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Survivors of abuse behind bars


By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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"In my case, people couldn't believe that an educated woman with a good job could be an abused wife," said the self-possessed and poised Seaman, also currently housed at the Huron Valley Women's Correctional Facility after being found guilty of first degree murder in Bob's death, which Seaman continues to maintain was self-defense. She was sentenced to life with no chance of parole in 2005, after a jury did not believe her assertions of self-defense, but rather that she had premeditated her husband's murder. "But you can be successful in your career and be totally helpless in your personal life and be more vulnerable because you're afraid to reach out. (I believed) if I reached out for help other teachers would think less of me; parents wouldn't want their students in my class 'she has an abusive husband, he might show up in class.' I was so private about my personal life, I tried to camouflage my private life. I was so ashamed. (I later learned) my coworkers suspected. I showed up with bruises all the time, my arm in a sling, black eyes, they could see I was crying."

"Abusive relationships can be more binding than loving relationships," said Dr. Gerald Shiener M.D., a psychiatrist with a practice in Birmingham. "These men have an underlying inability to express anger and keep a lot bottled up, and when it comes out it comes out in an unprecedented way. They're involved with women who have a need to be in an abusive relationship, either because of a pattern or abusive model in their family of origin or having learned that love and attention are contingent upon being in pain that the only way to get love is if it is tied with suffering.

"For these people, usually women, if they're not being beaten, it seems like no one cares, and that becomes the model of the relationship. They're emotionally interdependent. It's not money or the kids," Shiener continued. But there can be a chronic danger that develops. "It seems like the only way out is to kill her abuser."

In a piece titled "Battered women, homicide convictions and sentencing," for the Hastings Women's Law Journal, Carol Jacobsen, Kammy Mizga, and Lynn D'Orio of Women's Justice and Clemency Project wrote, "Most women who kill do so to defend themselves from men who have repeatedly beaten them. Despite the very real dangers that many women live with on a daily basis, those who defend themselves against batterers are given no special consideration by the criminal/legal system if they are forced to kill. In fact, there is evidence that such women often face greater punishment than other defendants."

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