Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Speaker Richardson's Domestic Violence History

We're a few weeks behind on this one, but a domestic violence scandal is rocking Georgia politics, though very few people are labeling it as such. From Fox 5 news:

ATLANTA (MyFOX ATLANTA) - It was a political bombshell that rocked the state Capitol. This month, House Speaker Glenn Richardson announced that he had tried to take his own life. Richardson blamed the suicide attempt on depression resulting from his divorce. On Monday, Richardson's ex-wife told her side of the story.

Susan Richardson said she wanted Georgia voters to know why she divorced her husband and what led up to his surprising announcement. Richardson said she could no longer keep her ex-husband's secrets.
In the interview (linked in full above), Susan Richardson describes a relationship based on power and control. In a responding opinion piece, Shelley Serdahaley, Executive Director of our partner organization Men Stopping Violence, filters Mrs. Richardson' interview through a DV lens.

Susan Richardson recently spoke with the press to challenge the statement by her ex-husband, Georgia House Speaker Glen Richardson, that his suicide attempt had been prompted by his depression over their divorce.

"It's not about our marriage ending. He's lost control of me. He doesn't like that," said Richardson.

"He called me from his hospital room, the next day, and said, 'Now, are you going to take me back?'”

The behaviors she described are the kinds of actions that must be acknowledged as abuse if we are truly serious about ending violence against women.

In the Diane Sawyer interview, Rhianna helped us understand how a beautiful and powerful young woman could be the victim of domestic violence. In much the same way, Susan Richardson helps us understand the many ways abusers exert power and control over their partners, without actually striking them.

Ms. Richardson stated that her ex-husband told her he would beat her. He threatened her with the loss of custody of her children. He left 49 text messages on her phone, including threats that he would have the state patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation hunt her down when she left town.

Physical threats, threatening the loss of children, and stalking are all calculated to instill fear in the victim. They are tactics used by an abuser to control his victim’s behavior, to get his own way. Other tactics include physical intimidation, withholding money, infidelity, put-downs, and making it difficult for her to spend time with friends or family.

While no one should take major depression lightly, threats of suicide are a classic tactic that abusive men use to manipulate their partners and ex-partners into submitting to their demands.

When the murders occur, it is time for us to mourn. When we witness abuse, it is time to act. As the leaders of the Republican Party figure out what to do with this “situation”, I hope that they recognize that one thing they need to do is take a stand. Stand for women’s safety and say that all forms of abuse are wrong.
Update 12/29/09: Another elected official in Georgia, this time a Savannah area alderman-elect, is arrested for domestic violence.

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