Page One: Where did you grow up and
was reading and writing
a part of your life? Who were your earliest influences and why?
S. Richmond: I grew up in Hingham,
a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. I have always regarded writing
as an art form, and I began writing seriously when I was fifteen...
poetry, mostly. At age eighteen, I was chosen for a seminar course
in poetry at Harvard with Richard Tillinghast. I was delighted
to find others who loved the sight, sounds, and shapes of words.
My earliest influences were Southern American poets and storytellers...
John Crowe Ransom, Eudora Welty, Katherine Ann Porter. And later,
the poetry of T.S. Eliot (I once committed The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock to memory), and the fiction of James Joyce (The Dubliners, especially).
I have read and re-read Shakespeare's King Lear, Macbeth,
Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream and I plan to
continue this practice throughout my life... I love the moral
essayists and political satirists of the eighteenth century,
especially Samuel Johnson and Jonathan Swift... Johnson's skill
with language is inspiring... I think all students of English
language and literature should be required to read Dr. Johnson
Page One: Why did you write Terms
of Enforcement: Making Men Pay for What They've Done ?
S. Richmond: I needed to understand
the events that happened to me and, since I am a writer, I thought
the story would help me locate the meanings I needed to digest.
My second reason was to take a stand against the events that
happened to me. I wanted to make a public statement about the
dilemmas we face in handling reports of domestic violence. I
do not like the political forces at work in the clinical literature,
the offender treatment programs, the legislatures, the shelters,
the police stations, or the courthouses. I believe people are
following a rigid, one-size-fits-all domestic violence policy.
I think "zero tolerance" policies are dangerous. They
offer a hiding place for the hypocrisies of public officials.
Judges can use the "zero tolerance" oath as a justification
to deny men their basic right to due process. Many judges are
afraid of the press, and they are treating all allegations of
domestic abuse as if they were valid... without ever making determinations
of fact or dangerousness. I think the lives of many innocent
men are being ruined. What's more, I think judges and clinicians
are aware of this but lack the spine to take a stand against
the political forces that bear on them.
Page One: Tell us about Terms
of Enforcement: Making Men Pay for What They've Done?
S. Richmond: It is the story of my
experiences after my wife of thirty years decided to request
a restraining order against me while we were trying to work through
a divorce. We were making no headway and I grew increasingly
frustrated with the process. I didn't hide my distress. My wife
wanted to take control of the divorce. The restraining order
was her instrument of control. Once the restraining order was
issued, my life became a nightmare. The book holds up a mirror
to that nightmare.
Page One: At book signings, what
do readers say to you about their interpretations of Terms
of Enforcement: Making Men Pay for What They've Done? What
do they like about the book?
S. Richmond: Most people tell me
that they could not put the book down after starting it. I am
always flattered to hear this. They love the story aspect of
the book. They are glad that I didn't use the book to lecture
or instruct. People want to be free to make up their own minds
about what is right and what is wrong in the way the police and
courts respond to allegations of domestic violence. Nobody wants
to be lectured. Most people expect that my book will be bitter,
or an attempt to "get revenge" against my ex-wife or
the "establishment." They are quite wrong. They say
they're pleased to discover that my story is balanced. In fact,
they are amazed that such a story could be written in a balanced
way. I tell them that I am not interested in hiding my own flaws
or my errors of judgment. I made some terrible choices in the
course of events. I am human and this is a human story. I think
everyone who has read it, is astonished to find humor in the
story. I couldn't have survived my experience without a sense
of humor. I loved writing the humorous and satirical parts of
the book. They were part of the balance necessary to the story.
Page One: Explain your title,Terms
of Enforcement: Making Men Pay for What They've Done.
S. Richmond: The book's primary title (Terms
of Enforcement) is meant to evoke feelings and images associated
with the story, Terms of Endearment... but with an obvious twist.
Nothing in the story I have to tell depicts an effort to be
endearing... not on the part of my ex-wife, and not on the part
of the court. My ex-wife was determined to settle our divorce
on her terms, and her terms only. The restraining order, for
example, was obtained to ensure enforcement of those terms. The
court was determined to enforce its view of me as an abuser,
despite all evidence to the contrary. The secondary title (Making
Men Pay for What They've Done) is similarly ironic. I believe
we're living at a time when extreme feminist lawmakers are trying
to fulfill an unspoken mandate... that men should be made to
"pay" for what they've done to women. It's as if there
were a kind of reparations or reprisals ethic at work in their
thinking. But it's worse than that. The result is that laws
and policies are being shaped by a desire for revenge... revenge
against men for the historical abuses that women have been made
to suffer. Still, I think it's important to distinguish between
feminist lawmaking and extreme feminism. Feminism is a welcome
development in the area of social policy reform. Feminists have
valuable contributions to make to our understanding of the social
forces at work in our lives. But, extreme feminism disdains
all paradigms except its own. Extreme feminists have a stake
in promoting a kind of gender war because there is an element
of gender-hate (or sex-hate) in their ideology. This reminds
me of what Dr. Morgan said about the difference between hate
and anger... that anger is a healthy and creative force in our
lives, but hate is not at all like anger. Anger is creative...
it's a life force. But hate is destructive... it's a life-denying
force. Maybe these are the differences between feminism and
radical feminism. I'm hoping my book's title will make people
wonder whether our domestic violence policy is vengeful or altruistic.
Page One: In your book, Terms
of Enforcement, it seems you are not saying abused women
should not be protected, but that abuse claims against men should
be adequately investigated. You say, "This book is not
an argument against court law enforcement intervention in cases
of substantiated abuse. Rather, it is an impassioned plea for
an abuse substantiation stage in court proceedings." Please
S. Richmond: Thank you for asking
this question. As a policy and program specialist for the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts for many years, I worked closely with staff
providing services to abused women. I have never been indifferent
to the needs of abused women. Quite the contrary. My career
history will bear that out. I feel very strongly that courts
need to be responsive to victims of family violence, women and
men. Women aren't the only ones being abused... But I'm getting
ahead of myself... Let me put it this way... We need to return
to basics. In the field of social work, for example, we have
a long tradition of regarding assessment as the foundation of
good social work practice. In law, we have a long tradition
of regarding due process and discovery as foundations of a just
legal practice. But, we've abandoned these principles in the
way we handle allegations of abuse. And, until we regain the
courage of our convictions... that is, to restore our commitments
to core values of social work and legal practice... we'll continue
to see judges rubber stamp women's claims of abuse against men.
Men's lives will continue to be in extreme jeopardy.
Page One: Why do false allegations
pass through courts unchallenged?
S. Richmond: Nobody in positions
of influence is calling loudly enough for reform. Judges are
afraid of enforcing evidentiary standards or due process principles.
It's a maddening dilemma because it all seems so noble! The
public wants to believe it is aligned with a noble cause... that
is, the protection of abused women. People want to believe that
zero-tolerance is the answer. Maybe the best answer to your
question is right here... Let me read directly from the book...
"The court suspends all rules of evidence in making its
decision to issue the restraining order. At the same time, there
is no public will to uncover judicial abuse done to men accused
of domestic violence. The court is free to rationalize its judicial
mistreatment on the grounds that the court is looking out for
the needs of abused women. And it will not matter if the accused
has never abused his wife. Nor will the court's behavior be
framed in anything but the desire to protect abused women...
Judges know they'll be excoriated in the press if any tragedy
befalls a woman who has sought a restraining order without success.
That judge will be tried and hanged in the press. It is so
much easier to solve this problem, and to avoid this fate, by
taking the zero-tolerance oath. It gives the impression that
the judge cares deeply about the dangers faced by abused women...
Who will leap to his feet to object to the appearance of an altruistic
act?" Can you see how it's possible under these conditions
for the vast majority of false allegations to succeed in the
Page One: What do you think would
be a solution and how far have you pushed for your ideas? Why
do judges and courts overlook true due process when it come to
S. Richmond: The answer will be found
in developing new judicial guidelines. Associations and groups
of judges, along with citizen advisory boards, will need to formulate
and ratify a body of professional practice guidelines... guidelines
that have specific procedures for handling requests for protection.
This will have to happen at federal and state levels. Procedures
will have to be selected for their ability to reflect the principle
of due process. Does that sound difficult? I don't think it
is. The guidelines that I envision won't be extremely difficult
to formulate... I've spent years formulating new social policies...
The problem will be in getting judges to put any new procedures
into action. The problems will be with implementation. The
resistance will be formidable. Government will have to support
the reforms. And, as we talk about this, I wish I could say
I'm optimistic, but the whole undertaking feels like a David
and Goliath scenario... and I'm not that good with a slingshot.
Actually, since I've been adjudicated as an offender, I think
it would be illegal for me to even have a slingshot in my possession!
Page One: What do you wish you had
addressed in your book that you did not?
S. Richmond: I wish I had said more about the extent
of abuse of men by the women in their lives. Most people have
no idea that credible research has repeatedly shown that responsibility
for family violence is shared almost equally between men and
women. Most people believe that only men abuse, and only women
are victims. This perception is totally distorted. I think
we have much to do to raise people's awareness of women's violence
against men. I think a terrible injustice has been done to abused
men. I think, for example, that I was abused by my wife. I
think that her use of the restraining order was in the service
of her need for power and control over me. I wish I'd said more
about this. Perhaps I will, in the next book.
Page One:Terms of Enforcement concentrates
on men who are accused of abuse. Let's turn the tables -- From
your perspective and experience, do courts/judges/the system
treat female abusers differently? Yes,/No? Please explain. Give
a true account if possible.
S. Richmond: I wish I could say that I know enough
about this to answer you fully, but I don't. And I don't want
to walk the plank of speculation. Of course, I hear reports
from others who say they know a lot about this, but I can't honestly
speak to this from personal experience. I do hope that those
who have first-hand experience will write up their stories and
send them to me. I'd like to include them in the book that will
follow Terms of Enforcement. In the Postscript, I've
included an address where people can mail their stories to me.
Page One: This book was a personal
account from your own experiences -- Was this book easy or difficult
to write? Please explain.
I believe this book will prove to be the most difficult thing
I'll ever write. It has been essential that I write it, so I
have no regrets about that... It has been truly a therapeutic
experience. But, what's made it so hard has to do with my daughters.
They are in the middle of all of this... They love their father,
and they love their mother. I've needed to balance their need
for privacy against my need to tell the story. I've had to struggle
with this every step of the way. I have not wanted to attack
their mother. I have wanted to attack the system that colluded
with my wife and succeeded in twisting my life into a pretzel.
Page One: What did you learn from
writing this book that you were not aware of before you started?
S. Richmond: I completely misjudged the behavior
of the court. I knew that I had nothing to fear from an investigation
of my wife's charges against me. Actually, this was a factor
in my decision to violate the restraining order, despite the
fact that this turned out to be a really bad, that is, unfortunate,
decision. I had nothing to fear from the facts and the evidence.
What I wasn't aware of was this... I needed to be afraid of
the people charged with responsibility for gathering the facts
and evidence. I completely misjudged them. They were determined
to interpret my behavior in one way only. No matter how I behaved,
those standing in judgment of me were determined to draw a single,
pre-ordained conclusion. I didn't have a chance.
Let me digress a little. I may still be a bit vague, but Dr.
Morgan was a big help on this. She would say that my experience
can only be fully appreciated if we understand paradox. I was
in a double bind. I was damned if I did, and damned if I didn't.
For example, I felt and acted a little "crazy" after
being falsely accused of abuse. But, what sane person wouldn't
feel upset by such a thing? Dr. Morgan would say this was evidence
of my health. The court and the clinicians at Worcester State
Hospital claimed that this was evidence that I was an abuser
and a danger to my wife. Dr. Morgan would say that if I had
acted "normal" after having my life overturned by these
events, that kind of response would prove that I was "abnormal."
Who in his right mind would act as if nothing had just happened
after his wife of 30 years had succeeded in portraying him as
a spousal abuser? Think about it. Like I said, because of the
people... not the facts... I didn't have a chance.
Page One: Through your personal therapy
with Dr. Morgan, you wrote a detailed letter to the Judge telling
him how "awful" you found of his handling of your case
--- After you wrote this letter you headed to the post office
to mail it but decided not to mail the letter at that time. Please
explain the emotions and thoughts you were having at that moment
in time -- What kept you from mailing the letter? What was your
personal and professional outcome with this judge?
S. Richmond: I spent a lot of time just plain confused.
Plus, after I was forced to endure a cold turkey withdrawal
from Klonopin, I spent over a year dissociated and depersonalized
every day... I think it's amazing that I could make sense of
anything for a while... But even before that, nothing in my
life seemed to make sense once my wife succeeded in portraying
me as a dangerous man. I felt as if I had no rudder, no stability,
no ability to judge experience accurately. Actually, I can now
laugh about a lot of the things that didn't make sense. Let
me tell you two of them. First of all, the Newington court officer
who gave me my Klonopin when I was in the lock-up at the courthouse...
That court officer happens to be a Baptist minister and one of
the finest people I know... ever since my court troubles, whenever
I've returned to the courthouse, we've greeted one another warmly
and I've since accepted an invitation to sing at the Baptist
church as a result... I know that we'll be on good terms forever.
Then there's this story. I really love this story. One day,
at the court, I was standing in the Clerk's office picking up
an audiotape... I purchased audiotapes of all the Hearings so
I could quote directly from them for the book... Well, the Clerk
Magistrate approached me. "You're a singer!" he said.
I was wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Ludwig van Beethoven
on the back, along with performance information about a series
of concerts featuring The Ninth Symphony. The New Hampshire
Music Festival had issued the t-shirts to members of the chorus.
We had just completed this series of concerts. "Yes,"
I answered tentatively. Henry's comment surprised me. I was
sure he'd recognized me as the evil man he'd arraigned in his
office on the charge of criminal threatening. I remember the
way he looked at me and the wooden cross that sat on the chair
to his right. I was sure he'd concluded that I was someone to
throw on the trash heap. "This is exciting," Henry
continued. "We're looking for singers for the Newington
Choral Society. Can you join us? We could really use you. We
need basses. You have a nice voice. I'll bet you've got a great
voice for choral singing." At this point, I was sure Henry
didn't remember me. "I'm not sure you remember me, Mr.
Shultz," I began to explain. "I'm the guy you arraigned..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he interjected. I continued to
speak. "Judge Clinkscales found me guilty of domestic violence
and I'm on probation for two years... I could still go to jail
if the court decided..." "But, Mr. Richmond,"
Henry said soberly, as he knit his brow in an expression that
suggested he thought that what I was saying made no sense whatsoever.
"These things may be true but let me ask you this... And
this is the only thing that matters here...Does your court trouble
affect your ability to sing? Has the court ordered you not to
sing? We could really use a good bass in our chorus. I'm sure
you'd like us. We're a great group of people."
I've been smiling about the absurdity of these encounters ever
since. Sometimes I laugh out loud about them... Sometimes I
cry out loud about them. Anyway, thank you for the opportunity
to talk with you about all of this. It's been helpful to step
back and reflect a little.
Page One: Why did you end the book the way you
S. Richmond: I wanted to make a point about things
political, and things personal. I think that when a person has
an experience like mine, he has to accept that his heart has
been broken. There's no other possibility. If he's going to
move ahead in his life in a healthy way, he'll have to feel his
heartbreak. That's the work of therapy. It takes enormous courage
for people to feel their heartbreak, but I believe it's the only
way to heal after such a profound personal betrayal. I wanted
to offer people an example of what's required to move ahead.
God knows we need to lobby for judicial reforms, legislative
reforms and the like. But we need to be absolutely clear that
policy reform will not heal a broken heart. I worry that some
people may be looking to political action to fix a deep personal
injury. That just can't happen.
Page One: What general advice do
you have for writers who just completed their first book? What
do they do now?
S. Richmond: If they have ever raised
a child, they will know what they must do... They must usher
their book into the world. It's all about getting the word out.
After writing, the author has to do whatever it takes to get
the book into every possible pair of hands.
Page One: Tell me about your publishing
experience -- You published independently with Trafford. Is it
a difficult process to publish on your own?
S. Richmond: I have published through
a mainstream publisher before, but I wanted the independence
of publishing Terms of Enforcement on my own. The difficult
part of publishing is the patience it takes. Most people have
no idea how disciplined and patient you must be in order to complete
the process. It takes time... period.
Page One:Are you working on a follow
up? Or something totally different?
S. Richmond: I am hoping to compile
the stories of other men (and women) whose encounters with the
courts illustrate more of the problems we face with zero-tolerance
policies. In my Postscript I have included an address to
which readers may send their stories. Aside from the follow up
to Terms of Enforcement, I have several other writing
projects in the works, both fiction and non fiction. One is a
narrative children's poem, entitled The Year Long Day in search
of a children's book illustrator.
Page One: What was the last book
S. Richmond: I have been a big fan
of Douglas Adams for many years, and since his death last year
I have been re-reading his Hitchhiker books. There's nobody in
modern fiction who can challenge Adams for social satire. His
stories are a tonic for the soul. Literature lost a great talent.
Page One: Do you have any hobbies?
What are they? How do they enhance your writing.
S. Richmond: Language of all kinds
fascinates me. But learning languages is difficult. Still, this
didn't stop me from studying Icelandic for four years. I hope
to spend a few months hiking in Iceland. I love travel and getting
the feel of other cultures. All of this contributes to my writing.