WMS confronts domestic violence

“Defending Our Lives,” a film about domestic violence against women in America was shown at NKU Oct. 17.

The video shows testimonies of four women currently jailed for the murders of their batterers, all of whom claim self-defense. It was aimed at students and carried a strong message concerning domestic violence on campus and in everyday life.

Focusing their awareness efforts on prevention, Northern Kentucky University’s Women Studies Department, or WMS, with help from Feminists At Northern, F.A.N., is working to educate students about the warning signs, destructive effects, and often catastrophic results of domestic violence.

The instances of battery to women are greater than most realize – 50 percent of women will be abused at some time in their lives – but are seldom brought to the attention of the public.

According to a statistical list compiled by NKU Professor Charlie Lowe of the Department of Social Work, 21 to 30 percent of college students report at least one occurrence of physical assault with a dating partner.

“If you just look in the campus DPS, there are several incidents here on campus to be aware of, that are domestic violence, right here,” said Garda Ghista, WMS secretary and organizer of the film showing.

Prof. Lowe’s figures on domestic violence are frightening:

Between 2.1 and 8 million women are abused by their partners annually in the United States.

At least every 15 seconds, a woman is beaten by her husband or boyfriend.

Each day in the U.S., between five and 11 women are killed by a male intimate partner, between 1,800 and 4,000 per year.

In the U.S. women are more likely to be killed by their male intimate partners than all other homicide categories combined.

Domestic abuse happens to women of all ages, class levels, educational backgrounds, and racial, ethnic, and religious groups.

It does not occur overnight, but happens gradually, often making it difficult to recognize until it is too late. The abuse does not go away, but increases with time.

According to prisonactivist.org, women who try to leave their batterers are often threatened with injury or death, or have no other place to go due to lack of money or contacts to get help and get away. More often, women feel so worthless after the abuse that they honestly believe that no one else will ever love or want them, so they continue to stay.

Prof. Lowe and fellow activists are working to educate students and citizens about domestic violence against women. They hope to help prevent abuse, instead of simply fixing the problem once it has occurred. “People react, they don’t pro-act, before this happens,” Lowe said.

In conjunction with the airing of ‘Defending Our Lives’ and efforts to raise campus awareness, WMS is working to organize a campaign to release seven women, jailed in Kentucky who claim they killed their husbands in self-defense.

Plans to collect petitions and send e-mails to the governor, in opposition to the imprisonment of the seven women, are being discussed.

Women who kill their boyfriends and husbands in self-defense after being abused are punished harshly by the courts. In ‘Defending Our Lives’ narrator Sarah Buel states that “overall, they have higher initial bails set, are detained longer, and ultimately have higher sentences than any other kind of defendant, including serial rapists and murderers.”

“In 1995, ten women incarcerated at that time were granted clemency by then-governor Brereton Jones, thanks to the untiring efforts of Marsha Weinstein, former executive director of Kentucky Commission on Women, among others,” according to Ghista.

“Now, seven years later, there are seven more women incarcerated, and they need to see justice. They need to be out of prison,” Ghista said.