Perhaps Rep. Andy Gipson is unfamiliar with the haunting story of Dawn Franklin.
Franklin, a Coast woman, sat down with my colleague Margaret Baker last year to tell a horrific story of escalating domestic violence that easily could have ended with the Coast woman’s death.
She was isolated, verbally abused, beaten, stomped, head-butted and raped. He forced her to watch as he stabbed his dog and drowned five baby opossums.
She was sure she was going to die. And still, she didn’t leave her abuser for two years even though they weren’t married.
Finally, as she endured a particularly savage attack, and partly our of fear for a young child she was babysitting, she called for help.
Her ordeal, except for confronting her tormentor in court, was over.
Gipson thinks there’s a better solution: Hang in there.
“At a time I think we need to be adopting policies that promote marriage and people sticking together, I have some serious concerns about opening the floodgates any more than they already are,” Gipson, R-Braxton, said, according to Mississippi Today. “I think the floodgates are already open and this just tears the dam down.”
Mississippi’s divorce rate has been sixth or seventh in the nation the past few years, suggesting there’s a problem with the institution of marriage that runs far deeper than domestic violence.
In 2015 in Mississippi, 2,114 men, women and children needed the sanctuary of the state’s domestic violence shelters. Law enforcement responded to 10,411 domestic violence calls, which includes multiple calls to the same family. About 10,000 marriages ended in divorce.
Gipson seems to think a man such as the one who had murdered an ex-girlfriend, served his time, then began the relationship with Franklin simply needs “to have a change in behavior and change of heart.”
People do change. We re-invent ourselves, diet, exercise, resolve to be better people. Abusers? Not so often.
People do change. We re-invent ourselves, diet, exercise, resolve to be better people.
Abusers? Not so often.
“In discussing why abusers abuse, it’s clear that a lot of the causal factors behind these behaviors are learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege — which can be extremely difficult to truly change,” Kathryn Robinson wrote for The National Domestic Violence Hotlines. “Because of this, there’s a very low percentage of abusers who truly do change their ways.”
One of the more boring assignments handed me by an editor was to spend an afternoon at a county courthouse transcribing the week’s filings: bankruptcies, suits, marriages, divorces, felonies and misdemeanors.
Every week, I’d find complaints filed by women against abusive husbands or boyfriends. And I was just as likely the next week to find a petition by the complainants to dismiss the charges. A judge, sensing the same trend, started requiring the complainants to give a reason for their change of heart. Jesus often came up.
“Jesus doesn’t believe in courts,” wrote one woman whose response has stuck with me all these years. “Biblical reasons.”
I hope she made it. I hope he changed.
In Mississippi, I hope the rules of the House that allow a single member, a committee chairman, to derail a bill will change — especially a bill that was passed 51-0 by the Senate.
That is too much power in the hands of one person. Especially one who has so little knowledge about domestic violence and shows so little compassion for its victims.