Evan Stark

“We insisted that women needed access to jobs, they needed housing, they needed access to all the equalities that made persons into fully recognized individuals and human beings.”

Interviewed by Judy Waxman, October 2022

ES:  My name is Evan Stark, and I was born in March 1942 in Queens, in a place called Forley House, one of the first co-ops. My parents were living there with two other couples. My birth precipitated a downfall of the co-op because my father, who was a writer, didn’t want to do child care. My mother was working and the only child care they could get was to move to the Bronx where my grandmother and grandfather were living.  

My father wrote at home and my grandmother took care of me as a baby, and my mother continued to work. She was the executive secretary of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the A. Philip Randolph Union. She was working then, with Pauli Murray. Pauli and Morris Milgram were with the Workers Defense League that was in the same office suite as the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

One campaign they did together was a defense for a guy named O’Dell Waller, who was a Black sharecropper who had murdered his overseer. Plus, my mother was also working on the March on Washington, the first one, that A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin organized, and so she had no time for me. My grandmother basically brought me up after we had moved to the Bronx. I’m writing about it, and I’ve been googling my old block. Our apartment was two rooms. One room, which was the living room where all the political stuff took place, and the other room was where I was.

JW:  Did your dad participate in the upbringing?

ES:  No, I think it would be fair to say he didn’t. But as I’m writing about that, I’m more or less forgiving him. He came from a family of three sisters in which he was the golden boy. He was beaten brutally by my grandfather. My father’s father, he was a nasty son-of-a-bitch, mean. My father hated him. He was very jealous of my father because he was the golden boy, with three sisters, and so he treated him as a competitor. He always degraded him.

My father wasn’t very affectionate and he spent most of his time in his room. But to his credit, my mother had these two wonderful boyfriends, Billy Keir and Lenny Maier, and he supported her relationship with them and mine. She never had sex with them, but they were in love with her. They were both terrible womanizers. But my mother drew the line at sex. She was very sexy and very short. My mother was 5’1”. Alice ‘Sadie’ Fox, was her name.

And these friends of hers, Billy and Lenny, were wonderful men. Lenny was an anarchist, and Billy had been in the war. He came back from the war, he had been a pilot. He was a Roosevelt Democrat; he wasn’t a socialist. All the other people in the group were socialists or Communists. They’d come over and they would yell and scream all night in a 2 room apartment. I couldn’t sleep. This was a lot of childhood, this terrible yelling.

But Billy and Lenny raised me up really well. They treated me wonderfully. And my father didn’t intervene. Neither my father nor my mother could drive. So, when we went away, Billy would take us with his wife and dog. He’d take me fishing, he taught me shooting, he took me in the woods. He did all the things for me that any boy could want. And Lenny didn’t. Lenny left the country and went to Italy to live, and I didn’t see him for another 25 years, but we corresponded.

So, I have to say that while I fought my father, he was very loving to the one grandchild that he lived to see. But I criticized my father for not being more affectionate and he had once told me he would like to have been affectionate, but he was afraid to touch me. He had had some horrible experiences with men. My sister says she found a love letter from Alred Kazin from 1946, so maybe he had love relationships with other men. Now, having such close relationships with my sons, I feel bad for him.

But he helped me in other ways. I mean, he didn’t beat me terribly. He had an awful temper, but I could control it by the time I was of age. I don’t really have any complaints. I don’t really have any trauma from childhood. Once he accepted my politics, we got along. I have a temper too. I’ve been on heart medication for about 40 years. But when I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I could really blow. But then I realized I sounded like him. That therapied medication and the wind of the women’s movement helped.

JW:  What was your politics, may I ask?

ES:   Growing up I suppose I was a Repulicrat, a war baby and supporter of Eisenhower, admired Adlai Stevenson, went left in College, was an anarcho-Marxist in grad-school and became a committed feminist, then a Marxist-feminist at Yale. I guess I’d be considered a ‘conservative’ feminist or a Constitutional feminist because I believe in grieving on the basis of rights and liberties rather than victimization and harms, believe that personal life is as important a domain for freedom and equality as public life, particularly for women and children, but not only, and favor interventions that stifle domination, including but not limited to criminal law. Adherents of coercive control in other countries are quite militant re crimes against women. But I can’t see having much impact on violence or other crimes against women outside the equality agenda.

 I worked for Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State and would have gone the distance for her. Today, I consider myself more feminist than Marxist. But I still hold anarchist beliefs about authority. I think it is usually best to tear it down.  

To get back to my dad. I think as a whole, he set a standard of workmanship as a writer, and a standard of ethics as a person. and he always stood up for the underdog. He had a lot of affairs. He cheated on my mother. I didn’t like the way he denigrated my mother. But they were married for 65 years. We had their 50th anniversary here at our house. So, it’s hard. It’s complicated. Although I credit my mother for our progressive experience with race, my father also brought us into racially fraught situations that took a lot of courage.

JW:  Right, as most families are. So, let’s move to the women’s movement. When did you get involved in the women’s movement?

ES:  Well, pretty late in my life. There’s a lot of Movement before we get to the Woman’s Movement. My high school and college were pretty straightforward. I was sort of an all-American Jewish boy, if you can combine those two things. I wasn’t in a fraternity. Neither a Jewish, or non-Jewish fraternity, but I was a popular boy in a school where most Jews were separated. Jews were not part of the popular mainstream.

There were a few of us. Those of us who are blonde and went out with blonde girls and stuff like that. I played football. Not well, but well enough so that I could be a popular boy. And I was smart. I was in the band. I was president of this, and president of that, so I was popular in high school. I did a lot of music when I was in high school, and then I got to Brandeis sort of fortuitously, on a scholarship. Brandeis had a terrible football team, and I had a partial football scholarship, but partially an academic friend got me a scholarship. And Brandeis changed my life.

My roommate was a guy named Mike Koskoff, whose father had been a Communist. And Mike was a thespian. A Shakespearean actor who was very radical, and we cultivated a group of friends, including Joan Baez and other musicians and folk singers around Harvard Square. We were groupies when Joan Baez stopped singing at the Home for the Blind, and she went into Gerde’s Folk City, and the other places, like Newport. Joan Baez was a role model for me.

Mike flunked out of Brandeis and I took a leave and worked in the Post Office before I was kicked out. The atmosphere at Brandeis in the 60s was pretty heady: everybody came through Brandeis and gravitated automatically to the beatnik left intellectual students, even though we were younger – people like Norman Mailer, Paul Goodman, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Alan Watts. These people would not only socialize with us, get stoned with us, but take us with them when they went to Harvard. Thinking back to college, there are women whose lives I would emulate, Susan Koskoff and her friends in the Castle, but there are no men whose relationships or attitudes towards women I would emulate.

JW:  So, this is like the early ’60s.

ES:  Yes. In terms of activism, we were active in the Civil Rights Movement in Boston and in anti-nuclear stuff. I was also active with pacifists both in New York and in Boston, through my mother’s old organization, the War Resistance League. My namesake was a guy named Evan Thomas, the brother of Norman Thomas, a famous pacifist, and a surgeon. Before going to the Brotherhood, she had worked for A.J. Muste, head of the WRL.

My father was also a conscientious objector, but not active in any causes. I stayed active on and off until the ’90s. My first wife Sally and I ran the War Resistance Farm in Voluntown, CT one Summer. In 1974, I think, after we had Aaron. We were attacked by Minutemen who set up a tripod machine gun on our front-lawn. The Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA) ran an anti-Polaris Project, out of the farm to try and stop the Polaris submarines. I was arrested, along with dozens of others, for trying to board the Polaris.

The Brandeis faculty was an amazing combination of refugee intellectuals (like Herbert Marcuse, Abraham Maslow), critical geniuses like John Van Doren, Marie Serkin and Alan Grossman, and modernist artists and poets. Add to the mix Eleanor Roosevelt who, despite her age, gave me a human rights framework that has completely reframed women’s experience of violence in terms of their global oppression. Since I’ve learned more about her, and her ambivalence about the Jews, my admiration for her as dulled, but only somewhat.

Although she had limits because of her upbringing and her time, in my mind she compares to Marx. Even her identity as a lesbian, which we were aware of at the time, gave her a stature that separated her from the young feminists around Brandeis like Florence Howe or Susan Sontag. Roosevelt’s sexual identity became really important when our son Eli decided to identify as trans. Next to Joan Baez, Eleanor Roosevelt was a role model.

I left Brandeis, I spent a semester at Washington University in St. Louis. There, I got very involved with CORE, and spent two weeks in solitary after Cass Stevens and I interfered with arrests of demonstrators at the Jefferson Bank. It was during my stay in solitary that I was educated, though the walls, by Winston Lockett, a Black organizer from CORE, and Gene Tunour, our 24-year-old field Secretary, about how my own racism and sense of privilege led me to hope Sonny Liston would kill Cassius Clay in their upcoming fight, I came out of jail convinced Muhammed Ali was “the greatest.” Winston and Gene are role models.

I returned to Madison in 1964 and focused my political activity off campus, building a CORE chapter with two older women from the community, Lea Zeldin, and Bortai Scudder, both of whom became my mentors, friends and role models for life.  Lee, who has six boys, lived on a small widow’s pension and had a knack for disrupting public forums to gain a platform for welfare recipients, rape victims or other groups who lacked representation in the halls of power.

Bortai has four sons, was partnered with Charles Hargrove , a race radical from the DuBois School. As different as these women were in so many ways, their politics was a living demonstration of the intersection of race, sex and social class that is a template for my writing and activism today. Lea and Bortai are feminist icons to me, women who saw personal and public rights as inextricable and approached sexual politics, racial politics and anti-capitalism with a single strategy.

Lea was with me throughout my career as a student leader in the anti-war movement in Madison, during the anti-draft campaigns and when we attempted to arrest the Commander of the Truax Air Base in Madison for war crimes. I brought Lea to Minneapolis as an organizer when we started Glendale University and Freedom House, alternate education programs for AFDC recipients and poor youth built around justice criteria.

From Lea, I learned the most important principle in my advocacy for women and the principle that underlies my work on coercive control, that the primary harms to women are not physical or psychological harms, but harms to their rights and liberties. It was Lea Zeldin who showed me how to mobilize masses of people by talking about Rights rather than harms and grieving the Constitution. It was she who made it apparent to me that the women’s ‘entitlement’ to Rights, including the right to be free of coercion and control, is rooted in our humanity (not in ‘privilege’ based on say, color or wealth) and as well as in ‘citizenship.’ Bortai showed me by doing, trying to live the life that Lea advocated.

In 1966, I was the Chair of the Committee on the University’s Draft that emerged from a two day sit in involving more than 1000 students in seizing the main administration building in response to the University’s refusal to protect draft eligible students from the Selective Service. A year later, the administration significantly upped the ante, by using state and local police to assault students occupying the Commerce building to protest Dow Chemical recruitment. Citing my role as the leader and instigator of “the riot,” a warrant was put out for my arrest, and I fled to Canada, driven by Sally Connolly, my girlfriend and later, my wife and the mother of Aaron, now 50.

Sexual liberation, including new rights for women with children, women facing abortion and women who were sexually exploited or raped were continuing themes within the counter-culture that accompanied the New Left. My singular contribution was the “Anti-Military Ball,” a huge celebration of the oppositional and anti-war culture that attracted over 3000 students, half again as many as the main fraternity-sorority event, the Military Ball. I got the idea from my mother, who told me about a Ball against the War in 1934 at City College.

Each major interest group on campus –including women, Blacks, Asians, Gays—presented an original skit dramatizing their most salient concerns and how they related to the overall anti-war agenda. We had our own literary magazine Quixote; our own theatre groups and performance (including bringing Barbara Garson to campus for a month and sponsoring a “Nude Playwright’s Theatre”— our own popular music (featuring Danny Kalb, Tracey Nelson of “Mother Earth” and Ben Sidrin) — this cultural gestalt promoted pro-women’s messages, though of course, they were full of contradictions.

There was a lot of stuff in between draft and Dow, but Dow brought the campus down. It felt like a war zone. As the focus of protest shifted from the War in Vietnam to the abuse of power on campus, I left, getting a ride across the border to Canada with Sally Connolly. I emerged from a short stay underground with the Quebecois independence movement, into a massive disruption of the U.S. exhibition at the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal. Even as we being chased across a hill by Canadian police, I ran into Ellie Connolly, Sally’s kid sister, a yippie from Madison. I told Ellie to tell Sally I wanted to marry her and would come for her shortly. Sally liked that I read her Yates and played the accordion too.

During the three months I was in Canada, I did various jobs for the Canadian Government, including editing a film series on how the community organizing techniques of Saul Alinsky could be applied to combat rural poverty in Canada. I was also appointed to represent the Department of Forestry on “The Royal Commission on Women” in Canada, a job for which I had no qualifications. There was a staff revolt before we met and appropriate folks were appointed.

The sustained exposure to Saul Alinsky provided the most important lesson for the next phase of my political life. Heretofore I thought of ‘organizing’ in relation to protest and demonstrations primarily. The dominant approach to radical community organizing at the time, represented by SNCC, CORE and SDS’s efforts in multiple cities, involved labor intensive recruitment of individuals around issues of local concern. By contrast, Alinsky sought to build mass organizations largely by consolidating the Churches, sports teams, gangs, unions, social clubs, business associations and other organizations to which people already held allegiance.

Leadership emerged in the process of identifying a common self-interest in collective action and a common ‘enemy’ (such as a public utility that was charging usurious rates, a polluter or an employer that discriminated against people of color). I experimented with Alinsky methods in a small way when I used government organizers to generate “demand” for Newfoundland to establish a boarding school for high school age students from rural areas who lost an inordinate amount of education due to transportation problems in the winter. 

Sally and I had a formal wedding in Rockford, Illinois in a Church in which her grandfather was a pastor. The adults at the ceremony might have come from a different planet than their children (our friends) and their friends in terms of dress, color, personal habits and sexual orientation. A highpoint was at the rehearsal dinner when Dicky Rehwald, the father of Sally’s beat friend, a twin girl who was living with and eventually married) Lester Radke, an open Communist—rose, presumably to toast, and instead pointed his glass at me and cursed, in a sputter, “You…you…ARE A WOMAN.’ To which I gave that cry “NO….”

Sally and I honeymooned at Babe and Eleanor’s, in a cabin in the deep snow of the Wisconsin woods. We emerged only once, and went to the slopes to see some skiing. I was identified by the FBI; we were followed and week two I was arrested and brought to Madison for trial. The trial was delayed and the charges were eventually dropped. After the honeymoon, Sally and I moved to Minneapolis. That would have been about 1968.

Sally, who is a retired reading specialist with the State of CT, and her husband, Simeon Tsalbins, a retired pediatrician, live in the same town, just through the suburban forest. Their daughter Sarah teaches school in Vermont. Our oldest son, Aaron and his wife Ceclia Chung live about two miles from here in New Haven with our grandson Ezra who is 13. Aaron is an elementary school special ed teacher, Ceclia Chung, who is Chinese, is a retired attorney and archivist at the Yale Rare Books library. We see then for a meal usually once a week and we share other grandparent responsibilities with Sally and Simeon.

Anne and I have three sons, Daniel, who runs a music venue in Jacksonville, FL and is married to Jessica, the Vietnamese feminist poet, Eli who is a nurse practitioner in Mass, and is partnered with Madeline who administers Domestic Violence Services for the State and Sam, an editor at Harvard University Press, who is partnered with Melissa, a book agent. Daniel and Jessica have a son, age 5 and Eli and Madeline have a teenager who identifies as ‘they.’

Sally and I moved to Franklin Avenue South, in the heart of a poor Chippewa neighborhood in Minneapolis and I started graduate school at the University of Minnesota, where they had a photo of me from Newsweek confronting Ralph Hansen, head of campus police at Wisconsin. Because Minnesota lacked an old left presence among the students and a large corps of radical faculty, campus politics in Minneapolis was somewhat less volatile than in Madison and when I introduced the ‘Spiro T. Agnew Memorial Anti-Military Ball,’ 4000 students attended. We followed with an alternative graduation, Festival of Life, where students in white hand bands marched to support the Vietnamese and I spoke with Douglas Dowd from Cornell.

I left the University after one semester because most of the action was elsewhere,

My first confrontation with “domestic violence” was with the neighbor just across the street, a Chippewa woman who was physically abused by her white husband and her 17 year old son. The beatings usually occurred on Friday and Saturday nights after all three had been drinking beer and wine. The woman worked, and after they beat her, they took her pay check and she came to our house for safety often returning Sunday morning to cook them breakfast.

The police were more of a problem than a help. When the bars closed on Franklin Avenue at midnight, the police would grab the Indian drunks off the street, roll them for chump change and then dump them. Drug dealing was also a big problem in our neighborhood, because there were a number of abandoned buildings for them to shoot up and sleep in. Someone was torching those buildings and two or three nights a week, we would be drawn into the streets by fire engines after midnight while the firemen, running about in suits that always seemed too large, fought the flames. The fires were an occasion for neighborhood festivities.

My political analysis told me that the chaos and disorder affected the overall disempowerment of the community. Our neighbors needed individual help with alcoholism, domestic violence, mental illness and family problems. But how were they supposed to solve their problems without a stable community life structure around them.

My friends Jack Cann and the Eliots were working with poor whites in Minneapolis in an SDS MCUP (the Minneapolis Community Union Project), that had many of the same problems as our neighbors. But their approach involved one on one recruitment to a community organization. Further, their belief that they had to start from where the people they were organizing were at, quickly mired them in the deep racialist and sexist contradictions of their white red-neck constituents. Don’t get me wrong. I loved and respected Jack, the Eliots and other dedicated MCUP organizers and saw their dedication and courage as a model to emulate. I just didn’t think they were doing it right.

 About that time, I met Dennis Banks and Clyde Bellecourt, two young Native American men who had grown up on the reservation, but who shared my interest in building a mass radical organization in the city. Our discussions led to the Franklin Street Indian patrols. With a handful of volunteers from the University and some buddies of Clyde and Dennis, we brought cars to the main bars at closing time and offered the men and women leaving the bars a free ride home.

After some distrust, our rides became popular, drivers joined us from the University and by September, police harassment at closing time had stopped. The patrols died down when the snow reached more than a foot. But the practices of rolling the drunks was ended.

A fundamental principle of  my organizing is that all people, no matter how destitute or oppressed, subsist within relationships, families, social networks, work or play groups and other structures that they rely on to survive, solve problems and resolve conflict. There are the structures—from friendships through church groups, gangs and unions—from which we can build community organizations.

In some Italian communities in New Haven, like parts of Scotland or Irish communities, extended families are a basis for individual sustenance and so the basis of political organizing in that community. In another area, quilting groups may constitute a core unit of communication and mobilization. Building political organization entails redirecting a certain amount of the activities people already do together towards the common political goals attainable through mutual aid and development.

The Indian Patrols were an important first step toward building a political movement because when the men were returned home sober and safe, the level of family chaos dropped dramatically, continued police intervention was no longer justified and the whole neighborhood cooled down. I had some success in getting Larry Harrell and his Southside gang to form ‘Black Young and Independent’ (BYI), a theatre group with which I did the rounds as Simon Legree. BYI became one basis for a neighborhood coalition.

Our efforts to address violence against women were unsuccessful. Sex workers in the community were frequently beaten by their ‘pimps.”  So we declared, beatings of “our” women would not be tolerated. In a move that backfired almost immediately, one of our organizers, a former pimp himself, beat up one of the traffickers.

The condemnation of our group was swift and universal from both staff and women and men in the community. Many thought of sex work as a relationship of privilege and consent. Sex work also was an important source of income (and prestige) for part of the community. We were identified as doing the work of police. Our initiatives to replace police were more popular, but this put us in direct conflict with the drug gangs and ultimately with the Mafia, another story.

In 1968, I left graduate school and took a position as the Administrator of the Eastside Citizens Centers, a multi-service center with a community organizing component funded through the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), part of the War on Poverty started by President Johnson.

JW: What was OEO?

ES: OEO was the umbrella federal agency that channeled funds and provided oversight to the range of government programs designed to combat poverty, including Head Start, the Jobs Corps, and the National Health Services. Our Eastside Citizens Community Center (ECCC) provided welfare and health services, legal services who do welfare rights, a consumer advocate and three community organizers whose official function was outreach to support the services. Although this could be narrowly construed as a PR function, I interpreted it to mean “identifying and combatting the conditions of people that become and remain poor.”

An initial political fight involved persuading the city to rent us the Pillsbury Library, one of the grandest buildings in town for our office space. My low bid was accepted over the bid by Shell Oil to replace the library with a gas station, when I convinced widow Pillsbury—and grandmother of my activist friend Charles Pillsbury–to personally sponsor our request before the zoning board. The building was so spacious that SDS moved its national printing services into the basement and it became a central meeting place for left groups in Minneapolis.

Largely because of the King marches, the Civil Rights Movement and student unrest, behind the mandate of “maximum feasible participation,” the government had opened up space for political action that hadn’t been available since the New Deal at the height of the Depression. Under the umbrella of ECCC, we had a Tenants Union—with Jack Cann, the SDS organizer hired from MCUB, a Welfare Rights Coalition, with the militant welfare mother Becky Finc as organizer, and were publishing newsletter and informational leaflets with bulletins about left cultural and political developments citywide.

Women, particularly single mothers and their children, were a primary target of our empowerment strategy, though I had no feminist agenda. It would not be until 1972 that I read the pamphlets by Maria Rosa Della Costa, Sylvia Federici and Selma James on “Wages for Housework.” But I understood that there was a parallel between how welfare mothers related to the state, workers related to bosses and students related to administrators.

An early target was an old welfare hotel set on Nicollet Island, accessible only by bridges from Minneapolis. There were thirty-seven apartments on the Island, 25 of them occupied by women and children, the rest were by single males, recovering alcoholics or retirees and “hippies.” The landlord, a man named David Lerner, owned the liquor store, which was also the only grocery store on the Island and served as the post office, over which he was post-master.

Though his prices for food and liquor were exorbitant, he was generous with credit, particularly with his customers who received federal or other public assistance. By the time the people received their benefit checks, they owed half or more to Lerner, which he deducted from the money he deposited in their accounts. More than one woman told us he had accepted sex from them or their daughters in exchange for writing down a debt.

Using federal housing relocation dollars designed for welfare recipients, I found alternate housing for the most vulnerable families on Nicollet Island, including Elaine Chapman and her six children, who were resettled in a beautiful four bedroom in a middle-class neighborhood. After a demonstration before the City Council and an eloquent appeal from Mrs. Chapman, Dan Cohen, the Council Republican President of the Council accepted our demand for a referendum on Lerner’s tenure as Postmaster.

There was a vote, but we lost, in part because the hippies and retirees who were indebted to him for protection from the police and alcohol, voted as a block. Next, we picketed Lerner’s home in the Jewish suburb of Minnetonka, and then I found three rabbis to convene a Bet Din, an ancient Jewish court, to try Lerner for violating Jewish law.

To spearhead this initiative, Lea Zeldin and I formed Jewish Women for Peace and Justice, probably the first non-religious women’s activist organization in the suburb. A trial was held, Learner was found guilty, and he was ordered to sell the liquor store, which was in illegal proximity to the post office. But Lerner disregarded the findings of the Bet Din.

Finally, one of the Chapman boys I suspect, set fire to the liquor store and so much damage was done that Lerner pulled out, a local Black owned business group took over the store, the tolls on the bridge were removed, a bus line was extended to the Island and the liquor store was replaced by a head shop. By the time the head shop opened in 1972, a judge had upheld the old ordinance that it was illegal to collocate a liquor store and a post office.

The first project which had a specific woman focus was Glendale University, an open-ended, free, woman-run, career-oriented opportunity for AFDC mothers based on the idea that poor women needed money and creative self-development rather than moral uplift.

There were 180 low-income woman headed families in Glendale; the majority were white, with 40 Black families and 30 Native American families, most Ojibiwe, and 5 mixed race. The main problem these women faced was isolation in their homes – many lacked money even for bus transportation, let alone for cabs. There was a day care at Glendale, but the wait list was almost two years. So long as the women remained isolated, they lacked power. And without power, there was little they could do about their isolation/dependence.

The problem I faced was how to organize the women. The Alinksy formula which depended on pre-existing organizations was hard to apply in so isolated a population. But at Glendale, the only organization was a cooperative store that was run and staffed by Black women. While Ruby Taylor, the President of the co-op was on board with us, she would find any attempt to bring the white or Native American women into an equal political alliance threatening.

I also sought an alternative to the prevailing model of providing employment for welfare recipients, which tended to emphasize dead-end, low paying jobs at the bottom of professional ladders (nursing or teaching or dental “assistants) for example and education in the remedial skills needed for low-level employment rather than exploring aptitudes for more creative professional jobs.

Here I was less interested in improving the welfare allotment than in improving the life-chances of all the women by facilitating their collective capacity to act and giving them access to an education and career ladder that was relevant to their aspirations and capacities, not to their currently degraded status.

The idea of a ‘Free University” had been in the air since the mid-60s and been part of the movement to establish “Freedom Schools” during boycotts and protests against segregation in the North and the South. So why not a ‘Free University’ for welfare recipients?

An additional Alinsky principle is that whatever victories are won have be the result of collective action. It is the empowerment that comes from collective action that allows the organization to move forwards. So the challenge was to have the women in Glendale experience the Free University as their creation and the possible future it made possible also a product of their activity.

The first step was to get the University on board. This was easy because the State Legislature was pressuring the U. of Minnesota to increase its programming for adults, particularly in disadvantaged communities and it was wary of the challenges posed by integrating these disadvantaged students into the on– campus population.

The added imprimatur of OEO partnership which I offered made it possible to leverage federal dollars for student loans, health insurance and other possible benefits. The University would waive in-state per course tuition for the students, cover the salaries of two instructors (at the rank of Teaching Assistants) and share administrative costs with my OEO office. The Dean promised to get back to me.

Meanwhile, I proposed the idea to a community meeting of Glendale residents, who gave their enthusiastic support. Next, we handed out University catalogs to every resident, asked them to “ check any course that interests you at all,” collected the catalogues and constructed four classes – two on literature, one on politics and current events, and one on economics. At a second Community meeting, we formulated “demands.”

In addition to those I had already given to the Dean, the demands were that “we” interview and hire the instructors, that an apartment in Glendale be set aside for classes, a library, and a study room, that five new day-care slots by allotted and that a tripartite Review Board oversee the program, including representatives from OEO, Glendale and the University. This would give me and Glendale mothers control over the Board by 2 to l.

Then about thirty women, Jack Cann, Becky Finch and I went to the Dean’s office, presented our “demands” and sat down on the couches and the floor, saying we would stay until President Moos gave us a reply. The Press had been invited, Molly Ivins covered the story. That was the day Molly and Jack started dating.

My experience with the women at Glendale set the tone for everything I did since, not only because it was the first time I heard long histories of abuse, but because I had to set aside the preconceptions I had gotten in school about the intellectual deficits associated with material disadvantage.

The women I met in Glendale were no less ambitious, creative, intelligent, curious or politically astute than the much more affluent men and women I’d gone to school with. Moreover, once we began negotiating with the University, they knew when to put personal testimonials aside and draw on the Bill of Rights. The disadvantage was objective and material, the boot of ADC, isolation, joblessness and poverty on their neck.  

At first, the University stuck to its guns, pulling its adult extension division. They had done their homework and gave Molly and the other journalists a tour of the low-income job market with identifiable slots the auxiliary division could prepare them to fill. They had been performing this service for the wives and daughters of Wisconsin farmers for decades. 

Then Karen Petit spoke, an ex-military wife who said she didn’t need a dead-end job that kept she and her children poor. She told them, “I want to be a machinist. I know I’ll have to fight to get into the union. But I want a liberal arts college degree first so I can understand what my kids in high school are reading.” This is what I had asked Karen when I told her about the plan, “Look, tell me what you want to be.”

You’ve got to remember, this is the ’70s. We could do it. We had money and we had people power behind us. We were just the beginning. Later with the wind of the Movement at their back, women could be anything.

The byproducts of Glendale University—the Newsletters, the Welfare Rights Handbook or those who went to be astronauts, politicians or factory workers- probably won’t make it into any archives. But the thing was, the idea of women doing for themselves was something revolutionary for them, of not being, quote, “welfare women,” who are put on display when they appear on forums or come to campus sociology of social work classes, who take on a persona even when they’re not singled out because of the stigma they bore.

When the classes met at Glendale and the women were with other women with children who didn’t shudder when they heard about abuse, these same women who are deferential in a formal classroom, flourish when the voice of experience is given space to be heard, in a setting, which is familiar but safe, and when their ideas are being respected because they’re reading books that they have chosen and they like.

So, in Art Himmelman’s literature class, the women chose Jacqueline Suzanne to discuss, not the greatest stuff in the world, but talking about this book, why they liked it or bought into the romantic hype, let them hear their own voice, not the replay of some critic, and it is that experience that steeled their confidence to talk frankly about their ambitions for careers. The Glendale program remains part of the University’s adult education curriculum, though the education service is no longer housed at Glendale and no longer woman run or woman driven.

Glendale also gave me something I wanted, a multi-racial political base to counter the power Ruby and the Black women exercised over Glendale in the store. We were able to draw on this base for numerous demonstrations, to display multi-racial solidarity in the otherwise heavily white, middle-class Honeywell Project and in the successful and failed attempts to elect reform candidates for Mayor of Minneapolis and Congress.

Some of these relations continued after we moved to New Haven. For example, I depended heavily on Florence Hill at Glendale, who just happened to be the mother-in-law of AIM founder Dennis Banks. Florence talked to her daughter daily. Dennis, Clyde Belacourt and other AIM stalwarts occupied Wounded Knee in 1973, a year after we moved out of Minnesota. But Leonard Consul, one of the lawyers for the Indians, had an emergency concerning information about the impending federal siege and had to get a message to Dennis inside the compound. 

Remember cell phones didn’t exist. Consul thought he knew how to get through. The only person I could think of was Florence Hill, so I telephoned her in Glendale. I explained the situation. Florence said, ‘How can you talk to Dennis? He’s at Wounded Knee, they’re surrounded by the FBI.” I said, “Florence, how long have I known you? As long as I know you. You talk to your daughter every single day of the year. If anybody is talking to Dennis, she is. Get me to Dennis.”

I called and Dennis picked up. I said, “Dennis, you got to hold out for another 24 hours, Consul wants to come and talk to you guys.” First, he says to me, “Too late, I’m getting ready to join Big Bear in the sky.” I said, “Fuck Big Bear, Dennis. This is Evan you’re talking to. You save your sorry red ass.” Later that day, I gave the number in the compound to Danny Schecter, the “new detector” in Boston and he did a live interview with Dennis Banks that probably prevented a massacre.

Our next project was related to empowerment for girls, though less directly to feminism.

One young woman, her grandfather had been a newspaper reporter. She was from a poor White family, second generation on welfare. But she wanted to be a newspaper reporter. So, I called Molly Ivins. Molly was a 27-year-old reporter from the Minneapolis Tribune, and she had started dating Jack Cann, the organizer from SDS I’d hired. And I told Molly, I said, “You’re sick of SDS, ____bullshit. Here’s a chance to show Jack what ‘white trash” is made of.” So, Molly says, “Alright, I’ll do it.” Molly took this woman on as her apprentice and that became the beginning of our alternative high school.

Meanwhile, the woman’s mother was in our program. She wanted to be a Secretary (not a clerical assistant) but mainly she liked to read novels. She completed two years at Glendale, then finished at the University. The faculty included two SDS activists, Art Himmelman and Peter Nyberg, and Becky Finch, a white mother who had been on welfare.

During the five years before, the program was moved on the university campus and taken over by adult [education]. 63 women took classes, 35 women completed and 24 women did apprenticeships that included plumbing, electrical wiring, restaurant management and theatre. Glendale showed that poor and single mothers can enter the education and occupational mainstream if they give adequate support. And a bespoke curriculum that is geared to their unique background, interests, and ambitions. Critical to the success of our program is that women came to the learning experience in the throes of taking power over their environment.

This is where Lea Zeldin, the widowed mother of four boys from Madison, joined our team as the head of Community Organizing. Hiring Lea, a middle-aged white woman, to run a radical program during a city-wide push for ‘Black Power’ was risky, but I needed an ally who would also call me out politically, and she was it.

Lea’s first assignment was Freedom House, an alternative high school serving all white (and heavily racist) north Minneapolis and Glendale that followed a progressive “learning by doing” educational model coupled with a student-centered apprentice program. To be chartered as a public school in Minnesota, the only requirement was a half hour of patriotic melodies each day, a rule designed against the Amish. The public schools were glad to sign out kids who were often truant, frequently involved with drugs, alcohol and fighting and were in noncompliance with dress codes.

Bob Andre, a Director of a local service agency agreed to host Freedom House, And again, the high school was based on the idea of learning by doing of John Dewey. You studied science and literature by building a raft and going down the Mississippi. They’d go down to Mississippi. You could do things in those days, it was crazy. I’ve already mentioned how one of the Chapman girls apprenticed to Molly Ivins. Two of the boys apprenticed in a machine shop; another two got apprenticeships in construction.

Although these trades were still racially segregated, without the personal connection, poor white children were also excluded. Three of these boys joined the Marines, which for them was a choice they might not have otherwise made. When one of the youngest got into trouble, the high school addressed it has a group. Thus, when a thirteen-year-old girl was raped and impregnated by a motorcycle gang the group tried several strategies, all worked out with the teen, pressing charges with police and the District Attorney, publishing “Wanted” posters for the gang members, going public with the story through Molly Ivins and the Tribune and finally helping the girl decide to put the child up for adoption.

While we were in Minneapolis, Sally and I put out Hair an underground newspaper that included a cartoon about a welfare queen by a radical feminist cartoonist Marcelle Williams who had come to Minneapolis from Detroit where she and her husband Larry, a former steel-worker, had been part of Martin Glaberman’s Marxist collective, “Facing Reality.” On the cover of our second issue of Hair a cartoon by Marcel Williams was a full-page sketch of woman whose breast is  in a bowl of oatmeal. As she looks pitifully out at the audience, she says, “Some mornings nothing goes right.”   

Nancy Lehman and a group of feminists bitterly attacked the issue and picketed her home. We were also picketed when about a year and another newspaper later, we published a cartoon by Vietnam veteran Chuck Logan. In this one, three GI’s are huddled, smoking weed in the corner of a hut, ostensibly seeking shelter from bombing. A huge breast appears in the window, like the head of a missile. One GI says to the other, “hey man, it’s a bust.’ Chuck was devastated by the reaction, though he was more careful not to offend in the future.

The reactions to the cartoons set off discussions about the sexist content in our relations and our work.

Besides our work on underground newspapers, the other ‘left’ project I was involved with was the Honeywell Project started by long-time Pacifist and nonviolent activist Marv Davidoff to make the Honeywell Corporation stop producing anti-personnel bombs that were being used in Vietnam and convert to peaceful production. For the years we lived in Minneapolis, I was Marv’s second, attending meetings, writing materials, organizing the proxy fight, speaking at demonstrations and rallies, and handling day-to-day business.

One of our strongest supports came from NARMIC, a research project on the “Military-Industrial Complex” out of the American Friends’ Service Committee provided evidence vital to every stage of the campaign against Honeywell. The key liaison between the AFSC and the Honeywell Project was Anne Flitcraft, a student at the University of Pennsylvania who had been one of the researchers targeted by the FBI for suspicion in the theft of files from Media, Penn. It was because Anne was coming to Minneapolis to research Honeywell as well as provide us with research that we met and stayed in touch.

NARMIC’s research became particularly useful as we expanded the campaign nationally and internationally. That’s where Anne and I met, through the Honeywell Project, and her doing the research on the weapons. I also started a national group called Proxies for People, which relied heavily on Anne’s research to convince shareholders to sign over their proxies to an anti-war slate. Me, Charles Pillsbury, Marc Dayton and others were trying to convince the children of wealthy shareholders to give us their stock so we could conduct stock fights with their dads around war related issues. 

Charles Pillsbury’s grandmother helped me secure their library for my OEO office and his brother and sister have a long history of funding radical causes. In my one meeting with the father, he asked me to dissuade his children from following a radical path. They had gone far along the radical road by that time.

When the Annual Shareholders meeting occurred, our 600,000 shares were enough to force a confrontation at the meeting, but not to make a dent in majority control. As we met behind thick sound-proof windows on the 9th floor of the Honeywell building, Marv, Sally Connolly, Anne Flitcraft and 2000 other demonstrators faced tear gas and a pepper spray machine gun in the parking lot below. I quickly demanded the meeting halt we go back into the streets.

The Honeywell Project was involved in supporting a militant strike by machinists at Honeywell and Proxies for People, under the leadership of Rev. William Grace, continued to be a thorn in the side of management. Several board members, including its former Chair, James Binger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer AT Honeywell made very strong anti-war statements against the war and the project stimulated similar anti-corporate action in France as well as gratitude from the Vietnamese.

By the end of l971, between the organizing we’d done under the rubric of OEO, the white liberal anti-war constituency mobilized around Honeywell, widespread support for Red Power and AIM in the native American community and the thousands of students we had mobilized around anti-war sentiment at the university, we had the basis for a progressive coalition that was the strongest grassroots movement in the city’s history. Although the coalition continued to support the re-election of Don Fraser to Congress and his election as mayor in 1980, our work was nipped in the bud.

In early 1971, just a few weeks after my profile by Molly Ivins was featured in the Minneapolis Tribune below my photo at my desk before a life-size poster of Che Guevera, we got a call from our lawyers. The Department of Justice and the FBI planned to indict myself, Matt Eubanks and Clyde Bellacourt on a series of charges which ranged from minor misdemeanors, such as submitting inflated time sheets and persons (Jack Cann) on the payroll after they’d been fired, to embezzlement of federal funds (Matt) and conspiracy to insurrection (me).

The head of our Community Board Doug Hall, gave us his full support. But they believed the complaint had been prompted and information provided by Harry Davis, a former prize-fighter and businessman who was head of the Urban Coalition and an outspoken critic of Matt Eubanks, the militant head of CCC. Over the next two months of constant negotiation, Matt and I were able to save all of our staff, about 200 jobs, but Matt and I had to go. Clyde, who had a criminal record, quit the left Minneapolis. A few weeks later, Sally and I moved to New Haven.

The next phase of my life was at Yale. Sally and I moved to New Haven after Minneapolis. I got a job at a small college outside of New Haven called Quinnipiac College teaching sociology, and Anne, coincidentally, got into Yale Medical School. The next moment in our feminist life was when, as part of the New Haven community, Sally and I and a group of other parents started a parent run co-op in New Haven.

Heidi Hartmann and her family, Frank, her first husband, and several other families started another family run co-op, competitive to ours. There were two different theories of how to raise children. What I will call ‘the Stalinist theory’, which was Heidi’s theory, was that basically you had a guru who knew how children should be raised and only parents whom the guru approved could do turns.

The guru in this instance was psychologist Burt Garksoff, whose wife, the feminist psychologist Michele Garsokoff, also taught in the Department. Burt ran the day-care as part of his training program and his students did much of the staffing. So, for example, my friend Ron Grunloh, whose wife Eileen O’Donnell worked in a competing childcare coop, could not do turns. Fortunately, all women were “allowed” to do turns.

Our philosophy was the middle-class anarchist philosophy. We basically said no one can tell us how to raise our children. We’re all going to do turns. Nobody can buy out of turns. All men have to do turns, all women have to do turns. This was all well and good so long as if you have college professors or PhD students who have three days a week off.

Skip ahead. Sally and are separated and Anne comes to Yale for medical school and is in a residency here, then in Hartford and has no days off and often works nights. Anyway, because Anne and I were living together and Aaron was with us half time, the co-op demanded that Anne do turns, which she refused. This created a rift. All of our other boys were in shared home care or a community center. Today, the Children’s Co-op has a bigger space and a professional as a teacher rather than a parent. But the Children’s Co-op is still open, the only free-standing parent run program from that era that survives.

JW:  What’s it called?

ES:  Just Children’s Cooperative. Anyway, I think [of] the first way I got to know Heidi. Heidi and her husband Frank shared a house with my friends Eileen O’Donnell and Ron Grunloh, who were just out of the Peace Corps in Peru. I had connections to Eileen through her kid sister Chris and her husband Dale, who were part of an International Brigade with me in New York in 1964. Ron taught anthropology in my Department at Quinnipiac and Eileen was in a women’s CR group with Sally.  

Another connection to Heidi had to do with URPE (the Union of Radical Political Economists). Heidi, Laurie Nisenbaum, Stephen Hymer, Ken Stokes, Lynn and David Levine and several others from Yale economics formed a local chapter of URPE which hosted various speakers and meetings. Ken Stokes and I edited a special URPE issue on health which is indirectly related to my work on domestic violence.

In 1976, I moved from Quinnipiac College to become the Assistant to Charles Lindblom, a political economist who was head of the Institute for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS). I was hired by Lindblom because of a new perspective a group of us had developed on health he hoped would reframe the mission of ISPS in a more positive direction.

Starting in about 1972, I had facilitated a broadly based East Coast Health Discussion Group that drew from three currents in radical health: Health-Pac, a radical collective focused primarily on the New York Hospital System centered on John and Barbara Ehrenreich; a group of  radical and Marxists physicians and public health professionals clustered around Vincente Navarro at Johns Hopkins who had become disillusioned with traditional medicine; and the APHA, and a group of Marxist social scientists like myself from the New York-Boston-Philadelphia corridor who came at health and medicine largely as outsiders.

A subgroup of the ECHDG focused on women’s health, almost exclusively to do with pregnancy, including Sally Guttmacher and Elizabeth Fee. Also influential in the group were Ingrid Waldron and Joe Eyer, a biologist and epidemiologist respectively from the University of Pennsylvania who had been accumulating evidence that economic and social stress (as measured by the business cycle) were closely correlated to changes in all-cause mortality. Alternately calling itself “The Health Marxist Organization,” the ECHDG published a series of articles and working papers—the HMO Packets—that applied Eyer’s model of “materialist epidemiology “to a range of health problems.

My article, “the epidemic as a social event” was written in 1976 as a contribution to this discussion. So was the first piece Anne and I published on the Yale Research, “Medicine and Patriarchal Violence (1976-1979).” We published papers, following the Eyer model of social causation, showing that domestic violence is the leading context for female homicide, child abuse and attempted suicide. These papers were collected in our 1995 book, Women at Risk: Domestic Violence and Women’s Health.

During the more than 3 years we met, probably every health radical in the U.S. and Canada, except for a few on the West Coast, attended meetings of the ECHDG either at Yale or Columbia, where they were hosted by biologist Eric Holzman and Sally Guttmacher.

In the early days, when the focus was heavily on insurance schemes and hospital services, Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbara Caress, Rob Burlage and Len Rodberg led much of the discussion with a strong critical response from the outspoken Marxist cardiologist Vicente Navarro and his colleagues Grace Ziem and Elizabeth Fee. 

Over time, the voice of the social scientists in the group grew stronger, particularly as Eyer’s work on the importance of social causality was disseminated and my own work was published, as well as the work of my colleagues Sally Guttmacher, Rob Crawford, Peter Schnall, Sandy Kelman and Howard Berliner.

Our four key assumptions became the foundation of the Kaiser proposal I drafted at ISPS, to wit, that most health problems are not biomedical in origin, therefore, medicine is probably not the best approach to most health problems; that most problems are social in origin; and that, therefore, our interventions should be aimed at modifying social factors. Among the social factors featured by the ECHDG, violence featured prominently, alongside migration, employment and housing.

My entry to ISPS was fortuitous because, although their prestigious health services faculty was singularly focused on medical care, they had just been denied a major grant, causing a serious shortage in funds for faculty. I presented Lindblom with broad framework for researching the social determinants of health, he convinced the Kaiser Family Foundation this was a fruitful avenue for future work, and ISPS received multi-year funding for the Program, including 3 faculty positions. 

Of course, my plan was to have Lindblom hire my radical friends, if not the two Italian radicals, Ferrucio Gambino and Battista Borio, who were sharing the basement with me, then some of the ECHDG crowd. It didn’t end this way. I was able to keep him from hiring David Mechanic, an old nemesis from Wisconsin, to head the new Center. And Ted Marmour, the person hired as Director, was at least agnostic about medicine, not a blind devotee.

But the new faculty hired were beyond the pale and far from the multidisciplinary agenda on social determinants I had conceived and quickly migrated to their host departments to seek tenure. I got to keep my basement, my fireplace, rug and book cases. To access the only woman’s bathroom in the building, co-eds had to cross through my office.

The ECHDG had already started to broaden the discussion of women’s health beyond rape and reproductive health. Barbara Birney, Barbara Caress, Joanne Lakumnick, Grace Ziem, Elizabeth Fee, and Sally Guttmacher were among our members who had documented the devastating effects of sex discrimination and sexual inequality along the spectrum of women and girls’ lives not only on access to medical services, but for exposure to toxins in the home and at work, and for hypertension, poor birth outcomes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. 

Whereas ‘Women’s health Services’ had originally referred to reproductive health primarily, by the 1970’s it was widely recognized that women’s physical, sexual and psychological health was almost wholly a function of their standing in society and that any substantial differences in morbidity or mortality women experienced in relation to men were reflections of how persistent inequalities play out in their social and personal lives.

This was the broad conceptual context in radical thinking that made it possible for Anne Flitcraft, a medical student, to think outside the box for her thesis at Yale and consider the medical response in the ER from a perspective other than medicine’s own.

When she started the research, we had already sheltered women in our home. We had visited one of the first shelters in the U.S. and we had gone to a Refuge in England.

JW:  So, you were with Anne by then?

ES:  I guess I was. Yes. I had committed, yes. Sally and I had been divorced about two years by then. I think she was already with her partner. Anne chose for her medical thesis, to look at a month’s sample of women who came to the emergency room and to assess their injuries. I won’t go into the details of the research, but she used some of the work that I was doing in my radical medical work to assume that you couldn’t understand a medical issue by looking only at the issue, you have to put it in the context of the patient.

I mean, you didn’t have to be a genius to see that. But from the standpoint of medicine, that was a new idea. That you could only understand a woman’s history, and particularly, a women’s injury, in the context of their historical context. That trauma, and this was a completely new idea, has a history. The idea that adult trauma history, seemingly a contradiction in terms, because if someone gets hit, they’re going to get out, they’re not going to have a history. How can it have a history?

When a woman came in injured, the assumption is she’s been in an accident. If it’s intentional injury, it’s an anonymous assault. There’s no such thing as domestic violence. What Anne discovered, was that when you put together all the injuries, and mountains of research since have corroborated this, domestic violence turns out to be the leading cause of injury for which women seek medical attention. More common than auto accidents muggings and rape combined.

So that was the significant piece of research, not published for four or five years, that really became the kernel of what became a multi-year research project that Anne and I ran at Yale. And became the basis for the Domestic Violence Training Project which trained thousands of people, thousands of medical providers around the country and around the world. We followed that up with a million and a half dollars-worth of research, but none of the research that we did subsequently really elaborated on that.

What we’ll talk about next time is, I’ll explain how that research sort of developed and what more we learned about that.

What came after that feminist work, is an understanding of, why entrapment? Where the entrapment comes from? In other words, there was a whole lot of stuff about why women had histories. And then we found out their histories were complex. They didn’t just involve medical events, or psychosocial events, but all kinds of other events. And then there was a question of why women stay, because these events tended to accumulate over a significant period of time. And it was only with coercive control that we began to really get an understanding of the entrapment process as a whole. And that, of course, brings us to the theory of masculinity and entrapment.

Part 2

JW:  Evan was talking about the difference between helping people with medicine and drugs and a medical point of view, versus looking at some of the root causes that are socially caused. So, Evan, why don’t you take it from there?

ES:  Thanks, Judy. I’m going to background a little bit because I don’t remember everything I covered. I wanted to say that my wife Sally Conley and I came to New Haven in approximately 1971, because I had a position at Quinnipiac College. Sally and I had met in Wisconsin, but we decided to get married at the World’s Fair. She had driven the getaway car from Wisconsin to Canada when I left precipitously after the DOW demonstrations and I had told her sister, whom I had met in Montreal, that I planned to come back and marry Sally.

We moved to New Haven about 1970 and at that point I was involved with a health group in New York, which we called the East Coast Health Discussion Group. An influence I forgot to mention last time was Selma James and Sylvia Federici’s “Wages for Housework.” While Sylvia and Selma weren’t in the ECHDG, I was in touch with them by mail and had talked to Sylvia in New York and to Selma in London as well as New York.

From them I got the idea of thinking about women as species human beings not simply as equal to men. This means that women’s health goes far beyond their access to birth control or abortion, far beyond even free medical care, to encompass all the rights, conditions and opportunities for self-development and expression that make women full persons.

“Wages for Housework” focuses attention on what women already are and are doing, not as an end, but as starting point for a discussion about the unique role women play. For me, it pointed to a realm of women’s existence I call ‘personal life” in my books on Coercive Control that contains a range of opportunities for self-development and expression as well as the “rights” associated with those opportunities that are distinctive to women.

I’ve already summarized the amazing findings of Anne’s thesis: that domestic violence far surpassed all other causes as a source of female injury. Findings from a decade more of NIMH funded research with a year’s sample would replicate the original findings and reveal equally surprising results, that domestic violence was the leading context in which women were raped or sexually assaulted, the leading context in which children are abused or killed, a leading context for female suicide attempts and the leading cause of injury in older women, not so-called “falls.”  

Twenty years later, I returned to these findings, mainly because the significance of violence in these cases reflected the fact that was on going rather than incident-specific, that women were being trapped rather than simply hurt, that if they were being trapped then tactics of violence were involved. This led me to discover that coercive control was the leading context for women’s injury, not domestic violence per se, and that women were being entrapped, not merely physically victimized.

I stayed in the basement. But we required free-standing offices at the medical school, then on Cedar Street, to handle the data files which today could fit on a few thumb drives. The statistic made the New York Times editorial page and merited attention from medical and public health officials on its own. But I abstracted Anne’s findings into a feminist critique of patriarchy (“Medicine and Patriarchal Violence”), at once making the finding available to the Women’s Movement and greatly limiting its utility as a talking point in medical reform.

The research became a very big part of our movement. We got a lot of attention from the American Medical Association, from the American Public Health Association, from the Nurses Association and from the Statistical Association. In 1977, Ronald Reagan’s Surgeon General, Charles Koop, got very excited by this research, and he called me in, and I said, “Look, we’re going to have to get all medicine on board.”

Because our goal at this point was to try to get the AMA and American Psychiatric Association to identify domestic violence within their caseload routinely, to make it a routine part of medical intervention. So that every woman who came to the hospital, instead of waiting for someone to come in and say, “I’m a battered woman,” every woman who came to the hospital would be asked, “Did someone hit you? Is someone making you do something you don’t want to do?” We had questions.

There was a group in San Francisco called San Francisco Family Violence Prevention Project that came to replicate our work and was trying to do it from that side of the country. Koop called a U.S. Surgeon General Special Working Group and he convened a national workshop. He made me and Anne the chair of one section of the group and he had some very good people on the other section. And he convened a two-day workshop in which we presented our work to the national people from the AMA and Koop endorsed it and then went out and had several other U.S. Surgeon General workshops around the country around domestic violence and really got it on the map.

We were funded to create a national training initiative. This was the Domestic Violence Training Project (DVTP). We hired a feminist fabric designer and publicist Kate Parenteau, as Director and a retired police detective Carol Marci to staff the office.   Between 1998 and 2004, next to the San Francisco-based Family Violence Fund, DVTP provided the bulk of training in domestic violence to health providers in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, including hospitals, physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, physician assistants, public health professionals and social workers.  

When DVTP began, its primary mission was in Connecticut. We reached the health facilities in the State through regional conferences, on-site Grand Rounds with Dr. Flitcraft and half-day sessions with individual hospitals and community clinics. We provided in person training in 33 states, primarily in northeast, south and Midwest, but including California and Washington. We also distributed protocols to State Medical Associations and hospitals to include in screening for domestic violence.

JW:  What were you training exactly?

ES:  Kate presented facts and figures, Anne talked primarily about how doctors could integrate violence intervention into their clinical practice and I used case studies and stories from the Movement to reframe their understanding of abused women, including how their supposed behavioral and psychological problems were caused by the abuse and the importance of working with police and social work. We trained on the signs that you’re going to see, what are the health consequences?

In the meantime, I went to social work school and got a social work degree. As a social worker working with women in the shelters, I presented a lot of case studies. But also, I had been developing theories of why medicine was resistant and emphasized the extent to which developing an appropriate medical response to abused women meant opening medicine to women, bringing women in all fields into the room including MDs and police.

So even if we were training doctors to identify domestic violence victims, we were very aware that the kind of personnel that need to be invested in the process of identification and response, would have to go way beyond medicine. It must involve social work, it must involve interior women providers, it would have to involve domestic violence victims themselves, articulating what their needs were and so on.

So, a lot of what we did in training was also to involve ourselves in the process of changing institutions. Bringing women into the decision-making process at the Cleveland Clinic, bringing women into the decision making process at Harvard Medical School, bringing people into decision making process in Mount Sinai, in San Francisco Hospital, all over the place. We would bring in social workers, women physicians, a new class of women, and by the way, this was not obstetricians we were working with. These were internists, these were cardiologists, they were women in all branches of medicine. The American Medical Women’s Association was very invested in Anne, and she was getting awards from them, I was getting awards from other people.

DVTP training—as well as training and speaking I did outside the context of DVTP—was wide-ranging and extended to judges—I addressed state judicial colleges in Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and California—prosecutors—I keynoted a National District Attorney’s Conference in Orlando –where Buzz Aldrin the astronaut was the other featured speaker. 

Researchers increasingly drew on our evidence—which by the 1990’s had spawned a large medical research literature—to estimate the medical costs elicited by domestic violence. About this time, they asked me to join the Board of IWPR and we got them deeply involved in Reports on the cost of abuse, which helped strengthen the arguments for passage and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Not just the medical costs, but the cost of lost employment and the failure to develop skills. I helped IWPR produce a series of reports on women’s status in the states in which the first calculation was made of what the cost would be for domestic violence to women’s equality. And of course, it was enormous.

I got appointments to panels at the CDC, to the National Institute of justice and Maternal and Child Health. I consulted with several tangential task forces on domestic violence and child abuse. Marc Rosenberg was very instrumental in bringing our work to the center of CDC. Thanks almost certainly to Mark Rosenberg drew us to the attention of the U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop and in 1985, featured Anne’s research, asked me to speak and appointed us as Co-Chairs of a Special Working Group on Violence and Health. 

Koop recommended our protocol be adapted by the public health service and replicated the national workshop regionally. Although Ronald Regan pushed Koop aside, Nancy Reagan was very powerful for us, and really, the other one who was very powerful, if not the moving force, was Mrs. Meese, the Attorney General’s wife, who put together an Attorney General’s Task Force on Domestic Violence before whom I testified. There’s a story here.

Reagan wanted to give the Coalition $140,000 as a reward largely because Donna Edwards had cooperated with the Task Force. Phyllis Schlafly got wind that this money was going to go to these feminists. So, she started a group against violence. Reagan said, “Look, I want to give you the money, but I can’t give it to you without Schlafly’s approval. So, what am I going to do?” So Schlafly says, “All right, well, I’ll get them to sign something that says they won’t have lesbian material in their literature.”

We put our heads together and the coalition said, “We can’t agree to that.” So, Mary Pat Brigg and the head of the Illinois Coalition, both identified as lesbians from Chicago, said they would start an alternative organization and they would take the money. And they did. We lost $140,000,000 that we would have gone to our shelters. They got the money, and they used it for about three or four years, and then they went out of existence. I know this story, but the Coalition asked me and other women who probably would not like to be mentioned, to be intermediaries.

We had a similar problem earlier in the l980s with LEAA (Law Enforcement Assistance Administration) money, which some coalitions rejected because of the racism and repression.

We eventually dissolved the DVTP because the joint commission on accreditation for health and hospitals, on medical ethics and hospitals, agreed that all intake in medicine would now have questions about domestic violence. So, we felt that at least that big broad function was done, and we had achieved what we wanted. Plus, there The San Francisco Family Violence Prevention Fund was carrying the message. Kate wanted to get on with fabrics, Anne with medicine and me with coercive control. We had done pretty much what we wanted to do.

That was one piece of what we did, the training and education focused primarily on a greater awareness of woman abuse. Now there was a second piece of Anne’s research which had interested me from the beginning, but we hadn’t really fully integrated into our work. And that was the indication that domestic violence was the leading context for child maltreatment.

I had written up the research and published an article and a chapter in our book, Women at Risk on domestic violence and child abuse. The four things that stood out in my paper was that domestic violence against the mother was the most common context in which children were ‘darted’ for abuse, the mother’s own abuse was invisible to child protection, the mothers were being labelled ‘neglectful’, but nothing was being done to address their multiple problems and the men responsible for the abuse were not identified. 

I called the response by Yale’s Dart Team an “implicit diagnosis” because the response to abused women was different by medicine and more punitive even though the physical abuse as not recognized. The challenge was to put domestic violence on the welfare and child abuse agendas in a way that elicited a response that would protect children. Other data I collected indicated that most nonaccidental child deaths were caused by men, contrary to the focus of all early interventions to prevent child fatality which focused on immature, stressed or mentally ill mothers. 

My career since the publication of the Yale research in the 1980s follows three strands. The shortest strand involves my work highlighting the significance of woman abuse for children, which piqued with the Nicolson verdict in 2002 and culminated with the publication of Children of Coercive Control (Oxford,2023).

The second strand involves my involvement in the Battered Women’s Movement in the U.S. and England, up to and beyond the adaption of The Violence Against Women Act under President Clinton (1994).

The third strand of activity surrounds the publication of Coercive Control by Oxford (2006-2007; 2023), the dissemination of Coercive Control globally and the enactment of coercive control legislation, and my application of coercive control in the forensic context on behalf of Sally Challen and other women charged with crimes in the context of being abused.

I presented the findings on domestic violence and children to the U.S. Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, in keynotes, workshops and full-day trainings to Child Welfare Systems in 34 states and dozens of jurisdictions and delivered targeted consultations on the relevance of domestic violence intervention to child protection to the Surgeon General and the U.S. military. It seemed as everybody in the fields working with children seemed suddenly aware of domestic violence. 

Our work was just among the earliest of a burgeoning field that brought the voices of children affected by domestic violence into play in Family Courts, in shelters for battered women, and in services for children. It seemed like everything would change to improve the prospects of abused mothers.

Child welfare had ignored domestic violence. Now, mothers were being asked. This should be a good thing. Then, one day, So, I get a call from Jill Zuccardy, a legal advocate for women in New York City. “Evan, I want to tell you a horrible story. There’s a woman named Sharlene Nicholson whose children have been taken away from her and they’ve been placed in foster care, and they’ve been miserable in foster care. They took the kids without a warrant, and we’re going to court to get the kids back.” We found nine other women, eventually 15 other families, New York has done the same thing.

Jill was talking about NYC’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS0, the largest public agency in the world. It’s over a billion-dollar agency. There’s no agency in China that’s as big as this one, and they’re taking children away. Now, why are they doing this? According to Jill, “They’re doing it because two Yale professors Evan Stark and Anne Flitcraft have said domestic violence is the leading cause of injury. So, they’re identifying domestic violence, saying the children are at risk, and taking their children away without warrant.”

Jill and the Nicholson mothers brought a lawsuit against the city of New York in federal court in the Fifth District before Judge Jack Weinstein. I was the lead expert for the plaintiff mothers. Basically, I asked them “What are you doing with Stark’s research? You’re crazy. Stark’s research didn’t just say that domestic violence was causing the child abuse. It said that the men were causing the domestic violence.”

You can’t imagine how people can distort your work when their agency has singular malevolent focus on mother blaming. The City hired Richard Gelles, as their expert, a social worker like me and one of major authorities on domestic violence and child abuse. He’s considered the guru of child abuse in America.

We had a three-month trial. We put these 15 mothers and their children on the stand and they described what they had endured from ACS, the police and in foster care, the trauma of removal without warning, cause or a warrant, the weeks or months in a stranger’s house, the agency harassment and labelling before the children were returned—and nothing related to the abusive partner, if he was still on the scene. Jill tore their supervisors apart and embarrassed Professor Gelles into acknowledging that ACS had no grounds for removal.

If I’m right, and the child welfare system operates globally the way it does in the U.S., then domestic violence is the primary context for removing children worldwide as well as for the secondary psychological and behavioral problems so many women develop in the welfare population.

The implications of claiming that removals because of domestic violence are unconstitutional are far reaching and touch on the entire legitimacy of child welfare as a system of responding to family malaise. But what happens when you tell Child Welfare it can no longer take children away because of domestic violence?  This is essentially what judge Weinstein said.

In Nicholson, Judge Weinstein made a radical and far-reaching decision, that by removing children solely because of domestic violence, ACS violated every major liberty right protected by the Constitution, including the 5th Amendment, the 3rd Amendment, the 9th Amendment, and even the 13th Amendment against slavery. He said essentially, taking kids away and putting them in foster care without due process of law is indentured servitude. He said, “You’ve got to stop this immediately.”

The other part of judge Weinstein’s decision was that NYC had to provide the women and children with supportive services, which they didn’t have. I was appointed to Nicholson Review Panel (2000-2009) to review ACS practices in cases coming forwards. The decision should have reverberated nationwide. It did not, Although our review found that ACS practice improved in the short run, all indications were by 2015 that the response had not appreciably changed.

Following the thread with children gets me ahead of my story a bit but is important to mention here that the Nicholson Case was one reason why when, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, adapted the definition of coercive control from my book to replace all the other fourteen definitions of domestic violence then in place, she specifically included ‘children’ as one element of coercive control.

This definition became the framework for all social service and child welfare intervention in England and, almost overnight, put an end to the harmful practice of taking children from their mother. Similarly, when Scotland enacted a serious crime of coercive control, the exposure/abuse of children was one of the elements of the crime.  Note, here child abuse is recognized as I framed it, as an element in the abuse of women.

My new book on Children of Coercive Control makes a strong case, based on empirical evidence and powerful case evidence from my forensic practice, that criminal justice should play the primary role in child protection, not child welfare, and the focus should be on abusive men (or women) not on victimized mothers. The evidence that the same persons who are controlling their partners are also controlling and harming their children in startling. I call harm to children in these cases a form of secondary victimization, because the man’s main intent in harming the child is how it affects the mother.

This is so important because, until now, police and psychologists have assessed the risk that a child will be killed to be a function of whether an abusive partner has previously harmed the child. You’ll hear in divorce case after divorce case if he hadn’t hurt the kid, she’s just spewing venom at him, and he’s spewing his venom at her. The child is not to blame. The child should be given an equal chance to have both parents.

But in coercible control, even though he had never touched the child, if he can only get at her, he will use the child to get her. It turns out that in case after case, the men are using the children to get at the mother. They’re killing the children without ever having hurt or threatened them previously. In my book on children, I discuss a case in Connecticut, where the guy threw the baby into the Connecticut river after the judge gave the father visitation.

The mother had a protection order, he hadn’t gone near the mother and the kid for three months. The mother came to extend the protection order. The judge said, “Has he hurt the kid?” She says, “No.” He said, “Well, he has to have access to the kid.” She says, “Well, I’m scared he’s going to hurt the child.” “Has he ever hurt him?” “No.” He has a picture of the baby in his wallet. There was a policeman with her when she went to the bridge to bring him the baby.

He jumps in the river with the baby. Drowned himself and the baby. So, he didn’t kill himself, but he killed the baby. And I told the judge, I said, “Judge, this is coercive control.” That’s what I call a secondary victimization. He’s not interested in killing the child. He has no animosity toward the child. It’s just pure sexism. This is the message we are bringing throughout the U.S. and around the globe along with new legislation on coercive control.

Because coercive control is a criminal pattern that allows abusers to see stalking, satellite imagery and other means to follow women and children though social space, I was very active, via the internet with women services in Australia, England and Scotland in working to keep women safe in the migrant stream and to create means to “shelter in space.”

The second strand of my activity since the 1980’s has involved supporting services for abused women and children here and abroad, particularly when it comes to coercive control, which I identified as most devastating context for violence against women in my book Coercive Control. The first woman we hid in our home told us “violence wasn’t the worst part.” I redirected her attention to “talk about the violence.” Since 2000 at least, when I first began writing about coercive control, I have been helping services for abused women broaden their perspective.

In August of 1975, Anne, Aaron, and I were driving to New Haven from an idyllic Summer in La Jolla, Ca., and stopped in Minneapolis to see old friends, including Sharon Vaughan, a pacifist and a feminist who had been a major force in the Honeywell project. Sharon took us to “Woman House,” the battered women’s shelter she and Susan Ryan had first imagined in their Consciousness Raising groups in 1972, one of the first in the modern phase of shelters for women in the U.S. I tell the story in Coercive Control. 

Suffice it to say here that this was our introduction to “the movement” that would play so central a role in our life for the next 50 years, this was how we first saw the problem of abuse, through the eyes of women of many races doing for themselves, seizing an old house to make it a home, making it livable, engaging in collective problem solving and adapting feminist principles as a way of addressing daily issues, not as rote or religion but as life practice. A shelter was not itself a completely new idea, but the idea of a freestanding house that was woman run and was run on feminist principles was new.

About that time, Anne got a grant to study domestic violence in England, I think it was 1972 when we went abroad. And it was at that time that we met Erin Pizzey. Erin Pizzey was a woman who had started the first of any refuge, in this new phase of refugees. There had been refugees in this country in the 1870s I later learned, and historians have found bits and pieces of shelters run during the temperance movement, but there was never a movement as such. Erin Pizzey had opened this place called Chiswick House. When we visited it, there were 19 women and children staying in this six-bedroom house, and it was not shut off from the outside world. Her attitude was that they had self-defense set up there, they had playgrounds for the children.

While we were staying with Pizzey in Chiswick House, sleeping overnight, we went with a group of the women, took their portable toilets, took rolls of paper, and we seized another old railroad hotel. Squatting was not a crime in England at that time. There were about 100,000 people squatting in London because after the war, there had been such a housing shortage that many people had squatted. So squatting was a very popular thing. In this country, you couldn’t do that legally. Squatting was illegal. But in England you could.

When we returned to New Haven, it felt natural for us to open our home as a shelter. And soon, 1974, we consciously reached outside the community of feminist activists and convened a diverse group of committed women, including several who identified as former victims of abuse. Our core group included Anne and me, a middle-aged African American couple, Sophie Turner and her husband, Angela Bowen Peters, a professional dancer, Mary Ann Moran, an ex-nun and her partner, Roberta, a lawyer, Cynthia Sharman (an elementary school teacher who identified as a victim), Enid Peterson, a young mother and former victim, and Rick, a VISTA volunteer.

For the first year or so, we educated ourselves about abuse, triaged an emergency hot-line out of four of our homes, spoke widely on the need for a shelter at churches, clubs and local political forums, and produced an informational brochure introducing ourselves as the New Haven Project for Battered Women (NHPBW). In 1976, at a meeting at the YWCA in New Haven, we formed the New Haven Project for Battered Women and rented 3 rooms at the YWCA for emergency housing.

In 1976, we also met with similar groups from Interval House in Hartford and shelter groups in Middletown, New Britain, and Waterbury to form a State Coalition and selected Anne Menard as the Director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence organized primarily to coordinate activities between local programs, garner useful information, provide technical assistance to local programs, and receive and distribute state and federal funds for local program operation.

In 1978, we incorporated as NHPBW Inc., rented two buildings from Yale as a shelter and hired Pat Dillon, a popular alderwoman from the 24th Ward as the first Director.  In 1985, with Federal funding and money from CETA, we purchased a house, and hired Pat Dillon, an alderwoman and an early activist with the NHPBW from New Haven, as Director.

In 1986, I took the lead with the NHPBW and established the state’s first multidisciplinary domestic violence task force, which is still informing the Greater New Haven Domestic Violence Task Force, modeled after a similar task force in Santa Clara County, CA. The Task Force included all local agencies serving women and children in the New Haven area, including CT DCF, and local police departments. The Task Force provided critical support for passage and strengthening of Connecticut’s Family Violence and Response Act, including the creation of a State level “victim advocate.”

By 1988, Pat Dillon had stepped down as Director and, over the next 25 years, would rise to become the top Democrat in the State Assembly. Meanwhile, the original founders had been replaced by a broad array of service professionals, the new Director renamed the NHBW “Domestic Violence Services Inc.” to reflect its professional orientation to services rather than advocacy, its new emphasis on counseling and addiction services. Although I joined several of the other founders to remove the new Director, the Administration of DVS Inc. was not separated from the shelter and housed in the free-standing corner building occupied by DVTP.

The larger Women’s liberation Movement was shorn by bitter disputes about working with men, racism, sexual identity, and the age-old dilemma about how closely to link our anti-rape and pro-abortion struggles to mainstream institutions and reform efforts. With the marked exception of an advocate named Cindy from Branford who called me out repeatedly for being a man, I felt a minimal of hostility directed at me. The advocacy work I was doing and my long-term relationship with Sophie Turner, a founder and former victim and the sole African American on staff, and Enid Peterson (also a founder and victim who remained on the Board) made it possible for me to criticize certain shelter policies or practices in public forums without being ostracized by the advocacy community.

There is no question that the tolerance of homophobia and racism among residents and their children as well as their expression by staff and the Director remained ongoing problems. But these issues were never as divisive in the anti-violence movement as in the Women’s Movement as a whole. Racism, undoubtedly a problem from the start, only when the predominantly Black staff openly attacks the white DVS Inc. as a racist.

When she responded by firing the staff, we tried to take back the Board and failed. I was also unsuccessful in winning a majority for the United Way Fund Board to withhold its contribution to DVS because of racialist policies. Of all the women’s liberation projects in our area—the study groups, cooperative stores, health services, dance classes, cooperative days cares and the like—the NHPBW was far and away the most diverse racially and sexually in its staffing and clientele.

When Sandy took over as Director and packed the Board with women from the suburbs and professional social workers, it was still operating according as a model of a woman-facility Anne and I had gotten from Sharon Vaughan in Minneapolis and our visit to Chiswick House, the Refuge run by Erin Pizzey in London.  Pizzey herself is paternalistic and anti-feminist. But because she took pretty much everyone, the chaos created by having 90 women and children in a room house forced the women to take living conditions in their own hands, seizing and squatting other living quarters, setting their own agendas, showing Pizzey’s own theories about these women being immature and violence-seeking to be false. 

Sandy had bought into the widespread belief in social work circles that abused women were often self-destructive before they entered violent relationships and so traumatized as the result of the violence, they had effectively lost their capacity to make protective decisions for themselves and their children. This justified a system of regulations and regulations for women as a group in the shelter and therapeutic regimens in counselling in which the key to ‘graduation’ was self-abnegation, a system of negative messaging that echoes what their abusive partners had done.

Sandy was not a monster. Sandy’s arrival on the scene in New Haven coincided with a turn towards theories of victimization and trauma in the movement as a whole and to the Right in Washington. Battered women’s shelters were liberating spaces for women and children because we were able to open political space outside the shelter, in the U.S. and globally in the courts, the police and the Women’s Movement that supported women’s autonomy.

My activity during the 1980s and ’90s was focused heavily on dissemination of a woman friendly agenda to the health services, support in State and Federal government for the agenda of the National Coalition to End Domestic Violence and State Coalitions, and work heightening the importance of a robust criminal justice response to abusive men. By the mid-’90s, I had flushed out the description of abuse as a crime of coercive control I would lay out in the 2006 book and was pressing police, the military and justice services to shift the emphasis of their response from rehabilitation to empowerment and accountability,

I was involved in many of these discussions during the drafting and passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 1984, particularly on elements dealing with support for local coalition, stepped up enforcement of arrest and protection orders and a greater emphasis on the development of stalking data base. Janet Reno discussed the legislation with me on the telephone and I was in the room when my friend and strong ally Sarah Buell, a former battered woman and then a Prosecutor in MA, introduced the President. 

The distribution of the $165 million or so equally to advocacy and law enforcement made it inevitable that tension would develop between the narrow incident-specific definition that remained the basis for mandatory arrest laws in most states and the growing appreciation in our movement that abuse was an ongoing and multifaceted course of conduct that encompassed sexual, economic, and emotional abuse as well as physical abuse.

I was a major advocate for mandatory arrest laws and had published articles and given speeches defending mandatory arrest policies to state judicial conferences in Ohio, New Jersey and elsewhere as well as to an Attorney General’s Task Force (headed by Mrs. Meese, the wife of the Attorney General) and the National District Attorney’s Association. Some feminists opposed us on mandatory arrest because of its implications for women being arrested and for mass incarceration. But the problem with mandatory arrests was that you’re still talking about misdemeanor arrests. You’re still talking about a minor offense for which no one goes to jail. 

What was clear to us by 2000 was that mandatory arrest laws had created a revolving door. The anti-incarceral feminists were partially right. Women were not going to jail in greater numbers for domestic violence. Neither were Black men. But one of the secondary effects of this mandatory arrest policy is that Black men, young Black men, got long rap sheets. So that when they were charged with a serious crime like robbery or burglary, and a white man was charged with the same serious crime, the Black man who had a long misdemeanor rap sheet, was the one who was going to get a long prison sentence.

So inadvertently, even though it wasn’t anywhere near our intention, this mandatory arrest policy contributed to mass incarceration and to a racialist policy of the state. At present, I favor eliminating misdemeanor domestic violence arrests altogether and replacing them with a serious abuse crime of coercive control. This is the approach we’ve taken in South Wales, in Australia, where the concern with protecting Aboriginal men is like the concerns with racialist policing in the U.S. And this is the approach they’ve adapted in Scotland and France and Denmark where abuse is now the serious crime of coercive control, the term I coined to replace domestic violence, on a par with kidnapping and murder.

I’m getting ahead of myself. But I want to make clear that I have never advocated criminal laws to punish men outside the context of simultaneous advances in the equality agenda for women. Criminal law without real empowerment is a form of disguised betrayal.

One of the things that struck me when we came out of this process with Clinton, was that even though we were very effectively arresting people, spending millions of dollars on domestic violence, women were not appreciably safer than when we had begun our research at Yale. We made it a crime, but we didn’t really criminalize abuse. So, I went back to the drawing board, and I said, “Look, let’s go back to that early research we did. What did we learn?” We learned that it was a historical problem. We learned that women developed all these problems in the context of the ongoing abuse.

What does it mean when we have a historical problem? It means that we’re not looking at a single act. We’re looking at a course of conduct. If we start to separate out the flu from a chronic disease like asthma or something like that, can we do the same thing with a crime? Can we say we have a difference between an assault crime and a kidnapping crime, or a terrorism crime? I said, “What we’re looking at is not domestic violence.”

We were never supposed to be looking at domestic violence. This was never about being hit. The woman who told us violence wasn’t the worst part was trying to tell us something. This is really about patriarchy. It’s about males’ control over women’s lives. Husbands, and other men taking more fundamental control. This is a crime of coercive control. People suddenly said, “Ah-ha.” And the police keep saying, “We’ve been looking at the same guys coming in here month after month, and we keep making new rap sheets.”

And the hospital keeps saying, “We’ve been seeing the same woman again and again. And instead of saying there’s a single fist or a single foot that’s been sitting on her neck for all these years, we’ve been treating her as if she was a recurrent patient. There was something wrong with her rather than something wrong with us for not getting him out.” So that’s where we got into coercive control and the people began to sit up and look.

In 2005, I got over to Bristol and I got to work with this wonderful feminist, Marianne Hester, who helped me figure a lot of this stuff out. In the context of working with British feminism, I was able to conceptualize a lot of things that I hadn’t had support to conceptualize here. We were able to see coercive control as a single source of conduct. I finished the book there and then I became buddies with Theresa May. Theresa May was then the Home Secretary.

And Theresa was looking for a new framework. England was spending more on domestic violence than on National Defense and hadn’t reduced abuse one percent. May was also unhappy because of the child welfare problem that we had raised with them in New York. So, Teresa said, “Evan gives me a new framework.” I said, “Here, it’s coercive control.” She called a national consultation, and I submitted my coercive control framework with a feminist policy advocate Davina Harmon and a group called, Against Violence and Abuse.

And May adopted the whole framework as the new definition for England of domestic violence, replacing 14 other definitions. All social services, child abuse, child welfare, all the services in England under the home secretary’s portfolio, were now being governed by coercive control. Then Theresa May became Home Secretary. And unfortunately, reality set in at this point and the story ended less happily than we hoped.

We got a new law, S76. But the only element of coercive control that it explicitly identified as a new crime was psychological abuse. Hollywood movie ends. The argument for downsizing my law was that all the elements I wanted to include under coercive control—the child abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, economic exploitation, etc. were already criminal offenses. Of course, the point, as they’ve understood in France, Scotland, and Australia, is that these crimes look completely different when they are committed in the context of coercive control.

Take stalking. Stalking, it turns out, is not a stranger crime. 70% of all stalking of women is stalking by partners and ex partners. It has no resemblance whatsoever to the stalking that you see on Netflix. It begins while the relationship is still intact. It’s very highly associated with homicide. She knows the stalker. It uses electronic means. It’s in the house stalking, as well as when they’re separated. It increases when they’re separated because he uses the children at that point.

Every time you get a crime, when it occurs in the context of domestic violence and it’s committed by a partner, it’s different than the same crime committed by a stranger. A stranger rape is completely different than the kind of sexual assaults that take place in marriage. Most sexual assaults on women that cause them to die and cause them horrendous problems, are caused by their partners.

Sexual assault in the writing goes on a continuum that extends her rapist routine, which isn’t saying no, just because he’s heard it so many times that you can’t refuse him anymore. And it may include very minor sexual pinching, poking, grabbing all the time. But if you wait for a rape victim to look like a rape victim and you’re a stranger, you miss all of that. So, every single time you get a crime again, it would take another whole training.

So, by bringing women’s voices into the policy arena, we are completely changing how women’s experience in personal life is understood, greatly broadening the discussion of women’s rights and changing the nature and level of demands we make on the justice system.

The fact that most of the sexual abuse occurs in relationships and is committed by partners or ex-partners does not mean we don’t take stranger rape seriously when it occurs. It just means that “rape” is not the best prism through which to understand the oppression of women and children by men.

We were in Scotland in 2013 and I was working with Scottish women’s aid. And here, we brought it to the prosecution first. The chief procurator was a woman who embraced this coercive control idea from the beginning and turned her entire prosecution service over to coercive control before she even had a law to enforce it. We had complete control over women’s aid in Scotland and they turned their complete shelter service over to coercive control before we even got a law.

By the time we got a woman prime minister, we got 132 votes out of 132 members of parliament, for the coercive control law in Scotland. They took this definition out of my book, and they just put it into law, and they basically said, “When rape occurs in the course of relations, it’s coercive control.” When child abuse occurs, all these things, they enumerate. And they gave it 14 years in prison, the most severe sentence next to murder. And that became the coercive control law in Scotland.

But when England got a hold of the law, I started to tell you, this woman in the stalking group said, “Look, we already have a stalking offense. We don’t need a stalking offense. We already have a domestic violence offense. We don’t need a new domestic violence offense over here.” All the things that were already crimes, have a particularity in coercive control that’s different, and police can’t recognize it if they wait for that, they took out.

So, the coercive control in England, all they had in the law was psychological abuse. It was a terrible law. Theresa May went along with it because she wanted to be prime minister. She didn’t want to make a fuss. Three or four years later, they’ve gone back and are trying to change it.

What happened in Scotland is law with the wind of the Women’s Movement at its back.

Another point at which I got involved was the Sally Challen case. In 2011, a woman named Sally Challen killed her husband. She was serving him lunch, and she hit him with a hammer 18 times in the head. She went on trial. She put out a battered woman’s defense, she got convicted of murder, and she got sentenced to a long prison term. And then we go to court, and we say, “Sally Challen was a victim of coercive control.”

She didn’t have a proper defense, because she had domestic violence defense. She wasn’t physically abused. He threw her down the stairs once. They were married 32 years. He had hit her a couple of times, he raped her once or twice, but basically, it was very little domestic violence, but it was complete mental torture and completely controlling her life. So that at the time she killed him, she was a complete prisoner of his.

So, I get on the stand, they grant the appeal. We go off to the all-high court of appeals. There’s this 400-year-old courthouse packed with feminists. They were in the street screaming, “Free Sally Challen.” Her sons are leading the charge, and I testify about coercive control. Long story short, Sally is released from prison. They couldn’t find for coercive control, because they don’t have any laws in coercive control, but what they found, was that she was insane. But she was insane not for any reason that anybody could ever figure out. Everybody knew it was coercive control.

JW:  Did she have to go to a mental hospital, or she got to be free? The reason I ask is because in this country, if you’re innocent by reason of insanity, then you go to a mental hospital.

ES:  No, she was free. They just found it contributed. If you want to look at this on Netflix, you can see there’s a film. I haven’t watched it, so I don’t know if it includes her release from prison. But it’s worth seeing because it was a great story. It was the first big case, and we thought it was going to make miracles, but of course, it hasn’t. Trump came along, right wingers have stayed in power in England. We had a similar case in Canada, Teresa Craig, where again, what Theresa did was she stabbed her husband to death. He was in a drunken stupor and again, I testified. After I testified, she went to jail. We appealed based on coercive control, and she was released from prison.

JW:  It’s a real thing now.

ES:  About 40 countries have now adopted coercive control. France has it, Australia has it, England has it. Tasmania. I’m doing Latvia. I don’t know if it’s going to make a big difference because I’m not an advocate of the law as such. I believe that the only way women are going to get change is if they get change. It just means that women can’t be safe in the community if the men are at large. That’s the first thing. But the second thing is that you can’t make women safe unless you harden the target by giving them real resources in childcare.

I’m waiting for the book on children to come out and I’m hoping to see where we go with these new laws. Every day we get some new development, then we’ll see what we have. It’s been a long circle and it’s one of the areas in which I feel the women’s movement has made progress. A lot of things we’ve done feel sometimes like back where we were 20 years ago or 30 years ago, 40 years ago. I know we’re not, but somehow, I feel my daughters, my sons, are no better off in terms of equality than my mother was.

JW:  Well, we’ve made progress, but we have more to go.

ES:  We made progress for us. And I think that’s something we forget. We have enjoyed the fruits of our labor.

JW:  One sort of minor example I give is that if they had a pin that said $0.59 cents, which was how much women made compared to men, it’s up to about $0.83 cents now. It’s just a sign of some progress, but not enough.

ES:  One of the things I’m bragging about in my memoir now is that the thing that we enjoy, including the wage gains that woman enjoyed in my generation, were basically at the cost of much of the rest of the world. And that was because America was able to extract with the wars and the effectiveness of American expansion, much of the resources of the rest of the world. That process is now being reversed. And as that process is reversed, the privileges that you are talking about, the $0.20 cents that you’re talking about will also be reversed.

I think we forget that much of the privilege that we enjoyed as middle-class people in this country, never mind white people, men and women, much of the privilege we enjoyed was at the expense of the rest of the world. And the rest of the world appreciates that even if we don’t. Particularly in Africa and South America where they’re realizing that. I think those compromises, other generations, will have to pay their dues too.

JW:  Yes. Well, as we close, do you have any final things you’d like to add?

ES:  I tried to run down a little bit of what I could think of. Every one of those things has a million different pieces to it.

JW:  Think you’ve made a difference for people?

ES:  Well, I think we all have. All the time I did work with shelters, I felt very good. But it was only actually when I withdrew from that work and started working on coercive control, that suddenly, this legislation stuff started to come. But I know that I couldn’t have understood even an iota of the bigger picture if we hadn’t had our foot in the trenches all along. I haven’t conveyed this at all, because I went over it very quickly and made the research and my book a lot more of the story.

But most of what we spent time doing in the ’70s and the ’80s, was the grassroots work of building the shelters and building the movement and building the network and negotiating between the various factions. This was also a part of the women’s movement. You may not be aware of this, but part of the women’s movement developed very much outside of mainstream feminism, and which mainstream feminism had almost nothing to do with, certainly now had nothing to do with it.

Betty Friedan herself, was not particularly invested in this. But one of Betty’s colleagues, Pauli Murray, my mother’s friend, was very invested in domestic violence work, and I know I talked to Pauli about it on several occasions, so she was very much interested, but there was very little mainstream. Even Ms. Magazine paid very little attention to domestic violence. More being paid now, but even now, there’s not a lot.

I think in part, though, it was because they made this mistake of not connecting the physical violence to the coercive control with which many, many women in the movement were much more familiar but really didn’t have a name for. Inequality appears to us as structural reality, a gap in earnings, pensions, job opportunities and so forth. But inequalities are realized and reinforced in personal life, where aspirations are delayed or displaced, advantages and gains appropriated, and potentialities quashed. This is why I have made personal life an important ground for women’ liberation.

JW:  Right. Well, I’m going to mention one thing. I ask your opinion. So as part of the Affordable Care Act, there’s this whole list of preventive services that women must get, all people must get without any kind of out-of-pocket costs. And one we got, I say we as part of a coalition, we got several things in there, like contraception and breastfeeding equipment and counseling, but also domestic violence counseling. And so, the requirement really is now, that whenever a woman goes to a hospital, in particular physicians, the questions must be asked, are you subject to domestic violence?

ES:  That’s a mistake.

JW:  Really?

ES:  Total mistake. It’s not only a mistake, but also bad. It’s 25 years outdated.

JW:  Why?

ES:  Physical abuse is not an incident, it’s an ongoing experience. So, it’s not a one-time yes or no question. It’s a preventive intervention that goes on over time, and it involves a series of questions. Are you safe at home? That’s not a bad question. There are many other questions you can ask people about their home. If you want to use your cell phone, if you want to go to the bathroom when you want? That’s a good question.

The question you asked is the one they put in there repeatedly, that has been in the preventable health survey for 30 years. So, it’s not a new question. It’s hurtful to women because the presumption is that if a woman answers in the negative, that is denying abuse and that will be used against her. And she has it in the affirmative, there’s not a thing that the physician is going to do, or anybody else is going to do to protect her. So, it is a form of what we call disguised betrayal. Because this idea of prevention has no bearing on public health, is a retreat from public health. What are you going to prevent?

JW:  I think the idea behind it was that then the woman could get help if she had help available.

ES:  If there was help available. If she wasn’t in an abusive relationship. If she was allowed to use her cell phone. If she had access to anything. You realize how absurd it is? Giving health providers questions to ask in a preventive screening does nothing but give the health provider basically an out, for having managed a set of difficult encounters which they don’t have either the resources or the knowledge to deal with. And 99 times out of 100, they’re dealing with social problem issues that don’t have any business being in the health setting to begin with. They should be delt with in any other area.

JW:  It’s far from what is necessary, is what you’re saying.

ES:  Yes. You can tell them Dr. Evan Stark said that.

JW:  Okay. Well, thank you, Evan. This has been great.