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Rebecca Rodriguez
English 123
Professor Murdock
26 November 2017
Saving what was Lost
Domestic Violence has always been a controversial topic. What I mean by that is

everyone talks about, gives their own opinions on it, even criticizes the parties involved, but no

one wants to really do anything about it. Today, there are women who are currently in prison due

to the fact they murdered their abusers after years of abuse. Some of them did press charges as

well as had their abusers go to jail but the system did not protect them. Those survivors are

currently serving ten plus years to life for simply wanting to get away from their abusers and

saying enough is enough. They took matters into their hands and were punished after asking for

help for however long they requested it. There are ways to protect these women and not many of

the victim are aware of it. That’s why I chose this topic: someone, somewhere is in dire need of

help and they are not aware of the history resources for Domestic Violence victims and

survivors.

When I was growing up, I witnessed Domestic Violence first hand. My father had

taking advantage of my mother for over sixteen years. One day, when she found out he was

seeing another woman to what seemed like the hundredth time, she said, “Enough.” She packed

all our things and moved my two older siblings and I away. My mom had no income of her own

or even a job. Even though she was against the odds, she made miracles happen. I cannot say that

is the case with most women who have been in my mom shoes.

Although my mother is doing so much better than she was twenty-two years ago, there

are those who are still suffering. Some DV (Domestic Violence) and sexual assault victims are
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currently in prison because they stood up to their abusers. These women are the ones who were

punished for merely wanting to not live in a lifestyle where it was so unhealthy and several of

these women have children. The victims had the fight or flight mentality. Either run away from

the abuse or fight back. Now, these women are part of an issue in America: Mass Incarceration.

Eighty six percent of women who are in prison have been victims of both DV and sexual assault

(Cox, Karen). But why are these women continuing to suffer? Is it because we believe that they

should have stood up for themselves and children sooner? Or maybe it is because they were so

afraid they held that pain in for so long before they decided to make an instinctual decision and

take their abusers lives. Not only has society made these victims afraid, but the judicial system as

well. There are resources out there for the victims and there are certain protocols that should be

done to protect DV victims. Nevertheless, these victims are still being failed. Domestic Violence

has been a controversial topic lately but then again, therefore I chose this specific topic. Those

who are involved in the issue of mass incarceration need a voice just as much as the DV and

sexual assault victims who are a part of it.

Upon doing my research, I saw that there DV was never really taken seriously and it the

man that always seemed to have a right to abuse his wife and children. There were even laws in

Ancient Roman times that permitted a husband to beat his wife if she did not submit to him.

There was even a code called The Roman Code of Paterfamilias that stated, "If you should

discover your wife in adultery, you may with impunity put her to death without a trial, but if you

should commit adultery or indecency, she must not presume to lay a finger on you, nor does the

law allow it,” (“Overview of Historical Laws that Supported Domestic Violence.”). Or let’s look

at how the wives were treated Medieval Times, “wifely disobedience be punished publicly, using

devices like iron muzzles with spikes which depressed the tongue,” (“Overview of Historical
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Laws that Supported Domestic Violence.”). Again, totally normal and very highly recommended

for that time. It was not until during the French Renaissance that they made a law (after some

women and children were dying from the beatings they endured) that indicated for the

“punishments” to just be “blows, thumps, kicks or punches on the back...which did not leave any

marks,” (“Overview of Historical Laws that Supported Domestic Violence.”). As if that made it

any better for those women and children who suffered. It took some centuries and some time, but

once the 20th century hit, DV was starting to become a more serious topic. In Vermont in 1990, if

someone violated a protection order, they would be punished depending on what law

enforcement wanted to give some type of penalty. It may appear that there have been some type

of protection and prevention done for DV victims, yet there is still some type of disregard for

their well-being.

Today, there are DV and sexual assault victims are terrified of coming forward with the

type of misery they have gone through and are embarrassed, and at times judged, for coming

forward with the abuse. We are so quick to judge others without even knowing the history

behind it. There is always a story for everyone one of us. We all have a journey. For some, we

are living in a constant state of struggle and that’s the type of journey I want to express to those

women who are in prison. There are others who are a voice for these women and it appears that

they are fallen on deaf ears. It is time for there to be another outlet as well as a voice for these

women who are in a constant state of fear.

You hear a lot of the media and society asking the many questions, “Well, why did they

have to take matters into their own hands? Why did they not report their abuse to the proper

authorities? And why did they stay?” The issue when it comes to DV victims is that they are so

convinced by their abusers that they cannot live without them. Abusers will do anything to break
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down a victim and make them feel as if they are alone and no one wants to help them. And some

are just unaware that there are resources out there that will happen. As far as a victim taking their

abusers life, that is where the flight or fight instinct takes over. The victim is tired of running.

The victim is tired of the abuse and more times than not, they are tired of being afraid.

Additionally, there have been several instances as well where a victim has reported their

abuse to law enforcement. Their abusers have gone to prison, but for short periods of time. In

one woman’s case, she had a paper trail when she was with her boyfriend, Oliver Williams.

Valerie Seeley explains how even though she had the proof she was being abused and did her

best to take not only her but her children away from that environment. I was in denial for a long

time,” explains Seeley. “I felt ashamed. My self-esteem was so low. I was afraid that people

would blame me,” (Law Victoria). Even when Williams was sent to prison for the constant

abuse, he kept coming back. A Judge had authorized Williams to go to a twenty-eight-week

violence program that he would constantly miss as well as to continue to threaten and abuse

Seeley. When the day came that Seeley had stabbed Williams, she was sentenced to prison five

years later for second-degree murder. She states that she was abused by the system and is still

getting abuse in prison.

While women like Valerie Seeley in prison, there has been laws to protect survivors like

her. In New Jersey on January 2014, State Senator Loretta Weinberg, “introduced S995, a bill

that would allow survivors convicted of crimes against their abusers to participate in a supervised

community-reintegration program. The Law and Public Safety Committee unanimously

approved the Assembly version of the bill (A1677) in September. The Judiciary Committee will

consider it in early 2015. The Senate unanimously passed the bill on October 23, 2014,” (Law,
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Victoria). Although it may seem that Seeley is not being heard while being incarcerated, at least

there are in the beginning stages of some type of protocol for them to recover.

It is amazing to see that women are beginning to be taken care of while in prison but what

about those who have nowhere to turn? Should law enforcement be more educated when it

comes to DV? Should shelters have better resources instead of turning these women away? The

answer should always be, “Yes!” Luckily, there have been measures for a police department to

create a Crisis Team. The crisis team would entail to “decrease future domestic violence and to

increase the amount of services available to victims,” (Corcoran and Allen 41). When you think

about it, this should be the main root of it all when it comes to helping these victims. We must

start somewhere and if police departments across the United States can each create a

program/crisis team for the victims, imagine the lack of incarcerated women who took matters

into their own hands but later are punished for those actions.

All in all, we are all taught to help one another. That no one should ever feel like they are

alone in this word; however, how can we turn a blind eye to those who are truly suffering and are

reaching? For the DV and sexual assault victims, they are the ones who need help. Those are in

prison for standing up to their abusers need help. There needs to be constant protection for these

women, not just physically but mentally as well.


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Works Cited
“Overview of Historical Laws that Supported Domestic Violence.” WomenSafe, 2011.

http://www.womensafe.net/home/index.php/domesticviolence/29-overview-of-historical-

laws-that-supported-domestic-violence

Cox, Karen L. "Most Women in Prison Are Victims of Domestic Violence. That's Nothing

New." Time.Com, 02 Oct. 2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost,

libproxy.calbaptist.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db

=aph&AN=125448928&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Corcoran, J. (1,2) and S. (2) Allen. "The Effects of a Police/Victim Assistance Crisis Team

Approach to Domestic Violence." Journal of Family Violence, vol. 20, no. 1, 01 Feb.

2005, p. 39-45. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10896-005-1508-0.

Law, Victoria. “Domestic violence victims in NY prisons may get some relief.” Al Jazeera

America, 1 Jan. 2015, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/1/1/domestic-

violencevictimsinnyprisonsmaygetsomerelief.html
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