I shot my abuser to escape. Why are so many domestic violence survivors like me in prison?

I shot my abuser to escape. Why are so many domestic violence survivors like me in prison?
I shot my abuser to escape. Why are so many domestic violence survivors like me in prison?

My identify is April Wilkens, and I’m a 52-year-old domestic violence survivor in my twenty fifth yr of incarceration. I’m imprisoned at Mabel Bassett Correctional Middle in McLoud, Oklahoma.

Prior to being locked up, I was verbally, mentally, bodily and sexually abused by my ex-fiancé. The abuse left me completely damaged and humiliated.

In 1998, my ex-fiancé brutally raped me, handcuffed me and threatened to sodomize and kill me. As he lunged towards me, I shot him with considered one of his personal weapons and couldn’t cease firing till the gun was empty. He was shot eight occasions. Later that day, a sexual assault nurse documented my quite a few accidents, together with bruises throughout my physique and vaginal tears. Regardless of my accidents, the prosecution asserted, “This wasn’t rape, members of the jury; this was consensual intercourse.”

The jury convicted me of first-degree murder, their solely possibility, and urged the minimal sentence of life in jail with parole potential after 15 years. Regardless of being really helpful for parole by the state’s personal parole investigators, I have been denied parole 4 occasions and commutation twice.

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Numerous survivors are incarcerated – and the percentages are stacked towards us

I’m simply considered one of numerous domestic violence survivors behind bars in America. Research point out almost 90% of ladies imprisoned in some states have been domestic violence victims prior to incarceration.

The percentages are actually stacked towards girls in Oklahoma. Moms, daughters, sisters and even grandmothers like me are much more possible to be abused and find yourself behind bars in Oklahoma than in almost another state.

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And take into account this: Domestic violence reviews in Oklahoma elevated yearly from 2016 to 2020, with domestic violence reaching a 20-year high in 2020.

Oklahoma persistently has one of many highest charges of ladies killed by males in America. It’s deplorable that so many of Oklahoma’s feminine prisoners are domestic violence survivors.

Jail is teeming with abuse and violence. The strip searches are particularly dehumanizing, significantly for rape survivors.

Jail is teeming with abuse and violence. Practically each facet of a prisoner’s life is managed. The strip searches are particularly dehumanizing, significantly for rape survivors like myself. In many methods, being in jail is like being in an abusive relationship.

To at the present time, in virtually each state together with Oklahoma, it’s uncommon for courts to take into account the abuse a survivor has suffered in sentencing. What does it say a couple of society that it treats a few of its most victimized and weak residents with so little compassion and mercy? How can we repair such a horrible injustice?

We’d like to take into account prior abuse at sentencing

There may be hope. In 2019, the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act was handed in New York, permitting courts to give shorter sentences to abuse survivors who can present that the abuse they suffered contributed considerably to the crime for which they have been convicted.

Quite a few abuse survivors have obtained shorter sentences since then. Now, attorneys Colleen McCarty and Leslie Briggs, with Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, are constructing the Oklahoma Survivor Justice Coalition to educate and encourage Oklahoma lawmakers to move the same legislation.

Rep. Toni Hasenbeck plans to introduce the bill in Oklahoma throughout this legislative session.

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Like me, about 85% of women imprisoned in Oklahoma are mothers, making Oklahoma’s astronomical feminine incarceration price much more devastating.

My son was solely 7 when I was locked up, and our separation has been extraordinarily tough for us. He’s 31 now with a baby of his personal. I consider my 4-year-old granddaughter typically and pray for change so that neither she nor anybody else ever has to undergo what I have gone by.

Everybody, particularly survivors and others impacted by domestic violence, ought to be part of the motion and comply with #SurvivorsDeserveRealJustice to assist survivors in jail and people dealing with felony costs.

If you happen to or somebody is in a domestic violence scenario, assist is out there. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or thehotline.org

April Wilkens is an inmate at Mabel Bassett Correctional Middle in McLoud, Oklahoma. 

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This text initially appeared on Oklahoman: I killed to survive domestic violence. Why am I in prison?

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