October 10, 2011


Farrah Fawcett earned a well-deserved Emmy nomination in 1984 for her portrayal of a battered wife who murders her husband in “The Burning Bed,” adapted from Faith McNulty’s nonfiction book.

(Tisch/Avnet Productions)

This gruesome story struck a nerve in the American psyche and today most states have laws against domestic violence. Those among us in the women’s movement hailed the victory and were gratified that unspoken brutality would now be exposed and prosecuted. Unfortunately, Topeka, Kansas has rolled back this protection (“The Outlook,” 10/7/11). The city insists it can’t afford to defend its battered spouses. Strange argument. Is money now the yardstick to determine whether a crime has been committed?  If so, refusing to prosecute murderers would be more cost effective. 

A government that argues money to turn a blind eye on marital abuse overlooks the long-term cost to society as well as to the victims. In fact, it becomes complicit in that abuse.

Ironically, Topeka’s decision comes at a time when people around the globe are celebrating three women from third world countries who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011: Tawakul Karman of Yemen, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Liberian President Elle Johnson.


The stark contrast between their gains and the loss for women in Kansas could not be more dramatic.       

Something is rotten in the state of Kansas. The erosion of legal protections that mainly affect women cannot stand. Soon a cry may be heard across the land renewing the call for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.