I wonder if there will ever be a time when due process will see the same crime with the same circumstances in the same way at any given point and time in our history. Due process, a clause found in both the 5th and 14th Amendments, says that the rights that individuals have must be protected by the state. While I am no attorney, I do recognize that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” is not as concise as its framers would have liked; in fact the inconsistency with how it has been applied in various Florida cases makes the law appear to be vague. What is the true measure by which “Stand your Ground” is interpreted? In order to answer this question, perhaps we may need to redefine terms that we take for granted as if we already know what they mean. Terms like self-defense and domestic violence need to be reexamined and redefined because we [society] don’t know what they mean, especially when they are applied to the actions of women. Just ask 31 year-old, mother of three, Marissa Alexander, who waits to see if she will be sentenced to serve the minimum 20-year, mandatory sentence for shooting a warning shot in the air to defend herself against the self-admitted abusive father of her children. Her fate is more than likely sealed unless she gets a new trial. Yet, this is the same law that George Zimmerman used that has allowed him to be a free man released on bond for murder. Read Marissa’s story here: http://reason.com/archives/2012/05/02/20-years-for-standing-her-ground
There is a history of subjugation in America against women, and when we do attempt to defend ourselves against it, the hands of the law turns against us; and, we appear to be depraved monsters deserving of whatever ill-treatment is handed our way. Hollywood has touched on this subject far too many times for us to turn a blind’s eye. Three Hollywood blockbusters in particular, The Color Purple (1985) with Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg, Monster (2003) with Charlize and The Burning Bed (1984) starring Farrah Fawcett, deal with issues of domestic abuse encountered by real life women at the hands of men. The Color Purple shows the multifaceted ways in which women, whether they have the lowest of esteem like Celie or parade like they have it all together like Shug Avery, are similarly abused in domestic situations. Monster tells the story of Aileen Wuornos, the nation’s first female serial killer who dealt with many years of abuse. The Burning Bed tells the story of Francine Hughes who, for years suffered from domestic abuse at the hand of her husband.
Today it is common to hear stories of domestic abuse where the man is the victim (Former NFL player Deion Sanders just dealt with this issue), the fact remains that the abuse of women has been a cultural phenomenon since the beginning of time. But, every institution comes to an eventual end, right? Not quite.
Through retaliatory violence we see “street” justice, and in our legal system, actualized justice can sometimes be achieved. However, our legal system is not consistent enough to deal with an issue as common place as domestic violence and self-defense pretenses (We have all learned a lot about the application of self-defense in the Trayvon Martin Case.).
How should women deal with violence? In order prepare for random attacks, it is always a good idea that women enroll in self-defense courses (Did you see the movie Enough with Jennifer Lopez?). If you are in a domestic violence relationship, please know that there isn’t a person in the world that can remove you from the situation—only you can do that. Furthermore, it is not enough to use the “battered-woman’s plea” when a domestic violence relationship turns fatal. Prevention is always better than the cure. Women, a lot of times we can prevent putting ourselves on trial and experiencing the public ridicule and judgment of others if we’d only realize that at the end of every fist is the blow of pain, not love. In the words of Dr. King, “an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.” The first application of injustice that we allow to seep into our lives disguised as love will eventually become injustice to others in our lives, especially our children. We can do better. Since gaining the right to vote 92 years ago with the 19th Amendment, women have been stalwarts in casting our votes; but, more of us have to get involved on the local and state levels of government where we can shape the legislation that speaks to our needs and interests. A consistent process of justice is long overdue. Let’s make it happen together.
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse in any form contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline email: www.thehotline.org Phone: 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
For self-defense courses, check within your local community. The Police Department and the YMCA usually offer courses.