When domestic violence victims defend themselves

What happens when – after being hit, punched, kicked, slapped or even raped – a victim of domestic violence decides to defend her life? He says he is going to kill her and this time she truly believes he will. She knows that if she doesn’t defend herself today, she may not see tomorrow.

For example, what if she got a knife from the kitchen and stabbed him?

An incident just like this happened in Vancouver, British Columbia. Here is what happened according to a November 8 report on The Province.com, “Ejigu, a mother of two who came to Canada from Ethiopia in 2007, testified that her husband, Yadeta Kareba, 49, beat her frequently while they were living in Africa.

“She said he used a stick and his hand but most often used a shoe and that while it was customary for women to [be] beaten by their husbands in Ethiopia, Kareba should not have done so because he was educated. The beatings often happened in front of the children, [the] court heard.

“Kareba beat her numerous times when the children had gone to school and insisted on her doing sexual acts portrayed in pornographic magazines. She said he struck her with his hand, kicked her and beat her with a broom.

“Three days before the stabbing incident, he drove her out to the woods outside Fort St. John, took out a folding knife, said her mind was messed up and that he would kill her and kill himself, she said. Ejigu said he told her that he could stab her and leave her for the bears to eat and she begged him to spare her.

“ The stabbing incident was preceded by a fight in which Ejigu claimed Kareba was trying to choke her. She said that he called her inside from the front lawn, while she was cutting some grass for their pet rabbit.”

Fearing for her life, the woman then stabbed the man. The man survived the stabbing, but the abused woman was arrested and went to trial – even though she was acting in self-defence. However, justice prevailed.

The Vancouver Sun reported on November 10, “In a ruling posted online Friday, Justice Elliott Myers said Crown prosecutors failed to prove Ayelech Ejigu wasn’t motivated by self-defence when she attacked her husband in the basement bedroom of their Fort St. John home June 2, 2010.

“He said evidence suggested Ejigu, who is an immigrant from Ethiopia, felt alone and isolated, had no one to talk to or confide in, and her husband, Yadeta Kareba, had beaten her in the past and threatened to kill her just days before the stabbing.

“Myers said when Kareba yelled at his wife before the attack, she may have thought he meant to ‘kill, attack or sexually assault her, and that she had to defend herself by killing him…It is my view that under her circumstances that view was reasonable,’ he said.”

What is self-defense? According to Wikipedia, “The right of self-defense…is the right for civilians acting on their own behalf to engage in a level of violence, called reasonable force or defensive force, for the sake of defending one’s own life or the lives of others, including, in certain circumstances, the use of deadly force.

Domestic violence is a hideous crime that wreaks havoc on the victim’s mental, emotional and physical well being. There is a feeling of isolation and helplessness and it feels like no one cares enough to make the abuse stop. Some abuse victims reach out for help in small ways by telling a friend or family member or posting little cries for help on a Facebook page, but too often those cries for help are ignored.

I know; I have been there. There were many times that I thought I would have to defend my life from my own mother because I was sure she was going to kill me. When the abuser says he/she is going to kill you, and you have previous experiences of being hospitalised because of the abuse, you truly believe with your whole being that you are going to die if you do not take extreme measures.

I completely support any woman who defends herself against an abuser. The bodies of Guyana’s women have been piling up for years now and women have nowhere to turn for protection. There are no shelters with space where a victim can run for safety. The incompetent and uncaring police often send the victim back to her abuser, call the abuser to come get the woman or laugh at the woman and her situation (I have heard dozens of stories like this).

If a victim cannot count on the state, law enforcement or even her own family and friends to protect her, what is she to do? Yes, she should leave the piece of trash abuser, but that is not always a viable option and that is not how a relationship steeped in domestic violence works. The abuser is always so sorry, he loves her so very much and he will never hurt her again. Or she is nothing without him, if she leaves him – she will regret it and if he can’t have her no one will.

Victims are almost always trapped in abusive relationships. They are not there because they want to be. They do not want to be beat, raped and tortured. The abuser breaks down her will to stand up for herself. Confidence in herself and her own decisions is demolished as the abuser berates and demeans her, reducing her to a pliable victim that will comply with his violence.

As a result, when a victim finds the capacity to fight back when she feels her life is in mortal danger, I will support her. I will stand right beside her, hand-in-hand. Just let them try to charge her for defending herself when no one else in this whole country would protect her.

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