Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Trials On Television Vs. Reality

After experiencing the injustices in family court since 1996, I hoped that someday I could make a change in what was happening within our legal system.  At one point I was preparing to attend law school, anticipating position as an attorney would allow me to identify the continued abuse of the victims of domestic violence inside the courthouse. A change in my circumstances halted the funding of law school, where I’d have the luxury to pick and choose my cases.  Staying on that career path would incur hefty academic loans, forcing me to accept every case in order to payback these loans in addition to supporting myself.   I could not bear the thought of compromising my morals, values and ethics by possibly having to represent a batterer and destroy a family to satisfy my financial obligations.  So, despite my careful planning, I walked away from the legal profession.

Years later, I still find a great fascination with the law, specifically trials.  In addition to reading about true life crime (I’m a huge Ann Rule fan); I have become an avid armchair court watcher.  I barely missed a moment of the Casey Anthony trial, as well as the analytic programs in the evening.  The outcome was heartbreaking, but the reasoning was logical.  It was a chess game.  It was strategic.  It was not based on honesty…it was based on performances.  This was something I had learned from my divorce trial.  Sadly, the idealistic belief that our legal system is respected by all is not so.

When I heard that the Jodi Arias murder trial was going to begin, I was anticipating the start.  Preferring that to local programming, I began watching.  Jodi Arias is a 30 year old woman on trial for killing her ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008.  She stabbed him 29 times, slit his throat and shot him in the face.  After initial denials, Jodi admitted she killed Travis in self defense.  Although she allegedly stole a gun belonging to her grandparents, dyed her hair during the 100 mile drive to Travis, borrowed gas cans to anonymously fill her tank during the long trip, rented a car (insisting on an “inconspicuous” color) and manipulated the license plates, she denied her actions were premeditated.

To date, Jodi is in the midst of her testimony where she described Travis Alexander as an abusive, hypocritical Mormon man, who had pedophile tendencies.  There is not a shred of supporting evidence – no pictures, no journals, and no police reports.  Her robotic revelations reek of discrepancies and incredulous statements, none of which could be an excuse to stab a man 29 times, slit his throat and shoot him in the face.

I am particularly interested in this case because I was a victim of domestic abuse.  All I wanted was a traditional family lifestyle with my husband and our three children.  My needs were simple, and focused on conventional values and my children’s happiness.  But, I was married to a controlling abusive man who mocked religion and indulged the lifestyle of a single man.  Our relationship was very different than Jodi and Travis who appeared to enjoy a great deal of cohesive couple time and shared ideas.  Yet, Jodi’s accusation that Travis abused her, resulted in a vague description of an alleged strangulation evoking panicked thoughts of being unable to breathe. 

Experiencing the trauma of hands tightening around your throat does not allow one to cognitively reflect on the effects of being strangled - I know, because it happened to me.  When my husband was strangling me, I was unaware of anything, and was unable to move.  When he stopped, I was numb.  I barely remember getting off the ground and walking into our apartment.  The shock of seeing the marks on my neck jolted me into the reality of documenting the event by taking a few self-portraits.  One thing I remembered was later trying to pick out the gravel from our driveway that was embedded in the back of my scalp. 

Because of the inability of the Norfolk County Probate Court to understand all the components of abuse, even with the pictures, the judge said he did not believe I was strangled.  The unethical attorney representing my husband basically used the Jose Baez, a la Casey Anthony ploy.  She threw enough shit out to deflect the judge from the truth of the case…that I had been severely abused in every way possible.  Despite that, I was an exemplary mother; while my husband was a batterer and absentee father.  Because of her lies, fabrications and ranting, she won custody of my children for their father….who has damaged them beyond repair. 

If Jodi Arias is able to beat her crime using an abused woman defense, I would say that our system is brutally flawed. Jodi Arias could very well be given that “get out of jail free” card for her animalistic killing of Travis Alexander.  The verdict is not in, but it makes me angry to hear some of the analysis after the testimony and the anticipation of the “experts” who will provide support in Jodi’s claim of being a victim of domestic abuse.  This is making me feel that all the women I know who have been through similar situations and lost their children in the process have merely been swept under the rug because we did not stab our abusers 29 times, slit his throat and shoot him in the face. 

Is that what needs to be done in order to have experts recognize the effects from years of domestic violence?  Many women have avoided taking the law into their own hands because they are decent women who had a belief that our courts would recognize what they had endured, and make the appropriate recommendations instead of ripping their children away and giving them to their abuser.  Because I am a survivor…and a strong one at that…I have taken my own path in this journey for justice.  Although my children are destroyed, I have written a book as documentation with supporting evidence as to the gross mistakes made in Norfolk Probate Court.  I can only hope that the changes I wanted to make as a prospective attorney will be recognized as errors in the system, so the real abusers will face their deserved punishment, instead of the victims.

And what will happen to Jodi Arias?  The case is not over.  I am praying that she is not labeled as a victim of abuse, for if she is, it will denounce the real victim’s plight, and in fact, she will be getting away with murdering an innocent man, the same way my abusive ex got away with the freedom to continue his abusive ways on me and our innocent children.  And if Jodi does walk, she will be leaving the memory of Travis as an abuser who was ultimately murdered because of his “behavior”.  If so, shouldn’t other abusers share the same fate, instead of being given the right to continue to live and abuse their former wives and children as allowed within the halls of “justice”?         

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