Battered Mothers Often Prosecuted For Failing To Protect Their Children


When a Dallas man killed his three-year-old son, his wife was prosecuted for failing to protect the boy and got a 45-year prison term. BuzzFeed says the case shows what many battered women’s advocates say is a grotesque injustice. As is common in families terrorized by a violent man, there were two victims in the Dallas case, mother and child. Both had suffered beatings for months. In all but a handful of states, laws allow for one of the victims — the battered mother — to be treated as a perpetrator, guilty not of committing abuse herself but of failing to protect her children from her violent partner.

Said Stephanie Avalon of the federally funded Battered Women’s Justice Project, “It's the ultimate blaming of the victim.” BuzzFeed News identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison in the last decade for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children. In every one of these cases, there was evidence the mother herself had been battered by the man. Almost half, 13 mothers, were given 20 years or more. At least 29 states have laws that explicitly criminalize parents' failure to protect their children from abuse. In Texas, the crime is known as injury to a child “by omission.” In other states, it goes by “permitting child abuse” or “enabling child abuse.”

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