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October 16, 2013 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-10-16

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6C. Wednesday, Otober 16, 2013 // The Statement

Invisible Women
by Alicia Adamczyk

statement on the street: How do you recharge during midterms?
Son the record

bile visiting a women's prison in
1989 to produce a video for the
inmates and their children, Art
& Design Prof. Carol Jacobsen was struck by
what she saw - or rather, what she didn't see.
The women in the prison - many serving
life sentences - weren't violent, career crimi-
nals or drug-addicts as popular culture would
have Jacobsen believe. Rather, they were
often victims themselves, mistreated by the
society that had sent them away.
Following that visit in 1989, Jacobsen cre-
ated the Michigan Women's Justice & Clem-
ency Project, an organization that works to
free womenin prison convicted ofmurder but
who acted in self-defense against an abuser.
In 2000, according to statistics from the
United States Justice Department, 25 percent
of women said they were raped and/or physi-
cally assaulted by a current or former spouse,
cohabiting partner or date at some point in
their lifetime. That's one in four - which
equates to roughly 3,222 female undergradu-
ates out of the 12,889 enrolled at the Univer-
sity duringFall 2012.
Broken bones and bruised skin are, unfor-
tunately, not the end of the story. Women
.tj disproportionately affected by domestic
abuse, accounting for 85 percent of the vic-
tims of intimate partner violence. The aver-
age prison sentence for men who kill their
intimate partners is two to six years; for the
women who kill their partners, the average
sentence is 15 years. Approximately 90 per-
cent of women in prisons in the United States
have been victims of domestic or intimate
partner violence.
For the Michigan Women's Justice &
Clemency Project, and Jacobsen, these are
statistics in need of change.
"I discovered who the so-called 'murder-
ers' are in our U.S. women's prisons," Jacob-
sen said of her first visit to the prison. "Most
(women) acted for their own survival, and I
was shocked and hooked for good."
Jacobsen began working with Lynn
D'Orio, an Ann Arbor-based criminal and
family attorney, in 1994 and the two began
visiting women in prison and writing clem-
ency petitions to free some of them.
So far, they, and a slew of rotating volun-
teers and interns, have helped secure the
freedom of nine women who would other-
vise have served life sentences. In the first
week of October this year, they sent 10 peti-
tions to Gov. Rick Snyder to help women in
similar situations.
- Writing a petition to the government can
take months. Jacobsen and her team meet

with women whose cases have a chance to be
petitioned, or those that offer clear evidence
of domestic abuse and that the abuse played
a factor in the crime. They then collect medi-
cal and court records, previous petitions and
even letters from family members, attesting
to the character of the women.
Victoria Adams, a graduate student in the
School of Public Health, interned for the proj-
ect over the summer to gain experience in
legal advocacy for victims of sexual assault.
She helped Jacobsen research and interview
the 10 women whose petitions were sent to
Beyond the resiliency of the women she
met, Adams said the most surprising aspects
of working with the project were the incon-

and Awareness Center, said while there's no
definitive answer to the question, a lack of
resources and support is almost certainly at
the heart of the issue.
"For women who have killed their part-.
ners, because they're in imminent threat of
their lives, that is so many times the resort
that they came to because there were no other
options, because the 'system failed them,"
Rider-Milkovich said.
Fortunately, the system has improved.
Over the last 40years, Michigan state law has
attempted to address domestic abuse in sup-
portive and responsive ways. This includes
the creation of shelters as well as the pass-
ing of various laws - including legalizingthe
use of deadly force to protect oneself from an

"It's sexism. Plain and
simple. Women aren't
supposed to be violent, but
there are violent women."
- Attorney Lynn D'Orio
Michigan Women's Justice and Clemancy Project

in the state Sentencing Guidelines that would
allow previous domestic abuse to be taken
into consideration to help mitigate the pun-
"They look for all the bad marks and
don't look for anything that might explain
it," D'Orio said of the current guidelines.
"Self-defense law needs to be changed or
additional instructions should be given to
Rider-Milkovich recommends a pre-
ferred-arrest policy in place of the current
mandatory arrest policy. Under the current
policy, the abuser or the victim of abuse
can be arrested, and often police will arrest
both parties if it is not absolutely clear who
is at fault.
A preferred-arrest policy would fix this
problem, according to professionals like
Rider-Milkovich, because police would have
more discretion on who to arrest, if anyone.
As Rider-Milkovich explained, the abuser
in the vast majority of domestic abuse situa-
tions is the male partner.
She also recommends the implementa-
tion of more women's shelters and courses
in prison.
While she agrees that the state law has
made significant strides in recent years,
Rider-Milkovich said there are still many
women in prison for crimes committed
before the legal system caught up.
"We can feel really good about the prog-
ress we've made as a society and it's easy to
forget those women who were left behind in
the system ... because they're in prison and.
they're away from our minds and away from
our sight," Rider-Milkovich said. "Itends up
impacting women who are invisible to us as
a society."
For now, the futures of the 10 women
Jacobsen submitted petitions for are all but
"We are grateful that Governor (Jenni-
fer) Granholm granted as many clemencies
as she did, and angry that they were so few,
so politically safe and so racially unfair,"
Jacobsen said. "We hope that Governor Sny-
der will support clemency for more women
who did not receive fair trials based on the
facts of their cases."
Granholm could not be reached for com-
D'Orio is hopeful that the Snyder admin-
istration will offer more support for the
project than previous administrations,
though she admits she has no idea how.the
scene will play out.
"We're showing the governor a person-
alized story and saying 'This person's life
should be spared,' " she said. "That's a lot of

"I go on YouTube and I'll
watch videos ... Jenna
Marbles, and whatever is
popular at the moment. Or
I'll go on Instagram."
Jackie Wold,
LSA freshman

"I'm in an a capella group,
and singing those songs
really help me. 'I Love It,'
that is pretty perfect for
midterms for me."
Shan He,
Engineering junior

"I play the piano, so I
like to go in the Union
or anywhere I can find a
piano just to calm
me down."
Jehan Jawad,
LSA junior

"Lose in overtime, if you let it take a toll, it will."
- BRADY HOKE, Michigan football coach, about Saturday's
43-40 overtime loss to Penn State.
"Even if I were equipped with Mother Teresa's bravery
and Virginia Woolf's eloquence, I'd still be hesitant
to assert my feminist ideals in response to a friend's
demeaning language."
- JAKE OFFENHARTZ, Daily opinion columnist, on being a male
and a self-identifyingfeminist.
"Michigan has this huge appeal of diversity - or that's
the way that they market themselves. But when you get
here it's completely different."
- CHLOE BROWN, LSA senior and co-founder of We Are
Michigan, a student organization focused
minority enrollment.


The two-year-old son
of Minnesota Vikings
running back Adrian
Peterson died this
weekend from severe
injuries, according to
ESPN. Peterson and
the toddler's mother
were separated, and
the mother's boyfriend
allegedly abused the
toddler, causingthe

The government pushes their debt ceilling
drama closer to a Thursday deadline when
the Treasury hits a borrowing limit. What's
at stake? Only economic catastrophe and the.
first-ever default.



sistencies and unfairness she encountered in
the legal system. The discrepancies in convic-
tion rates served as a wake-up call.
"I think a lot of times (the judges) see
themselves in the men who are involved in
the crime, or just the men in general," she
said. "I think knowing (the victim) might be
what leads them to much higher conviction
in women, and much more leniency in men."
D'Orio, who acts as the legal director for
the project, explained the discrepancy more
"It's sexism. Plain and simple," D'Orio said.
"Women aren't supposed to be violent, but
there are violent women."
But what would drive a woman to kill her
partner? Holly Rider-Milkovich, the director
of the University's Sexual Assault Prevention

attempted sexual assault and banning mari-
tal rape - and better education for police offi-
cers, judges and legislators on how to handle
a domestic-abuse situation.
Rider-Milkovich said the number of
women imprisoned for killing their abusers
has decreased dramatically during the same
period, with women escaping an abusive rela-
tionship in non-violent ways.
But according to the project, there is much
more to be done. Jacobsen and D'Orio believe,
the state should provide more resources to
domestic abuse victims, as well as women in
prison. They also recommend Michigan insti-
tute a Habeas law like one on the books in
California which would allow abused women
to apply for special clemency.
D'Orio specifically advocates for a change


Though she didn't
receive the Nobel Peace
Prize, 16-year-old
Malala Yosisafzai's
story definitely inspires.
Malala, who is from
Pakistan, was shot in
the head by the Taliban
last October when she
defied orders that girls
could not attend school.
She lived, and continues
speakingout in support
of global education.


An 18-foot-long oarfish was found by a marine
science instructor off the coast of Southern
California this weekend. According to CBS
News, oarfish live at depths of more than
3,000 feet, making them difficult to study. The
fish was already dead when discovered.



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