On Tuesday night, Bobby Brantley rode by the home where his wife and children lived, screaming out the window, threatening to kill her.
Twelve hours later, Brantley fulfilled his fatal promise, murdering her and her mother inside her family's home before shooting himself after a standoff as police entered the house to save a 4-month-old boy.I know that the Brantley case is not unique. The background is all-too-familiar: Brantley had been abusive to his wife, Theresa, and her children. She'd obtained a number of protective orders and had some of them rescinded. He had a history of violence, including:
September 1999 — Arrested in Alexandria, Ky., for second-degree assault.He posted bond--a measly $200--on those last two charges and killed Theresa and her mother hours later. Police theorize that the children's lives were in imminent danger as well:
March 2005 — Arrested in Sterlington for aggravated assault for beating his mother with a pipe. He pleaded guilty to simple battery and spent two years on probation, which ended in January 2007.
April 2006 — Arrested in Farmerville for two counts of domestic abuse battery.
November 2007 — Arrested in Union Parish for domestic abuse battery.
June 2, 2008 — Arrested in Union Parish for aggravated battery with a dangerous weapon, aggravated second-degree battery and false imprisonment. The complaint originated at St. Francis North Hospital, where Theresa Brantley told investigators Brantley beat her and her teenage son with a board. Brantley was out on $15,000 bond at the time of the shooting.
June 11, 2008 — Arrested in Monroe for disturbing the peace and disturbing the peace by profane language for threatening to kill his wife.
Clinton Ryder [Theresa's father] was able to get three children — an 11-year-old boy and two young girls — out of the house.Theresa was in the process of trying to get another restraining order because Brantley had recently attacked her and two of her children with a board, belt, and buckle.The Brantley case has given the Monroe, LA, News-Star an opportunity to consult some "experts" on domestic violence. From the first sentence of the resultant article, I was put off:
Bobby Brantley apparently followed the children outside and prepared to shoot at them, but a neighbor was able to get the children inside her home before they were injured, Monroe Police Chief Ron Schleuter said.
Victims of domestic violence have to be saved — rarely can they save themselves.I think women who are being abused are absolutely instrumental in saving themselves. Yes, they need and hopefully, receive lots of help. But that first step of leaving, indicates a very real desire to save oneself.
So, it is no surprise that the rest of the article, in discussing how to "save" domestic assault survivors, focuses on how Theresa Brantley did not save herself--in particular, she'd had two restraining orders dismissed. No mention of what could be done to deter abusers or why Bobby Brantley had not faced stiffer penalties for his violent history. Apparently, restraining orders--notoriously unenforced--are the answer:
Because no restraining order was in place Tuesday night, when Bobby Brantley drove by the Ryder home shouting threats and obscenities at his wife and her family, even his arrest for disturbing the peace was a brief one.Because the pending charges and undoubtedly the word of Theresa Brantley were not enough "to work with."
“If we’d had a restraining order, we might have been able to prevent this,” Schleuter said. “Not to say the same result wouldn’t have happened eventually [how optimistic], but we would have had more to work with.”
District Attorney Jerry Jones officers the reassurance that Louisiana's "domestic violence laws are the 'strictest in the nation'." But that rings hollow, especially given the fact that another News-Star article reports that "The rate of domestic violence in northeastern Louisiana is twice the number in other parts of the United States." And in areas like this, according to WomensLaw.org, the ordeal of escaping an abuser is complicated by a number of factors:
It may take police and sheriffs a long time to get to you.I'd like to point out that in my hometown (and to my knowledge, in this parish), there is no shelter or easily accesible resources.* Women here must rely on the Lincoln Parish Domestic Abuse Resistance Team.
A lot of times, there aren't any buses, taxis, or other types of public transportation - and your abuser may keep you from using the car.
Your abuser may have weapons.
There may be many isolated areas in your community. These isolated areas can be dangerous for you.
Safe places, like a friend's house or a shelter, may be far away.
In your area, people may know where the domestic violence shelter is - the shelter location may not be confidential.
And, the rate of femicide in Louisiana is high.**
I am not questioning the need for restraining orders--I think they are needed--but there are so many other areas in which we can work in Louisiana to stop violence against women.
Especially before experts claim so smugly,
These women are beaten, scared and helpless... And we’re the only ones who can save them.
*Apparently, this is the case for more than half of Louisiana parishes. Another note on this.
**Back in 2004, this article noted that Louisiana was in the top five states for "domestic violence murders." Today, Mrs. O saw on television that Louisiana ranked number two. I'm looking for a citation.