BWJP Military-Civilian Advocate Resource Network Goes Public and Launches Listserv
- Information about the Department of Defense, Reserves, National Guard, and Department of Veterans Affairs systems and their response to IPV.
- Pertinent articles and research on IPV and co-occurring conditions such as combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Information on justice-involved veterans and veterans treatment courts.
- Links to related websites and resources.
Safe Havens for Animal Victims of Domestic Violence - An Article from Wayne Pacelle
From the Editor: Animals have long been victims of domestic violence, both experiencing the abuse, as well as keeping victims from leaving for fear the beloved family pets would be further harmed. Over the years some communities have rallied together to find options for pets, but it hasn’t always been possible to offer resources that include pets. Read the story below from Wayne Pacelle and learn more about safe havens for animals in your area.
Thanks to one dog’s heroism and a community’s outpouring of support, victims fleeing violent homes no longer have to choose between seeking safety for themselves or protecting their pets.
In a blog post this March, I told you about a dog named “Hank,” the Great Dane from Missouri who we named Valor Dog of the Year and People’s Hero in our Fifth Annual Dogs of Valor Awards for helping shield and save his owner from a violent domestic abuse attack. When Hank’s owner, “McKenzie,” sought refuge from the violence in her own home, she couldn’t find a shelter that would allow her trusted companion, Hank, to stay with her. Because of the dangerous situation, however, officials at the Rose Brooks Center, a domestic violence shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, made an exception to their no-animal policy and opened their doors to the pair.
The bond between Hank and McKenzie was so powerful that it inspired the folks at Rose Brooks Center to take their lifesaving work one step further. This week they extended their humane reach into the community by opening Paws Place Pet Shelter, a new safe haven for animal victims of domestic violence. The second of its kind in the country, the facility will provide housing for up to eight pets belonging to families staying at the Rose Brooks Center.
This Wednesday’s opening celebration of the Paws Place Pet Shelter was the perfect place to honor Hank and the bond he and McKenzie share. Joe Maxwell, former Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and The HSUS’s Director of Rural Development and Outreach, presented Hank with two handcrafted sterling silver tags, a crystal statue created in the canine hero’s likeness, and a crystal trophy to commemorate his Valor Dog of the Year and People’s Hero titles.
There’s no doubt that because of Hank’s inspiring courage and devotion, there are some Missouri animals and their families who will be much safer tonight.
**For a nation-wide list of safe havens for animals and a list of pet shelters for those fleeing domestic violence, please visit humanesociety.org/safehavens.
CaledoniaPatch: Domestic Violence Bill Passes, Veterans Bill Not Far Behind
Two bills authored by State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) will soon become state law.
By Heather Asiyanbi
February 15, 2012
To help veterans and their families with death and disabilities benefits, a bill authored by State Sen. Van Wanggaard incorporates two parts of the federal HEART (Heroes Earning Assistance and Relief Tax) Act into state law.
Under the new legislation, service members who die on active duty and who are enrolled in the Wisconsin Retirement System will be treated as if they are employees of the state. This change allows families to collect both the employee and employer contributions to WRS.
The second change makes it easier for WRS service members who become disabled on active duty and can’t return to their jobs to qualify for disabilit benefits.
“This is a simple change that recognizes the important service of veterans,” Wanggaard said in a press release. “The Wisconsin HEART Act honors veterans while preserving the integrity of the Wisconsin Retirement System.”
Both Wanggaard and Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) will hold a Veterans Listening Session from 10 to 11:30 am this Fri., Feb. 17, 2012 at Veterans Home at Union Grove, Boland Hall, 21425 G Spring Street, Union Grove.
Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos will also be in attendance. The listening session is open to veterans and their families.
“One of the most important parts of my job is to listen to my constituents,” said Rep. Vos in a joint press release. “We’re currently considering several important bills that will have a positive impact on our veterans and I would like to get their input on the legislation.”
A new law to help protect victims of domestic violence will be signed into law by Governor Scott Walker in the coming weeks.
Also authored by Wanggard, the new law puts teeth into 72-hour no-contact orders by not just upping the fines and potential jail time, but elevating how violators will be charged.
Currently, abusers who don’t follow the order face a $1,000 civil forfeiture. Under the new law, violators can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor which carries penalties of up to nine months in jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines. Repeat offenders could find themselves up against a felony.
The law also prohibits the accused from having any contact with witnesses to the alleged abuse.
“The risk of domestic violence is most prevalent in the days following an initial attack,” Wanggaard said in a written statement. “By strengthening the penalties for violations we are more likely to prevent such acts from recurring, preventing further abuse.”
After passing both the Senate and the Assembly by bipartisan votes, the new law only needs Governor Scott Walker’s signature.
From the Editor: Interns/Volunteers Sought
I am looking for folks who are knowledgeable and committed to the issues of abuse and violence, to contribute thought provoking, informative articles and new resources on Culture of Abuse (online) Magazine.
Training and guidance can and will be provided, especially for those who have less experience but who are willing to do research. Students are welcome to apply. This is not only a great opportunity to share your skills and insight, it could also lead to a more significant role, for those who are local, in the non-profit I’m currently developing here in Eastern MA/North Shore (http://www.cultureofchangeinc.org). Students’ and volunteers’ work will be monitored, and approved before appearing on the site, and those who qualify will receive a recommendation for their great work, as resume building is important for future endeavors. Start and end dates can be discussed and are flexible. The time requirement can also be discussed, but travel is not necessary as writing articles can be done at home or school to accommodate your schedule. If you are local, occasional meetings may be necessary and beneficial.
There is also the occasional need to review and update links to resources, update reading lists, and search for innovative advocacy programs that should be included or highlighted.
How to Apply
Please send an email with ‘Internship/Volunteer Position’ in the subject, to firstname.lastname@example.org
From NOMAS: The Importance of Using Accountable Language
This article was conceived because of the frequency with which leaders of our movement and presenters at conferences use unaccountable language in our presentations and proposals, even as they deeply care about ending men’s violence against women and have devoted their lives to helping women partnered with abusive men.
Like all tools of oppression, unaccountable language is conditioned into our psyches, taught and learned as appropriate vocabulary and in socially acceptable sentence structure. Thus, unaccountable language is part of everyday parlance of people acting in complete good faith in trying to end men’s violence against women. We know this is true because as long as we have trained to avoid unaccountable language, we still sometimes make this error, as well. The movement to end domestic violence has not yet made the use of accountable language a priority. We hope this article will encourage all of us in the movement to do so. This is one program we can afford even in tight economic times.
Defining unaccountable language
Unaccountable language refers to the powerful messages embedded in all forms of speech and media that have all of us lapse into sentence structure that obscures perpetrators, minimizes their abuse, and supports blaming victims. One common example is the phrase “an abusive relationship.” The relationship did not hit the woman, but rather it was the abuser, typically a man who is husband or intimate partner, who was abusive. Such statements make the person who committed the offense, invisible. More specifically it is the use of passive language that results in making the perpetrator invisible. For example, a phrase like a woman was raped should be replaced by, “A man raped a woman.” The rape did not just happen, but rather the rapist committed a brutal act. The idea is to focus attention on the person responsible. Accountably speaking we might say a woman was in a relationship with an abuser or he is abusive to his intimate partner. Another example is exposed by the question, “How many women will be raped or assaulted in this year?” Do we ever hear, “How many men will rape or assault this year?”
Other examples of the language of accountability
Once, when discussing accountable language during a staff training, we looked up on the wall to see a bumper sticker that said, “Every 15 seconds a woman is assaulted.” Our objection at the time was not with the accuracy of the information but that the statement failed to focus on the cause of these assaults. “Every 15 seconds a man assaults a woman!” would be an accountable description.
During a dinner conversation, Barry, and his partner, Sharon, were discussing a series of disastrous calamities in their home caused by the builder who seemed to have deliberately sabotaged their house. After hearing about one emergency repair after another, Phyllis said it was the first time she actually understood the true meaning of an “abusive home“, since too often the phrase “abusive home” is misused to invisiblize a man who repeatedly abuses his partner in their home.
The police and media often refer to incidents in which a man brutalizes his wife or girl friend as a “domestic dispute.” This describes a man’s criminal assault as if it were some kind of mutual problem, even-sided engagement, or tame dispute, rather than an act of brutality. When a mugger assaults and robs a cab driver, it is not described as a “fare dispute.”
Unaccountable language hides responsibility
The use of accountable language is not a technicality or merely a play on words, but rather an issue with profound social consequences. The systemic use of unaccountable language minimizes men’s abuse of women, fails to take his abuse seriously, and hides his responsibility for his actions. If we say “a woman was hurt” it seems like it just happened, as if on its own accord, or by accident, and there is nothing to be done about it. If instead we refer to the man who is hurting the woman, this requires assigning responsibility and taking action to stop him from hurting her again and provide consequences for the harm he caused.
Domestic violence is comprised of a wide range of tactics used by men to maintain power and to control their intimate partners The tactics are part of a pattern of coercive actions designed to maintain, what he believes (consciously or not), are his male privileges, to control his significant other. Historically, men were assigned, by social and legal norms, control over wives and families. Today, even though that is no longer legally, and for so many, morally, the case, an “abusive relationship” or “domestic dispute” makes it seem like a communications or relationship problem between the parties. It suggests counseling or therapy as a remedy instead of consequences to hold abusers accountable for abusive, controlling, and/or violent tactics.
Social Consequences of unaccountable language
As a society our constant use of unaccountable language gives still another advantage to abusers. Unaccountable language, embedded in all dominant institutions, including the judicial system, leads police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in domestic violence custody cases to confidently assume that both parties share equal blame for not getting along. They often tell the parties they are equally responsible for the problems in the relationship and they must start to cooperate, get therapy, or anger management classes. When a mother attempts to protect her children or limit contact with an abusive father, she is routinely blamed for not getting along rather than recognized for what is a normal reaction to a partner’s abuse.
If we are going to end or at least reduce the use of unaccountable language in this society, those of us working in the battered women’s movement must take the lead and must set an example to use accountable language. Politicians often use phrases like “mistakes were made” Instead of saying, “I made a mistake.” We want society to be clear that men ,who abuse and mistreat the women they are partnered with, are responsible for their actions. We are asking presenters and others working to end domestic violence to join us in striving to use accountable language.
Dedicated to our dear friend and colleague Jon Cohen, who worked with Phyllis B. Frank in developing the NY model for Batterers Programs, and with Barry Goldstein, to find many of the examples of unaccountable language in Barry’s first book, Scared to Leave Afraid to Stay.
Verizon Wireless and Bills help end domestic violence through HopeLine program
THE BUFFALO BILLS
By Andy Major, Executive Director of Marketing
BUFFALO, NY—Verizon Wireless, the Family Justice Center of Erie County and the Buffalo Bills will collect no-longer-used wireless phones to benefit domestic violence survivors at this Sunday’s Bills game vs. the New England Patriots. Through Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine® program, these phones will be refurbished and recycled or sold. Proceeds will be used to purchase wireless phones for domestic violence survivors to use in emergency or threatening situations, or to help find employment, locate housing or arrange for day care. HopeLine also makes financial grants to domestic violence organizations.
This is the eleventh year the Bills and Verizon Wireless have teamed up to fight domestic violence in our communities. The Family Justice Center of Erie County is also participating this year to help drive awareness of domestic violence as an important community issue. Verizon Wireless has collected nearly 7,000 phones in the eleven years they have done the collection. It is the most successful ongoing collection with a sports team in the history of the HopeLine program.
Bills HopeLine spokespersons, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and linebacker Andra Davis, encourage fans to bring their old wireless phones to the game and deposit them in collection bins at any of the 10 gates as they enter Ralph Wilson Stadium. The first 1,000 fans to donate a phone will receive a poster featuring both Williams and Davis. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
In addition, for each fan who “checks in” at Ralph Wilson Stadium via Foursquare on game day with #HOPELINE, Verizon will donate $10 to the Family Justice Center.
“For ten years, Buffalo Bills fans have helped make a difference by doing something as simple as donating a wireless phone that’s no longer used,” said Russ Preite, Verizon Wireless’ Upstate New York Region president. “HopeLine focuses on helping our communities prevent domestic violence, and we are pleased to have this opportunity to use wireless technology for this important purpose.”
“The Family Justice Center has seen more than 7,000 clients since we opened our doors in May 2006,” said Mary Travers Murphy, Family Justice Center executive director. “Therefore, we know how prevalent the problem of domestic violence is locally. The HopeLine program goes a long way in helping us reach our number one goal: keeping our clients and all domestic violence victims safe. The support of Verizon Wireless is vital to our ability to provide the life-changing services we do.”
“We encourage fans to bring an old phone to the game this Sunday, or anytime at any Verizon Wireless location, and help to potentially save lives,” said Williams.
“We are proud to support this important community issue and know that Bills fans will continue their tremendous support of the HopeLine program, like they do our team on the field,” said Davis.
Verizon Wireless, a recognized corporate leader in the fight against domestic violence, works to combat domestic violence and raise awareness of the issue through the company’s HopeLine program. Marking its 16th year in 2011, HopeLine today collects wireless phones and accessories from any wireless service provider, and then refurbishes the phones or recycles them in an environmentally friendly way. Proceeds from the HopeLine program benefit victims of domestic violence and non-profit advocacy agencies, providing the essential communication tools of wireless phones and wireless services, and financial grants. Phone donations are accepted at all Verizon Wireless stores across the country.
For additional information, visit verizonwireless.com/hopeline.
Verizon Wireless operates the nation’s largest 4G LTE network and largest, most reliable 3G network. The company serves 106.3 million total wireless connections, including 89.7 million retail customers. Headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., with 83,000 employees nationwide, Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE, NASDAQ: VZ) and Vodafone (LSE, NASDAQ: VOD). For more information, visit www.verizonwireless.com. To preview and request broadcast-quality video footage and high-resolution stills of Verizon Wireless operations, log on to the Verizon Wireless Multimedia Library at www.verizonwireless.com/multimedia.
The Family Justice Center of Erie County, Inc. provides one-stop, free, wrap-around services to victims of domestic violence and their children. The Center is a collaboration of 12 on-site partners, including: Erie County District Attorney, Neighborhood Legal Services, Crisis Services, Haven House, Hispanics United of Buffalo, International Institute of Buffalo, Child Advocacy Center, Erie County Probation and the University at Buffalo Department of Family Medicine.
Larson, Rojas, CCADV host Hartford Roundtable
By Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, September 22, 2011
Hartford, CT - Domestic violence policy and program experts will join Connecticut Congressman John B. Larson and State Representative Jason Rojas (D-East Hartford) for a roundtable discussion to talk about Connecticut’s statewide response measures and federal initiatives to support victims. The event will take place on Monday, September 26th at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1C at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
This roundtable will follow up on progress made earlier this year during meetings in Washington, DC between representatives from the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) and members of Congress from Connecticut, which took place against the backdrop of the looming deadline to reauthorize the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). All parties involved are eager to bring this discussion back to Connecticut and to hear firsthand more about what more needs to be done to secure funding for vital victim services.
Domestic violence leaders in Connecticut are expected to talk about the significance of continued funding to support victims. Such an investment, they say, saves lives and money. “The cost of domestic violence to our society is high and reaches beyond the most significant aspect - that of a human life,” notes Karen Jarmoc, Interim Executive Director at CCADV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the price tag associated with medical care, mental health services and lost work productivity in relation to domestic violence is $8.3 billion annually in the United States. In Connecticut, 30% of criminal court dockets involve domestic violence cases with some 37,000 victims receiving services from court advocates each year.
In Connecticut, over 54,000 victims sought services last year from 18 community-based agencies which offer 24/7 crisis intervention, safety planning, court advocacy, counseling, and safe accommodations. These programs comprise CCADV, the state’s domestic violence leadership organization.
Network formed to fight family violence
By Christopher Laddish, Marinscope intern, September 21, 2011
Family violence in Marin extends from the meanest streets to the toniest neighborhoods.
At a recent meeting addressing domestic violence, Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian said, “It’s a problem that spreads across all aspects of our community.”
Local law enforcement agencies receive more calls related to domestic violence — upward of 600 each year —than any other violent crime, according to the San Rafael-based Center for Domestic Peace.
To combat the pervasiveness of domestic violence in Marin County, about 50 representatives from 36 law enforcement agencies, county government offices and community organizations met in the planning chambers at the Marin County Civic Center on Sept. 14. It was the first meeting of the Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence (CCR to DV) Network.
Family violence has been the county’s most prevalent source of violence for 20 years, according to a 2010 Marin County grand jury report titled “Domestic Violence: Marin’s Number One Violent Crime.”
The report also cited a nationwide study stating only an estimated 25 percent of domestic violence incidents are ever reported.
The Center for Domestic Peace (formerly Marin Abused Women’s Services), in partnership with the Marin County district attorney’s office, has created the CCR to DV Network to effectively combat and prevent domestic violence. “The interagency team will do the quality-control mechanisms for how all our systems in Marin County are responding to domestic violence — including criminal justice,” said Kate Kain, executive director for the Center for Domestic Peace.
There was no discussion of statistics or specific cases at the meeting. The initial meeting was an orientation for the organizations, law enforcement representatives and public officials that outlined how the network will be structured.
The network will consist of members from law enforcement, including the Marin County sheriff’s office, 911 dispatchers and local police departments; representatives from government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services; health organizations, including Marin General Hospital and the Marin Community Clinic; and community organizations such as Apple Family Works and the Family Service Agency.
“We’re bringing in both the public and the private sector in this challenge,” said District Attorney Ed Berberian at the meeting. “It’s not just public-based, in the sense of the government, and county departments. It can’t be just that. It has to involve the private sector as well.”
The network will assess methods for preventing and responding to cases of domestic violence by sharing strategies and resources in a forum that is “all-inclusive, transparent and open to community input,” Berberian said.
“It’s essential that whatever approach is taken to combating or confronting domestic violence that it come from a community perspective, because it’s community based,” Berberian said.
The district attorney emphasized that the purpose of the group is not to create legislation or endorse political candidates. “It’s here for individuals to identify issues and try to solve them.”
The network will come together at quarterly meetings to share new information and make strategy recommendations. As a team, the network will identify gaps in public and private services provided and discuss possible solutions. The network will also produce an annual report.
Meetings will occur quarterly and will be open to the public. The next meeting will be in December.
How to get involved
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The Center for Domestic Peace invites the public to sign and post “individual peace agreements” pledging commitment to healthy relationships. Volunteers will be at Safeway and Trader Joe’s locations handing out the forms on various days throughout the month.
People are urged to show solidarity by wearing a purple ribbon, shining a purple light in a window or raising a purple flag. A purple ribbon is considered a symbol of courage, honor and survival. While the exact origin of the tradition is unknown, the purple ribbon has been universally adopted by awareness organizations to symbolize commitment to opposing domestic violence, according the Domestic Violence Awareness Campaign.
Becoming a certified domestic violence-prevention advocate involves participating in a 40-hour training course offered by the Center for Domestic Peace, beginning Oct. 11.
A National Call for Unity, hosted by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, will take place on Oct. 4, noon-1 p.m., at 734 A St., San Rafael.
For more information, contact the Center for Domestic Peace at 526-2543 or visit the website centerfordomesticpeace.org.
Contact Christopher Laddish at email@example.com.
Nevada First in Domestic Violence Murders
LAS VEGAS — More women are killed in domestic violence incidents in Nevada than in any other state in the country. According to the Violence Policy Center’s Report, Nevada has been first four out of five years. The numbers were released ahead of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
Domestic violence victim Mona Bowers has her self-esteem back and is sharing her heartbreaking story so others can escape.
“He beat me on my wedding night. Every day, you’d come home. You never knew if you were going to get beaten or not. He’d throw you down a flight of stairs. He’d pull you by the hair of the head and keep kicking you,” she said. “People don’t understand the thing of domestic violence. You see, these men, they beat you and beat you until you feel worthless, and they kill your self-esteem.”
Bowers says in 1974, her young son became a victim to the horror at home.
“He kicked him and kicked him and kicked him, and knocked him all over the house,” Bowers said. “I said, ‘Why?’ Because, the little boy asked for a donut and his father said no. So, the little boy had to take a beating.”
Unfortunately, Nevada is no stranger to leading the nation in the rate of women murdered. The Shade Tree Shelter says there are a number of reasons why domestic violence is such a big problem in Nevada.
“The increase of the stressors that we’re of course realizing with the economy, along with such a transient population, we don’t have the infrastructure through families in our communities,” said Marlene Richter with The Shade Tree. “The indicators are all around us - the harm to the women, to the children, to the pets, the missed work, the children’s missing school. All of those different indicators are there. Be on the look out.”
Advocates in southern Nevada have worked hard to educate and help women who are in abusive situations. But the economy is one of several factors that makes reducing domestic violence an uphill battle.
The Violence Policy Center report is a call to action for advocates who say a lot of work needs to be done.
Richter says the only way to reduce domestic violence is for the entire community to get involved. There are also a number of resources available for women, including shelters and a 24 hour hotline.
Nationwide, more than 1,800 women were murdered by men in 2009. Alabama ranked second, and Louisiana ranked third behind Nevada.
Keep in mind, the report tracks 2009 data. The number of homicides changes from year to year, and sometimes fluctuates without a clear explanation.
Murder Trial Hinges on Questions of Domestic Abuse
NEW YORK TIMES
By DAN BILEFSKY, September 18, 2011
She stood outside the courthouse, emotionally spent but resolute, on trial for killing her husband — an act that she does not dispute. But there were extenuating circumstances, she said, and sometimes killing someone is not the same as committing murder.
“He would have killed me,” Barbara Sheehan said outside the State Supreme Court building in Queens. “I am being made the victim twice.”
As her murder trial enters its second full week on Monday, the outlines of the case are clear. The prosecution has sought to portray Ms. Sheehan as a merciless executioner who shot her husband, a former police sergeant, 11 times with two guns in February 2008.
But Ms. Sheehan, an unassuming school secretary, said she was a battered woman who killed her abusive husband, Raymond Sheehan, 49, in self-defense after he threatened her with a loaded semiautomatic pistol.
Her lawyer said that her two grown children would back her up and testify in court this week about Mr. Sheehan’s relentless abuse, which included smashing her head against a cinder-block wall during a family vacation in Jamaica in 2007, throwing boiling pasta sauce at her, and punching her in the face the evening before the killing took place.
But a Queens prosecutor told the jury that whatever the Sheehans’ marital problems were, the killing was not justified and did not amount to self-defense. Crime-scene investigators said that Mr. Sheehan, who was shaving before the killing, was found on the bathroom floor of their Howard Beach home, drenched in blood, with the faucet still running.
“Barbara Sheehan unleashed a torrent of bullets at her husband only feet away,” the prosecutor, Debra Pomodore, said. “Barbara Sheehan didn’t fear Raymond Sheehan. She despised him.”
The case has generated national attention, and legal experts consider it a test of the so-called battered-woman defense. With this strategy, the history of an abused woman accused of assault or homicide is examined to help explain her mental state and to account for the emotional paralysis that prompts some victims of abuse to remain with their abusers.
New York State’s self-defense law justifies the use of lethal force in response to an immediate threat to life. But lawyers for battered women argue that lethal force can sometimes be justified when the threat might not appear immediate, equating the abused woman to a combat veteran who knows instinctively when the violence will turn deadly.
Ms. Sheehan, during a tearful 2009 appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” declared that her marriage had been abusive. She has since become something of a symbol for battered women, and many of her supporters in court wore purple ribbons in solidarity with victims of domestic violence.
Ms. Sheehan, 50, who is free on $1 million bail, said her husband had routinely taunted her that he could kill her and cover it up with impunity because of the investigative skills he had acquired as a crime-scene officer. She said that the evening before the killing he had bloodied her nose after she refused to go on a trip to Florida, fearing that she would not return alive.
Michael G. Dowd, Ms. Sheehan’s lawyer, told the jury that on the day of the shooting, Ms. Sheehan took her husband’s loaded revolver as she tried to sneak out of the house after a fierce argument the evening before. But he said that Mr. Sheehan, who was in the bathroom, tried to stop her, grabbing a semiautomatic pistol he had placed atop the bathroom vanity and pointing it at her.
Mr. Dowd said Ms. Sheehan then fired, shooting her husband five times. Mr. Dowd said Mr. Sheehan, covered in blood, fell to the tile floor, screaming, “I’m going to kill you!” Then, as Mr. Sheehan reached for the pistol after it had fallen to the floor, Ms. Sheehan grabbed it from him and shot him an additional six times, Mr. Dowd said.
Ms. Sheehan, a churchgoing mother of two who wears sober gray suits, has cut a striking figure during the trial. Sometimes she can be seen stoically scribbling notes during witness testimony; other times she sobs openly and clasps her hands as if in prayer. On Wednesday, she bolted from the courtroom on the verge of fainting after the prosecution showed the jury graphic autopsy photos of Mr. Sheehan’s wounds.
Ms. Sheehan’s family said she often appeared anxious and would show up at family events heavily made up to cover up bruises and black eyes. Mr. Sheehan would also demand that his wife show him cash register receipts from her trips to the store, so that he could monitor the timing of her every move, Anne Calise, Ms. Sheehan’s cousin, said.
“We always thought she was the one we would find dead,” Ms. Calise said in an interview.
But Mr. Sheehan’s friends saw another side of him. He retired in 2002 from the New York Police Department, and they said he appeared to be a devoted father who was frequently seen by his wife’s side in church, and who also worked with youth teams at his children’s school. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, he helped sift through the rubble at ground zero, they said.
Prosecutors typically reject the battered-woman defense by arguing that a person in Ms. Sheehan’s position had the opportunity to seek help. An abusive relationship, however egregious, they argue, does not justify homicide. But friends of Ms. Sheehan say she was too afraid to report her abuse to the police since her husband had worked in law enforcement.
Legal experts said the success of the battered-woman defense was mixed.
In November 2010, Shanique Simmons, a Bronx woman who had faced years of violent abuse from her husband, including rape, was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense after she fatally stabbed him in the hallway outside her apartment. The husband was unarmed, but the jury concluded that Ms. Simmons, based on her past abuse, reasonably feared for her life.
But in another case in the Bronx in 1991, a jury found a woman who had shot her abusive husband in the head when he was lying down guilty of murder.
Holly Maguigan, a law professor at New York University Law School who specializes in abuse cases, noted that in cases in which abused women killed their husbands, they were typically convicted at the same rate as others accused of murder.
She said that until feminism changed social attitudes about abuse in the 1970s, battered women who killed their abusers in self-defense had been encouraged to plead insanity or were persuaded to plead guilty to lesser charges rather than risk going to trial.
“Today, there has been a growing recognition that women who are victims of violence in some cases have no choice to kill or be killed,” she said. “But juries still can have a hard time understanding how a wife can kill her husband when she is supposed to be the cool-headed and nurturing one.”