Battered, bereaved, and behind bars

by Rachel Baker on October 11, 2014

This is an amazing longread (7,765 words) of “OMG, can this really be true?”

Did you know, if you are in an abusive relationship, and your partner kills your child, you could also go to jail for many years for failing to protect your child? And further, there are only a few states who give a damn if you also feared for your life at the time the violence occurred.

A few weeks ago, when all the NFL domestic violence stuff came up, many in the media talked about the importance of having “the discussion” about domestic violence. No where in the many discussions that were had did anyone mention this. (and by the way, those discussions didn’t last very long, did they?)

At the beginning of this month, Buzzfeed published this incredible article about what happens to (mostly) women when their violently abusive partner kills a child in the household. How are we not actually talking about this? How are there not people up in arms yelling about victim blaming? How are there not people visibly protesting and trying to change laws?

Here’s the thing, through all that NFL crap, MOST of the coverage was about the NFL and the dudes who committed the acts of domestic violence. Very little was said about the victims and the psychology of domestic abuse for the victim. Very few, if any, really talked about the importance of victims’ rights; little was said about how difficult it is to get someone (including yourself) to help you when you are a victim.

I think this is an article worth sharing, because we never actually talk about the things we should be talking about- its very easy to get sidetracked by the wrong things; and sort of, we owe it to people to pay attention laws that punish victims as well.

BATTERED, BEREAVED, AND BEHIND BARS.

No one knows how many women have suffered a fate like Lindley’s, but looking back over the past decade, BuzzFeed News identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children. In every one of these cases, there was evidence the mother herself had been battered by the man.

Almost half, 13 mothers, were given 20 years or more. In one case, the mother was given a life sentence for failing to protect her son, just like the man who murdered the infant boy. In another, the sentences were effectively the same: The killer got life, and the mother got 75 years, of which she must serve at least 63 years and nine months. In yet another, the mother got a longer sentence than the man who raped her son. In one more, a father fractured an infant girl’s toe, femur, and seven ribs and was sentenced to two years; for failing to intervene, the mother got 30.

At least 29 states have laws that explicitly criminalize parents’ failure to protect their children from abuse. In Texas, where Lindley lives, the crime is known as injury to a child “by omission.” In other states, it goes by “permitting child abuse” or “enabling child abuse.” In addition, prosecutors in at least 19 states can use other, more general laws against criminal negligence in the care of a child, or placing a child in a dangerous situation.

These laws make parents responsible for what they did not do. Typically, people cannot be prosecuted for failing to thwart a murder; they had to have actually helped carry it out. But child abuse is an exception, and the logic behind these laws is simple: Parents and caregivers bear a solemn duty to protect their children.

This article was written by: Rachel Baker – Click to Become a Patron or to follow on Twitter.

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