I shot my abuser to escape. Why are so many victims of domestic violence in prison like me?

I shot my abuser to escape. Why are so many victims of domestic violence in prison like me?

my name April WilkensAnd I am a 52 year old Surviving Domestic Violencer in my 25th year in prison. I am incarcerated at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLeod, Oklahoma.

Before the lock up, I was verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually abused by my ex-fiancé. The abuse left me absolutely broken and humiliated.

In 1998, my ex-fiancé brutally raped me, handcuffed me and threatened to sexually assault and kill me. As he lunged at me I shot him with his own gun and could not stop firing until the gun was empty. He was shot eight times. Later that day, a sexually assaulting nurse documented my numerous injuries, including bruises all over my body and vaginal tears. Despite my injuries, the prosecution insisted, “It was not rape, members of the jury; It was consensual sex.”

The jury found me guilty first-degree murder, their only option, and offer a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison with possible parole. Despite being recommended for parole by the state’s own parole investigators, I have been denied parole four times and commutation twice.

Feedback in your inbox: Get exclusive access to our columnists and our best columns

Countless survivors are imprisoned – and the odds are stacked against us

I am one of the countless domestic violence offenders behind bars in America. Studies indicate that as many as 90% of incarcerated women in some states experienced domestic violence prior to incarceration.

The odds are definitely stacked against women in Oklahoma. Mothers, daughters, sisters and even grandmothers like me are far more likely to be abused and end up behind bars in Oklahoma than almost any other state.

‘Who are you going to believe?’: When a prison is called a ‘rape club’, we have a credibility problem in our justice system

Criminal Justice Reforms: Trump, Kim Kardashian forgive me. The second possibility is not soft on crime.

Prosecutors have excessive powers to: Plea bargaining and mass incarceration go hand in hand. We have to finish both.

And consider this: Reports of domestic violence in Oklahoma increased annually from 2016 to 2020. Domestic violence hits 20-year high in 2020.

Oklahoma consistently has one of the highest rates of women killed by men in America. It is sad that so many women in Oklahoma are victims of domestic violence.

Prisons are filled with torture and violence. Strip searches are especially dehumanizing, especially for rape survivors.

Prisons are filled with torture and violence. Almost every aspect of a prisoner’s life is controlled. Strip searches are especially dehumanizing, especially for rape survivors like me. In many ways, being in prison is like being in an abusive relationship.

To this day, in nearly every state, including Oklahoma, it is unusual for courts to consider survivor abuse at sentencing. What does it say about a society that treats its most suffering and vulnerable citizens with so little compassion and mercy? How do we fix such a terrible injustice?

We need to consider prior abuse when sentencing

There is hope. In 2019, the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act Passed in New York, allows courts to hand down shorter sentences to abuse survivors who can show that the abuse they suffered contributed substantially to the crime they were convicted of.

Since then many abuse survivors have received shorter sentences. Now, attorneys Colin McCarty and Leslie Briggs, with Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justiceis building Oklahoma Survivor Justice Coalition To educate Oklahoma lawmakers and encourage them to pass similar legislation.

Representative Tony Hasenbeck plans to introduce the bill Oklahoma during this legislative session.

Opinion Warning: Get columns from your favorite columnists + expert analysis of top issues, delivered directly to your device via the USA TODAY app. Don’t have the app? Download it for free from your app store.

Like me, about 85% of women incarcerated in Oklahoma are mothersOklahoma’s astronomical female incarceration rate is even more devastating.

My son was only 7 years old when I was locked up, and our separation was extremely difficult for us. She is now 31 with a child of her own. I often think of my 4 year old granddaughter and pray for change so that she or no one else has to go through what I went through.

Everyone, especially survivors and others affected by domestic violence, should join the movement and follow #SurvivorsDeserveRealJustice to help survivors in prison and those facing criminal charges.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, help is available. communication National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or

April Wilkens is an inmate at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLeod, Oklahoma.

You can read different opinions from us Board of Contributors and other authors Opinion front pageon Twitter @usatodayopinion and between us Daily Opinion Newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to [email protected]

This article originally appeared in The Oklahoman: Killed to escape domestic violence. Why am I in prison?

#shot #abuser #escape #victims #domestic #violence #prison

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button