Monday, August 24, 2009

Marriage: Still the Safest Place For Women and Children

by Robert E. Rector, Patrick F. Fagan, and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D.
Backgrounder #1732

The institution that most strongly protects mothers and children from domestic abuse and violent crime is marriage. Analysis of ten years worth of findings from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has conducted since 1973, demonstrates that mothers who are or ever have been married are far less likely to suffer from violent crime than are mothers who never marry.

Specifically, data from the NCVS survey show that:

* Married women with children suffer far less abuse than single mothers. In fact, the rate of spousal, boyfriend, or domestic partner abuse is twice as high among mothers who have never been married as it is among mothers who have ever married (including those separated or divorced).
* Married women with children are far less likely to suffer from violent crime in general or at the hands of intimate acquaintances or strangers. Mothers who have never married--including those who are single and living either alone or with a boyfriend and those who are cohabiting with their child's father--are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime than are mothers who have ever married.

Other social science surveys demonstrate that marriage is the safest place for children as well. For example:

* Children of divorced or never-married mothers are six to 30 times more likely to suffer from serious child abuse than are children raised by both biological parents in marriage.

Without question, marriage is the safest place for a mother and her children to live, both at home and in the larger community. Nevertheless, current government policy is either indifferent to or actively hostile to the institution of marriage. The welfare system, for example, can penalize low-income parents who decide to marry. Such hostility toward marriage is poor public policy; government instead should foster healthy and enduring marriages, which would have many benefits for mothers and children, including reducing domestic violence.

Violence Against Mothers

The DOJ's National Crime Victimization Survey collects data on victimization through an ongoing survey of a nationally representative sample of Americans. The survey defines violent crime as rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Domestic or intimate abuse is defined as violent crimes performed by a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend, or former boyfriend.3

Ten years of NCVS data (from 1992 to 2001) reveal interesting patterns among mothers (ages 20-50) with children under the age of 12.4 Specifically:

*Never-married mothers experience more domestic abuse. Among those who have ever married (those married, divorced, or separated), the annual rate of domestic violence is 12.9 per 1,000 mothers. Among mothers who have never married, the annual domestic violence rate is 26.3 per 1,000.

Thus, never-married mothers suffer domestic violence at more than twice the rate of mothers who have been or currently are married. (See Chart 1).

* Never-married mothers suffer more violent crime. The NCVS provides data on total violent crime against mothers with children under the age of 12. Total violent crime covers rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault committed against the mother by any party. Total violent crime covers violence against mothers by former and current spouses and boyfriends as well as by relatives, acquaintances, and strangers.

As Chart 2 shows, ever-married mothers with children suffer from overall violent crime at an annual rate of 38.5 crimes per 1,000 mothers. Never-married mothers with children, by contrast, suffer 81.0 violent crimes per 1,000 mothers.

Thus, never-married mothers experience violent crime at more than twice the rate of ever-married mothers. Based on these data, the institution of marriage best shelters mothers from the specter of violence.
* These differences in crime rates across married versus single mothers are statistically significant.5

Violence Against Children

Rates of victimization of children vary significantly by family structure, and the evidence shows that the married intact family is by far the safest place for children.6 (See Chart 3.) Although the United States has yet to develop the capacity to measure child abuse by family structure, British data on child abuse are available. These data show that rates of serious abuse of children are lowest in the intact married family but six times higher in the step family, 14 times higher in the always-single-mother family, 20 times higher in cohabiting-biological parent families, and 33 times higher when the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend who is not the father of her children.

When an abused child dies (see Chart 4), the relationship between family structure and abuse gets stronger: It is lowest in intact always-married families, three times higher in the step family, nine times higher in the always-single-mother family, 18 times higher in the cohabiting-biological parents family, and 73 times higher in families where the mother cohabits with a boyfriend.

What Policymakers Should Do

In legislation and social policy, the government should not penalize parents for marrying. Given the rising evidence that non-married mothers and their children are at greater risk of violent crime and abuse, government policy should not encourage--either directly or in unintended ways--single motherhood and cohabitation.

Yet that is what is being done in many of America's means-tested welfare programs. Because mothers and children are safest from harm within a married family, policymakers should begin the work of implementing policies to reduce the bias against marriage in welfare programs and to strengthen marriage as the primary institution for raising children.

Members of Congress should support President Bush's proposal to spend $300 million per year on efforts to rebuild marriage among the poor. It is the first serious proposal in this regard ever to come before Congress. His suggestions, if adopted into law, would begin the necessary work to reconstruct the institution of marriage, which failed welfare policies of the past have undermined. Now that the first stage of welfare reform--rebuilding an ethic of work--is well underway, Congress should support the President as he focuses on the second important stage: rebuilding a culture of marriage in American society.

Members of Congress should begin to reduce and eventually eliminate the penalty against marriage in most means-tested welfare programs. For example, they could issue a joint resolution indicating their intent to achieve this goal. Then they could request that the Department of Health and Human Services submit a list of options that would be good candidates for this reform.

In establishing programs to help those who need assistance, the question before Congress should not simply be whether or not to fund a program, but how much its policies would improve the well-being of adults and children. Social science data clearly show that mothers and children are safest and thrive best in a married family. It is time for the government to adopt policies that reflect this knowledge and rebuild, rather than undermine, the institution of marriage.

Robert E. Rector is Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy, Patrick F. Fagan is William H. G. FitzGerald Research Fellow in Family and Cultural Issues, and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., is Senior Policy Analyst in the Center for Data Analysis, at The Heritage Foundation.

Bob Herbert's Fact-Free Op-ed: Women Uniquely at Risk of Violent Crime

August 10th, 2009 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

It's predictable as the sunrise. No sooner had the echoes of George Sodini's gunshots died away than they were replaced by the diligent tap-tap-tapping of keyboards. Feminists and their apologists leapt as one to their desks and began churning out the same sermon we've heard for years now: George Sodini's brutal slaying of three women in a Pennsylvania exercise class was not the act of a lone deranged man, it was the act of all men; it was the act of a male-dominated culture that so loathes women it turns a blind eye to their injury and death. Women are uniquely victims, uniquely threatened by ravening men who prowl the land searching for the next one who shows a weakness or errs in judgment. Here endeth the lesson.

The latest to commit the requisite public auto da fe is Bob Herbert here (New York Times, 8/8/09). An intelligent space alien, reading his op-ed would never guess that, far from being uniquely targeted by crime, women and girls are uniquely protected from it. A two-minute jaunt through the Bureau of Justice Statistics website shows that 61% of violent crime victims are men. Our space traveller would never imagine that incidents of violent crime of all kinds have been plunging over the past 16 years to their lowest rate since we began gathering data. How would he know that a woman's chance of being raped is one-fifth what it was in 1973?

The space alien wouldn't know these things because Bob Herbert doesn't mention them. He doesn't because the facts don't fit with the false yarn he's spinning. Herbert seeks to instruct us and he uses mythology to do it.

That's clear enough to even a casual reader, because the facts Herbert relies on to make his case...well...don't. Take a look. The article consists mostly of that time-honored rhetorical crutch of high school students everywhere - the unsupported assertion. For example,

We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula.

I wrote, at the time, that there would have been thunderous outrage if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar.

We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.

We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.

The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny

Really? Killing women and girls is a "cornerstone of our nation's entertainment?" The "barbaric treatment of women and girls" is "more or less expected?" There hasn't been "thunderous outrage" at the Sodini killings? Herbert provides no support for these frankly loony claims for the good and sufficient reason that he has none.

Perhaps realizing that an actual fact might serve his cause, he searches for one, but alas, in vain. He tries the mass murder in 2007 at Virginia Tech University, but even his misrepresentation of the facts of that tragedy don't do the job. The fact that Seung Hui Cho shot both men and women, completely at random, deflects Herbert from his mission not at all. The fact that Cho, at the time of his rampage, had been diagnosed for many years as so mentally ill as to require medication and hospitalization goes unmentioned. Nor does Herbert tell us that the targets of Cho's violent anger were not women, but "rich kids" and "deceitful charlatans," according to Cho's diary.

That Herbert wants us to believe that Cho's slaughter has something to do with misogynistic culture only shows how desperate he is for material. Does it occur to him that, if this culture is as dominated by men who are as violently hateful toward women as he would have us believe, that our misogyny isn't very effective? How does he square those beliefs with the fact that women are now and, as far as our data show, always have been, far less likely to be hurt or killed in any way than are men? I guess men must be as incompetent as the commercials say we are.

Claims of collective guilt for the wrongdoing of single, deranged individuals is a dangerous game indeed. As an African-American male, you'd think Bob Herbert would understand that. How can a man who's appropriately criticized racial profiling by the police, turn on a dime and engage in gender-profiling himself. Herbert wants us to believe that not just George Sodini, but men in general, are guilty for his crime. Someone should remind Herbert that that includes him.

Young Father Fights Long, Hard Battle Against Adoption Agency to Raise His Own Daughter

Babies are often given up for adoption against the father's will or by evasion and deceit, which are often winked at by authorities. Putative Father Registries are often used to circumvent fathers' rights.

Below, Fathers & Families Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. reports on a particularly egregious case involving a young father. Young fathers are continually vilified for their alleged refusal to take responsibility for their children, but this case provides an excellent example of just how many roadblocks are often thrown up to separate fathers from their children.

Robert writes:

Cody O'dea and Ashley Olea had a brief sexual relationship when they lived in Wyoming. At age 18, she turned up pregnant. Cody immediately told her that he wanted to help raise the child. A few months later, Ashley told Cody that she had miscarried. They split up and he moved to Idaho.

Still more months later, a friend informed Cody that Ashley was then eight months pregnant and making plans to place the child for adoption. She was still in Wyoming, but working with an adoption agency, LDS Family Services, in Montana.

Cody immediately contacted Ashley and reasserted his desire to have custody of the child. He also filed the appropriate form with the Wyoming Putative Father Registry. He also filed with the Montana Putative Father Registry. He wrote a letter to the adoption agency telling them that he would not waive his parental rights.

Cody spoke with two people including a supervisor at LDS Family Services, informing them of his intention to get custody of the child. Eventually, LDS decided to not continue with the adoption process and wrote Cody a letter saying so.

On July 15, 2006, Cody received a strange call from Ashley which, according to him, went as follows:

Ashley: You will listen and you will not speak. First of all I want you to stop harassing me and that includes your mother. I am in Utah. You will not father this child. You will pay child support until the child is in College. You will never see this baby. Do you understand?

Cody: No, I do not understand, does this mean you are planning to keep the child?

Ashley: Do you understand what I’m saying?

Cody: No, I don’t understand, does that mean you are keeping the child and not giving it up for adoption?

Ashley: If you understand what I have told you, that is all I have to say.
Then she hung up. Notice that she mentioned nothing about placing the child for adoption. In fact she strongly suggests the opposite. And the ruse worked. Cody thought that, since he had filed with the registries of Wyoming and Montana, and gotten LDS to back off, that he had successfully blocked the adoption. To him, Ashley's phone call meant that she'd changed her mind and would keep the child.

But that was wrong. Ashley's call was almost certainly prompted by an attorney. Her statement that she was in Utah constituted legal "notice" to him that perhaps an adoption would occur there. Therefore, he then became obligated to file with Utah's registry and begin paternity proceedings. In fact, unknown to him, he had only 20 days to do so.

Despite Cody's repeated efforts to comply with the law and assert his parental rights, a Utah court approved the adoption in 2006. A different agency, the Adoption Center of Choice, provided the adoptive parents. Neither they nor Ashley notified Cody that the adoption had taken place. The Adoption Center of Choice contacted the Wyoming Putative Father Registry and ascertained that Cody had registered there and was asserting his parental rights. Apparently, that made absolutely no difference to the Adoption Center of Choice.

Cody then filed a paternity suit in Utah, but it was too late. His twenty days had passed. The Supreme Court of Utah has just ruled that all his efforts to be a father to his child were meaningless. It was solely his failure to comply with Utah's 20-day period that destroyed any hope he had. He will never see his child; he will never be her father in more than the biological sense.

The United States Supreme Court has called parental rights "far more precious than property rights." But when it comes to a father's rights, those are mostly just words. In the real world of family law, in this case, adoption law, they have next to no meaning.

Let's look at what happened in the Cody O'dea case. His child's mother decided she didn't want the child with whom she was pregnant, so she lied to Cody, telling him that she had miscarried. That Cody discovered her lie, was, for Ashley, an inconvenience, but little more. She shopped for an adoption agency in one state, abandoned that idea and located another in another state. The new agency was willing to overlook the fact that it knew perfectly well that there was a father who wanted custody.

In short, a few well-placed lies, an unscrupulous adoption agency, and an unscrupulous attorney combined with a young father who failed to know the laws of a foreign state, added up to the denial of his parental rights. You remember those; they're the ones that are "far more precious than property rights." But when those rights are placed, not in the father's hands but in the mother's, abrogating them turns out to be simplicity itself.

Robert's piece continues here. Cody's website can be accessed here--it contains many of the case's documents. As for the anti-father bias of adoption agencies, take a look at the second part of paragraph two of this letter from an agency to Cody.