By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog
Since the beginning of this presidential election cycle, Democrats, progressives, leftists and feminists have tried promote the idea that Republicans are waging a “war on women” primarily because the GOP doesn’t support the same legislative initiatives as these groups do.
But when faced with something truly objectionable in terms of the treatment of women, these same groups throw principle to the wind and continue to stand by their political favorites.
That’s what’s going on with Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Brown, who is running for re-election against Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel in a race attracting national attention, has made the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act one of his main campaign points.
But 26-year-old charges that he abused his wife have dogged the senator through several campaigns.
During what can only be described as a contentious divorce in 1986, Brown’s first wife, Larke, accused him of acts of violence — enough violence to seek a restraining order against him. The documents are everywhere but Breitbart.com offers a good summary:
Divorce records from Brown’s first marriage, obtained by Breitbart News, show that during the contentious proceedings, his wife accused him of “extreme cruelty” and “harassment”; she said she was “in fear for the safety … of myself and our children,” and accused Sherrod of “physical violence.” In fact, she said, Brown had “struck and bullied me on several different occasions.”
In May 1986, Larke Brown filed for divorce from her husband, then Ohio Secretary of State Sherrod Brown (who, in court filings, called himself S. Campbell Brown). In her divorce complaint, she alleged that Sherrod had been guilty of “extreme cruelty toward her.”
Larke filed for a motion for a restraining order against Sherrod Brown (below). The motion asked the court to stop Sherrod from “harassing, including telephone harassment, annoying, interfering with or doing bodily harm to this Plaintiff at her residence or elsewhere.” The affidavit to the motion alleged that Larke believed that unless restrained, Sherrod would “harass” or “do bodily harm” to her; she further stated, “I am also intimidated by the Defendant and am in fear for the safety and well-being of myself and our children due to the Defendant’s physical violence and abusive nature.”
Lest you think this was some anomaly, she went back to court later that year to further restrict Brown because of his continued violent actions. Breitbart.com continues:
In October 1986, Larke filed a multi-pronged motion asking for limitation of visitation rights of Sherrod due to “physical and emotional harassment of the Plaintiff” and an order preventing him from coming no closer than the curb of their home during the times he exercises his visitation privileges.
Her affidavit in support of this motion alleged that Sherrod had “embarked on a consistent course of conduct designed to destroy the Plaintiff’s peace of mind as well as to physically and mentally intimidate her.” On several occasions, Larke alleged, her husband had “intimidated, pushed, shoved, and bullied her.”
On October 11, 1986, she alleged, for example, that she was “entertaining out-of-town guests for breakfast” when Sherrod stopped by to pick up the kids for visitation. She alleges she skid Sherrod to put the kids’ things out to the car while she told them to come out. Instead, “Defendant refused to return to van, pushed me up against the wall with his arms in order to pass and entered the house. He refused to leave when asked and began to say insulting, derogatory things about me, my mothering of my children and my character in front of my friends and children.” Larke alleged that “Defendant has embarked on a course of conduct designed to destroy the children’s peace of mind by making defamatory and slanderous remarks about me to them, as well as insisting that they repeat untruthful things that he had coached them to state.”
She summed up: “I am definitely afraid of my husband, that he has struck and bullied me on several different occasions, he has completely destroyed my peace of mind and that I am extremely intimidated by him.”
There was more. According to an April 8, 1989, Columbus Dispatch article, “Secretary of State accused by ex-wife,” she filed contempt charges against Brown for failing, on four occasions, to abide by the terms of their custody agreement requiring him to remain at the curb and not come onto her property when picking up their daughters. She filed a police report the previous December, claiming malicious destruction of property because Brown pounded on her door and broke it, though she did not press charges, the article reported.
Brown denied all charges of abuse.
But I wonder if things might have been different if VAWA had been in effect back then.
As the clerk of Toledo Municipal Court and a member of our Criminal Justice Coordinating Council when VAWA was first passed, I was asked to chair the VAWA grant allocation committee. That experience taught me about the crime of domestic violence, about abuse, the victims, the psychology of those involved, the support they needed, what worked to resolve the issue — and also what didn’t.
As we addressed the uniqueness of this crime, it became abundantly clear that we could not rely upon the victims to press charges. Often, they stay with their abuser, making it more dangerous for them to even be a primary witness in any court case. This was not just a local phenomenon; it was nationwide. That is why we moved toward victimless prosecution, equipping police cars with cameras to document damage and injuries and instituting additional training on evidence collection in domestic dispute complaints and calls.
In all those years of working with victims, victim advocates, police, hospital staff, prosecutors, organizations and agencies, the focus was on the victim, generally a woman, and giving credence to her allegations and supporting her in her decisions to come forward and report the abuse.
So it’s no surprise to me to learn that Brown’s ex-wife has supported him since 1992 when opponents first used abuse charges against him in a campaign. She has supported him in every electoral bid since, and now, as Brown runs to retain his seat in the U.S. Senate.
She has not re-canted those charges. And in her defense, she probably can’t — at least, not without committing perjury.
We should not be surprised by her support of Brown.
But no such rationale exists for Brown’s other supporters.
Why would the same people who traditionally take the side of the victim be so willing to ignore or overlook these charges against Brown, regardless of how old they are?
How does someone, especially a candidate, who behaves in this manner have any credibility whatsoever with women or men, for that matter — especially those so fond of saying Republicans are engaged in a “war on women”?
Perhaps anticipating opponents would use his past against him this year, Brown started a group called “Women for Sherrod” and “Sherrod Brown: Standing Up Against The War On Women,” a Facebook page with more than 8,500 likes.
It’s possible, of course, that his supporters do not know Brown’s history. Or that they think he’s changed. Or that it’s somehow OK to overlook his past abuse, because they like his current stands on such issues as abortion or government-paid contraception.
How do they reconcile his claim to be “standing up against the war on women” when he “struck and bullied” his then-wife “on several occasions” and “completely destroyed” her piece of mind?
In announcing the creation of his Women for Sherrod group, co-chairs Rhine McLin, the former state senate minority leader and former Dayton mayor, and Mary Boyle, the first female majority whip in the Ohio House of Representatives, said:
“Senator Sherrod Brown is working everyday in the Senate to beat back the constant attacks against women’s rights …”
“Now more than ever women across the state need a champion for women’s rights in the U.S. Senate and they have one in Sherrod Brown. We must do all we can to ensure he can continue fighting for us in the years to come.”
Perhaps “beat back” and “fighting” aren’t the best words to use in referencing Brown.