On August, 3, RadarOnline.com’s Executive Vice President appeared on the ABC show, The View, discussing the Mel Gibson-Oksana Grigorieva case. A clearly agitated Whoopi Goldberg expressed her belief that she didn’t believe Oksana’s claims of domestic violence because Oksana did not report it to the police. Powerhouse attorney Gloria Allred has been a defender of victim’s rights and spent decades fighting for justice for battered women. After watching the segment she wrote this open letter to Whoopi.
Last week on The View, when you were discussing Oksana Grigorieva’s allegations that Mel Gibson allegedly hit her and their baby, you asked David Perel of RadarOnline.com why Oksana did not go to the police first.
Whoopi: “Did she go to the police?”
David: “No she did not go to the police...”
Whoopi: “Why not?”
David: “Because most victims of domestic violence do not go to the police....they were still together..”
Whoopi: “I'm not buying that...for most victims..why not...If a man hits you, holding your child, and he hit the child according to what she's saying, so why not go to the police first?"
David: “Absolutely should, but unfortunately it's not the way it works.”
Whoopi: “I understand that but I don't believe that, I think it's BS..I think she was looking for dough.”
Whoopi, the answer is that there are many reasons that women who have been battered do not immediately go to the police.
Sometimes they are in fear that if they notify the police, it will only serve to increase their partner’s anger resulting in placing the victim and her children at even greater risk of harm from the batterer.
Sometimes the reason is that the victims mistakenly believe that they themselves provoked the violence and blame themselves for it rather than the batterer who inflicted the injuries upon them.
Yet another reason is that some women make the mistake of being protective of the batterer’s reputation. They fear that if they report it to the police and there is a prosecution and conviction it may adversely affect the batterer’s business and reputation in the community in a way that could cause significant economic, emotional, and reputational harm to the batterer. For this reason, the victim may be reluctant to “air their dirty laundry in public” since a police report is a public record. They believe that the batterer will never forgive them if they report and will blame the victim for what may be long lasting harm to him which may even include time in jail or prison for the battery, depending on the severity of the injuries inflicted.
Yet another reason is that the victim often rationalizes that the batterer will never repeat the violence, that she can urge him to get professional help and anger management counseling and that if she is successful the violence will stop and they can continue living happily ever after as a family which is what she hopes will happen, even though it almost never does. Sometimes, too, the victim has very little self esteem and thinks that the police, and the system will never believe her or will do nothing if the accused batterer is rich, famous and powerful.
She may also wrongly believe that the batterer has a special relationship and influence with the police that she will never have and that for those reasons he can influence the outcome of any criminal case.
Still other reasons that women do not report include pleas by the batterers to the victims to forgive them and promises by them that it will never happen again. Although the promises are almost never kept, including promises by batterers that they will voluntarily get help, the promises often dissuade women from reporting the violence to the police immediately.
Victims are often in shock after being attacked, particularly where their children have been hurt by the violence as well. Often they need time to think about who they can go to in order to learn the implications of going to the police and learn all of their legal options.
In addition, the victims often need counseling themselves, in order to find the courage and strength to report the violence to law enforcement.
Their batterers have often kept them in a state of fear and emotional and economic dependence.
In some cases, the batterers have threatened to kill the victim if she reports or have their friends do it. Shock and fear sometimes deter women from immediately reporting.
Economic dependence is also no small thing. Mothers sometimes fear that if they report that their child’s father has battered them, that the batterer will terminate all support, and that they and their child will have nowhere to go and no way to support themselves. The fear that the batterer will retaliate in this way is justified in many cases, because batterers often do react in that way and then force their victims, whom they know have little or no economic resources of their own, to retract what they say or face economic ruin and the prospect of a reduction or total cut off of child support.
It is a harsh reality that batterers often do hire lawyers to make their victims lives miserable, knowing that their victims do not have the economic resources to hire their own lawyers to protect and defend them and their rights.
The batterers in many cases would prefer to spend money on lawyers to try to deter and crush their victim, instead of using those funds to support her and their children.
Whoopi, all, none, or just some of these reasons may apply in Oksana’s case.
While I certainly encourage them to do so, they should not be personally attacked because they do not. Life as a victim of violence, particularly where there are children is difficult and complicated enough without being publicly attacked and having their motives questioned because they failed to immediately report to law enforcement.
While it is fair to ask the question regarding why Oksana did not immediately call the police, I think it is unfair to jump to conclusions about why she did not, and immediately assume a nefarious motive and underlying agenda.
Whoopi, as we say in the domestic violence movement, there is no excuse for abuse.
To that I will add there is also no excuse for others who do not know all of the facts to join in with a verbal attack on the victim.
Whoopi, I have always admired and enjoyed your talent, your work and your point of view. I know you care deeply about women’s rights and about victims. Your life and your views have been an inspiration to many. Please help us to end violence against women and children by supporting women in these complicated situations in the future.
You have a daughter and a granddaughter. We need you on the side of the victims.