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Should Domestic Violence Victims Go To Prison For Killing Their Abusers?

LadyKathryn Williams-Julien’s first childhood memory is of her father punching her mother in the face. She was 6. Her mother fell to the ground, where Williams-Julien was already cowering. They were eye-to-eye, mother and child, both trembling with fear.

“Her whole face was covered with blood,” she said quietly, sitting at the kitchen table in her apartment in the Bronx. “I think even if I got Alzheimer’s and lost my mind, I would never forget that image.”

Years later, when Williams-Julien had a husband of her own, she didn’t fault him for hitting her. It’s what she knew. For two decades, she said, her husband beat and abused her. She grew accustomed to living with a perpetual black eye. Then, one September night in 1997, she said, he wrapped his hands around her neck and did not let go. She knew he was going to strangle her to death.

“Here’s a man I’ve known all my life and I saw a complete stranger,” Williams-Julien said. “This time something said, you are in a lot of danger here, you better fight back.”

She reached for a knife and stabbed her husband once, then fled the apartment. When the police arrived, she confessed and they arrested her.

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