Five years ago last night a man was killed by his wife. He’d been having affairs during the 27 years of their fraught marriage. They were both violent and angry, highly emotional and sexual and the domestic abuse dynamic was well played in their relationship by both sides. She wrote in one of her diaries that after a particularly bad fight “even after all this, Danny then made love to me.” They were both licensed and trained gun owners. Daniel Crespo was the mayor of Bell Gardens, Lyvette Crespo was his long suffering spouse. I’ve never met either of them, though I was at his memorial service.
Today is the start of Domestic Violence awareness month, so I’ll probably be writing a bit more about the topic than usual.
Like most cases of domestic abuse and violence the truth is almost impossible to suss out. The nature of human relations being what they are, the factors that are at play in these cases are literally a lifetime’s worth of experiences.
A child is regularly yelled at by a drunken mother and develops an extreme fear reaction to loud voices. In today’s world, where raising your voice at your spouse is grounds for a domestic violence restraining order, such an extreme reaction may be grounds for a defense in the trial when she murdered her lover.
Parents who discipline their with corporal means like spanking, or ear turning are disfavored today because we know the long term negative effects of such actions on a child’s self-esteem and sense of self-autonomy. We have become a society that shuns interpersonal touch out of an abundance of caution against sexual harassment charges, and battery cases based on “intrusion of my personal space” – all of this is an outgrowth of the domestic violence awareness industry.
I say industry because the world of domestic violence and abuse is a multi-billion dollar business. From the shelters that need to have a constant stream of new victims to justify the budgets and grants from the federal, state and county level, to the hordes of therapists, counselors and yes, lawyers, who make their livings off of Anger Management Classes, Batterer’s Intervention Program and court ordered therapy, there is a tremendous collective interest in an ever expanding definition of what is abuse, abusive relationships and ways to ‘stop domestic violence’.
The industry as a whole is subject to inflammatory language, painful stories of abuse and polarized individuals who are entrenched in their thinking about the issues. It’s an easy topic to pick sides on, and then simply paint the opposition as “bad, ignorant or sexist.” Trust me on that one, I’ve loads of personal experience being painted.
Anyone who truly looks at the subject matter with any measure of an honest and objective eye will see that there are multiple layers of causality, and interpersonal dynamics at play and almost no case can be reduced to a simple analysis of “he said, she said.”
The complexity of these cases makes for bad judicial review, and worse legislation. For example, I have a client who was the restrained party in his relationship with a female. She claimed that he was violent, abusive, terrorizing her and she was afraid for her life when around him. Could all be true. But, they continued to live together, during the time he was attending anger management classes from the restraining order she put on him. Mind you, all she had to do was call the police and he would be summarily arrested and convicted for a violation and he would no longer be living with her. Oh and lest you think she let him stay with her because of money, no, she was the rich one, he’s mostly broke. Six months into their continued co-habitation while she has a restraining order on him she gets pregnant, and keeps the baby. She continues to live with my client and the baby, until she wants him out. Then the restraining order comes in handy to remove him from her life and that of the child they made.
Since he has been determined to have been abusive to the woman within five years, she is presumed to be the better parent, and he loses all custodial interests in the child.
I’m not sure who is the abusive person in this relationship. Like Daniel and Lyvette Crespo, they probably both are. Relationships are messy, confusing, complex and then when you add in trying to figure out who is abusive and what is abuse, it all becomes a jumbled blur.
I do know this. Lyvette Crespo killed her husband. Plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, sentenced to 90 days, did 44 of them and was released. The judge, Kathleen Kennedy, felt Lyvette should not even had to go to jail, but accepted the plea deal.
Personally, no matter how bad the philandering Daniel Crespo did, I don’t believe he deserved the death penalty for it. Lyvette had options, now Daniel doesn’t.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra