This is Why Women Are Afraid to Report Male Violence

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Does the male-dominated mainstream media make us think twice about reporting violent crimes? After watching the media completely spin the Oregon road rage case, and shift blame to a lesbian couple who reported an act of male violence, I’d say so.

Megan Stackhouse and Lucinda Mann

On June 1, a lesbian couple, Lucinda Mann and Megan Stackhouse, left a carnival and pulled in front of Jay Barbeau’s truck, at around 8 p.m. Barbeau aggressively tailed the women for several blocks in heavy traffic. Stackhouse pulled over at a roundabout hoping he’d pass, but instead,  the 245-pound man jumped out of his truck, charged at their vehicle, and shattered the couple’s rear window and tail light with his fist. This much we know is true. And that’s how it was reported in the media.

But it was additionally reported, by mainstream media such as Fox News and The Washington Post, that according to police, the women were brutally beaten. However, several days after the incident occurred, the media spun a new narrative that seemed to justify the act of violence that had taken place.

And although it was confirmed that Barbeau did in fact aggressively chase the women in his truck, and did smash their window with his fist—a terrifying act of male-violence in and of itself—there was doubt cast over the allegation that Barbeau had assaulted the women as it was reported. The new narrative contained an eerie echo of ‘they deserved it,’ that left me, and many others in the lesbian community, with some valid concerns and questions. When is male violence ever justified? Why do we still perpetuate the idea that some women deserve it? More importantly, will we hesitate to report crimes seeing how this story played out?

Jay Barbeau, who had all charges against him dropped after 11 days, made a statement offering his forgiveness to the couple (upon his release)—“I don’t have any anger towards them. I’m just upset that they did what they did.” The information that debunked the credibility of the couple, resulting in all charges dropped, was made larger than life in the media: A New York Post headline read “Charges in road-rage attack dropped over ‘terrible lie’.” Many people don’t even bother to look past a headline. And the coverage read like a wrap sheet, at a glance. But looking closely, it seems to boil down to a few fender benders, a separate allegation of an altercation on May 13…and on Nov 2017 Lucinda Mann reported being the target of assault (which is apparently something that can later be used against you).

While we’ve all likely been in a few car accidents, and we’re supposed to report them (in accordance with law), along with any injuries, the media managed to make it look like the couple was running a scam. Stackhouse states, “We’ve never collected any kind of payment from a car-related injury” and furthermore states “Jay Barbeau hasn’t been held financially responsible for the damage to my vehicle. My insurance paid for it, and I was the one who had to pay the deductible.”

Megan Stackhouse, Human Dignity Coalition

On June 8, District Attorney John Hummel, formally charged Megan Stackhouse with misdemeanor assault for a separate May 13 incident–A Bend woman, Cheryl Norton, alleged that Megan Stackhouse hit her, during a heated altercation. While I, by no means, condone any type of violence, no matter how small, it’s interesting to note, that while Barbeau had all charges dropped, for an excessively violent incident, it’s been 30 days, and the assault charges against Megan Stackhouse still haven’t been dropped.

On June 11, when Hummel announced he was dropping all charges against Barbeau, he stated “…he served 11 days in jail and received national ridicule and condemnation for intentionally breaking a women’s wrist–charges that are now being dismissed. This is more than enough punishment.”

According to the Oregonian, Hummel and Barbeau’s lawyer, Casey Baxter, both confirm that Mann got out of the car and came around to the driver’s side by Barbeau, and dropped to the ground, but said there was no evidence she’d been thrown down. Hummel said, “Barbeau’s acts of chasing after Stackhouse in his car and punching her window were outrageous and unacceptable,” but concluded he had “no confidence in the credibility of Mann and Stackhouse” and stated “While Stackhouse did suffer a broken bone in her wrist, there are competing claims as to how her injury occurred, and based on her lack of credibility, I cannot stand by her version of events.” Barbeaus’s wife, Laura Barbeau (who was in the truck at the time) claims Stackhouse broke her own arm on the hood of their truck.

Instagram: Lucinda Mann

The media heavily implied Mann was lying and that she’d simply dropped to the ground and pretended to be unconscious. Something about this narrative doesn’t sound right. I’ve simply never met a ‘butch’ lesbian that would just lie there, on the ground, and pretend to be asleep, while her fiancé is being threatened (and/or assaulted) by a large man. Mann provided her personal medical records, from St Charles Emergency Department, with medical “diagnoses” of  “concussion,” as well as “acute strain of neck muscle.”

The media initially reported that Barbeau broke Megan Stackhouse’s arm with his hands– twisting it until it snapped and broke–but later media substituted the word “arm” with “wrist.” Stackhouse was treated by St. Charles Emergency Department and Cascade Surgicenter. The image provided shows a distal radius fracture (translation: the larger forearm bone broken near the wrist) with plates, screws, and pins.

Barbeau’s attorney, Casey Baxter, acknowledged that Barbeau chased the women, and shattered their window, but said Barbeau’s reaction was caused by seeing the couple give him the middle finger and that they could’ve potentially hit his truck.

Circling back to the Nov 2017 report (used to debunk Mann’s credibility): Lucinda Mann reported being the target of an assault to authorities. While one might think, one should report an assault, the take away from this appears to be—maybe don’t. Because it can apparently be used against you. In Nov 2017 a stranger in a van allegedly tried to run into Mann, three times before succeeding in knocking her down. “I’d never seen the person in my entire life. I’d never interacted with them or anything,” Mann stated of the 2017 incident. Should Mann hesitate to report incidents such as the one on Nov 2017? I think that sets a dangerous precedence.

Quite frankly, ‘butch’ lesbians are often targeted solely based on appearance…On a weekly basis. Does it get violent? Unfortunately, it can. Lucinda Mann isn’t the popularized mainstream media version of a lesbian. She’s very obviously a lesbian. The kind that does set off inexplicable hatred. I know…I live in that same—“well he looks like a f*cking man”—reality. And it happens for something as mundane as having the audacity to stop at the market for milk. I don’t know exactly what happened on Nov 2017, I wasn’t there…But I do know it’s intimidating to see the message, that reporting violence can actually be used against you.

Also interesting to note: This spin was largely covered in the media by male reporters. A News Channel 21 reporter prefaced his June 11 interview of Barbeau with statements such as “Mr. Barbeau…relied on his faith and his support from his wife and family.” The reporter introduces Jay by saying, “He also has a message for the alleged victims who made false statements to the police.” This cuts to Barbeau who says, “I don’t have any anger towards them. I’m just upset that they did what they did….I hope we can clear everything up…as far as my reputation…”

Barbeau is upset that they did what they did and there’s no inkling of an apology. There’s a shifting of blame. Lucinda Mann and Megan Stackhouse were conclusively vilified by the media. Perhaps that’s why Barbeau comes across as though he feels he’s entitled to an apology and justified in his actions. He chased two women and smashed their rear window with his fist, and as a result of filing a report, their reputation was dragged.

Megan Stackhouse says, “I’ve been asked by the media if I would like to apologize to Jay.” Take a moment… Let that sink in.

Male-dominated ‘LGBT’ mainstream media also picked up the new narrative. The Advocate (who avoided any use of the word “lesbian” in all of their coverage) reported, “Hummel told The Bulletin he’s considering charging Stackhouse and Mann with filing a false police report.” The advocate also reported that Laura Barbeau told The Bulletin her and her husband “are considering suing the women for defamation.”

Again, I have to ask: Should lesbians who are targeted with violence be afraid of the consequences of reporting it?

As far as insufficient evidence: All too often innocent people are locked up. And the system frequently fails to protect inmates from inhumane treatment. I don’t like the thought of anyone being subjected to treatment that’s inhumane… I’d love to see the system reformed. Minorities and marginalized people often face heavier consequences, while others, in a more privileged position, are often treated with more leniency or manage to skirt blame altogether. If the evidence isn’t there, it isn’t there. But a bit of anger management, where there’s solid evidence of violence, certainly couldn’t hurt…And it might just save someone in the future.

Mann_Stackhouse

Lucinda Mann and Megan Stackhouse

As women, we should question the narrative…especially as lesbians. Especially because narratives are most often written by men. Especially because we’re conditioned not to question. And when we finally break free of that conditioning, if we ever break free, everything we’ve ever known to be true falls apart.

The emails I received from people in Bend might make any female reporter feel hesitant to present an honest update. But in those same emails I found some wonderful people in Bend, and had some thoughtful exchanges, such as one that went from “Megan Stackhouse and Lucinda Mann aren’t welcome in Bend” to “There is not a single person in this town that would defend them and there is good reason for that” to “I’m sure small town gossip has played a role as well. These stories really get me thinking about honesty and trustworthiness.”

These stories get me thinking too. There’s more than one side to a story. And only one narrative was played out and seemingly set in stone. Something we often see in the mainstream, but rarely question. Yet the narrative, when pulled apart, actually seems somewhat ordinary and rather human. As women, we should question the narrative…especially as lesbians. Especially because narratives are most often written by men. Especially because we’re conditioned not to question. And when we finally break free of that conditioning, if we ever break free, everything we’ve ever known to be true falls apart.

Lucinda Mann

Stackhouse and Mann have largely avoided speaking to media. Mann spiraled and was severely depressed in the days after the incident. After the media dragged her name, she felt threatened and avoided leaving the house. On June 22 when she did go out, for the first time in a while, Lucinda Mann claims a man yelled a homophobic slur and intimidated her as she was crossing the street. She said, “I was crossing the crosswalk…and this guy in a car to my left kept going, till he was a few feet from me. He opened and slammed his door. Then he opened his window and called me a “skinny bitch dyke.” My first thought—I live in Lucinda Mann’s world. This sort of thing happens to “butch” lesbians all the time. Only now she knows she can’t report it. Especially since it involves a car. And that’s the problem, isn’t it?…That’s the message we receive.


جوليا ديانا —Julia Diana Robertson is an award-winning author and journalist. You can find her at www.juliadianarobertson.com

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