Advocates Fight to Get Courts to End the Criminalization of Survivor-Defendants
Date:  06-06-2017

Most victims of domestic abuse tried other paths to protect themselves before resorting to violence
From Truthout:

Marissa Alexander is now free, but countless other women and girls have survived violence from intimate partners and family members only to end up behind bars. On May 22, 2017, 15-year-old Bresha Meadows, accused of killing her abusive father, pled "true" (or the juvenile court equivalent of "guilty"). After spending nine months behind bars, she was sentenced to an additional 60 days in juvenile detention and six months in a mental health treatment facility for adolescents.

Alexander and Meadows are two criminalized abuse survivors, or survivor-defendants, whose cases have garnered an outpouring of support and media attention. However, many others languish behind bars with little to no support or recognition. The exact numbers of women imprisoned for defending themselves against domestic violence -- or for abuse-related convictions -- remain unknown. As reported previously on Truthout no government agency tracks the number of abuse survivors behind bars.

In 1999, the US Department of Justice found that nearly half of all women in local jails and state prisons had experienced abuse before their arrests. That is the most recent nationwide data available.More recent smaller studies indicate that the prevalence of abuse has not abated—a 2012 study (https://www.bja.gov/publications/women_pathways_to_jail.pdf) found that 90 percent of the 102 incarcerated women interviewed reported physical and sexual violencefrom their partners in the year before their incarceration.

The intersections of domestic violence and criminalization gained increased attention when Marissa Alexander, a Florida mother of three, was sentenced to 20 years after firing a warning shot to ward off her attacking husband. Since then, advocates have worked to raise awareness around these intersections and support abuse survivors who are either facing charges, such as Bresha Meadows, or fighting to overturn lengthy sentences, such as Kelly Savage. But has this increased awareness made its way into the courtrooms? >>> Continue reading