Mike Dowd is my hero. He’s a New York attorney who has taken on sexual-predator priests, and he’s representing Barbara Sheehan. He also founded the Women’s Justice Center at Pace University Law School. It was the first legal center devoted to the issue of domestic violence in the country:
Each day we reach out to help and improve the lives of domestic vilence victims and survivors so that they may move forward with dignity, confidence and renewed strength.
Barbara Sheehan’s story makes me angry. Her late husband Raymond was a retired cop who kept 11 knives and hundreds of bulletsin his nightstand. Been there. He said he could kill her and get away with it. Been there too. Brings to mind Anna Quindlen’s line in Black and Blue: “What are you gonna do, Fran? Call the cops?” Raymond’s colleagues thought he was a nice guy. The day before she shot him 11 times while he shaved, he broke her nose during a fight about going to Florida on vacation. She told Oprah today:
“He raised the gun and he aimed it at me, and he told me he was going to kill me. So I ran down the hallway, away from the bathroom. When I got into the bedroom, the other gun that he normally carried was laying there, and my thought was that I couldn’t get out of the house without passing the bathroom, so I got the other gun and I came down the hallway with the gun in my hand.”
Barbara Sheehan thought if her husband saw a gun in her hand that he might back down, “I ran by the bathroom door, and as I ran by, he came at me with the gun he had, and I had no choice.”
Raymond had been abusing her for 18 years. So, now she faces 15 years in prison for defending herself. Most folks who act in self-defense don’t get arrested. . .unless they’re women who defend themselves against domestic violence. . .and he’s a cop.
“We [her co-workers] even contacted a domestic hotline number, and after giving them all the specifics of the incident, they told me that the only way out of the type of relationship I was in was to actually disappear, because he would find me no matter where I was. He worked in the crime scene unit in the New York Police Department, and he had access to all kinds of forensic work, all kinds of access to find me if I was to go anywhere, and it wasn’t an option.”
“. . .He promised that he would find us, and he promised that he would take care of me and my children and no one would ever know it. He’d go after my family, my brother, my sister, my parents,” she says. “And I knew that he would. There was no doubt in my mind that he would.”
Update: Ms. Sheehan was on Anderson on February 9, 2012. She was found not guilty of murdering her husband, but she was found guilty of unlawful possession of a gun and was sentenced to five years in prison. She is out on bail while her case is on appeal. She is unable to find employment because she is a convicted felon. She and her children finally feel safe at home. The tapes on Anderson Cooper’s web site are well worth watching.
Oprah’s other guest today, Stacey Lannert, endured 10 years of rape (ages 8 to 18) before she murdered her father. But, thejury never heard this evidence because it was deemed irrelevant and contrary to the prosecuting attorney’s theory of the case. Ms. Lannert was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but her sentence was commuted by former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt as he was leaving office. Since her release from prison, Ms. Lannert has become and advocate and started a web site for survivors of sexual abuse:
“The compassion and encouragement and support that I have been met with from other women who went through the same thing just really made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”
“I want to help end sexual abuse in America by putting a voice to it and talking about what happened to me, so I make it okay for others to talk about what happened to them. I’ve been pretty busy, and hopefully we can make a change.”
A Nancy Grace transcript from an April 11, 2005 show tells Ms. Lannert’s story in detail including the abuse experienced by both her parents.