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The Perfect Victim (2012)

Battered Women Who Kill (original title)
| Documentary, Crime
For over thirty years, three women have languished in Missouri State prison under unjust sentences for killing their abusive husbands. Denied the opportunity to enter the abuse into ... See full summary »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Carlene Borden ...
Herself
Ruby Jamerson ...
Herself
Amy Lorenz-Moser ...
Herself
Shirley Lute ...
Herself
Tanya Mitchell ...
Herself
Brendan Roediger ...
Himself
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For over thirty years, three women have languished in Missouri State prison under unjust sentences for killing their abusive husbands. Denied the opportunity to enter the abuse into evidence, each of the women represents a system broken by outdated and media-sensationalized stereotypes. When a greater understanding of the "battered" syndrome change legal practices in 2000, Missouri's Governor crafts a new law demanding the parole board revaluate each woman's case. But nothing comes easy to the women who have been abused twice, first by their husbands and then by the notoriously secretive board who control their fate. Now they must fight back to not be "The Perfect Victim". Written by Anonymous

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Documentary | Crime

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I Was Guilty Too
28 December 2013 | by (California, USA) – See all my reviews

Chills crept up my spine when Patricia Harrison, J.D., assistant clinical professor of law at Saint Louis University Law School asked when it would be acceptable, outside of domestic violence, to question why the victim doesn't just leave. In the documentary film, The Perfect Victim, Harrison points out that domestic violence remains a stronghold for such ignorance.

Well, I was guilty as charged. How many times had I, a self-proposed feminist and educated woman, lamented stories like the tragedies documented in this film? How many times had I rolled my eyes about the "faulty rationale" battered women use when proclaiming love for their abuser? I'm sure I said on more than one occasion something to the effect of: "I just don't get it. What holds these women there after the first threat of violence; let alone years of it?" Implied in my statement is the core belief that I would act differently. Of course, I would immediately pack my bags and hit the road, if for some odd reason, a similar situation presented itself.

In The Perfect Victim, Harrison's work is documented along with a group of tenacious lawyers from the Missouri Clemency Coalition Project who volunteer to help convicted battered women fight their sentences from prison. Her question hit a soft spot. My thinking was terribly flawed, and so was the thinking of my smartest girlfriends who also should know better. We'd all studied irrational psychological phenomena like Stockholm syndrome, group think and none of us would blame a hemline or low V-neck for rape, but, when it came to battered women's syndrome, we were illiterate.

In the Saint Louis University Law School's January 2012 newsletter, Harrison describes the syndrome as "…a result of a cycle of severe physical and psychological abuse followed by reconciliation (which) often results in victims losing all sense of empowerment. The cycle of abuse can also end in isolation, as a woman's friends and family become increasingly frustrated and eventually withdraw."

The Institute on Women and Criminal Justice's national study, The Punitiveness Report (1997-2004) concurs. The non-profit advocacy portion of The Women's Prison Association (WPA) based its findings on government-collected data. According to the report "…most women in the criminal justice system come from neighborhoods that are entrenched in poverty and largely lacking in viable systems of social support…Alarmingly large numbers of these women have experienced very serious physical and/or sexual abuse, often commencing when they were young children."

As if the first chill up my spine hadn't jarred me enough, I experienced a second hard-hitting epiphany with this movie. Apparently poor women, especially those of African American descent, are at the greatest risk of paying the highest price for a crime. More so then men, women often will incriminate themselves at the crime scene because of their guilt. Furthermore, the report states "in the federal criminal justice system, draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws and rigid sentencing guidelines have increased the proportion of women who receive prison sentences, and the length of time women spend behind bars (and) incarceration of women has profound impacts on the families and communities left behind."

How can this be? In America, a supposedly civilized society, I wanted to believe that our judges, parole boards,prosecutors and juries err on the side of families and leniency. This used to be the case, but is no longer so. A prominent scholar and outspoken advocate for the needs of girls and women in the criminal justice system, Meda Chesney-Lind, named in the WPA report, contends that sentencing reforms have "subverted the earlier (do not incarcerate) model of female sentencing where women tended to receive probation or shorter prison terms."

The three women featured in the film served a collective 85 years behind bars for being tortured so badly that they were pushed to the edge of sanity where killing their husbands was the only escape route they could see. Their husbands were medieval and guilty of at least serial assault, battery and rape.

This documentary should be seen by all women who think that in the new millennium they are and would be treated equally to men. Since suffragette, women have won the right to vote and now make, on average, about three-quarters of what our husbands bring home. We can wear pants and we don't have to wear a corset unless we so desire. However, this documentary highlights how much further we have to go.

When abusive men, aloof acquaintances and family and an apathetic (almost criminal) criminal justice system destroys just one woman's life, it is one too many. In this film, the fact that three American women were robbed of their inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should make all citizens pause. I did.


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