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Survivors of abuse behind bars

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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By Karen's own account from transcripts from the 1993 court opinion, her father was an alcoholic who had sexually abused her from the time she was eight until she was 21. She said attempts to report this activity to her mother only resulted in her mother placing blame on her for this activity. It reported she was also raped by a 14-year-old boy when she was seven or eight, and sexually abused by her uncle.

"This sequence contributed to feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and low self-esteem that have plagued Karen most of her life," according to psychologist Lawrence Cohen in the transcript. "She is drawn to dominant, narcissistic, and aggressive men, whom she does not take time to discover much about, but rather... became involved rather impulsively."

Karen is not alone. According to the Michigan Women's Justice and Clemency Project at University of Michigan, police in the U.S. encounter more cases of domestic violence each year than all other forms of violence combined, with approximately 85 percent of victims of partner violence being the female. Each year, at least 1,200 women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends fully one-third of all female murder victims in the United States while less than four percent of all male murder victims are killed by a female partner.

In Michigan, Carol Jacobsen, director of the Michigan Women's Justice and Clemency Project, said it is estimated at least 110 women killed their spouse/abusers and are serving long or life sentences, while another 60 to 80 killed someone else who had been abusing them, such as their boyfriend while they were a teenager, and are currently serving long or life prison sentences. There are no national statistics for how many women are incarcerated for killing their partner after being the victim of abuse.

Kantzler is not the only woman from an affluent, Oakland County background to find herself behind bars for killing her husband after years of abuse.

Nancy Seaman was a successful, award-winning Farmington Hills elementary school teacher who was also successful at something else hiding the daily beatings she received at the hands of her husband, Bob, which increased after he lost his high-paying job in 1995 at Borg Warner. As her career in middle age blossomed, his appeared to nosedive, with an investment in a batting cage becoming his life, and other investments turning sour to the point that in the months before his murder in May 2004, mortgage payments and other bills weren't being paid.

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