J. Soltys's Weblog

January 13, 2009

I’m Back, But With A Sad Story


I haven’t been writing for a while due to a tragic incident that happened within my family almost two months ago. Because of a pending criminal investigation, future court proceedings, and respect for some privacy during this time, I am going to keep this brief and vague. However, due to the respect I have for my readers, and because what has happened is an unfortunate issue concerning men and women- the very subject I blog about – I felt it was necessary to explain what is going on, and not try to hide it from my readers. It also explains why I haven’t had the desire to write lately.

Back in November, my wife and I became suspicious of my younger brother’s behavior. He seemed to have developed an obsession with my teen-aged daughter; he’s in his late thirties.
This suspicion was present before, but not as pronounced. It was hard to tell if it was something perverted, or just a loving uncle having a close relationship with his niece. We kept our eyes and ears open, consulted other family members, and the overwhelming response was that it was only suspicion, nothing concrete. And as a writer and advocate of the ease and numerous false accusations directed at men in this society, I was very cautious about making a false claim against my brother.

But then my brother began crossing boundaries that raised red flags. I finally confronted him about this, and this led to a heated argument between him and me. At this point, all I can say is that it was this argument that led my wife and I to take a much closer look into the relationship between my brother and my daughter.

Not long after my confrontation with him, one particular situation arose which gave me and my wife reason to believe that something uncomfortable might have happened. So we sat down with our daughter and asked her direct questions about my brother’s behavior when towards her, particularly when she has been, or was alone with him in the past. Her mood and body language said it all as we began to ask specific questions. She became very uncomfortable. Eventually she broke down crying and made allegations that on a few occasions when she was younger, he had molested her.

I can’t begin to describe the feelings that race through your body and mind at that point. It’s unexplainable, surreal, like a really bad dream. And it doesn’t go away. It stays for days. It’s there in the morning, afternoon, evening, and is even in your dreams. You can’t escape it. It takes over your life completely.

After letting the reality of this sink in, and after talking to some family members, my wife and I called the police and an investigation was launched. II felt if these allegations were true, then I had a moral obligation to make sure he was removed from society so that he did not harm any other children, and determine if any other children were harmed also.

The authorities brought in a trained child sex abuse investigator to question my daughter, to not only verify the validity of her story, but to document the details of the alleged crimes. My wife and I were not allowed in the room during this time. However, observing this interview from a different room was the lead detective, a juvenile officer, and the state’s attorney. Two days later, after reviewing her testimony, a judge granted a search warrant of my brother’s residence. The search was executed and the police alleged evidence of child pornography was found at my brother’s residence. It appears my brother will be spending some time in jail.

So forgive me if I didn’t have the motivation to write. The impact of this upon myself and my family has been devastating. There are those that believe it, and those still in disbelief. I really don’t care what others think, I just want to make sure my daughter gets the help she needs.
And while my anger for my brother is great, I hope this eventually leads to him getting the help he needs. I’ve written before that it’s ludicrous to keep sending more and more men to prison, but not try and rehabilitate them in the process. Or better yet, maybe if we focused more on men’s issues with the same intensity, compassion, and understanding that we give women’s issues, maybe incidents like these may be avoided through early intervention. It would sure help both men and women in the long run don’t you think?

I plan on doing some writing again as all this chaos scales back – for now. But I have to be honest and say I’m not sure how often I will write. Maybe once I “get back on the horse” it will be easier, but for now it seems like a lot of work.
I’ve been reading some stories that have ticked me off, and I feel the wheels inside my head turning with passion and fire. I hope to get one or two columns out over the next week.
So check back often. I will also keep my readers updated on this tragic turn of events in my life – if my mood allows.

Best Wishes,
Joe Soltys


October 16, 2008

Violence In the Home vs. Gender – Diagnosed or Demonized? Part II

(October is domestic violence awareness month. My blog will focus on domestic violence from the often ignored and silent perspective – the male victim – and how organizations, politicians, and society deny men and their children the same awareness, compassion, and resources offered to women.)

Lady Madonna: Cont.

by Tim Goldich

Andrea’s mother and siblings told reporters that Rusty, a controlling husband who often downplayed his wife’s mental illness and shut them out, bears some responsibility for the tragedy. Andrea’s best friend, Deborah Holmes, did the same. On radio call-in shows, Internet chat rooms and newspaper editorial pages, the questions continue. . . . Rusty is “innocent of any criminal offense,” says his lawyer, Ed Mallet. Some legal experts, however, think that even if Yates escapes criminal charges (including contempt of court) he may have a tough time defending himself in civil court where a jury could find him partly responsible. (Newsweek, 04/01/02, p.6)

More than just “questions” circulate throughout the Internet.
Andrea went to prison, but many people believed that she was not the only one who was culpable in this tragedy. Rusty had been warned not to leave her alone with the children and a doctor had taken her off medication while apparently believing that she could be a danger to herself or others. Many people believed that they shared in the blame.

http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/women/andrea_yates/13.html (retrieved 08/02/07)

In fact, many expressed more hostility and blame toward Rusty than Andrea. A typical sentiment was articulated by Barbara Robinson: “Rusty Yates is Culpable, Too: Father’s Bizarre, Domineering Actions Played a Role in Children’s Deaths”
(http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0322-02.htm, retrieved 08/02/07, published 03/22/02 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal).
Robinson goes so far as to suggest that “her husband should have been on trial instead of Andrea.”

I couldn’t understand how a man could repeatedly impregnate a mentally ill wife and force or allow her to home-school their children. Yates exhibited a sense of arrogance as he explained why his children had to be home-schooled: “The social integration that the world claims is so essential is exactly what we need to protect our children from.” So the Yates didn’t integrate with their neighbors, who didn’t agree with Rusty’s beliefs. Rusty Yates claims he and Andrea jointly made decisions — including Andrea giving birth to all five children without pain control measures; Andrea abandoning her nursing career to become a homemaker; Andrea home-schooling the children; the family moving from their four-bedroom house into a 38-foot trailer and an adjacent 350-square-foot motor home.

There’s a world of difference between “force” and “allow.” Is Andrea an adult woman accountable for her own actions? Or is she a child? Was Rusty her husband or her father?
Is Rusty Yates culpable? Of course he is. He’s in it; he’s involved; he plied a force of influence in the overall situation. But the same can be said of any wife whose husband “snapped” and did what Andrea Yates did. To whatever degree husbands may be judged “domineering,” wives may be judged “manipulative” in equal measure. The difference comes in the differing degree to which men and women, husbands and wives, are held accountable for their force of influence.

It should be noted that not everyone judged Andrea Yates so lightly. According to CBSNews.com, Dr. Park Dietz, the state’s expert witness “testified that Yates’ thoughts about harming her children were an obsession and a symptom of severe depression, not psychosis.” Additionally there was “the state’s key expert witness, Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who evaluated Yates in May. He testified that she did not kill her children to save them from hell as she claims, but because she was overwhelmed and felt inadequate as a mother.”
Damning opinion regarding Andrea Yates exists, but you have to do some digging to find it. Where male killers are concerned only the opposite prevails.

Back now to the Chicago Sun Times article, “Police aren’t saying why Christopher Vaughn allegedly shot his wife Kimberly, and three kids in the family’s red SUV on June 14. But in other family-murder cases, a clear pattern emerges, experts say. Fathers often wipe out their families simply because they’re tired of them. They want to be free again, without going through the hassles and obligations of divorce and child support.” (p. 4). We don’t know why Christopher Vaughn allegedly shot his wife Kimberly, but even so, we’ll just lump him in with the rest of his presumed inferior species as an article of faith. Compare antipathy like that with the outsized empathy shown Andrea Yates. Following the Today show report on the Yates’ tragedy, Katie “Couric provided an address where viewers could send contributions for Yates’s defense fund” (TV Guide, 09/01/01, p. 10).

“Suzanne O’Malley, a journalist, covered this trial for numerous publications and had unique access to Andrea and Rusty Yates. As the author of ARE YOU THERE ALONE?: The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates, O’Malley talks to Bookreporter.com’s Diana Keough” (INTERVIEW February 20, 2004 http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-omalley-suzanne.asp).
If anyone got in close enough to the Yates tragedy to hold an informed opinion it was Suzanne O’Malley. Says she, “Sure, spending time with Rusty Yates changed my thinking about him. But the 2,000 pages of Andrea Yates’s medical records affected me more. Before I read them, I felt Rusty Yates was a monster.” Is that really how she felt, or, like everyone else, did O’Malley simply presume guilt and evil upon the nearest male?
For Diana Keough, O’Malley’s interviewer, even Rusty’s forgiveness of Andrea is regarded with suspicion. O’Malley responds: “How I explain it is that Rusty Yates understands his wife is mentally ill. For him, the crime of killing their five children never required forgiveness — the deaths were a tragedy from which to seek future safeguards, not blame.” Sounds sensible enough. If only women could be expected to apply such magnanimity toward men.
The interview continues:

Q: Characterize Rusty Yates for us. He seems like a man who things happen to. The world seems to circle around him with him not really taking grasp of any issue except as a topline thought. He knew Andrea was ill, but never hired an attorney or other advocate to help him get her the care she desperately needed. He knew she was ill, but still left the children with her that morning. Andrea’s attorney was hired by her three brothers without Rusty even being consulted. This does not seem like a man “in charge.” Are these sentiments on target?

SOM (Suzanne O’Malley): No.

Indeed, these sentiments are not on target. With one breath we demonize Man for being “controlling” and “demanding.” With the next breath we hold him in contempt for not being “in charge.” In an effort to avoid being judged a “wimp” (i.e., “a man who things happen to”), a man tries his best to take charge only to suffer being judged a “patriarchal oppressor.” Where is the win position? Whether judged a wimp or an oppressor, either way, we will go to extraordinary lengths to hold him solely responsible.
Fortunately, Suzanne O’Maley dug deep enough into this tragedy, the people involved and all surrounding factors to see things more clearly. Says she:
1) There is a Rusty Yates standing on every street corner in America. I don’t perceive him to be different from many spouses. If you are talking to him about feelings on a Sunday afternoon in front of the television set, he will interrupt what you’re saying to appreciate a touchdown or a really good putt.

2) Read the book excerpts from the 2,000 pages of Andrea Yates’s medical records. If there’s one thing Rusty Yates is, it’s an advocate. When psychiatrists are unable to diagnose an illness after years of family effort, I wonder how a family, a lawyer, or any layman can succeed.

3) Hindsight is 20/20. Andrea Yates was left alone with the children for an hour that Wednesday morning when Rusty Yates left for work. Andrea and the children were watching television and Rusty’s mother was on her way over to look after them. When Andrea had been ill the first time (in 1999, after the birth of her 4th child), she had twice tried to kill herself. The family’s focus was on making sure she didn’t try to kill herself again. They never thought she would harm the children.

4) Andrea Yates’s attorney was hired by her then 72-year-old mother two days after the murders (with the consultation of her three brothers). Prior to that Friday morning, Rusty Yates was identifying the dead bodies of his children at the coroner’s office, selecting their coffins, making funeral arrangements, seeing a NASA grief counselor, ferrying relatives to and from the airport, giving the Assistant District Attorney a tour of the crime scene, and seeking advice from a friend who is an attorney. Rusty Yates had also scheduled a meeting that Friday afternoon with noted defense attorney Mike Ramsay (who recently won the Robert Durst murder and dismemberment case in Galveston, Texas). Ramsay had been recommended to Yates by the office of NBC’s Katie Couric. So had the attorney Andrea’s mother had selected. Rusty Yates agreed with his in-law’s choice of George Parnham.

Q: In his grief, just about everything Rusty did — from creating a website in his children’s memory to the way he methodically cleaned out the bathtub and removed the bed the children were placed on after they died — seems like the actions of someone rather emotionally detached from the situation at hand. Did you feel this way about Rusty?

SOM: First, let me say that, it was Randy Yates — Rusty’s brother — who cleaned the bathtub. Relatives had begun to arrive for the funeral and some were staying at the house. Rusty says he himself was never able to set foot in that tub. He had it removed and smashed to pieces with a sledgehammer.
Rusty Yates is a career NASA engineer. His job is safety systems for the space shuttle program. It is fair to say he is methodical.

Given the merciless blame and judgment aimed his way, one can only hope that Rusty was emotionally detached. Sadly, however, I have no doubt that a Dad’s grief at the loss of all five of his children could only be monumental. Obviously, that grief can only be magnified by the zero-empathy he’s accorded.
At such a distance I cannot judge the hearts of either Christopher Vaughn or Andrea Yates. I cannot know what The Truth is regarding either the depth of their guilt or innocence. What I do know is that there is a staggering gulf in empathy accorded each sex. What I know is that women are presumed innocent while men are presumed guilty.

It is ubiquitous misandry like this, at saturation levels, shouted aloud from the most official and respected sources of news and opinion, that forces my hand. I could just give up. I could sit by while my sex is utterly denigrated. I could watch passively as misandry and feminism conspire to turn men into second-class humans. But I choose instead to fight back. And I fight back the only way I know how. I tell the other side of the story.

(Tim Goldich is in the process of publishing a series of books on the subject of gender issues as seen from both the female and the male perspectives. His first book, Loving Men, Respecting Women: The Future of Gender Politics, Love and Respect in the Past, Love and Respect in the Present, and Love and Respect in the Future will be released in the near future.)


Photo Courtesy of: stockxchng.com

September 23, 2008

Is He Really A Jerk, Or Are We Too Quick to Judge?

As some of my readers already know, I worked for a couple of years in a group setting focusing on some serious issues facing men. The group therapy was designed for men only, to discuss and discover the causes and effects of their present thoughts and behaviors, and with the help and support of other men, reprogram their lives into one that is more fulfilling and enjoyable for them. The issues most men dealt with were addictions, abuses, and relationships. The groups were designed for serious personal growth, and were not used as a vehicle to advocate gender politics, although the experience of being in these groups have resulted in some men, such as myself, to become advocates in gender politics.

When I first entered my group, I entered with an entrenched belief in feminist mythology; believing men (masculinity) was the cause of many problems in the world. I believed men were jerks because they were men; being a jerk was an inherent part of being masculine.
But after hearing many deep, personal stories from the men in my group and others, I began to shed the feminist mythology. I found many men had faced terrible events or tragedies in their lives, and held a tremendous amount of emotional pain inside themselves for years. Many suffered in silence, finding the events or tragedies too painful and emotional to talk about. Sadly, I learned from these men (and by way of my own experiences with uncomfortable events in my life) that these emotions do not go away, they become underlying, unconscious, tumultuous thoughts and feelings that affect every aspect of a man’s life in some negative way. In other words, what I learned is this; men are not inherently jerks, someone or something made them that way. A man’s “jerk” behavior is a learned behavior from years of that man trying to protect himself from some painful, yet buried event(s).

I was reminded of this when I read this story yesterday. This story could have easily been one of many stories I heard when I was involved with other men in group therapy.
Richard Madeley does an excellent job of writing the painful story of his grandfather’s life, and his subsequent behavior, with an extraordinary display of compassion and understanding.
This story could have easily been extracted from one of the groups I attended. I hope this story allows my readers to more fully understand why I have chosen to write from the male perspective, and why I stress more compassion and understanding for men and their issues, rather than the standard shame and humiliation for their behavior.

Here are some quotes from the story;

More than half a century on from these exorbitant homecomings, I believe my father was plainly over-compensating. He was making it transparently clear to everyone – most of all, to himself – that the relationship with his son would not be anything like the one his father had with him.

That person was my grandfather. Geoffrey Madeley, my father’s father, never recovered from the loss of his youngest son – a son he had never once told he loved.

As the small boy trotted from room to room, the children and parents whose names he called out in increasing desperation and panic were already long gone on the road to Liverpool.
My grandfather had not been forgotten. A deal had been done. He had been left behind.

He told me that the shock of being abandoned was total. The panic and fear were so intense as he grasped the depths of his betrayal and sacrifice, he could scarcely breathe.

RICHARD MADELEY: The dark family secret that made me understand why my father beat me



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