Domestic violence has taken center stage at the Jodi Arias murder trial due to Arias' claims that she was a battered woman at the hands of her dead lover, Travis Alexander.
As an advocate for the victims of domestic violence, I exercised careful consideration before discussing my disbelief in Arias' allegations against Alexander. In a recent opinion piece, I outlined why I believe Arias abuses Battered Woman Syndrome, which could undermine the hard work of abuse victims’ advocates everywhere.
Many believe, as I do, that her flagrant abuse of this defense could make it harder for actual battered woman to receive the protections appropriately afforded to them in criminal trials involving domestic violence. I was also concerned that the Arias' domestic violence expert, psychotherapist Alyce LaViolette, would take the stand and potentially dilute the potency and effectiveness of the Battered Woman Syndrome.
I was afraid that LaViolette would use Alexander's own words, via text and voice messages, to characterize him as an abuser, as opposed to painting Arias as an abuse victim. As expected, LaViolette testified that Alexander exhibited the characteristics of an abuser. She later admitted under cross-examination that she used very limited resources to refute or corroborate Arias' allegations that Alexander abused her on numerous occasions.
I was also afraid that LaViolette would use broad strokes to explain domestic violence and refrain from assertions that Arias was actually a victim of domestic violence. This strategy would allow her to maintain a level of credibility in her profession, in light of the fact that Arias is an admitted liar. To my surprise and dismay, LaViolette blindly followed Arias' path of lies to opine that Arias was a victim of Alexander’s physical and emotional abuse.
LaViolette is a professional with 30 years of experience in the field of domestic violence; a professional with college degrees that require in-depth understanding of psychology; a professional who has extensive experience in offering expert testimony. Therefore, her staunch and unwavering position that Arias is a victim of domestic violence is baffling in light of the evidence to the contrary.
Consequently, this brings up the question: Why would LaViolette risk her credibility and private practice stability for Jodi Arias? In the words of famous sports broadcaster Warner Williams Smith, “Let's go to the videotape.”
I reviewed LaViolette's testimony from her first day on the stand, where she hinted that she fully understood the negative impact her upcoming testimony might cause. In response to defense attorney Jennifer Willmott's question about whether or not she had a private practice, LaViolette responded with a laugh, “I hope so when I get back.”
LaViolette made another very telling admission while on the stand, indicating that in the past, she has reluctantly made professional decisions because she “needed the money.” In outlining her jobs over the past 25 years, at one point she stated, “I didn't want to do that... but I needed a paid position. I had two children and I needed a job.”
Twenty minutes later, regarding opening her private practice, she stated, “The funding collapsed for the shelter and I needed a job. I thought it might be a really good idea to try to start my own business, which is something I’ve actually never considered in my life before.”
Could the power of money be the force behind LaViolette’s willingness to compromise her professional stature and integrity? According to ABC News, she is being paid what she stated is the standard expert fee of $250.00 per hour. Her fee increases to $300.00 per hour for court appearance days. She has spent 44 hours interviewing Arias, untold hours reviewing documents and preparing for her testimony, and has been on the witness stand for 11 days already -- and she isn’t done yet. Her total compensation for involvement in this trial could be quite significant.
Equally important to note is that LaViolette's book, “It Could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay” -- which she plugged while on the stand -- will be released in its third edition on April 23, 2013. The publisher's strategy to capitalize on LaViolette's newfound fame makes perfect marketing sense. However, her publisher probably did not expect the backlash and outrage from this trial: Since LaViolette took the stand, more than 700 people have written negative reviews of her on her book website, most of which talk about her testimony rather than the book.
As a fellow advocate for the awareness and eradication of domestic violence, I am deeply disturbed that a leader in this field would allow her professional reputation, credibility and ethics to be called into question by supporting Jodi Arias. It is unfortunate that some victims of perpetual domestic violence -- or battered women -- are forced to use fatal means to save their own lives, but in my estimation, Jodi Arias is not one of them.