So if your spouse – whose track record included being extremely abusive to both you and at least four other women with whom he’s been intimate – said, “If I can’t have you, nobody is going to have you,” what would you do?
This was the dilemma of Marissa Alexander, the Jacksonville mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison last Friday for firing warning shots at her abusive husband after he threatened to kill her.
Alexander alleged that the husband in question, Rico Grey, also choked and prevented her from leaving the house before she was able to escape to the garage and retrieve her gun (for which she has a license). Grey also admitted that he had abused Alexander “four or five” times before this incident, including an altercation that ended with her in the hospital. Alexander previously had a restraining order against him, but had let him back into her life because she was pregnant with his child. (Their baby girl was born merely nine days before the 2010 episode that culminated in the warning shots.)
Alexander believed she was protected under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, but the judge ruled that Stand Your Ground didn’t apply in this case because she could have escaped the situation.
For one minute forget about the ridiculous Stand Your Ground law (which does more harm than good at every turn) and stop comparing this to the Trayvon Martin case. The real issue here is this: Putting a battered woman (in this case one who’d given birth less than 10 days ago) in prison for 20 years is nothing short of outrageous. The ruling is a miscarriage of justice that shows a lack of compassion for domestic violence victims. Alexander made a rash decision based on being pushed, choked, hit, and threatened. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly one-third of female homicide victims reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner. Her fears were more than legitimate. No, she shouldn’t have fired a gun – even if she didn’t kill or even harm her attacker – but the circumstances that led to her decision need to be carefully evaluated. What does a ruling like this say about how the Florida justice system feels about battered women? It seems to hint at this: Run away, or get hit, but don’t do anything rash or you won’t see your kids again till they’re grown. It’s hard not to think that this ruling will drive domestic violence victims further into the shadows.