How Far Can Abused Women Go To Protect Themselves? (Gender Bias in the Legal System) by E. Flock
I was horrified and upset to see illustrated in this report the huge double standard between how men and women are treated legally if and when they use self defense – women come out being treated unfairly, while men do not.
This happens to be a very long read, but I encourage the reader to click the link to the read the entire piece.
I will only be providing some excerpts from the page, not the entire page, on my blog.
[Long story involving a woman named Brittany who was doing a favor for her drug-addicted friend, Todd.
Todd phoned Brittany claiming to be stranded and without a place to stay, so she picked him up and allowed him to stay at her place.
Once he was at Brittany’s place, he brutally raped and beat her, and told her if she told the police or anyone else that he would murder her.
Things escalated more, when Brittany managed to warn her family about Todd keeping her hostage all day.
Brittany’s brother Chris confronted Todd, Brittany had to shoot and kill Todd to save her brother Chris from being killed by Todd.
Brittany called 911 to get Todd, who was dying on the floor, some medical help, and the police showed up to her home.
If I recall correctly, the police took photos of Brittany once they got there, and there was, I believe, a medical test performed on her at a hospital, where medical professionals logged the extent of injuries Brittany had suffered at Todd’s hands. I think there was a rape test performed as well.
The point being, either the police or hospital staff (or both) had PROOF that Brittany had been raped and beaten by Todd.
When all was said and done, the legal system and the court appointed psychiatrists and psychologists then proceeded to blame Brittany and to treat her like a lunatic and a liar.
During one appointment with a mental health professional, the doctor laughed in amusement when she told him how Todd mocked her voice when she was begging him to stop raping her.
The article goes on to say that in states that have a “stand your ground law,” the legal side always believes the men who say they were acting in self defense, and these men get off.
However, women who claim self defense are thrown in jail, they are not believed. Judges won’t allow their claims of domestic violence be brought up in court cases, even though the women killed their husbands or boyfriends because they were being beaten literally to death.]
…Initially, Chris and Brittany [who are siblings] told the police that he had killed Todd.
Both of them believed that a woman who had defended herself against violence would never get a fair trial in Jackson County, where Stevenson is situated.
“I hate to say this, but, Jackson County, they’re a little bit behind on the times,” Chris told me, arguing that, if law enforcement had known that it was Brittany who fired the gun, they would not have taken her for a rape-kit examination until it was too late.
Women, he said, “get the short end of the stick.”
….Nearly every woman I met in the county had a story of domestic violence. Often, drugs played a role. One woman, a single mother and a neighbor of the McCallies, told me that her husband of fourteen years, while on meth, had “stomped my head in until I passed out.”
Another woman told me that she’d been sexually assaulted as a child, and that her ex-husband had held her hostage at gunpoint. On both occasions, she said, authorities made her feel as if she were to blame.
“Instead of being treated like the victim, it was more like my fault,” she said. “They said if I did anything to him, I would have been the one going to jail. . . . What am I supposed to do, let him beat me and end up dead?”
Fighting back against rapists and abusers is a valid legal defense. But women with persuasive self-defense claims continue to be charged with murder.
Some of the women said that they had not reported the violence because they did not have confidence in law enforcement.
Sandra Goodman, a local rape-victim advocate who took on Brittany’s case, told me that, when a woman makes a report, the police often “don’t acknowledge it.”
In her role as an advocate, Goodman provides transportation and attends court hearings for women who have been sexually assaulted. She is also the vice-president of Healing Bridge, a nonprofit in LaFayette, Georgia, which offers free counselling to victims of sexual abuse.
Goodman said that the center often takes clients from Jackson County, because resources there are few.
She described the violence in the county as an epidemic. “A lot of the time, they take the woman’s statement and that’s where it stops,” she said, referring to the local police.
Throughout the two-thousands, Alabama was among the states where a woman was most likely to be murdered by a man, according to F.B.I. data analyzed by the Violence Policy Center, a gun-crime-prevention group.
In 2011, Alabama stopped submitting its homicide data to the Bureau, but Georgia and Tennessee, its neighbors, are still in the top ten.
Brittany believed that, if she had not shot Todd, he would have killed her and Chris. “I did what I thought I had to do, what I did have to do, no doubt in my mind,” she said. …
A review by researchers at the University of South Carolina and at Yale, in 2008, which drew on dozens of previous studies, found that when women used violence against male partners it generally occurred after violence was done to them.
The review noted that women were more likely to be motivated by self-defense and by fear, while men’s use of violence was more often motivated by control.
“I’ve been beaten in my head with hammers, I had my ear drum busted, I had my nose busted, I been hit in the ribs with a bat,” one woman told researchers.
“When I started fighting back he know what happens now, [they] got these laws where you both fight you go to jail. So I got a jail record for assault. . . . God, what is the justice in this?”
Courts frequently do not take evidence of abuse into account.
Sometimes this is because a woman’s lawyer fails to hire an expert witness to testify about the effects of sexual or domestic violence.
A prosecutor may successfully argue that a woman’s self-defense claim is invalid because she didn’t end a relationship with an abuser,
didn’t call the police about the violence (as Brittany didn’t [because Todd told her if she phoned anyone and told them what he did to her, he would kill her]),
or allowed the abuser into her home (as Brittany did [because she felt compassion for him, because he phoned her and said he didn’t have a place to stay]).
Or a judge may not permit the evidence of abuse to be presented.
In 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Tracey Grissom was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for murder, for shooting her ex-husband, Hunter. The judge did not allow jurors to hear that, in 2010, Hunter had been charged with rape and sodomy after allegedly assaulting Grissom.
Grissom said that he had knocked her to the ground, choked her with a drumstick, and sexually abused her until she lost consciousness.
She said the attack caused rectal-nerve damage and required surgery, and that she now used a colostomy bag.
The day of the shooting, she said, she’d feared for her life, but eyewitnesses said that she had begun shooting without provocation.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Grissom said, sobbing, after her conviction. “All I did was protect myself.”
One of the jurors later said that, if she’d been able to hear the details of the abuse, she would have voted to acquit.
An analysis of F.B.I. homicide data performed, at my request, by John Roman, a senior fellow at N.O.R.C. at the University of Chicago, illuminates the differences in outcomes for women and men who claim self-defense.
Roman examined the number of justifiable homicides—a killing deemed to have been carried out without malicious or criminal intent—between 1976 and 2018, and found that the likelihood of this ruling in cases in which men killed other men was ten per cent greater than when women killed men. (Cases in which men kill women or women kill women are almost never found to be justified.)
In Alabama, the gender disparity was even greater. Before the state stopped reporting such data to the F.B.I., women lost their cases twenty-five per cent more often than men did.
….After that, according to Parker [Todd’s first wife] and to arrest reports from the time, the violence escalated.
Todd broke her nose, ribs, and jaw, and bit her on the face. “I was also beaten and raped and sodomized for years by this man,” she said. “I know what Brittany went through that night, because I went through it for years.”
While they were married, Todd was charged with domestic violence five times, but he never went to jail for those charges. Even after Parker filed for divorce, in 2003, the violence did not end.
…After the divorce, Todd continued to be arrested on charges of domestic violence, including toward a woman with whom he had a child, but they were dismissed.
Police officers remember Todd well, since they arrested him about eighty times.
A former dispatcher at the Stevenson Police Department said that, around 2009, when she failed to respond to his flirtation, he backed her against a desk and tried to tear off her shirt.
Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, who wrote a study of gender disparity in self-defense law called “Real Men Advance, Real Women Retreat,” argues that women have long been pathologized for acting in self-defense.
Battered-woman syndrome, a theory developed by a psychologist in the nineteen-seventies, has often been deployed as a defense in cases in which a woman has killed her abuser.
Franks writes that, although the argument has sometimes been successful, it is based on the idea of female irrationality.
Unlike Stand Your Ground laws, which offer justification for a defendant’s action, battered-woman syndrome proposes that a woman has “acted wrongly, but is so defective in some significant sense that she cannot be held accountable,” Franks writes.
She told me that, even when battered-woman syndrome is not mentioned in court, women who fight back “are treated pathologically, treated as if there is something wrong with their brains.”
In his analysis for The New Yorker, John Roman, the researcher from the University of Chicago, found that, over all, according to F.B.I. data, Stand Your Ground laws have actually helped both women and men win justifiable-homicide defenses. But in some states the laws have done little or nothing for women.
A statistical analysis of Stand Your Ground cases in Florida, conducted by the political scientist Justin Murphy, looked at two hundred and thirty-seven incidents between 2005 and 2013.
The study, which was published in Social Science Quarterly, in 2017, found evidence of both racial and gender bias.
The gender bias applied to “domestic” cases—those which occurred on a defendant’s property. The probability of conviction for a male defendant in such a case was about forty per cent; for a woman, it was about eighty per cent.
The analysis suggests that, in domestic cases, Stand Your Ground works better for men than for women.
In Alabama, Roman found, no women received justifiable-homicide rulings between 2006, when the state’s Stand Your Ground law was implemented, and 2010, after which the state stopped reporting its data.
…Since then, a handful of women in Alabama have won Stand Your Ground immunity. But some women with persuasive self-defense claims continue to lose.
——- end article——-
The rest of report actually gets worse from there, as to how Brittany was treated by the legal system and by mental health institutions.
Brittany was treated incredibly unfairly by the legal system, and the mental health professionals were abusive to her, when they weren’t patronizing or dismissing her concerns.
The Islam-controlled Middle East, with its Sharia law is not the only place where sexism is a problem: we have entrenched sexism in the United States, as well.
I don’t think women in abusive marriages in Alabama -and other states that don’t believe women, or take Domestic Violence seriously- would say that they think they have life any better off regarding sexism than women who live under Sharia in other (Islamic) nations.