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Domestic Violence and the Law

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“Every Fucking Day of My Life” is an HBO documentary about an extremely disturbing case of domestic violence that ended in the homicide of the abuser by his two of his victims, his wife and his son. Wendy Moldonado and her seventeen year old son Randy made a hasty decision to end the life of their tormentor after a night of abuse by Aaron Moldanado. This was a common and familiar occurrence in their home and that night, the two made an impulsive decision to stop Aaron forever. They perpetrated the crime together and Wendy immediately called 911, admitting to the homicide on the phone with the dispatcher. When the dispatcher asks “Did he try to hurt you”  she replies “Every fucking day of my life”.

Sadly, Wendy was sentenced to ten years in prison and Randy was sentenced to seventy-five months, or just over six years. The scope of the horror that the family endured at the hands of it’s patriarch were so extreme and horrifying it is difficult to accept justice in this case in regards to sentencing. The truth is, under justifiable homicide laws in Oregon, this case did not qualify. To meet the standards of justifiable homicide a person must feel that their death is imminent and the only way to prevent this and any greater harm that could occur at the hands of another individual is to kill them. When a case involves domestic violence that has occurred over the course of years and the threat of death is gradual instead of immediate, it does not meet the standard set by the law.

Should a person be able to commit homicide in the case of extreme domestic abuse? Why were other alternatives where the abuser lives not used? The truth is that domestic violence is a complex web of psychological terror designed to keep victims in their place. Other alternatives Wendy had may have included divorce, although both parties must consent and it is unlikely Aaron would have, or simply fleeing, but she may have had to leave her children behind which is not necessarily a wise decision in the best interest of her children. Abusers like Aaron also threaten to inflict harm to the victim’s family if they leave the abusive situation. In Wendy’s case, Aaron threatened to kill her entire family if she left. This is a logical deterrent from leaving because Aaron very well may have carried out his threat. Wendy says she knew she was “screwed” when Aaron told her that he fantasized about being a serial killer who would keep his victims captive for days and then rape everyone, including any men because “I’m not a fag but I’d fuck a man to prove” his point, as Wendy relays in the film.

This man sounds like an absolutely terrifying individual and from all accounts he was. It is not unreasonable to think that a person who says that they want to be a serial killer would terrorize his own family to the point of death. It is feasible that Wendy Moldanado’s death was likely, although perhaps not at the moment of her crime, eventually he could have killed her. He even wrote a song about her with the lyrics “I love you/I killed you always/see your bloody body/lying on the floor/looking toward a new life/a life of torture/have I sealed our fate dear/self murdered bitch I killed”. He literally fantasizes about murdering her as if it were a form of an acceptable love affair. That there is no way for her case to meet the standard of justifiable homicide is absurd. The threat was gradual, there was a level of endurance to the violence. When violence escalates, it is reasonable to assume fatal bodily harm could happen to an individual. An escalation of violence seems to have been the norm at the Moldanado’s. The threat of death omnipresent. When weighing the reality of Wendy’s situation, it is hard to come up with an alternative to her actions because of the atmosphere Aaron created.

The law has often been lagging in relation to the reality of domestic violence. At one time, it was legal for a man to beat his wife with a switch no larger than his thumb, hence the term “rule of thumb”. Post-feminist movement America is a different world however it is far from perfect from addressing the reality of those who suffer in domestically violent situations. When the police would arrive, the Moldanado family could not complain about Aaron because he had surveillance set up outside of the house so he could monitor what everyone did and said. This is an enormous level of control that took away any ability Wendy had to make healthy decisions concerning her life. She would have to send the police away while being beaten upon return was still a threat. Neighbors complained to the police but it fell on deaf ears, ears that were not tuned to the sophistication a predator like Aaron can conjure up. The children were so traumatized that after his death they kept “looking over our shoulders” as Randy describes their paranoia of expecting Aaron to return from the dead.

The lack of documentation on the violent state of their marriage may have contributed to Wendy’s long sentence. However, the reality is that domestic violence victims may not be able to make reports because of the controlling nature of their abuser, like in Wendy’s case. For these victims there is little recourse in directing their futures. Wendy could not direct her future and had to accept time in prison in order to free herself from her chains. Her actions were not premeditated, she says that it was two minutes before she killed him that she made the decision to do so. Justifiable homicide laws simply do not address extreme cases of domestic abuse in a realistic manner that protects the victim. If the criminal justice system were justly dealing with domestic violence, Wendy would have gotten a lighter sentence or not even one at all. It is time for the legal system to catch up with this disturbing reality.

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Author: gzeu

intellectual queer femme who lives to maximize the experience of the beautiful assault that is our world. bohemian queen and hip hop scholar. I always tell the truth, even when I lie.

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