I read the attached article this morning and my heart dropped. It’s about a 21 yr old who faces decades in jail for defending herself against her abuser.
The laws surrounding Domestic Violence are so archaic in both the USA (where this case is from) and even in Canada.
This article is about a woman who was continually assaulted by her boyfriend pre and post separation. He stalked her and harassed her post separation and even briefly kidnapped their enfant son. All to intimidate her so he could maintain power and control of her (the base reason why Domestic Violence happens).
This woman does all the right things though, according to the law (initially). She reports the assaults, the stalking, the threats and the kidnapping of their son. She gets a Protection Order. She does what a battered woman is told to do in our society.
It ends with a final confrontation where he attempts to kill her, but in the end, in the fight for her life she kills him.
The actions of the Police and the Prosecutor in this case are deplorable. She is charged with murder!!
In the trial the Prosecutor victim blames this woman for the final confrontation even happening saying she should not have had any contact with him if she knew he was violent!! What was she supposed to do? For one thing they shared a son and he had visitation. Then there is her mental state. What the Courts, in both the USA and Canada fail to ever acknowledge is the mental trauma battered women suffer leading up to this final confrontation. This woman has suffered terrible abuse of all kinds from this man, he has already taken their son from her, used his access to their son as an avenue to still abuse her, threatened her family and all of this leads her to being terrified of him and treading very carefully when he appears. Like this article says she is in the same dynamic of a hostage taking. He has taken her hostage in her own home.
When I first moved away from my marital home I saw a counsellor in my new community. After a few sessions of telling her what happened in my marriage she looked at me and said, “He held you hostage in your own life. The psychological trauma that you endured to then get PTSD is at a similar level as Holocaust victims.” That statement blew me away at first. I thought about the magnitude of trauma Holocaust victims endured and wondered if it really was the same. After doing some research and reading I learned that the trauma to the brain is very similar between Holocaust victims and battered women. And yes we are held hostage in our own life through violence and intimidation. We don’t live our own lives. We are controlled by a man we love and were told loved us in return (that is a mentally damaging concept all on its own). If we are living with our abuser we are on alert 24/7 for potential danger, not only for ourselves but for many there are children to protect. Now you live in that environment day after day, year after year and you no longer think like a healthy person. You are like a rabbit always on alert, ready to fight to the death at any moment (I use a rabbit in this case as I have one and he has a very animalistic brain that is constantly in the fight or flight mode). You know what your abuser is capable of. You know him better than anyone else. You know that through all of his actions that you are right to fear him and tread carefully. And yes you want out, but how do you leave safely? Often after you do leave they don’t leave you alone anyways. You are their possession. And like this woman was told by her abuser, “It’s not over until I say it’s over!”
Yet when this final confrontation happened and this woman defended herself she was still charged! Her actions throughout the relationship were questioned. Just like in my case. In my case the biggest focus was put on the fact that I didn’t lock my bedroom door therefore I must have wanted to have sex with my ex. It didn’t matter that I explained to the Courts that I had three young children that were suffering nightmares (from the abuse in the home) and often ended up in my bed at night. That I needed to be available to them, rather than lock my door and cause them further trauma. It didn’t matter that I explained that my ex knew how to unlock the door in 2 secs. That he had shown me how to do it when our son had locked himself in our room as a toddler. It didn’t matter that I explained how terrified I was of him, that he was already physically abusing our toddler son so I worried that if I locked the door this might enflame his anger and my son would suffer as a result. It didn’t matter that I told my ex no. I, somehow, was at fault for the sexual assaults because I didn’t lock my bedroom door (a room I no longer shared with him).
None of that mattered. None of what years of being a battered woman did to me psychologically mattered. I should have somehow still operated like a healthy, and uncaring to my children, woman and locked my bedroom door and therefore prevented the assaults!
The Court system needs to understand “the battered woman” and have laws that support them. Perhaps if they did men like George Zimmerman would have been convicted for stalking and killing that teenage boy in Florida and Marissa Alexander, who shot warning shots at her abusive partner, or this 21 yr old who was fighting for her life would not be ending up in jail.
I can only hope and pray that one day abused women are truly supported by our legal system and not further victimized.
About Janet B
I am a Domestic Violence Survivor, who battles PTSD. I share what I know to help others on their journey and to help educate society. I also Supervise a Mentoring Program at Verbal Abuse Journals (http://verbalabusejournals.com/). This program matches Survivors who have been out of the abusive relationship for a few years, and are now Mentors, with Survivors who are either still in an abusive relationship or have just left. A mentoring relationship is set up via email where the Mentor offers guidance and support to the Survivor for as long as they need. Please feel free to sign up for this free service at http://ow.ly/LSii8
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