Starting Points

I’m not trying to start any crap, so please keep your claws down.  I’ve noticed a strange social dynamic, and I’m wondering why it is.

From discussions at Nashville Is Talking and also at several blogs, along with several personal discussions I’ve had concerning the Mary Winkler trial, women seem to have a different starting point than men.  In case you aren’t aware Winkler is the preacher’s wife who killed her husband; she is claiming that the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband gave her no other choice but to kill him.

Here’s the dichotomy: most women seem to accept her story at face value and start the discussion from there: “He abused her, but should she have killed him?”.  Most men I know see it differently; the stories of abuse conveniently came forward after she was caught and charged with her husband’s murder.  Many men I know, when she was first arrested, started pools about when she would first claim abuse; it is, in our eyes, quite predictable.

I believe that when a person reports abuse, maybe when seeking an order of protection,she/he should be believed by default, then the authorities should sort everything out.  At this point, everyone’s alive, and we’d like to keep it that way.  I do not have the same view after the fact, with no corroborating evidence to support the claims (remember, the psychologist that has testified has said nothing about abuse, only traumatic events from Mary Winkler’s childhood).

I’m just curious about why we have different starting points.  It just seems so obvious to me, sans other evidence, that Mary Winkler is making up stories of abuse to get out of a murder rap.  It seems just as obvious, without question, to many women that she’s telling the truth.

As I reminder, this dynamic also played itself out in the early days of the Duke Rape Case.

What gives?

UPDATE: I realise that if you follow the links in this post, one of the blog posts references this blog post, which claims the psychologist detailed the abuse.  There is absolutely NO record of this at the Tennessean.  I have not been following this case gavel-to-gavel, so I rely on reports from the Tennessean.  I would be interested in a link to a source that can corroborate this claim.  If so, I have a new beef: one with the editors of the Tennessean.


32 Responses to “Starting Points”

  1. brittneyg Says:

    Women are much, much, much more likely to be raped and abused?

  2. Slartibartfast Says:

    Of course, you’re right. I guess I’m just going to have to accept that this is just the way it is. I just don’t know how we can possible make any progress as a society like this.

    If you and I are looking at an object, and you believe with all of your heart that it’s an apple, and it’s OBVIOUSLY a Jimi Hendrix album to me, there’s really nothing to be done about it. As Clark Gable said, we’ve come to cross purposes.

    I understand your line of thinking coming from someone who HAS previously been abused. That’s perfectly natural. But, because of our dispositions, each of us is set up to be taken advantage of if we are ever on a jury:

    You, by an unscrupulous woman, me by an unscrupulous man.

    We aren’t robots, so I guess this is just the way it is.

  3. schmamy Says:

    I’m bending your stereotype. When I read the first report over at NiT, my first thought was, “how unfair that she’s making all these accusations after he’s dead and cannot even defend himself.” I’m a woman, but that honestly was my very first reaction.

  4. Slartibartfast Says:

    And that’s another dynamic to this, Amy. How much does our Chrisitanity, and the fact that the victim was a pastor, play into our skepticism?

    And how much would someone who, say, has a beef with fundamentalist teachings about marriage, allow that to color their belief that Matthew W. was, of course, and abuser and an overbearing boar? I mean, after all, he WAS a Church of Christ Minister! How could he not be?

    I don’t know, I’m just fascinated by how our views on any given issue are shaped by totally unrelated things.

  5. Slartibartfast Says:

    By the way, in my comment to brittney, this was a horribly written sentence:

    “I understand your line of thinking coming from someone who HAS previously been abused”

    I am not claiming in this sentence that either brittney, nor I, have been previously abused. 🙂 What I meant to say is that someoe who HAS been previously abused, would, of course, have a predisposition to believe.

    Commas are our friends.

  6. Eric Lee Says:

    Okay, I’m weighing in on this…Because this woman has committed terrible crimes – murder and fleeing the scene of a crime – I refuse to believe anything she says without corroborating evidence. This man, a well-loved preacher according to sources, is dead. His nine-year-old daughter wouldn’t even look at her mother after she testified…What does that tell you? And, although I have not really been following the case as close as I’d like to, I have not heard of any relatives coming forward and/or testifying to the fact that he did abuse her.

    Why are we so quick to believe women who clearly have issues and/or past history when she screams abuse or rape? Just my thoughts.

  7. lasthome Says:

    That seems to be the point, that society is has become so trained to blindly believe any woman who accuses a man of abuse, or rape, or just sexual harassment. A man’s career can be ruined by a false sexual harassment charge from a vengeful (or just mistaken) co-worker. Look how much trouble the Duke lacrosse team was in simply because prosecutors took the woman’s accusations at face value and ran with it.

    If Mary Winkler she believes accusing her dead husband of abuse will help her case, then there’s nobody to refute it. How do we know it didn’t happen? How do we know it did? We don’t, and the burden of proof always seems to be on the accused. In this case, now, the accused is actually the real victim and cannot defend himself.

    Note – this is not to say abuse/rape/harassment charges should be ignore, but that they be investigated fully with the mindset that one should not be automatically presumed guilty.

  8. Eric Lee Says:


    Exactly. The police need to investigate her “allegations” that she was abused – interview the daughter, her parents, her in-laws, neighbors, fellow church members, etc., to see if her charges of abuse are founded. It needs to be done under the scope of trying to find out exactly what her M.O. was…

    And I just read this in the news: Their nine-year-old daughter testified that she “never saw him mistreat her mother.”

    And if that is the case, it seems that she did intend to kill him – why else would she have fled?

  9. Katherine Coble Says:

    I honestly don’t know what to say about this.

    No, Matthew Winkler cannot defend himself.

    Mary Winkler may or may not be lying. I do not know.

    But I don’t accept that her nine-year-old’s testimony is enough to discredit Mary Winkler’s claims. My father was born into an abusive environment where one man was sleeping with both his wife and his wife’s sister. He was abusing his wife’s sister (my grandmother). My father and his brother—both children of what was either physical or emotional rape of my grandmother–were put up for adoption. My aunt remained in the house her whole life, along with 7 children from the real marriage. I’ve interviewed all 8 of those children who vary wildly in age. NONE of them ever recalled any abuse, even though both my great-aunt and grandmother wrote about it extensively in private journals which survived them.

    And of course there’s the evidence of my father, uncle and aunt’s existence.

    So the sordid goings-on of adults are not always in front of the eyes of the children.

    Even if they were, the child testified that she “never saw [her father] mistreat her mother.” Okay. So what is the definition of “Mistreat” coming from a nine-year-old raised in a household where a man mistreats women?

    What we in the world see as mistreatment, their household culture may just consider to be a normal function of a Fundamentalist Christian marriage.

  10. Slartibartfast Says:

    Well, just to bring back on point, and since I haven’t been following this case as closely as I did Perry March, I really can’t speculate as much about the case itself.

    My focus in this post (actually I might even say purpose) is to point out that our experiences and biases color our initial view of a “thing”.

    Of course, there’s no getting around that, so there’s nothing to “fix”, so I’m not really sure why I brought it up. But demographics fascinate me, and the man/woman AND the Christian/Non-Christian divide in this case is an interesting example.

  11. Katherine Coble Says:

    My focus in this post (actually I might even say purpose) is to point out that our experiences and biases color our initial view of a “thing”.

    Which is why I think you can’t accept the Winkler girl’s testimony as exoneration of Matthew Winkler.

    I really can’t speculate as much about the case itself.

    Then please realise that when you say things like “Many men I know, when she was first arrested, started pools about when she would first claim abuse; it is, in our eyes, quite predictable”, you may be a little bit premature in your derision for Winkler and her defence.

    I haven’t followed the case at all, but if you think that the claim of abuse is predictable, imagine how we women feel about the fact that so many of us ARE abused and that abuse is now so commonplace as to be the result of some callous boys-club betting scheme.

  12. Slartibartfast Says:

    But Kat, I ask this in all seriousness: how is either predisposition more valid than the other? Neither is based on the facts at hand.

  13. Busy Mom Says:

    I don’t know what really happened, but, killing him was wrong, I’m not going to argue that.

    I know this doesn’t answer your question, but, just look at her mannerisms and body language. This is someone who has been beaten down repeatedly, you can feel it. I think there is a whole different “underground” dynamic when religion is involved.

    Something happened there. Something that would make mother (or father, I’m just observing this case) do this had to be very, very wrong. And, my guess (my “guess” no one else’s, only my opinion) is that he did something to one of those girls.

  14. Katherine Coble Says:

    how is either predisposition more valid than the other?

    They aren’t.

    You won’t hear me saying that he needed killing, but you certainly won’t hear me saying that I’m taking bets on how quickly she’ll claim abuse.

    This is all the problem with trying cases in the media. We’ve got a whole country full of people who feel qualified to make up their minds on a person’s guilt or innocence because of what they’ve seen on the teevee.

  15. Slartibartfast Says:

    B-Mo, as a strong believer in women’s intuition, I’m prone to listen to what you have to say. It’s far more compelling than “She said it. He did it”

    Kat – that’s part of where I was going with this. Just to clarify: the betting on Winkler claiming abuse happened at this point in time:

    1) She had been caught
    2) She had admitted shooting her husband
    3) Her lawyer said he would plead not guilty.

    What else could it a have been? I don’t think the men I know were being as callous as you think.

    Finally, let’s forget about any illustrations and use a laser-like focus, so there’s no misunderstanding:

    Mary Winkler said her husband abused her.
    Most men I know did not believe it.
    Most women I know did.
    I thought it would be neat to discover why that is. That’s all.

    I think the problem here is that no one shares my fascination with demographics and how they are a predictor for behavior.

    So, nevermind.

  16. Eric Lee Says:

    Yes, Slarti, I agree…this has been an interesting discussion. And I do share your interest in the demographics of this…I just want to clarify a couple of things.

    I understand that a nine-year-old’s testimony may not be enough to discredit Mary Winkler’s claims. That’s why I feel there needs to be some serious investigation into whether or not she was abused. I’m not saying Matthew Winkler was a saint; he wasn’t, nobody is. It is very possible that he could have abused her…but now that he’s dead, we’ll never know for definitely sure.

    I just wish she would have pursued some kind of assistance, rather than killing her husband. I’m just saying that she could have left if she really wanted to. All she had to do was reach out.

  17. Warrior Says:

    Interesting side note: In the paper today, a defense expert was asked his thoughts on the jury (mostly women), and his opinion was women were much harsher in this kind of case than men. He said he’d rather have a jury of retired military men, who understand the dynamics and stress of possible attack, even when the enemy can’t be seen. For the record, my first thought was that she had been abused, and that was before they brought out the wig and “Cleopatra Jones” shoes she had to wear during sex, or the pornography Matthew had on his computer, which even the prosecution admitted was shown to Mary, by Matthew, to “show her what to do”. This is usually a sign of a controlling personallity, which of course is also the underlying cause for abuse.

  18. Slartibartfast Says:

    In case y’all are playing along at home, Warrior is male, so we have two stereotype-breakers so far. 🙂

  19. Aunt B. Says:

    Just as a side-note, I think this idea that, if she really was being abused, she could have just left him is unfair. Many women who are killed by their abusers are killed after leaving. Also, let’s not overlook the fact that many congregations (and denominations) don’t believe that there’s any valid reason for divorce, not even abuse. So, if she was abused, she may have had valid reasons for not wanting to leave him.

    Having grown up with them, I have a lot of sympathy for ministers’ wives. It can be a very lonely and isolating life. And, if something were going wrong in your marriage, it would be very hard to find someone to reach out to.

    I don’t know if she was being abused or not. I just wanted to throw those things into the discussion, too.

  20. Warrior Says:

    I agree with Aunt B on this, too. And as far as divorce, that would have resulted in Matthew, a 3rd generation Chruch of Christ minister, lossing his job. From just what I saw of his father on the stand, I don’t think that would have gone over very well.

  21. Nashville is Talking » Thoughts on the Winkler Trial: A Mini-Round-Up Says:

    […] Slartibartfast: Here’s the dichotomy: most women seem to accept her story at face value and start the discussion from there: “He abused her, but should she have killed him?”. Most men I know see it differently; the stories of abuse conveniently came forward after she was caught and charged with her husband’s murder. Many men I know, when she was first arrested, started pools about when she would first claim abuse; it is, in our eyes, quite predictable. […]

  22. Rachel Says:

    I’m a little out of my depth because I’m not a religious person, but I would imagine that, if a minister’s wife were abused, the already high obstacles to leaving might be multiplied. Perhaps one of you could speak to this better, but I imagine she’d be hesitant to report abuse because she would not want her husband to be seen as a failure to the Church or to God, and would also be part of a system that discourages marriages from breaking up.

    That said (or asked, I suppose), I didn’t assume from the outset that she was abused. I certainly wondered if she was, because of the circumstances.

  23. CE Petro Says:

    As I recall, the stories of abuse surfaced from her family members during the investigation. And the testimony of the psychologist can be read here.

    As far as different starting points, perhaps those of us that see Mary as being abused, have seen the abuse ourselves — whether from abusive relationships or working with domestic violence survivors.

    Here’s an interesting note. In just about every domestic violence fact sheet, clergy are listed as trusted sources. Mary didn’t have that in this case. This trusted source was her abuser. I also want to note that her abuser isolated her from all other trusted sources, like her own family. When you are that isolated, where do you turn?

    Read Mary’s written statement, there are several signs (in her own words) that she was abused. “Matthew was ranting…and I don’t know what set him off.” “I don’t know of anything he specifically said or did to me to upset me, but I had an uneasiness about me.” And then the last sentence: “I was upset at him because he had really been on me lately, critising [sic] me for things, the way I walk, what I eat, everything.”
    Abuse is cyclic, anything can set an abuser off. Berating someone for the way they walk? The abused will be afraid — uneasy, not know what to expect next. Would these rantings result in a beating, having a gun shoved in your face, being forced to play a part in a sexual fantasy that you don’t want to do? Classic signs of abuse.

    Instead of betting on whether she abused or not, maybe spend the time educating yourself and your buddies on domestic abuse — and the extremely high societal costs in this state.

  24. Slartibartfast Says:

    Dang it, I knew I shouldn’t have thrown that illustration in there – it wasn’t helpful, and it seems to be the focus of discussion for many.

    But, did you read my comment to Kat about this? It’s extremely important in my defense from the charge of callousness. That, and warrior’s testimony!

    B and Warrior: the preacher’s wife syndrome is a consideration. My theology makes it a foreign concept. I believe as church leaders we should be as open and up-front about our own failings as possible. So, I can’t relate to putting forward a perfect front.

    Rachel, I just want to hug you! You have got to be the most level-headed, no matter the issue, person that I’ve ever seen! I really mean that.

    “I didn’t assume from the outset that she was abused. I certainly wondered if she was, because of the circumstances.”

    This just gave me the warm fuzzies.

  25. john h Says:

    As a child of the ‘C of C’, the fact that she didn’t leave him is almost irrelevant in an abuse charge, at least in the orthodox world of the C of C.

    I look at this from a different angle. What would possess someone to kill another person in the marriage. Let’s say for argument’s sake that the killer is not mentally ill.
    1. sex
    2. money
    3. abuse
    or some combination of the three.

    I assumed from the very first that abuse was involved, since adultery was quickly eliminated.

    Can anyone tell me when a spouse has been killed by his/her partner when one of these three items wasn’t involved? Not to say that the murder in this case, or others, is justified, but I’d like to know another reason a wife kills a husband or vice versa.

  26. sbk Says:

    You must have been in my kitchen this morning listening to my conversation with the hubby. He snickered that she was obviously guilty and I without even thinking said she was abused. After thinking about it, the reason I assumed she was abused was that I just don’t see middle class, church going women committing such violent crimes–and in the very, very rare instances that you do there is (almost) always serious provocation. Thems some demographics for you Slarti!

    I also agree strongly with Aunt B. Being a minister’s wife shuts down so many avenues of escape. I’ve seen first hand how difficult escape can be for even the strongest of women who didn’t have such formidable obstacles.

    I think the reason for the differences slarti notice has much to do with how readily women can visualize themselves committing violent act compared to how readily men can.

  27. Knowing You'll Be Believed « Tiny Cat Pants Says:

    […] at his post today. Here’s the dichotomy: most women seem to accept [Mary Winkler’s] story at face […]

  28. CE Petro Says:

    By the way, a clinical psychologist believes Mary is not lying about being abused, based on her body language.

  29. Vol Abroad Says:

    Like John H – I grew up at least affiliated with CofC (my grandparents went and my mom often made me go with them – including years of Wednesday night bible study, vacation bible school, etc) and I can’t see divorce being a viable option.

    I remember one woman with small kids whose husband was NO GOOD, (thieving, beating, drinking) whose marriage finally dissolved when he was in prison being humiliated during a particularly vicious session on the evils of single motherhood. Bible study was always so much fun.

    And I agree with Kat Coble when she doubts the 9 year old’s testimony. It isn’t just for the reasons she states though, but those are good. It’s that Matthew Winkler’s parents have had custody of those girls for almost a year (?) – and you don’t think they might have had something to do with getting a daughter to testify against her mom?

    I don’t know what all went on in that house. But I’ve seen a lot of cowed C of C women over the years…

  30. Do you still beat your wife? « Salem’s Lots Says:

    […] you still beat your wife? Jump to Comments Slarti has an interesting post on the Winkler business concerning abuse and the difference between the male and female assumptions […]

  31. Shoot The Moose Infantile « Says:

    […] Starting Points […]

  32. Nashville is Talking » Mary Winkler Reaction: The On-Air Piece Says:

    […] and court stuff isn’t the material most local bloggers usually concern themselves with. But, this is […]

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