Family Violence, Family Law Cases, and Dead Women
Sadly, many times people end up dead in family law cases. Most of the fatalities are women. Each year the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) gathers the sad data and publishes the data respectfully with a bit of information on each woman who died at the hands of an intimate partner. Here is a link to their web-site … http://www.tcfv.org/resources/facts-and-statistics
I have a copy of the latest report from the Texas Council on Family Violence in my office. The actual title of the report is more circumspect, then my name for the book. I call it my “dead women” book. I don’t want to soft pedal the problem because the problem is great. According to the TCFV, there are … on average 121 dead women each year, 2.32 dead women each week. That means if you are reading this on Wednesday, likely one woman has been murdered in Texas by an intimate partner and at least one more will be killed by Saturday.
The situation is even worse than the TCFV data indicates. The TCFV data “only” counts dead women. The data does not include women beaten again and again. The data does not include children killed alongside their murdered mothers. The data does not include the deaths of intimate partners who killed themselves and the data does not include the death of other family members, sisters, brothers, and parents of the dead woman who died in a killing rampage.
Since, I am a practicing family lawyer, with a large practice you would think I would know some of these women myself, and I do, at least three … Kensey, Charity, and Jelena. Three women, all from my cases – dead. I pray often, there will not be another one on my watch. .
So, what do we do? The problem seems immense and insolvable. Here are some of my ideas on where to begin. I welcome yours:
Resolve to stop this abuse of women. If your sister, mother, niece or the neighbor is being beat or totally isolated and you know … make it stop. Call the police, make your family aware, and let the potential abuser know you are watching. Do not be part of the silence that surrounds these women and permits this abuse. If you do not know what to do … you can call me. I will try to help.
Law Enforcement …
Officers, you know this problem first hand. I know you probably become tired of listening to the he said/she said. And after all, if she keeps staying with him, she is part of the problem. Isn’t she? Please … remember your training. She is powerless and in great danger. Decide on the side of safety and protection. Make arrests … let the system sort it out. I have spoken to officers, you probably have as well, who wish they had taken a stronger line with an abuser.
If a women, tells you about physical abuse, do everything you can to stop it. Apply for protective orders, put her in touch with safe houses and call the police. My experience tells me that one of the biggest problems you will have will be the abused women. She may want to go back. Please do not get mad. Remember, back in law school, we committed ourselves to protect the powerless. Do everything you can to protect the powerless women right in your office.
Please do not get mad at abused women. Please do not let someone talk you into some version of the “she is the problem” defense. Impose consequences on the abuser. Things like pay attorney fees, go to jail and give up your guns should be imposed for as long a period as necessary. A three month protective order is no protective order at all.
I know everyone wants to believe that once the current litigation is over, the danger has past and life can return to normal. So, we only need the protective order until the end of the case. That is just not true and there are dead women to prove it.
We all have a role to play. We each need to think about how we will handle the next family violence event we encounter, and how we handled the last one. We each as individuals need to resolve … NOT ONE MORE … EVER!