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NNEDV Condemns LA Sheriff’s Advice as ‘Dangerous, Irresponsible’

August 13, 2015

Following the murder of Monica Butler Johnson in Geismar, LA over the weekend, Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley advised victims of domestic violence to arm themselves and “drop him before he gets into your house.” This advice contradicts numerous research studies showing that the presence of firearms greatly increases danger to the victim [1] where there has been domestic violence.

“This Louisiana sheriff’s advice is dangerous and irresponsible,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and a Louisiana native. “The system failed Monica Butler Johnson. It wasn’t her job to arrest, detain, prosecute, or try the man who abused her. Survivors of domestic violence want to stop the abuse, and although the accused perpetrator had recently been arrested for serious domestic violence, he had already been released, and then had then violated the terms of his release. He should not have been on the street to hurt her again.”

Now under arrest for her murder, Monica’s estranged husband and former sheriff’s deputy David Johnson had previously been charged with domestic abuse strangulation, and Monica had a restraining order against him.

The system failed Monica Butler Johnson. It wasn’t her job to arrest, detain, prosecute, or try the man who abused her.

“Strangulation is a major warning sign for lethality in domestic violence cases and the presence of a gun makes it five times more likely that a woman will be murdered,” said Gandy.

Many women who do as the sheriff advised and use a gun to defend themselves, a recent example being Marissa Alexander, end up being imprisoned for such actions. For example, a California state prison study found that as many as 93 percent of women imprisoned for killing an intimate partner had been abused by that person.

Since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) the law enforcement and criminal justice response to domestic violence has improved dramatically, and has saved the lives of countless women and children. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution to domestic violence, and police intervention may not be sought by some victims, these systems play a critical part of each community’s response to domestic violence by holding offenders accountable and keeping victims safe.

“It is clear that the criminal justice response needs to continue to improve so that no survivor feels she needs to turn to a gun to protect herself,” concluded Gandy.

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The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that serves as the leading national voice for domestic violence victims and their allies. NNEDV’s membership includes all 56 state and territorial coalitions against domestic violence, including over 2,000 local programs. NNEDV has been advancing the movement against domestic violence for 25 years, having led efforts among domestic violence advocates and survivors in urging Congress to pass the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994.