Editorial: Why Didn’t She Leave?

She was kicked, beaten, punched, choked, burned. Why didn’t she leave?

She was threatened, taunted, humiliated, disgraced.  Why didn’t she leave?

Every detail of her personal existence was challenged daily. Her cell phone was monitored, every minute forcibly accounted for. Why didn’t she leave?

She felt her children and the rest of her family were in danger. Why didn’t she leave?

She was trapped, physically worn. She was battered.  Why didn’t she leave?

That question has become a hallmark inquiry in the realm of domestic violence from those of us who have not experienced it.

It remains incomprehensible to most people that any human being could treat another human being as it has been proven Ray Sheehan treated his wife Barbara for almost two decades before she murdered him in February 2008.

Why didn’t she leave?

While the question remains unanswered, the dark truths behind domestic violence offer evidence as to the destruction that most people do not leave.

Barbara Sheehan is one of the estimated 1.3 million women who are victims of domestic violence every year in the United States, where one of every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

Children who witness violent behavior between their parents are the strongest risk factor in transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.

Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their partners and children when they become adults.

In 70 -80 percent of homicide cases, regardless of who killed who, the man abused the woman. Almost one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner

The percentage of victims reporting a domestic violence injury who sought treatment less than one-fifth Roughly translated, out of 1.3 million women abused every year, less than 230,000 sought treatment for their injuries­­.

These statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence do not address the ever burning question. What they do is to supply overwhelming evidence that more than 80% of domestic violence victims don’t leave.

We hope for Barbara Sheehan’s sake that the jury carefully considers that sometimes leaving is not an option.

Although we do not condone ever taking the law into one’s own hands or taking someone’s life, we support fully the right of an individual to defend their own life.

The question now before the Sheehan jury is not whether Barbara Sheehan shot and killed her husband, but whether she did so in self-defense. Although we would make no attempt to explain why she didn’t leave, we can undoubtedly answer the question before the Sheehan jury.

Barbara Sheehan spent the last 18 years of her marriage in self-defense, doing what she thought was protecting her children and her family.

So yes, we believe that Barbara Sheehan was, on February 18, 2008, doing what she had been doing every day for nearly twenty years: Defending her life.



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