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Why Are There So Many Empty Beds in Domestic Violence Shelters?There are no national statistics on how often women successfully cite self-defense in the murder of their abusive partners, but the numbers surrounding it paint a grim picture. Nearly 60 percent of people in women’s prisons have a history of physical or sexual abuse, according to the ACLU; as many as 90 percent of those incarcerated for killing a man say they were previously been abused by him. Feminist legal scholars argue that self-defense law is biased toward men, favoring cases of one-off attacks by strangers when most violence against women is perpetrated by someone they know.In 2006, Cyntoia Brown, a 16-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee, was convicted of first-degree murder—for killing an older man who’d picked her up for sex when she thought she saw him reaching for a gun. At the time, Brown was in an abusive relationship with a drug dealer who forced her into prositution; she spent 15 years in jail before being granted clemency in 2019. That same year, in upstate New York, Nicole Addimando was convicted of second-degree murder for killing the husband she said sexually and physically abused her for years. Brittany Smith, a young woman in Alabama, tried to use the Stand Your Ground law as a defense after killing her alleged rapist in 2018. Sexual assault examiners found 33 injuries on her body—consistent with being held down, strangled, and raped—but a judge ruled against her, saying she doubted Smith had reason to believe she was in serious danger when she pulled the trigger.On Oct. 8, 2020, after Bellesen made her 911 call, police arrived and took her to a nearby hospital. She told two nurses that her ex-husband had attempted to assault her; officers there collected her clothes and took pictures of the injuries to her body. When they asked to question her further, she invoked her right to have a lawyer present. But her husband told officers she had given him the exact same story when he arrived to help her that day: There was a struggle, Glace tried to rape her, and she shot him in self-defense.The next day, the county attorney charged Bellesen with deliberate homicide.One thing we do know about domestic violence is that abusers are often repeat offenders. One study of nearly 700 British men arrested for domestic violence found that half of them were involved in at least one more incident in the next three years. Nearly one in five re-offended with a different partner than the one they initially abused.In the years after Bellesen and Glace divorced, Glace was charged three more times with domestic violence.