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