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The Other Legal and Moral Issues That Surround Abused Women

April 28, 1991

I was dismayed to find the comments of someone of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lillian Stevens' stature and educational level in the article on battered wives who had killed their husbands.

Brenda Clubine, whom Stevens sentenced to 15 years in prison, had medical reports showing she had vomited blood, had possible skull fractures, broken teeth and ribs, and had a judge's order protecting her from her husband. Stevens' remarks included an ingenuous, "there was evidence that a lot of it was mutual." I suppose Clubine's husband, a police officer more than a foot taller than her and twice as heavy, has the broken ribs and skull fractures to prove it.

Stevens is also obviously unaware of the naivete of her other question, "Was there an immediate danger? There can't be an old grievance." It is simplistic to view women who have established a life and possibly family with an abusive man and his relations, as being able to immediately remove themselves from the threat of being killed.

In most cases the husband will threaten to hunt her down, especially if she leaves. Also, beatings normally come and go in episodes, so that if it gets better for a time, hoping to salvage a family life for her children, she may give him another chance, something that is inevitably used against her in the courts.

In any case, it's highly unlikely that the women would be able to kill her abusive husband when he's got one foot in her teeth and his hands around her neck if this is what Stevens means by an "immediate danger." Of course, no one wants to encourage killing, but most of these killings are done in desperation.

SYDNEY LUDVIGSON

Hermosa Beach

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