Editor's note: The following is in response to a recent letter ("Arm women," June 1) that supported the push by Grass Roots North Carolina for proposed legislation to expedite gun permits for domestic abuse victims.
The wrong answer
I have been an advocate for battered women and children in North Carolina for over 20 years. There are a number of myths about domestic violence victims and perpetrators that still hold sway, and it is those myths that allow the abuse to continue, and the domestic violence homicide rate to skyrocket.
The notion that battered women will automatically be able to (potentially) use deadly force against someone with whom they have had an intimate relationship; who is possibly the father of one or more of her children; who inhabits a large, dark part of her personal horizon; and who has strategically disempowered her is ridiculous and, once again (as usual), victim-blaming.
A few points about batterers, battered women and guns:
1. A great number of battered women who get guns for self protection are killed by their abuser with those guns. Even after they've taken classes on how to use a gun, that does not undo the years of abuse, fear and intimidation she has suffered, and it certainly does not rewire her brain to be automatically aggressive.
2. A number of men who have been arrested and prosecuted for domestic violence crimes do change. They get the opportunity to understand the difference between fear and respect, and they want to feel close to their families, not feared by them. So, despite the talk of "survival" and "competition" instincts, we see offenders grow into loving and respectful family members. It seems that not everyone is completely hardwired to be aggressive. The excuses for the offender's behavior, however, must be done away with completely.
3. Battered women are often so frightened of their abuser (for very good reasons) that the only time they feel they can retaliate is when their partner's back is turned or they have gone to sleep. Then, they go to prison. We live in a society that is obsessed with holding the victim responsible for the offender's behavior, which she has absolutely no control over. Still, it's easier to blame her.
4. If battered women are now to be held responsible for their own survival, why do we even have laws and/or law enforcement officers?
5. GRNC [Grass Roots North Carolina] is expecting a non-violent person to control and manage a violent person. The equation is not a good one.
6. If HB 1311 is passed, here's how I predict it will further hurt battered women. In court, defense attorneys will ask whether or not she has gotten a gun to protect herself. If she hasn't, I can see the defense attorney saying to the court, "She's obviously not afraid of him or she would have gotten a weapon to protect herself." Case dismissed. This is the way our courts tend to work. She's damned if she does, damned if she doesn't. Each and every day, the old notions about violence in the home play out in courts across our state and country with profoundly negative results for the victims, and ultimately, for us all.
I have been down this road, as a survivor and as an advocate. It would have never occured to me to pull any kind of weapon on my husband, particularly a gun. He would have taken it away from me and killed me with it. Period. GRNC seems to expect that all people can rearrange their thought processes, their deeply held beliefs, and their basic personal constitution, pick up a gun, and shoot to kill someone they have loved. And if they can't do that then there must be something wrong with them. It's just not that simple.
What needs to happen in North Carolina is enhanced prosecution at the misdemeanor level. If these crimes are allowed to grow from misdemeanors into felonies (which they will, at great cost to the state), the message will continue to go out to females across the state that we have little regard for their health and well-being, and that the crimes committed against them are insignificant.
HB 1354, which was enacted last year, represented a significant leap forward for domestic violence victims in North Carolina. Our legislators recognized that we needed better laws, and those laws must be utilized to the letter. During the month of May, there were eight domestic violence homicides in our state. If HB 1311 passes, my expectation is that that number will climb even higher, and we will soon be at the top of the list nationally for domestic violence homicides. That many more dead bodies, that many more parentless children--is that really what we want for the citizens of North Carolina
Thank you for your Up Front column about lobbying in Raleigh ("No secret," June 15).
There may not be outrage on Jones Street, but there is on Main Street, in suburbia, on campus and everywhere else we constituents live.
There are not enough words to describe our lackluster lobbying laws that do not provide any safeguards for the public interest, but laughable, inexcusable and unacceptable are the first that come to mind.
The good news is reformers are at work trying to change the system. The N.C. Coalition for Lobbying Reform--www.nclobbyreform.org--is pushing for laws that will provide full, public disclosure of all money spent on legislators, limit what lobbyists can give legislators, and establish a cooling off period before legislators can immediately become lobbyists.
For anyone who agrees with your last lines--"We need reform. And we need it now."--I encourage them to check out the coalition and contact their legislator to demand lobbying reform. Now.
Ana Catherine Dickens