Blame Inflames Abuse Victims' Wounds - Why Doesn't She Just

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 30 Dec 1999 22:07:49 -0800 (PST)


"Battered women's shelters with security cameras, locked doors,
bars on the window and confidential locations exist because of
the very real danger faced by women leaving abusive relationships.
Unfortunately, at SafeHouse Denver, we turn away four times as
many women as we can serve.  Our shelter is routinely filled to
capacity." - more below

FWD  The Denver Post, Saturday, July 27, 1997

     BLAME INFLAMES ABUSE'S WOUNDS

     By Mary Dreger

     Guest Commentary

          The jurors who recently convicted Manuela Garcia of
second-degree murder in the axing death of her abusive husband
anguished over the verdict.

They understood that she was beaten savagely, isolated from
friends and family, sexually assaulted, ashamed to ask for help,
and had three children and no means of support.

But they were perplexed that Garcia did not simply walk out on
her deranged husband.  One juror said, "Many of us thought, 'Why
didn't she just get into the car, take the children and go?'"

This is a common question concerning domestic violence, and it
is based on the assumption that leaving means safety.

Tragically, that assumption is dead wrong.  Battered women know
it better than anyone else.  And headlines prove it to the rest
of us on a regular basis.

Terry Petrosky took her child, got into her car and left.  A few
months later, she was murdered by her husband on her job at
Albertsons.

Debra Cameron took her daughter, got into her car and left, and
she was brutally stabbed and shot by her husband in the garage
of her apartment building.

Margo Green left her abusive husband, and he murdered her at a
busy intersection in broad daylight as she headed to work.

Dana Garner was pinned to the ground in her backyard with a gun
held to her head, then shot in cold blood, by the violent
husband she had left.

Sandra Colvin of Fountain got her children into the car and left
home.  She changed her locks, obtained a restraining order,
notified her neighbors and called the police when her violent
husband was seen nearby.

Just before Christmas, he killed her and her two children in her
home.  The Fountain police chief was quoted as saying there
wasn't any way authorities could have prevented the murders.

In the preponderance of domestic violence homicides, the woman
had left the relationship.

A woman is 75 percent more likely to be killed or severely
injured after she leaves an abusive man.

A recent study in New York found that nearly half of all women
slain were killed by current or former husbands or boyfriends.
When killed by husbands, one-third of the women apparently were
trying to end their marriages.

The depth of hopelessness and despair experienced by these women
in demonstrated by the fact that battering precipitates one in
every four suicide attempts by women, as research shows.

Women stay in such relationship because of fear -- fear for
their lives, and fear for the safety of their children.

We were horrified recently to read of the Miami man with a long
history of domestic violence who let his wife's car, with two
children inside , roll into the alligator-infested Everglades,
drowning both children.

Relatives reported the he was "just obsessed with her."  He
would threaten his wife, saying, "You'll never see your kids
again."

About 50 percent of child abductions result from domestic
violence situations.

Battered women's shelters with security cameras, locked doors,
bars on the window and confidential locations exist because of
the very real danger faced by women leaving abusive
relationships.

Unfortunately, at SafeHouse Denver, we turn away four times as
many women as we can serve.  Our shelter is routinely filled to
capacity.

Domestic violence is the only crime in which we lock up the
victim instead of the perpetrator.  The predator roams free, and
the prey hides at a shelter.  What's wrong with this picture?

Often times, woman like Manuela Garcia don't "just leave"
because they have no place to go.  In Denver, 39 percent of
homeless women and children are without homes because of
domestic violence.

Isolated from family and friends, terrified of being tracked
down by the abuser, lacking resources, riddled with shame and
advised by law enforcement that the death of women and children
at the hands of violent spouses are "unpreventable," these
battered women stay because they believe it's their best chance
to survive.

In reality, leaving doesn't mean safety at all.  We want to
believe it is that simple -- that driving away is the reasonable
thing to do.

We want to blame the victim when she doesn't take action -- and
we want to blame her when she does.

---------

Mary Dreger is executive director of SafeHouse Denver.  She is
also a member of the Denver Domestic Viol3ence Task Force, the
Colorado Coalition Against Domestic  Violence, and the Mile high
United Way Family Violence Prevention Steering Committee.

---------

END FORWARD

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