Magazine Feature / People

Violence against women a hate crime, Miccio says

Law Associate Professor Kristian Miccio is a nationally recognized expert in domestic violence and has lobbied for prosecuting crimes against women and girls as hate crimes.

Miccio says the recent dragging death of Luz Maria Franco-Fierros in Douglas County, the murder of Emily Keyes in Bailey, Colo., and the killing of five Amish schoolgirls in Pennsylvania were all perpetrated against the victims simply because they were female. 

She says the media has underplayed the point that gender was an inherent factor in those and similar crimes.

DU will host the second annual national conference on domestic violence, Battered Mothers and Witnessing Children: Failure to Protect and State Accountability, March 16–17.

BG: How does “male intimate violence” differ from other types of male violence against women?

KM: Male intimate violence means that a partner is betraying the trust that relationships are supposed to be built on … through physical and psychological violence. The main difference is that with stranger violence you don’t … share the same bed with the person who is perpetrating crimes against you. 

BG: Since most of the violence between partners takes place behind closed doors, how does that affect the way it’s handled by the women involved, law enforcement and society?

KM: Violence against women by male intimate partners wasn’t even considered a crime until the 1960s in most jurisdictions, and culturally it’s still not considered to be much of a crime. And it’s certainly not considered to be gender-motivated violence.

In light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Castle Rock vs. Gonzales [upholding the Castle Rock Police Department’s decision not to enforce an order of protection], we’re back to where we were in the 1970s in terms of the state responding. 

BG: You’ve said that these kinds of crimes rise to the level of hate crimes. Could you explain?

KM: Rape and domestic violence are gender-motivated crimes. The definition of a hate crime is that you engage in conduct … because of your belief that the victim is either a member of or a perceived member of a protected class.

It’s my contention that rape is a gender-motivated hate crime. It’s no different than any person who is victimized because of their membership in a specific demographic group.

BG: How did you become interested in this subject?

KM: I went to Antioch Law School in D.C. As a first year law student in the Women’s Rights Clinic, I handled a case where I convinced a battered woman to continue with prosecuting her batterer even though she kept saying, “He’s going to kill me if he gets out of jail.” The charge was reduced and the defendant became eligible for work release.

The first day of work release, he went to where my client was and beat her severely. I decided at that point I was going to be a prosecutor.

As a prosecutor in New York City, I realized the problem was even larger than I thought. I started the first legal-services center in the country for battered women. 

BG: How does male intimate violence feed your academic research and/or your teaching at DU?

KM: I teach traditional classes like criminal law, criminal procedure and family law. I don’t believe it’s my responsibility or right to use the classroom as a political podium. It’s my job to teach students the law … to make them think of the moral and ethical underpinnings. For me it’s about challenging students to think and to feel. 

All of my publications have been on the issue of male intimate violence and conceptions of state accountability. I look at political theory, theological doctrine, sociology, and history — all from a feminist perspective, which means conceptions of gender are socially constructed. 

BG: What is your take on women’s responsibility for perpetuating these violent acts by remaining in the relationship?

KM: What’s happened in our society is that resistance is synonymous with leaving. Battered women resist in a myriad of ways. This violence is also psychological, so to retain a sense of self is to resist.

I ask my students, “Did you have a relationship that wasn’t good for you and how long did it take you to get out?” We believe we can change people, that love can change anything. It can’t.

This article originally appeared in The Source, December 2006.

Comments are closed.