Sunday, October 25, 2009

Groups condemn author's call to arm battered women.

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Tanya Metaksa, who appeared in Houston on Thursday to sign her new book "Safe, Not Sorry," also had to face demonstrators during her tour in New York and Chicago saying armed victims would spark more violence.

"This is being taken out of context. We just want to help people with their own personal safety strategy," Metaksa said.

A chapter in her book deals with the use of deadly force and what is needed to prove legitimate self-defense, she said.

"If you're in a psychological prison, you need to get out of that situation. You need the mentality to refuse to be a victim. But we're not in the weapons-selling industry," she said.

Sue Ann Lorig, local spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women who helped organize a protest, said, "We're not saying women should not be armed. We're saying that it's not a viable solution for most."

"When a husband or boyfriend starts beating her up, it's too late to say, `Wait a minute, let me go get my gun.' Plus kids are usually involved," she said.

The Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., pointed to Federal Bureau of Investigation data that showed that more than 1,000 women or 26 percent of women killed nationwide in 1995 were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

During that same time period, 115 women in Texas were killed by assailants who were their husbands, former spouses or boyfriends.

Becky Wardlow, who spent five years in prison for shooting to death her abusive husband in 1985, said arming women is not the solution to domestic violence.

Now a Northwest Assistance Ministries family violence center counselor, Wardlow said, "That is the worse recommendation I have ever heard."

"It will only cause more problems for her. He would take the gun and threaten her with it or she will take the life of someone she loves and be haunted by it the rest of her life," she said.

In addition, Wardlow said she saw many children of abused wives serving prison sentences for using guns to protect their mothers.

"Our laws have changed, but not that drastically. I deal everyday with women who are still going to trial for the murder of their abusers," she said.

The summertime is particularly explosive for domestic violence because the heat sparks more fights and women are more willing to leave the abusers while the children are off from school, Wardlow said.

"We need more shelters. She (Metaksa) needs to quit promoting the book and shooting. Promote help and hope, not killing," she said.

Houston Area Women's Center spokeswoman Mitzi Vorachek, who has read Metaksa's book, said the story starts off well told, but offers too simplistic a solution.

"She's a good writer until she gets to the gun part. Then it states that we basically need to be an armed camp," Vorachek said.

"There are many survivors who choose to protect themselves with guns, but everyone has to make their own choice," she said.

Part of the book does deal with basic survival skills of being alert at all times and keeping windows and doors locked, she said.

But when the book deals with shooting in self-defense, the reality in Texas is that most women go to prison if they shoot abusive husbands, Vorachek said.

"We would not recommend it. Most women end up in prison. It's hard for a battered woman to prove to a jury in Texas that the act was self-defense," she said.

At last count, about 200 women who had a justifiable reason of self-defense were serving sentences in the state, she said.

The NRA is also working to repeal a new federal law, the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, that prevents convicted spouse and child abusers from purchasing guns, protesters said.

Metaska said the NRA only opposes the law because it includes those convicted of misdemeanor offenses rather than solely felonies.

"If those offenses were felonies, then we support not putting guns in the hands of murderers and rapists," she said.

Source Citation:Zuniga, Jo Ann. "Groups condemn author's call to arm battered women." The Houston Chronicle (Houston, TX) (June 16, 1997): 15. General OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 25 Oct. 2009

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