Stand/Ground and Abused Women

Do abused women have a right to stand their ground in their own homes?

South Carolina has an expansive “stand your ground” law that “paves the way for someone to get immunity from prosecution by declaring they killed another person in self-defense…” and …as you know…progressives have been critical of these laws, arguing that they make it far too easy for violent people to deliberately provoke or escalate confrontations and then avoid prosecution when things get dicey…and there is some reason to think that such laws correlate with a rise in the murder rate.

There are also concerns that stand/ground laws are unfairly applied, due to massive racial disparities in who successfully invokes “stand your ground” to avoid punishment.

Now comes a reason for women to be especially concerned.

Writer Amanda Marcotte In Slate tells us that in South Carolina, prosecutors are trying to argue that a woman’s right to stand her ground in a domestic dispute is less than a man’s right to stand his ground with some stranger with whom he’s gotten into a fight. 

Three South Carolina women have been “charged with murder during the past two years after stabbing a boyfriend or a roommate she said attacked her,” despite the existence of the state’s strong “stand your ground” law. 

Take the case of Whitlee Jones, who killed her boyfriend Eric Lee…claimed she was acting in self-defense. Earlier that evening, a neighbor called the cops to report Lee assaulting Jones, saying she saw Lee pulling Jones down the street by her hair.

Ms. Jones fled the scene before the police arrived and returned later to fetch her belongings. Lee confronted her at the scene. She says he shook her, but prosecutors deny it. She stabbed him in the heart, killing him, and fled once more. 

“Nearly two years later, a judge says that Jones, now 25, had a right to kill Lee under the S.C. Protection of Persons and Property Act, which allows people in certain situations to use force when faced with serious injury.”


But prosecutors are planning to fight the decision because, they argue, “stand your ground” laws should not cover domestic violence situations.


Now you might say Ms. Jones could have done more to avoid the confrontation with Mr. Lee. She…could have tried to get her stuff when Lee wasn’t home. 

Yet South Carolina has allowed other people to argue self-defense under “stand your ground” in much more doubtful situations. “The law, for instance, has been used to protect a man who killed an innocent bystander while pointing his gun at several teens he called ‘women thugs.'”

The question of whether someone should have less right to protect herself against someone she knows than against a stranger is at the heart of this case.

When people share a home with the target of their force, they don’t have that “presumption” of fear, the law says.

The problem, of course, is that many women who live with abusers are, in fact, living in fear.

Women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a man they know than by a stranger. 

In this specific case, neighbors called 911 just hours before the killing because they feared for Jones’s safety. 

“Stand/Ground” laws are a scourge. They encourage people to escalate confrontations instead of leaving or summoning help.

Still, if a state insists on having them, they should be applied evenly and fairly. 

Stand/Ground sure as hell shouldn’t allow men confronting strangers to have more rights than women facing down the dangers of domestic violence.

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