Actor Charlie Sheen pled guilty recently to a misdemeanor assault charge which stemmed from his arrest in December after assaulting his wife. As part of his plea agreement, he is to complete a 36 hour anger management program. Brooke Sheen in her police statement reported that the actor threatened to kill her after she told him she wanted a divorce. She said he straddled her on a bed with one hand on her neck and the other hand holding a knife. Charlie Sheen told police he and his wife had argued but denied threatening her. He told officers they slapped each other on the arms and that he had snapped two pairs of her eyeglasses in front of her, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Sheen told police he was upset by the divorce threat. Sheen pled no contest several years ago after assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
Since reports of Sheen’s sentencing, there has been much speculation that Sheen received special treatment since he did not receive jail time. In my opinion, no he did not receive special treatment. Jail time for a domestic violence assault, especially at the misdemeanor level, seems to be rare.
But what is even more frustrating than the lack of jail time is the sentencing requirement of anger management. One thing that those of us know in the field is that batterers do not have a problem managing their anger! In fact, they seem to manage their anger quite well. A person with anger management issues tends to explode all over the place –at work, in the neighborhood, with wait staff and bank tellers, with slow traffic and poor service and the list goes on.
Batterers typically focus all of their abusive tactics on their partner or ex-partner and this form of abuse is not a lack of impulse control but a repeated pattern of abuse. A batterer also uses multiple tactics beyond physical or verbal abuse. They use emotional, economic and sexual abuse as well.
Anger management is an all too common sentencing requirement. Sheen will receive 36 hours of anger management counseling which I’m sure he will successful complete. He will probably learn some great techniques on how to reduce his stress and how to appropriate express his emotions. But will he have addressed how his abuse affects his partner and children? Will he addressing the root causes for his abusive behavior and use of battering tactics? Doubtful.
Think about this scenario – if Sheen had held down his boss or neighbor or a stranger down by the neck with a knife on one hand –would he have received probation and anger management classes?