Early one morning in 1987, June Briand pulled out her husband's gun and shot him as he slept. He'd often beaten her and threatened to kill her if she left him. Her ribs had been broken, she had kidney and stomach problems, and she could've been killed at any time. She ended up sentenced to 15 years for murder. Did she have to shoot him? Why didn't she just leave?
I read about her when someone asked her governor to pardon her, saying that she couldn't leave this guy, killing him was the only way she could get away, she wasn't dangerous otherwise, and they should let her go. But according to the papers, she thought about killing, went and got a gun, and killed a sleeping man on purpose, that's first-degree murder. What do you think of that? Could she have left?
I asked a friend about her, I wanted to know if a woman really could be trapped in a terrifying, harmful, life-threatening situation and not be able to leave. My friend told me her parents divorced when she was about 4, and for 3 or 4 years, she and her mother lived with a drunk who beat her mother up every week. "Every Friday," she told me, "I'd call the cops, and they'd come try to calm him down." She had to wait until the boyfriend started actually beating her mother, if she called too early, the cops got upset with her.
Her mother had some college and a good job, why did it take years to get away from this drunk? According to Time Magazine of January 18, 1993, the men in their lives injure more American women, rich and poor alike, than car accidents, muggings and rape combined.
Is abuse a valid defense for murder?
Few people argue that it's OK for a woman, even an abused woman, to shoot a man in cold blood when she's not in danger at the time. There are shelters for battered women, and the staff know not to tell who's there. So why can't women just leave?
It's politically incorrect to talk about this, but the answer lies deep in the fundamental nature of men and women. Up until maybe 150 years ago, there was no way for a woman in America to feed herself unless some man, her father, a brother, or a husband, was willing to feed her. Women simply weren't strong enough to farm. When spinning mills got going in the 1850's, women could get jobs and feed themselves without men, but until then, a woman didn't eat unless a man gave her food. It's still that way for women in most of the world.
When a woman found a man who was willing to feed her, she had a powerful motive to stay with him, no matter how badly he treated her. Hanging around a guy meant she'd have children, of course, so he had to feed her children, too, but as long as he did that, her children could grow up to have children of their own. That's called "reproductive success."
A woman who didn't want to hang out with men didn't have children; a woman who couldn't persuade a man to feed her usually starved to death. Thus, if you look back at your ancestors, every one of your women ancestors was able to find a man to feed her and every man was willing to do it.
That long, long history of dependence on men makes it hard for a woman to pull away once she's established a relationship with a man.
What about men? If a man took care of a woman, it helped her reproductive success but it didn't do anything for him unless her children were his. A man who wasn't jealous, who wasn't possessive, might end up raising other men's children and thus get bred out of the gene pool. A jealous, possessive man, on the other hand, kept close watch over his woman so that all her kids were his. This assured his reproductive success along with hers.
A rich man could have many children by supporting multiple women, but he had to watch carefully to make sure all the children were his. That's why eunuchs were popular as harem guards. Historical records indicate that one of the Ottoman sultans had 880 children.
So women have an inherited tendency to cling to men and men have an inherited tendency to be possessive of women. In extreme cases, a man may beat a woman who acts independent and she may not be able to tear herself away from him in spite of not wanting to belong to him.
Modern women have welfare and can get jobs, they don't need men to feed them, but children do a lot better if there's a father around the house. The reason there's so much trouble in relationships between men and women is that nobody wants to admit that men and women are so different. Having sex makes a woman feel dependent. Most men know that women want a relationship and not just sex, so they pretend to give love in order to get sex. If women were more aware of the emotions behind their desire for a long-term relationship and were taught that sexual involvement with a man can lead to deep emotional involvement, they might be a bit more careful.
There's no point in women wishing that men were less possessive; that's the way they are.
What, then, do we make of couples who live together? In most cases, the woman thinks they'll get married eventually, the man doesn't. Many women are persuaded that it's more liberated for her to pay her share of the rent and other expenses so that he gets her for nothing. Women don't realize that if a man can have a woman for nothing, that's what she's worth. If she'll have sex with him without marriage, how can he trust her not to have sex with other men if he marries her? Being married to a woman he can't trust goes against all of a man's instincts. He'll play with her, but he probably won't promise to stay with her.
Is abuse an excuse for murder? No, it isn't, and if women were taught more about how their emotions can tie them to men, they might be a bit more careful.
It would be a good idea for men to be more responsible, of course, but women have been saying that for a long time without much result. Women can talk all they want about responsibility, but if a woman is willing to go to bed with a man without assuring herself that he'll act responsibly, why should he take on the burden of marriage?