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Rebecca Rodriguez
English 123
Professor Murdock
10 December 2017
For the Fighters
When it comes to Mass Incarceration, it appears that the focus has been the men who are

in prison. Some of these men have been wrongfully convicted or were guilty by association and

so on. What some may fail to realize is that there are women who are also incarcerated. Over

219,000 women are incarcerated in the United States and 80% of them are mothers, single

mothers who are also the sole provider for their children. A clear majority of them are also

survivors of Domestic Violence as well as sexual assault. These survivors are in prison for

murdering their abusers. There are many who think that a DV (Domestic Violence) should have

just gotten away from their abusers. There are even some of those who in the judicial system

who feel that DV is not a big issue and not everyone should say their partner is abusing them.

However, some of these women who fought back against their abusers have reported the abuse to

law enforcement. These women have tried to leave; have tried to keep their abusers away but

some just felt so helpless and did not know of the proper resources that were offered to them in

their area. Even law enforcement may have not been well educated on how to deal with a DV

dispute. The point of this assignment is to be another voice for these survivors. These survivors

were let down by our judicial system and there must be some type of acknowledgement let those

who are currently suffering that there are those who want to help. As for those who are currently

in prison that they are still being heard, there are people who hear your cries and are looking for

ways to save you. As we are stemming from the cultural norm of yesteryear to the passive

acceptance of today, it is time to encourage an environment of protection and empathy for the
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victims of DV, incarcerated or otherwise, by acknowledging its history, viewing how the judicial

system alongside with State senators handle DV, and finding a solution on how to help DV

victims as well as the survivors who currently reside in prison.

Everyone and everything has a beginning. There is always backstory to how we have

come to be in a certain situation. For Domestic Violence, it has been ongoing for centuries.

There have been several laws and codes past dating back to Roman times that abusing your wife

is justifiable. If a wife was not submissive enough, she would be beaten. It was even suitable to

beat children as well. Even today, although there are laws protecting DV (Domestic Violence)

and sexual assault victims, there are some that think it should be okay to beat your wife and

children. If she did not clean the house, beat her. If she did not want to have intercourse, beat her

and possibly rape her. If she is “speaking her mind”, beat her. When you look back at how

intense these laws were, it’s easy to understand that yes, this is the reason why our society

concludes that “she deserved it.”

Domestic Violence can be dated back during the Babylonian era. The Code of

Hammurabi authorizes that a husband can inflict punishment on his wife as well as any member

of his household for any transgression (“Overview of Historical Laws that Supported Domestic

Violence”). This is what appears to be the beginning of how one would suffer at the hands of a

spouse. It just went on from here. As the years and centuries went by, the more acceptable it was

for a husband to abuse his wife. Take Renaissance France as another example. When the leaders

of France saw that there were too many deaths of women and children due to abuse, they

simmered their laws done for head of households to “blows, thumps, kicks or punches on the

back...which did not leave any marks," but added, "the man who is not master of his wife is not

worthy of being a man” (“Overview of Historical Laws that Supported Domestic Violence”). In
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other words, although the law was against the killing of women and children in their homes, it

did not oppose the idea of still beating said women and children. It also indicated a man did not

deserve his wife, as well, if he did not hit her. There was even another law that declared, "All the

inhabitants have the right to beat their wives so long as death does not follow." (“Overview of

Historical Laws that Supported Domestic Violence”). And this specific law was to “protect”

women and children. However, this type of law was doing more harm than good for those in the

future. It would be harder to prove that a person is being abused because of how it was in the

earlier centuries. We then first see these “laws” coming about in the U.S. during the 1800’s. In

the case of Fulgam V. Alabama, there was a court ruling that stated, “The privilege, ancient

though it may be, to beat her with a stick, to pull her hair, choke her, spit in her face or kick her

about the floor or to inflict upon her other like indignities, is not now acknowledged by our law”

(“Overview of Historical Laws that Supported Domestic Violence”). This law here stated how

they were not being any type of these DV accusations. DV was still not to be fully acknowledge

during this time frame. Abuse was even called a “privilege”. It was a “privilege” for one to beat

his wife and children. But as the 20th century arises, we see a shift with DV laws.

It may not seem like it at first but there seems to finally be some progress to help DV

victims. In 1977, California’s Penal Code declares “wives charging husbands with criminal

assault and battery must suffer more injuries than commonly needed for charges of battery”

(“Overview of Historical Laws that Supported Domestic Violence”). The significance of this

penal code was showing that there was still some sort of improvement with DV laws but not all.

Of course, this Penal Code is just unfair is it not? How fair is it that a wife must prove her abuse

by not only testifying her abuse but physically showing it as well? However, California’s Penal

Code began to open new doors and shed some new light on how DV laws need to improve. In
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1990, Vermont issued a law that claims if a wife issues a protection order against her husband

and he violates that order, law enforcement can decide what the punishment will be. But there is

still a flaw in that system. Sure, an abuser could possibly face jail time for violating a protective

order, nevertheless it still not enough. It is not enough since an abuser will not face enough jail

time. Some abusers will only be sentenced for a few days or months and it is back to square one

for the DV victim. Once a victim learns their abuser is out of jail, they suddenly fear for their

lives. Some victim will even at time go back to their abusers, starting the cycle all over again.

Looking back on how DV was versus today is quite terrifying. Even considering DV

today is terrifying. It is almost insane to see and read how you can beat your wife and child if

they did not obey you or if you could not control them properly. It is as though they were viewed

as property instead of human beings. There is always a root for how things have been created.

For DV victims in prison, they did not appear in prison one day; they have tried to get away from

their abusers, but some have been too terrified to leave, or others were cornered and were forced

to make a life changing decision to end their abusers’ lives, just so they would not hurt them

again. Perhaps if DV was taken seriously from the beginning of time, there would not be, so

many women involved with mass incarceration.

Of course, this discussion is not just about DV and how it has developed over the

centuries. The ties that the history has to these women who are incarcerated for taking their

abusers lives into their own hands has played a crucial role. In the 1930’s, it seems that there

were women being sent to prison for both violent and non-violent crimes. Women in this stature

were “victims of domestic and sexual violence whose income was vital to their family

household” (Most Women in Prison Are Victims of Domestic Violence. That's Nothing New).

Due to this fact, it appears that women involved with mass incarceration increased 14-fold since
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1970. Today, over 67% of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are incarcerated for murdering

their abusers.

Fast forward to today, there has not truly been a change to allow these women the proper

freedom they deserve. However, there are more and more resources sprouting around. Most of

these resources do provide the proper information as well as the awareness that they are not

alone and there are people out there who want to help them. Abusers have such a tight hold on

their victims that they condition them into believing that they are not worth anyone else’s time.

This is not the case, of course. Even those who are in the position of power see how important it

is to help DV victims and survivors.

There are many that think when they see DV (Domestic Violence) victims going to

prison for murdering their abusers, they think that the victim deserved it. They think that the

victim did not try hard enough to try and get away. There are also those who think that the victim

deserved to be sentenced to prison for taking another life. After, all, one of the Ten

Commandments in the Bible is “You shall not murder.” But what people do not realize is that

these victims have had a paper trail for years. Some have been too terrified to even attempt to try

and leave their abuser; they are that scared. The focus should be on how we should help the

victims of DV and sexual assault. If a victim is seeking help, there should be access to resources.

Law enforcement should be able to take classes on how to handle a domestic dispute. Of course,

there are those who are going to oppose these type of efforts and resources, but the goal here is to

change that. What those who oppose helping these victims do not realize is that Domestic

Violence has cost an estimated 5 to 10 billion dollars just from medical treatment, police and

court costs, shelters and foster care, sick leave, absenteeism, and nonproductivity (“The Effects

of a Police/Victim Assistance Crisis Team Approach to Domestic Violence”). Perhaps it’s time
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to peek at what is trying to be passed along side of what we can do to prevent a DV

victim/survivor going to prison.

It seems that today, many women who are incarcerated are victims of DV and sexual

assault. Since DV has been swept under the rug in the past, it seems that it has begun to be

brought up to politicians. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey “introduced the Dignity for

Incarcerated Women Act, or the “Dignity Act,” on behalf of himself and Sens. Kamala Harris,

Elizabeth Warren and Richard Durbin” (“Most Women in Prison Are Victims of Domestic

Violence. That's Nothing New”). The goal of the bill will be to mend the treatment of those in

Federal prison. Even in New York, “The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act was

introduced in 2011 to address these concerns and is now in the state legislature’s codes

committee, which votes on any bill that would increase or decrease penalties” (“Domestic

violence victims in NY prisons may get some relief”). This type of bill here is to help judges

realize that abused women should go to alternative programs, away from prison. There are even

other laws that further punish a DV victim. With these type of bills and laws like these trying to

be passed, there is also programs that need to begin at the core. What I mean at the core is that

there needs to be programs and use of resources to help these victims before it is too late.

There are certain things that society teaches that some precautions that some should abide

by. What is the first thing we do if we need help? We dial 911. That is what DV victims do. But

at times, a police officer responding to the dispute does not know how to provide the proper

resources, know how to properly answer a question on the matter, as well as handle the situation

they are being dealt with. There needs to be a crisis team and law enforcement should be the

educated on how to handle a domestic dispute. There was a DV program for law enforcement in

1967 to respond to disputes. This program taught officers how to mediate disputes, in crisis
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intervention, as well as how to refer clinical psychologists. Little by little, other law enforcement

departments began to adopt the idea of this type of program. Law enforcement had even begun to

team up with a shelter for battered women and thus creating a Crisis Team. There were

volunteers that “completed 16 hrs. of training on the dynamics of domestic violence, laws

involving domestic violence, crisis intervention methods, and the resources and services

available in the community” (“The Effects of a Police/Victim Assistance Crisis Team Approach

to Domestic Violence”). With these type of resources, training from both law enforcements and

women’s shelters, this could potentially decrease the capacity of DV survivors who are currently

in prison. But there are some who feel this should not be the case; that a DV survivor should still

be punished, regardless of how often their abuser went to jail for DV disputes as well as violating

a protective order.

There are even programs for these women incarcerated trying to go into effect. If a victim

is sent to prison based on either being involved with their abuser of a crime or ending their lives,

they may very well be eligible for an alternative program. This alternative could be best for these

survivors. “‘A lot of survivors are forced by their abusers to make really hard decisions, like

whether or not they want to participate in their abusers’ criminal activity or keep themselves and

their children safe,’ said Saima Anjam, director of public policy at the New York State Coalition

Against Domestic Violence. ‘It can literally be a life or death decision.’” (Should Domestic

Violence Victims Go To Prison For Killing Their Abusers?). Anjam explains here how a victim

or survivor will be beneficial in an alternative program. Not only will help them start fresh in

their life, but it will also be inexpensive to keep them in a program versus keeping them in

prison. If DV victim goes to an alternative program, it will cost $11,000 a year instead of the

usual $55,000 if there were incarcerated according to a coalition of service organizations.

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Of course, there are those who feel that domestic violence victims should be punished if

not more than their abusers. Even if an abuser is punished, it does not stop them. In Topeka,

Kansa, District Attorney Chad Taylor “planned to stop prosecuting misdemeanor domestic

violence cases in response to county budget cuts, the Topeka City Council this month repealed

its misdemeanor domestic violence statute — effectively decriminalizing some domestic

violence offenses in Topeka.” (“Legal system fails abused women”). Even then, women cannot

depend on the criminal justice system to protect them. The city of Topeka has even stated they

will help with funding. Before the 1980’s, law enforcement was not allowed “to arrest in cases of

misdemeanor domestic assault” (“The Effects of a Police/Victim Assistance Crisis Team

Approach to Domestic Violence”). Unless the abuser had a felony or tried to assault a police

officer, only then did the abuser go to jail. However, the Supreme Court stated that it is

“violating Thurman’s 14th amendment right to fair and equal treatment under the law” (“The

Effects of a Police/Victim Assistance Crisis Team Approach to Domestic Violence”). It does

appear they are stating that abusers could be the real victims and survivors here. Some may argue

that there are two sides to every story and sometimes there truly are. Both sides should be looked

over as well as the side that is trying to fight for one’s life.

There is another law that further keeps a DV victim silent. The Failure to Protect

Law is when “a parent who doesn’t intervene when someone harms her child, or who fails to

leave her child’s abuser, fails in that regard” (‘Failure to Protect’ Laws Punish Victims of

Domestic Violence). Typically, the parent who does not stop the abuse of a child is the mother.

This is what happened with Arlena Lindley with her boyfriend, Alonzo Turner. Turner had beat

Lindley’s three year old son to death in October 2006. Even though Lindley ran out of their

home with her son, Titches, to get away from the abuse with Turner later pulling them both back
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in, she was still sentenced to 45 years due to omission. In other words, Lindley was sentenced for

not protecting her child, regardless of her trying to take him away from the abuse. With this type

of law in affect, it seems almost too easy to point the finger at a victim, even though it was the

abuser hurting the child. When it comes to Oklahoma’s child endangerment laws, it does state

that a parent can remove themselves from a situation if they are in harm’s way. Judges could also

take their own opinion on the matter if a parent did everything in their power to protect their

children. But still for some, that may not be the case due to the fact a child was harmed or passed

away because of the abuse. For some, however, it is too late, not just for them but for their

children as well.

All in all, it appears that our country is uneducated when it comes to Domestic violence.

Many cannot grasp the fact at how afraid a victim is and how lost they feel. A way that today’s

society can understand DV victims is to look at the survivors, listen to their stories and see how

difficult it was for them to get away. Yes, that means speaking with the ones who are currently

incarcerated. Being able to see and hear straight from the source could help improve DV victims’

rights and even possibly keep an abuser at bay. It seems that the ones who understand it are the

ones who have experienced it first hand and have fought back. Some of those who have fought

back either won and are trying to show other victims that they do have a fighting chance. Even

those who are in prison want to continue to help from the outside. Of course, for some, they are

too frightened to speak out because of what they see in the media and their social media. But

what can we do to help them? How can some join to be a never-ending wheel of support for

these victims?

In Psalm 82:3-4, it says, “3 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the

poor and the oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the
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wicked.” Those who are suffering need help from others. For those who are not in peril should

be able to reach down and lift these victims up and offer them help when they need it most. It

seems that the only ones wanting to help are the ones who have suffered as well. There is not a

problem with that, but those same survivors are the ones who have also created a movement for

these victims. When it comes to asking for help or seeing a fellow soul struggling, there should

be no questions asked on how that victim got there. There should be no judging since there is no

way of knowing how that person got into that situation. Some of these victims do not even know

how they got into a domestic violence situation. Some saw it as that they were with a strong

person who would never ever hurt them. They thought that they were with the person of their

dreams but later learned how much of a nightmare they were living.

Again, society should never judge those who need help. That is not why God put us on

this Earth. That is not why God has created us. He has created to not only find our own calling in

life but also be there for another. To love one another as He has loved us. Jesus was sent down to

die for our sins. We should all do as Jesus did and sacrifice some sort of time for each other.
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Works Cited
“Overview of Historical Laws that Supported Domestic Violence.” WomenSafe, 2011.


Banner, Adam. “‘Failure to Protect’ Laws Punish Victims of Domestic Violence.”, 4 Dec 2014.


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.

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

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


Jeltsen, Melissa. “Should Domestic Violence Victims Go To Prison For Killing Their Abusers?”., 26 May 2016,


Goodmark, Leigh. “Legal Systems Abused Women.” The Baltimore Sun, 2011.