Louisiana woman Monica Butler Johnson, 45, was beaten to death on Sunday night, hours after hosting a graduation party for her teenage son. Her ex-husband, David Johnson, has been charged with the crime, which police say comes after months of escalating abuse. The sheriff of Ascension Parish, where Johnson lived, suggested in an interview that her death could’ve been avoided if she’d had a concealed handgun license. He also suggested that women should kill their abusers if necessary: “Drop him.”
David Johnson is accused of breaking into Monica’s home and beating her with a baseball bat. He’s also suspected of beating Monica’s 18-year-old son when he tried to intervene, breaking the teenager’s arm. After trying to intervene, the 18-year-old son and his younger brother, 8, fled to a neighbor’s house. Police found Monica’s body in the backyard and David gone. He was arrested hours later and charged with first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, violations of protective orders, and aggravated burglary with a weapon.
The Advocate reports that Monica Johnson, an admissions administrator at Remington College in Baton Rouge filed for a restraining order last month, saying David was following her, recording her, and that she and her sons “are not comfortable in our home.” David Johnson was previously charged with domestic strangulation against Monica on December 31, 2014. He was cautioned for trespassing — but not arrested — when he showed up at Monica’s house again on June 19.
Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley told Fox 8 that the case shows that domestic abuse victims have to be willing to use guns against their abusers, when the legal system doesn’t work:
“Use the system. Use the system. Use the system. But you know what else? Get your concealed weapons permit. Ladies, learn how to safely handle a weapon, learn how to safely store a weapon, and when you’re in a situation like this, shoot him in your back yard before he gets in your house. Drop him. I mean, I’m serious. Take the extremes necessary to live a life where you don’t have to worry about your kids and your life.”
While it’s certainly generous of Sheriff Wiley to indicate that he won’t criminally charge domestic abuse victims who kill their abusers, his statement certainly suggests that Monica Johnson was somehow responsible for preventing her own murder, and that the police and legal system are powerless, or at the very least ineffectual. It also fails to take into account that black and Latina women are far more likely to be charged with murder, manslaughter or other crimes when killing an abuser, according to the Michigan Women’s Justice and Clemency Project. Monica Johnson was black. The Atlantic also points out that many, many studies indicate that gun ownership doesn’t reduce a woman’s chances of being the victim of any type of violent crime:
[N]ot a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership. Though there are examples of women using a gun to defend themselves, they are few and far between, and not statistically significant.
A Pacific Standard piece from last year points out that juries frequently don’t understand that battered women were in life-threatening danger, and that self-defense laws weren’t formulated with them in mind.
Domestic violence experts also agree that “just get a gun” is very bad advice.
“It is always highly concerning when a person introduces a weapon into a violent situation,” Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told Jezebel in a statement. “While someone may be trained to use and carry a firearm, there is always a possibility that the weapon could be used against them by their abusive partners. We encourage domestic violence victims and survivors to use the resources and tools available, like The Hotline, to create a plan for their safety that is tailored to their individual situation.”
This post has been updated with comment from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which can be reached any time at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
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Sheriff Jeff Wiley. Screengrab via Fox 8/WAFB