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Elderly woman accused of killing husband blames domestic abuse

When most people think of perpetrators of domestic violence, they picture young to middle-aged people, strong enough to overpower their spouses and children. But this description doesn't always fit the bill.

An elderly woman in Burke County, North Carolina, has been charged with homicide in connection with the death of her 88-year-old husband. The 85-year-old woman called 911 a few weeks ago to report that she'd shot him and wanted someone to come to her house to collect him, according to sheriff's deputies. Recordings reveal that she told the dispatcher repeatedly that she was the one who killed him.

Just 24 hours earlier, deputies had gone to the couple's home on a domestic abuse call. They spent three hours there, but didn't find any signs of physical abuse on the woman. She explained that the abuse was mostly verbal. They took her to a domestic violence shelter as a precaution, but she returned home that night.

Although it's not clear exactly what type of abuse the woman allegedly suffered or how long it had been going on, it's important to consider that couples who experience violence, either one-sided or mutual, usually don't just stop the abuse on their own. Some form of intervention, either from family members, a social service agency or law enforcement, is usually required. It's possible the woman had experienced abuse for years and had finally had enough. In relationships with chronic domestic abuse, even if the abuse is only emotional, it can quickly lead to physical violence, as it did in this case.

Some statistics show that in hard economic times, divorce rates go down, but domestic violence goes up, the theory being that people who fear they can't afford to survive on their own stay with their abuser for financial stability. Elderly couples without the financial means to separate might very well hang on to their marriage, no matter what violence occurs.

Source: WSOCTV.com, "Elderly woman accused of killing husband," Dec. 20, 2011

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