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The Other Legal and Moral Issues That Surround Abused Women

April 28, 1991

Re "A Legacy of Violence," (April 14) and "Should These Women Have Gone Free?"(April 15).

As an accomplished 43-year-old mother of two young children, who has endured lifelong battering and abuse, including numerous life-threatening incidents, I found your two articles interesting, but they fall short of illuminating the many issues involved with battered women who kill their batterers.

I am in the process of divorce from my attorney husband, who succeeded my physician husband in my battering experiences.

I have sought help from nearly every imaginable source. Therapists, typically, have no training or ability to help a battered woman. Laws hold men's rights above women's (and children's) safety. For example, if I want to get away from my abusive husband in order to protect myself and make a stable, safe home for my children, I will be restrained by the court from leaving the state of California in order that my husband's rights to be with his children be protected. While a new law dictates that the court must consider the evidence of domestic violence in making custody decisions, the reality is that I will in all probability be forced to remain in the area (where) my husband can maintain power and control over me.

As a battered woman, I have met with the police on occasion. Sometimes I was bleeding, bruised, had a black eye, wrenched shoulder or a swollen jaw. Until recently, the officers would ask if my husband had left, or if I needed any medical help. And dazedly, I would say, "Yes, he's gone." In a desire to retreat from the terrible embarrassment and humiliation, I would often decline medical care, and the incident would never be even noted in a report.

Over time, the law has changed, so that now a report must be filed if the victim shows evidence of injuries. But many of us are not aware of the new procedures, and we fear the wrath of husbands if we dare to prosecute.

In addition to the battering and emotional abuse, threats to the safety of our children, isolation from friends and family, horrible self-esteem, and oftentimes loss of employment, battered women are financially disabled by our tormentors, so that we cannot get legal help.

The point here is that women who kill "in self-defense," but not in the heat of battle (as two men might duke it out on the street), really are fighting for their defense and self-preservation. No one else is there to defend them. Our traditional thinking and our legal system have failed, and these women can find no other way to save themselves from the probability that they will die from the abuse--sooner or later.

NAME WITHHELD

Los Angeles

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