Domestic violence is a disturbing reality throughout the United States. It is said that one in four women will be abused at some point during her lifetime, and that between 600,000 and six million women are abused each year. Between 100,000 and six million men are abused each year. Here in West Virginia, a call is made to a domestic violence hotline every nine minutes. In 2010, 14,880 domestic violence cases were filed in West Virginia Family Court. One-third of all homicides is due to domestic violence, and two-thirds of those murdered are killed by a family or household member.
Domestic violence is not just physical abuse, however. It is also psychological abuse. Frequently, the abuser damages the abused spouse’s self esteem to such an extent that the abused spouse believes that he or she is worthless. The abused spouse withdraws from friends and family and believes that he or she will never survive without the abuser. At the same time, the abuser may instill in the abused spouse such fear that the abused spouse is afraid to leave, believing that wherever he or she escapes to, the abuser will find out.
It is against this disturbing backdrop that the case of Stephanie Lizon plays out. Lizon’s husband, Peter Lizon, has been charged with torturing his wife for a decade. A West Virginia magistrate judge found probable cause to send the case to circuit court. Stephanie Lizon has a long history of injuries, from bruises and swelling to burns on her back. Lizon finally fled from her home with the couple’s 13-month old son and checked into a domestic violence shelter under an assumed name. Yet when asked about her husband’s abuse, she was quick to brush each instance of violence off as her own carelessness. For instance, Lizon claimed that a bruise on her side was caused by her goat goring her.
It is not uncommon for abused spouses to refute their previous claims. Many abused spouses continue to love the abusers, and cannot separate the abusive acts from an otherwise kind and loving person. Fortunately, the case against Peter Lizon does not hinge upon his wife’s testimony. West Virginia University law professor Marjorie McDiarmid noted that frequently, it is possible to convict a domestic abuser through third-party evidence.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm believe that more resources need to be invested in pinpointing abuse situations, stamping them out, and giving abuse victims the resources they need to start a new life. There is still a lot of misunderstanding about who may be an abuse victim. Not all victims are passive and frail; some may even fight back. When that happens, too often, the victims are charged with a crime. Without the aid of an experienced West Virginia criminal defense attorney, the abuse victim may be the one to face time behind bars. That is a tragedy, especially if it means the abuser would have sole custody of the children.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, have tried to defend yourself, and have been charged with a crime, you have the right to an attorney. Don’t feel that you “deserve” whatever punishment you face. Find a good attorney as soon as possible.