This summer a California court temporarily entered a restraining order against Major League Baseball’s Trevor Bauer, a pitcher for the Dodgers. The allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault against a sports celebrity, and the way the local news outlets covered the issue, spotlights how power and celebrity can affect the victims of wealthy abusers.
On June 29, 2021, a San Diego woman filed a petition for a domestic violence restraining order against Trevor Bauer in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The lengthy complaint graphically described two violent sexual encounters, the second of which resulted in a hospital visit and two diagnoses: “an acute head injury and assault by manual strangulation.” The woman admitted that each sexual encounter began as “consensual and non-threatening,” but said that the Dodgers’ pitcher soon escalated his behavior until he “began putting his fingers down my throat in an aggressive manner” and “wrapped my hair around my neck and choked me.”
The California family court judge granted the initial restraining order against Trevor Bauer. Three days later the MLB suspended him from play based on its 2015 domestic violence policy. Bauer’s suspension has been extended twice since then, with pay, because no criminal charges have yet been filed.
However, when Trevor Bauer and his accuser went to court in August, Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman ruled in favor of the ball-player. No one contested the physically violent behavior. However, the judge believed Bauer when he said everything that happened -- including when Bauer choked his partner into unconsciousness and punched her in the head -- was consensual. The judge ruled that Bauer did not need to testify, since he anticipated invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in response to virtually every question. Ultimately, the judge terminated the restraining order, saying that the accusations were “materially misleading” and that Bauer was unlikely to come after his accuser again.
The way power and celebrity colors allegations of domestic violence and sexual abuse can be seen in how news outlets like the Los Angeles Times covered the Trevor Bauer restraining order. Bauer’s “history of harassing and bullying women online, mocking transgender people and spreading conspiracy theories” was buried in a lengthy article about how much the Dodgers needed him on their team. The Court’s decision, too, reflects a tendency to give celebrities the benefit of the doubt, rather than erring on the side of protecting their victims.
The rich and powerful can also use their resources to intimidate victims of sexual assault and domestic violence into silence. In August, a second Ohio woman dismissed a temporary restraining order against Bauer after his attorneys threatened to sue her for filing a “bogus protection petition as a ruse to demand millions of dollars.” Following the hearing terminating his restraining order, Trevor Bauer announced he planned to ask the court to order his accuser to pay his attorney fees in defending himself. He said the petition was filed not because his accuser felt threatened, but to “gain publicity and harm [Bauer’s] career.” Bauer’s contract with the L.A. Dodgers is for $38 million per year. Attorney fees in a case like this could easily be tens of thousands of dollars.
When domestic abuse survivors are affluent themselves, coming forward about their experiences can carry more than just financial consequences. Domestic violence is often seen as a “low class” problem. Studies say that a higher number of victims come from households earning $15,000 to $24,999 per year than in other income brackets. However, that data is likely misleading. It comes from organizations like domestic abuse shelters designed to help victims who don’t have the means to escape abusive situations on their own.
When wealthy women leave abusive partners, they generally have the means to get a hotel, travel to stay with family, or even rent their own apartment while the domestic violence case and possible divorce play out in the courts. Still, the impression these statistics leave is that rich, powerful people can’t be the victims of abuse, and that is simply not true. That can make it harder for women and men from affluent communities to speak out against their powerful partners and receive the support they need to end the abuse.
At ADZ Law, LLP, we advocate for survivors at all income levels, helping them protect their families and exercise their rights in court. We understand how the rich and the powerful use their influence to silence their victims. We stand up for our clients against domestic violence and against abusive partners who try to use the family court. Our legal team is sympathetic to your experience, and we will work with you to get the protection you need without folding to claims that your needs are somehow a play for money or publicity. We invite you to contact ADZ Law, LLP to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help you.