Thursday, June 12, 2008

"We're the Only Ones Who Can Save Them"

H/T Mrs. O

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 She'd obtained a number of protective orders and had some of them rescinded.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.

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.

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:
Clinton Ryder [Theresa's father] was able to get three children — an 11-year-old boy and two young girls — out of the house.

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.

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:
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.
“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.”
Because the pending charges and undoubtedly the word of Theresa Brantley were not enough "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, 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.

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.
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.

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.


Brian said...

I don't even know where to begin on this. I'm nauseous because of the response by both the police and the so-called experts.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I've had an ass full of people pretending like "the law" would help battered/threatened spouses if only they'd make use of it!, when the reality is that the legal system will almost always lock up any woman who does the one thing proven to stop men like this from killing her - kill the fucker in self defense, first.

Somehow it's legal to use deadly force to protect your property from intruders, but use it to protect your personhood, and I'll see you in the big house, sister.

It is not my wish that we attempt to "solve" the problems of inter-relationship violence by snuffing out everybody who does it, by which I mean, I would much prefer to prevent it than clean up after it. I just would like, in the mean time, for people to stop pretending that there is much choice for many women in this particular situation besides kill or be killed. Other people are often afraid to help them, or don't care or don't know how to in any meaningful way, and the law tells them to go eff themselves.

Kimberly said...

This whole thing sickens me to the core. And for these so-called experts and law enforcers to actually pretend they give a damn while standing idly by and watching from the side lines time and time again wringing their hands and saying there's nothing they can do.........

I can't even articulate how angry that makes me.

k8 said...

This is exactly the type of thing that would drive my social worker mother batty. Once, when one of her co-workers was being targeted by an armed man already supposedly "wanted" by the police, the local police wouldn't do anything to help protect their office! Luckily, she had a good working relationship with the state police officers and they stationed someone there, but it could have been a disaster if he had shown up (it was the beginning of the month and people were coming in - with their children - to get their aid, etc.). She had been mad a the local police before, but that was bad. Of course, then they were mad that the state police had come in and usurped their territory.

These situations infuriate me.

Hagar's Daughter said...

FYI to all readers: Leaving an abusive partner is the MOST DANGEROUS time. Please pass this message along to anyone even if you don't think its necessary at the time. There are so many women who have been killed by husbands and boyfriend while leaving or after they have ended the relationship.

Seeing the trauma children experience watching their mother murdered - oh my God - I have trouble putting it in words.

Going to a family or friend's home is usually not the safest place to be because restraining orders don't stop a person who is determined to kill or physically harm you.

I don't know what it will take to get law enforcement officers (there is a large percentage who are domestic violence perps themselves) to take d.v. seriously. I really don't know.

Phil said...

This is pretty sickening. Because someone is a victim of domestic violence does not make them a victim per se. They are capable of taking matters into their own hands if the support is available. Yes, there are times when authorities must intervene, but overall its support should be empowering and not keep sufferers of abuse in the victim place.

changeseeker said...

"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..."

I am never a knew-jerk advocate of more use of incarceration. Unfortunately, "domestic terrorism" (the attempt to control one's mate or former mate through use of terror) does not respond to half-measures while the patriarchy is still in place. When the whole society is built on the idea that men should be in control and that men who are NOT in control are not men, then this is the madness that ensues. The stats on women being murdered when they try to leave such situations is gut-wrenching and it's very difficult to protect them because the men in question have lost their minds. You can't reason with them. You can't scare them. They are in over-drive. They will kill themselves to re-establish control. This is just one more of the shames of our crazy nation.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...