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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Victims of abuse don’t deserve life sentences

Gypsy-Rose Blanchard’s release raises questions about the incarceration of other abuse victims
Peyton McKenzie

Since her release from prison in December after serving eight years of her 10-year sentence, Gypsy-Rose Blanchard-Anderson tasted freedom for not just the first time in almost a decade, but the first time in her life. That freedom came out of her tragic past that sparked the attention of many.

Blanchard-Anderson helped plan the murder of her own mother at 23 years old. For her, it was an escape from lifelong torture. But, for her then-boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn, who physically did the crime, it was fun to kill.

Now, after her release, she has gained endless support from strangers in-person and online.

She is just one of many victims of abuse that escaped by killing their abuser. Though her actions were misguided by her suffering, she felt that killing her abuser was her only way out.

She is a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy — where parents knowingly portray their healthy child as sick.
Blanchard-Anderson is not the only one who thought this way though. Erik and Lyle Menéndez confessed to killing their parents to escape sexual abuse, which gained them notoriety in the early 1990s when they were sentenced to life in prison. The Menéndez brothers claimed they committed murder out of fear that their father was going to kill them.

Victims of abuse should not be kept in prison for a disproportionate amount of time for killing their abusers as a means to escape. These criminals are imprisoned for freeing themselves in the only way they knew how. Frankly, I think it’s unfair and unethical.

Although the perpetrators should spend some time in prison for their crimes, especially because in these cases they were gruesome murders, life in prison is unreasonable.

I believe a 10-year sentence, using Blanchard-Anderson as a precedent, would suffice. It allows the possibility to help others when released. Blanchard-Anderson is using her freedom to be an advocate for Munchausen syndrome by proxy, the brothers could use theirs to further their support for victims of sexual abuse.

Prison is meant to be a punishment. But how can it be a punishment when the life inmates were already living was worse? The justice system has failed them. Blanchard-Anderson and the Menéndez brothers are the real victims. In my eyes, the crimes that they committed were self-defense. Their parents’ abuse was more of a prison than actual prison was.

For Blanchard-Anderson’s whole life, she was helplessly isolated. Blanchard-Anderson’s mother, Clauddine “Dee Dee” Blanchard, was a perpetuator of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Blanchard-Anderson was forced to undergo unnecessary procedures and extreme treatments such as having a feeding tube inserted and receiving chemotherapy.

Why? Dee Dee claimed that Gypsy-Rose had leukemia, muscular dystrophy and epilepsy among other disorders.
After a failed attempt to flee, the only way out in her perspective was if her mother couldn’t hold her back anymore. She said in a statement to ABC News that she felt freer in prison than in her own home with her mother.

Some users on social media claim that the perpetrators did not try everything to escape abuse, but I believe they did as much as they could. Blanchard-Anderson attempted to run away and the Menéndez brothers told others about what was happening in their home, informing a cousin that they were being sexually abused. Yet, none of them were freed from their parents.

During the time of the killings, Lyle Menéndez was 21 years old. According to Child Protect, a children’s advocacy center, “80% of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.”

Blanchard-Anderson and the Menéndez brothers could’ve had battered child syndrome, a condition where a child has sustained injuries due to mistreatment and abuse. They had reached a point where the abuse was no longer tolerable. In fact, a psychologist agreed that the Menéndez brothers had this during the trial, but the prosecution stated that BCS “does not exist,” and “It is not a proper diagnosis … It is not a mental disorder,” according to CNN.

The U.S. Department of Justice recognized BCS a month after the 1996 Menéndez trial. With these developments, I think the court should revisit the case, with updated findings and better evaluations.

Think about your loved ones. If they were in the same situations as these “criminals,” would you want them imprisoned for escaping a life of abuse?

WWL-TV, a news station in Louisiana, conducted an investigation in 2018, found that “21 women out of more than 100 serving life sentences” in Louisiana were convicted for murdering their abusive partner.

Life sentences for killing an abuser sends a message that it’s better to suffer than try to free yourself. That’s not something I would want my loved ones to deal with.

The Menéndez brothers have done their time, and are using it to help others by counseling other victims of abuse in prison. They should be released and allowed to live a normal life with their families, a life they’ve never lived before.
I’m grateful for Blanchard-Anderson’s release because it sets a precedent for imprisoned victims of abuse, but this is only the beginning. Time in prison is reasonable for murdering one’s abusers, but a life sentence is not.

Blanchard-Anderson is one of many victims of abuse that only killed to live. We need to send the right message to those incarcerated for the wrong reasons and support abuse survivors.

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About the Contributors
Lillian Curtin
Lillian Curtin, Opinion Editor
Peyton McKenzie
Peyton McKenzie, Creative Director

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    Paula M McCartneyFeb 27, 2024 at 10:51 am

    Victims of abuse do not deserve anything easier or harder than anyone else who commits a crime.