BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After Geismar resident Monica Johnson was brutally beaten allegedly by her estranged husband, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley made an impassioned speech to women, urging them to arm themselves.
That interview was posted to the WAFB Facebook page and got 600 likes, 300 shares and over a 100 comments. It also caught the attention of national blogs and groups.
While many people applauded the bold advice, advocates against domestic violence say the idea can be dangerous.
"I support that right if that's what they want to do to make themselves feel safer. But it's important that we're clear, that's not an easy fix and it's certainly not a substitute for the system working for women," said Beth Meeks, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Wiley is hardly the first person to suggest arming victims. Research shows the chances of a woman dying are five times more likely when a gun is present in a domestic abuse case. A national survey of women in a battered shelter also shows only seven percent were able to successfully defend themselves with a gun.
Meeks also added that in many cases where women have killed their abuser, there are unintended consequences.
"Beyond the statistics, we must realize that even when it is necessary, taking another life creates deep emotional trauma that has long lasting effects." Meeks said. "Our goal here should be to reduce all homicides, not merely exchange victims."
Regardless, Meeks says this a chance to change the focus of the conversation from how women defend themselves to how we can create a system that works before it gets to that point.
According to the LCAD, which acts as a statewide resource for anti-domestic violence groups, cities like Monroe and New Orleans have reduced domestic homicides by doing more to fast track domestic violence cases.
Meeks says some courts use a risk assessment to determine if an offender is likely to act out. If there is a threat, a judge can use that to set a higher bond or add special conditions to his release. Meeks says some programs also use high risk teams which monitor the offender and help the victim make a safety plan if things escalate to violence.
She says now is an opportunity for all agencies to look more closely at what could be done to protect other victims.
"Let's talk about this case, you know from the first point of contact through the homicide and discuss what were our processes and evaluate whether there's anything that we might want to change or upgrade," said Meeks.
There are also many resources available to victims of domestic violence, to help them get out of an abusive situation and navigate challenges after.
- For help, contact one of these organizations:
- Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, www.lcadv.org, 1 (888) 411-1333
- Iris Domestic Violence Center, www.stopdv.org, (225) 389-3001 or 1 (800) 541-9706
- Life Family Outreach, (225) 772-2441
- STAR Center, www.brstar.org, (225) 383-RAPE