Incarcerated Survivors of Domestic Violence: The Kim Dadou Story

Incarcerated Survivors of Domestic Violence: The Kim Dadou Story

On December 17, 1991, Kim Dadou’s life changed forever. The 25-year-old of Rochester, New York had been with her boyfriend, Darnell Sanders, off and on for four years. He had even been arrested multiple times during their relationship when she would call the police after he hit her.

Every time she went to court so she could get a restraining order, he would tell the judge she was the aggressor and make her feel like everyone in the room thought she was crazy.

That night, Kim was in the car with Sanders when he began choking her.

The car they owned together had power locks, and so even though she tried to get out, she couldn’t. Sanders had his hands around her throat and was pushing her head underneath the dash, telling her, “This is it.”

That’s when Kim remembered Sanders kept his gun under the seat. In a statement, Kim said she made the decision to go for the gun, believing he meant to kill her.

Kim’s story has been featured on a podcast called “Criminal.” In her words, she didn’t aim the gun or even remember pulling the trigger. But it went off and several shots were fired.

Sanders let go of her neck and Dadau finally got herself out of the car and ran inside to lock herself in her room. She was afraid he was coming after her, thinking about how he would often say to her if you shoot someone, make sure you kill them because they’re going to kill you.

As she ran inside, she heard him yelling, “Get back here!” Eventually, she saw drive away.

Manslaughter Conviction

It was a few days before Kim learned that Sanders was dead. He had been shot in the abdomen six times. Kim was investigated and convicted of manslaughter in the first degree. She was sentenced to 8 ⅓ – 20 years in prison, was denied parole several times, and ultimately ended up spending 17 years in prison.

Incarcerated Survivors

When Kim got out, she put her energy into fighting for different sentencing for women who are incarcerated survivors of domestic violence. When she went to prison, she found that many women were there for the same reason she was: she was trying to keep from dying in that moment.

It ended up costing her any chance of having kids. She lost many good years of her life.

National Epidemic

The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVJA) is legislation currently pending in the New York State legislature. According to the DVSJ’s website, the link between domestic violence and rates of women’s imprisonment are inextricably linked. The following statistics are alarming:

  • 9 out of 10 incarcerated women have experienced severe physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
  • 8 out of 10 women experienced serious physical or sexual violence during childhood.
  • 75% suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner during adulthood.
  • 37% were raped before their incarceration.
  • 93% of women convicted of killing an intimate partner were abused by an intimate partner in the past.

In addition, the DVJA states, “Over the past 30 years, domestic violence has been increasingly recognized as a national epidemic. Unfortunately, the significant advances made by the anti-violence movement have stopped short of reforming the unjust ways in which the criminal justice system responds to and punishes survivors charged with crimes directly related to the abuse they suffer.”

Take Away

If you or someone you love is currently in prison for defending herself, there is hope that this legislation will spread to all states in our country. Additionally, having an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical. Please call my office today.

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