LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Did the system fail Talisha Butler?

Published 8:00 am Friday, July 1, 2022

Editor’s note: Due to the sensitive nature of the topic of domestic violence, this letter to the editor was submitted anonymously.

So many victims of domestic violence have languished in prison for “unjustly” killing their abuser.

Those of us lucky enough to safely get out of a domestic abuse situation look at those instances and think, “That could be me.” After the guilty verdict for Talisha Butler, I had that thought. Just reading the brief overviews of the abuse endured brought back triggers of similar abuse I endured.

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The fear of walking outside, the threats, the endless harassment. Do you know what it’s like to be afraid to go check your own mail? Do you know what it feels like to refuse to let your baby out of your sight? Do you know what it’s like to walk in court, trust the system and it fails you? Do you know what it feels like to seek help from law enforcement and in turn feel like you’re a burden? I do. 

Sadly, cases like Ms. Butler’s have similar verdicts. But my question is, where was her help? A restraining order is only a piece of paper. There was a current no-contact order issued against Mr. Johnson. He violated it, which showed reckless behavior and disregard for the law.

She felt the need to carry a weapon because of the fear caused by her abuser. I know that fear; I felt just a sliver of it as I read the details of the trial. It is the last resort; it is a fear for your life. 

When I was strangled, I immediately went to the police station. But with no evidence, nothing could be done.

Shortly after, I was arrested and told that I punched my abuser in the eye. I was shocked. I knew I didn’t commit any assault. I had no evidence on myself indicating I struck him, besides his testimony. I was later ruled against by a judge that I did punch my abuser and he had a right to strangle me after.

It’s a verdict I still struggle to digest. I trusted a system that failed me. 

When I received my first emergency protective order, I called an officer to escort me to our home so I could pack. It was only a day after my abuser strangled me and falsely accused me.

The officer stated, “He’s not coming back here, you don’t need me here.”

I immediately felt guilty. I’d wasted the officer’s time. I was there with my children trying to leave for good. Statistics show that the most dangerous time in a domestic abuse situation is when the victim is trying to leave. 

I learned to give up holding my abuser accountable and negotiate longer no contact orders, some of which my abuser violated. Warrants lingered for months; I contacted law enforcement daily. After one incident, I was too afraid to go home for three weeks.

I was instructed to go find him, tell the authorities where he was, and then he would be apprehended. 

So, what is the surprise when this situation happens? What help did Ms. Butler receive? If it’s anything like mine, not much. The system failed Ms. Butler long before this point.

My fear since the verdict of this case is that victims will not leave their abuser. How many more will have to suffer or die to make real changes to help the victims of domestic violence?