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Dear Amy,

My ex-husband is currently serving a 90-day jail term for his 4th domestic violence conviction. The prosecutors in our county let him plea bargain from a 4th to a 2nd, thereby avoiding felony conviction yet again. In Michigan, the 3rd is supposed to be a felony. He abused me and three other women (that have pressed charges) as well as physically and mentally abusing my daughters (child protective services said they found a preponderance for evidence of abuse, but did nothing because I was petitioning the court to have his parenting time supervised).

I am so frustrated. Every time he "gets away with" beating another woman, it's like a slap in the face to each of his victims.

How can I make people in my community aware of what is happening under their noses? Women are being victimized not only by their male counterparts, but also by an ineffectual judicial system. 8 years ago, I gathered my courage and left him. I'm now a freshman in college and I have recently found an angry voice that needs to be heard. I just don't know which avenues to take to be heard. Any ideas? Thank you in advance for your time.




Nancy --

As you can see from the other questions posted at Ask Amy, I receive many from women who have experienced the exact same injustices that you refer to. And I do blame the court system for allowing it to happen. The mandate comes down from them on what is allowable and what isn't and it's their lack of responsibility when it comes to these cases that keeps perpetrators out there and running free.

I think there also has to be more accountability among police officers. They say they can't arrest someone unless there were prior complaints, but they should have better judgment to know when to intervene when these women are truly being violated. It's a easy out for them -- they don't want to take responsibility. There are some great programs out there -- most run through the Family Violence Prevention Fund -- and they work to educate judges and police officers about the weakness in their systems. Also, I think that we need to work with the women -- women often tolerate the abuse because they think the behavior will change -- and that's an unrealistic perspective -- even if they do change -- leave them and let them prove that later. So perhaps what might make the most sense for you is to work with the individual women on how to be more empowered to take action sooner rather than later. I would suggest that you start by reaching out to those in your community who are already working on this issue -- usually the YWCA and also by calling (800) 799 SAFE -- that way you can reinforce or augment those efforts without duplicating.

Good luck and I hope that you find many ways to vocalize your perspective,

-- Amy