"The Burning Bed"
A turning point in battle against domestic violence
Department of Criminal Justice
Beaten, bruised, broken bones and black eyes. Humiliated, discouraged and emotionally damaged. These are just a few of the things that Francine Hughes went through for over 12 years receiving abuse from her husband, James “Mickey” Hughes. Every nine seconds in the U.S. a women is assaulted or beaten (Schneider, 2000). Her story is a unique one in a sense, which she lived in a time where no one spoke publically about spousal abuse at all. Women were told that what happens in the house stays in the house and no one else should know about it. So for years Francine stood firm to that pact until the day she couldn’t take anymore. March 9, 1977, was that day. This research explores the story of Francine Hughes and how she killed her husband Mickey Hughes. This research will give statistical information about how the Criminal Justice System changed after the acquittal of Francine Hughes as well. Finally, this research will show the correlation of the awareness of abuse to women before and after the case was complete. Francine Hughes, born and raised in Michigan met James Mickey Hughes when she was sixteen. Ironically, her father was abusive to her mother. "My mother stayed because of the children," says Francine, who left school and married Mickey Hughes, an aloof 18-year-old dropout. "I thought he was so sophisticated. He had his own car and most people I knew didn't." (Diliberto, 1984). The abuse began shortly after their wedding. He started out lightly by ripping off her clothes because he felt she was dressing too provocatively. He would be mentally abusive and tell her things about how she looked and how stupid she was. Because he didn’t finish school, Mickey was always looking for a job. Mickey drifted from job to job, doing construction work and other forms of manual labor, but often wasted his inadequate earnings on drinking sprees. He was living pay check to pay check throughout their marriage and it contributed to his development of alcoholism. Reports shows that ninety-two percent of the domestic abuse assailants use alcohol or other drugs on the day of the assault (alcoholism.about.com). Francine Hughes Wilson. October 23, 1980. / File photo, Lansing State Journal Francine and Mickey quickly added four children in the marriage which made things more complicated and more expensive to live. Mickey usually left Francine with no money for food or for rent when she was expecting her fourth child, Nicole. She then reached a point of desperation. With the assistance of a local social worker, she filed a decree of divorce and put in an application for welfare. But even after the divorce was approved in April 1971, Mickey refused to respect it. When Francine tried to keep him out of the house, he abused her. She realized things were no different than before. Mickey came and went as he pleased. Some weeks later Mickey had a near-fatal car accident that left him with several fractures and a head injury. An abuser does not “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb (Smith, Segal).After waking from a coma, Mickey used his situation to draw Francine back to his control. The first person he requested for was ex-wife Francine. Afflicted by feelings of guilt, she continued to visit Mickey during his forty day hospital stay. She ultimately took him home to nurse him back to recovery. Francine really felt imprisoned after his accident. She didn’t know why she felt so indebted to that man, but she did. Then the real turmoil began.
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Negating to look for work, Mickey started drinking more severely and beating Francine every few...
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