Like many of you, I have been following the Jodi Arias trial fairly closely, getting updates via Twitter and through various news sites. Her defense that she committed the crime of murder because she was abused, threatened, and afraid is one that can definitely be justifiable. Anyone who is in fear for their own life has the right to defend themselves against whatever is threatening it. Unfortunately for Arias, her defense is full of more holes than anyone can count and her excuses surely won’t fly; I predict a guilty verdict in her near future. That said, what are we to think in a situation where the only way out of a terrible place is to harm another human being, possibly to the point where that person’s life is lost?
I am one of many people who have been stuck in an abusive relationship. I was battered, beaten, and very fearful. It was a low point in my life and I felt that there was no escape from it; I was afraid to run because I did not know what the consequences would be. Unlike Arias, I enlisted the help of family, friends, and the police to make my escape. The only casualty in my run for freedom was a cheap toaster from Walmart that he smashed and possibly a couch that he was throwing around the room as I drove away with my belongings. I had thought many times about fighting back, and did get a few swings in here and there, but killing the guy was not a thought that ever crossed my mind. Making murder an option seems insane to me.
The issue of domestic violence is cheapened by Arias’s defense. At this moment, there are women, men, children, and animals being abused or killed at the hands of a thoughtless lunatic who cannot control their anger or urges. These innocents need to be recognized and need to be helped. It’s disgusting for a person who is nothing but a cold-blooded killer to jump into the battered woman role simply because it may help a jury sympathize with her and possibly see her as not guilty of her crimes. A frightened woman trying to defend herself does not stab a man almost 30 times, shoot him, and nearly decapitate him out of fear. A frightened woman maybe gets one or two in before fleeing the scene in search of help. A frightened woman does not invent a masked intruder to cover her tracks either, she spills her guts afterward and pleads for understanding.
I can’t count how many females I’ve come across in my life who have sex with someone when they know they shouldn’t, maybe get pregnant or contract an STD, and then cry rape in order to make themselves seem innocent. The result is that women who have actually been raped are looked at as liars because of all the women who lie about it. I fear that the same thing will happen with domestic violence and women who choose to fight back if people like Arias continue throwing it out there as a cover for their terrible behavior and poor choices. Taking it to a simpler form, for example, when you get one person who lies about a missed call and says the voicemail just didn’t go through, you begin to doubt every person who uses the same excuse. It makes it much harder for the honest people to be seen as truthful when we have so many reasons to doubt.
Assuming for a moment that every claim Arias made about Travis Alexander is completely true and that he was a terrible abusive piece of dirt who didn’t deserve to live, what was stopping her from escaping the situation in a non-violence way? Why didn’t she stop the “self-defense” at incapacitation rather than taking it to murder? Why didn’t she seek support from family, friends, or law enforcement if she was truly afraid? Why not seek counseling in order to gain the strength to leave him behind? If all claims were true and Alexander was this horrendous person, is that enough to justify the brutal and senseless way he died?
Homicide can be considered justified if it’s a matter of only one person getting out of the situation alive and having no other choice. It is surely an impossible call to make and leaves you living with the fact that you took another person’s life. It should only be considered as a last resort and isn’t something to be celebrated or enjoyed. Arias not only wasn’t put in a situation where physically harming Alexander was the only escape, but she seems to have enjoyed killing him and doesn’t seem to have much remorse. There should not be an excuse for this brutal crime, especially not the battered woman excuse. Being abused is terrible, but it doesn’t give you the right to act equally as bad and then to use the abuse excuse as a way out.
The problem of domestic violence needs to be taken seriously and must not become a go-to excuse for people looking for a justification for their own bad decisions. There is almost always a way out that does not involve any bloodshed, so long as the abused person is willing and able to seek out that escape route. Women who were in the same situation that Arias alleges she was in should not turn to murder as a means of escape, they should simply escape. When nothing is holding you back except for your own insecurities, there is no excuse for remaining in a bad situation and definitely no excuse for killing your abuser. I honestly thought I was going to die a few times when trapped in my own abusive relationship. But then I realized that “trapped” was the wrong word. I chose to stay, and I could choose to leave. Cutting those ties are hard and the pain is severe, but it sure as hell beats becoming a murderer and sitting in court at the mercy of my peers. You don’t defeat evil by becoming evil yourself, and you sure as hell don’t pretend someone was evil in order to justify your own evil behavior.