Posted at 05:43 a.m. PDT; Thursday, October 21, 1999
Stalking Knows No Gender BiasNicole Brodeur
Seattle Times Staff Columnist
There were threats. Phone calls at all hours. Broken glass, broken promises, police at the door and lawyers on the phone.
Mostly, though, there was fear. "I have been watching my back for 15 months. I don't know what to do."
How strange to hear those words from a man. This is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time when we usually turn our attention to the plight of women who are terrorized by possessive, troubled men.
But the case of Jon Wells vs. Linda Ayers has shown us that love-turned-to-fright isn't always just a man's work - and that sometimes, the system doesn't work at all.
"There is a gender bias here," Seattle Municipal Court Judge Fred Bonner acknowledged Tuesday, as he ordered Ayers to complete 250 hours of community service for violating a no-contact order regarding Wells.
It was her third violation. The only reason the judge spared Ayers jail time, he explained, is that she is the mother of four children. Bonner also ordered Ayers, 40, to stay away from Wells, 37, or she will go to jail for three years.
After the proceeding, Ayers was gleeful, and taunted Wells' attorney, David Leen, outside the courtroom. "She was gloating about not going to jail," Leen told me. "In my mind, if she were a man, she would have gotten six months in jail.
"Spare her to raise the kids? It's ridiculous."
It's more than that.
It's a form of child abuse. It's a miscarriage of law. It's sex discrimination.
And it's hell for Jon Wells.
"She's been stalking me for 15 months," he said of Ayers. His voice sounded nervous, tentative, like a spender dodging his creditors.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "This judge basically told her that she is entitled to do this because she has children."
According to court records, Ayers, of Mercer Island, violated restraining orders seven times.
She was convicted of two protective-order violations and of breaking a glass door at Wells' West Seattle home.
"What she has done is even worse than stalking," Wells said. "She hasn't stopped. Nothing has made her stop. Every time I called the police, it made her angrier."
"Oh, bull----," said one of Ayers' attorneys, Frank Shoichet. "Oh, God. No way. It's a ruse (Wells) has been pulling all this time."
If it is a ruse, it is a very good one, for the fear I heard in Wells' voice was familiar and real.
I've just never heard it from a man.
But Lisa Scott, a divorce attorney and founder of the court-reform group TABS (Taking Action against Bias in the System), said more men are speaking out as victims.
"Most people say, `He's a man, he can take it. He should be able to take care of himself,' but there has been a lot of violence committed by women.
"When men say that women have done things to them, we need to listen."
I'm listening to Wells, because his words are familiar, and frightening.
They should be to a judge, too.
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in The Times. Her phone number is 206-464-2334.
Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
Copyright © 1999 The Seattle Times Company