Knowing that all people have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, JTS is devoted to listening and responding to the stories of victims to help liberate them for a narrative of hope rather than one of despair.
The majority of women don’t speak up about abuse for a variety of reasons. Usually it is based on fear, shame, humiliation and the stigma that revolves around domestic violence. Women want to protect their privacy and their children, so they suffer in silence.
Staying silent can cause long-term consequences that affect your mental, emotional and physical health. Sharing your story can bring about many benefits. You don’t feel so isolated. You feel validated. You know that others have been down the same road and have had the same thoughts and feelings you do.
JTS spearheads multi-faceted advocacy for the prevention, intervention, and just resolution of domestic violence.
Law enforcement said that a woman is in the most danger when she’s trying to leave an abusive relationship.
Choking and strangulation are the most common forms of abuse.
Advocates say head injuries can leave a woman so impaired that she can’t manage her job or life. Some of them end up homeless.
Domestic violence is a serious issue in the United States, and victims are overwhelmingly women.
A 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found that more than half of female homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner. About half the time, killers were a current or former intimate partner, and more than 98 percent of homicidal partners were men.
According to data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 2006 to 2014, Michigan women were three times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than were Michigan men.
Michigan State University national statistics on domestic violence show that about 20 Americans are victims of physical abuse every minute. The statistics also show one in three women are physically abused by an intimate partner, and one in five women are severely abused. Intimate partners are responsible for 15 percent of all violent crime.
Despite overwhelming proof that domestic violence is real and affects women in significant numbers, women who attempt to or succeed in protecting themselves from abusive and violent partners often find themselves enmeshed in a justice system that doesn’t clearly understand the issues of domestic violence. Many women who killed abusive partners in self-defense are serving life sentences.
Justice Thru Storytelling helps these women tell their stories, both while they are incarcerated and when they are released.
Through the use of email, letter-writing and prison visits with the women, we give them voices beyond prison walls to share their experiences with the Michigan Parole Board and Governor Rick Snyder. We undertake letter-writing campaigns to help governmental and law enforcement officials understand domestic violence, its consequences for women and families, and the extenuating circumstances that are often overlooked in such cases.
The video clips with former judges and Carol Jacobsen, director of the Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project are good examples of our advocacy for incarcerated women who have been victims of domestic violence.
Once women are released, JTS provides support for returning to society and continues to help women tell their stories.
JTS welcomes your support. Of course, we always appreciate monetary donations to our 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, but we also need your activism. Your short letter to elected and law-enforcement officials can be powerful and effective. We will be happy to provide you with details of individual cases.
If you want to write on your own on behalf of imprisoned victims of domestic violence in Michigan, here are addresses.
Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Michigan Parole Board Chairperson
P.O. Box 30003
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Note: It is important to remember that domestic violence is not solely physical. While it includes physical abuse, it also includes emotional abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, and using children to abuse.
Former Oakland County Circuit Judge Jack McDonald sentenced Nancy Seaman to life in prison in 2005. Today, he believes she was not given full representation at her trial and that there is no way she pre-meditated her husband’s murder. “This is the only case that haunts me after 17 years on the bench,” said McDonald. He has written Michigan Governor Snyder on numerous occasions, on behalf of Nancy Seaman.
Norman Lippitt has been practicing law for over 50 years. He is still advocating for the release of a battered woman he sentenced over 26 years ago, when he was a circuit court judge. Karen Kantzler is serving time at Huron Valley in Ypsilanti, MI. Norman went to her parole board hearing in 2015 and told the board that he made a big mistake when he sentenced her to life in prison. Karen’s request was denied with no reason given.
Nels Thompson is the former (retired) prison psychologist employed by the Michigan Department of Corrections. He developed a domestic violence program for the women in prison and worked in individual and group sessions for years. He is an advocate speaking up for the release of Nancy Seaman and Karen Kantzler who killed their spouse in self-defense and do not deserve a life behind bars.
Advocating for the release of Karen Kantzler at her Public Hearing held at Jackson prison on October 12, 2017. Left to right: Nels Thompson, Barry Howard, Kelle Lynn, Norman Lippitt, Gary Weingarten.
Carol Jacobsen is a Professor at the University of Michigan as well as the Executive Director of the Women’s Justice & Clemency Project in Ann Arbor. Photo taken prior to the Public Hearing for Karen Kantzler on October 12, 2017.
Nancy Seaman is serving a life without parole sentence at Huron Valley in Ypsilanti, MI for killing her husband in self-defense in 2004.
Read her own words on the Media page.
On March 11, 1987, Karen Kantzler accidentally killed her abusive husband, Dr. Paul Kantzler, while he slept with a gun next to him. He had threatened to kill her on several occasions. Karen’s original trial judge, Norman Lippitt, never intended that she would be behind bars 30 years later and has remained steadfast advocating for her release. His successor judge, Barry Howard, reversed Karen’s sentence with time served. Both judges attended Karen’s public hearing on October 12, 2017, advocating to the Parole Board and Assistant Attorney General for her release from prison.
Jenny Baka was a victim of severe domestic violence for three years when her boyfriend purposely set her up to be in his parents home where he premeditated to murder them. She testified against him and was put in the witness protection program. Her court appointed attorney walked in and told her she is going to plea to second degree murder and was sentenced 26-50 years. She was 22-years-old. Read her complete story with the facts and judge’s statements on the MEDIA page.
“I will never forget a time in my life when I was at my lowest point. I felt beaten down and defeated. I didn’t have any supportive family close by. My abuser was a lot more savvy and powerful than I was.
One day I was talking to my brother over the phone about my situation. His words changed my entire thought process and direction.
“You need to fight power with power. You can’t be a victim now. FIGHT POWER WITH POWER.”
He said it with such a strong conviction.
Something instantly ignited on the inside of me. I knew that he was right. That was when I got a backbone and fought back. It built up my self-confidence.
It was a tough time in my life. But I survived and ended up on top.”
Many Michigan laws regarding domestic abuse and violence are archaic and can actually harm victims. Take, for example, People vs. Christel decided in 1995. That case determined that experts can testify only generically to jurors and cannot address the individual woman’s case.
Justice Thru Storytelling (JTS) is a 501 (c) 3 that seeks to change archaic Michigan laws regarding domestic abuse and violence.
Judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement need to be thoroughly trained about domestic violence, what it is, how it happens, and how to deal with it compassionately, fairly, and effectively. Many admit they are unaware of Battered Women’s Syndrome and understand little about the dynamics of domestic violence.
Some courts admit that domestic violence cases are among the most complex. They also admit the need for experts to testify and educate jurors on behalf of abused women.
At JTS, we’re working to accomplish all of this. And we need your help, especially in funding for more training videos about domestic violence. Together, we can help change Michigan laws that cause additional burden for women who have already been traumatized.
JTS has partnered with Network for Good to make donating easy. Simply click on the Donate button or send a tax-deductible check to JTS, PO Box 363, Grand Haven, MI 49417.
I am an advocate for women without a voice, a silence-breaker, freelance writer, blogger, world traveler, yoga lover, knitter, snow skier, mom to a Shih Tzu, and survivor of domestic violence and #MeToo. I stayed silent for many years. I know how mental, emotional, and physical abuse affect women’s lives.
As a result of my experiences, I work to empower women, to encourage women to raise their voices, and to help us all advocate for each other.