Domestic violence victims in NY prisons may get some relief

Valerie Seeley has been behind bars since 2003. But her troubles started much earlier, in 1995, when she first met Oliver Williams and his 10-year-old daughter while visiting a friend in Brooklyn. “I thought it was a really cool thing that he had his child with him all the time,” she says in a conference room at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New York state’s maximum-security prison for women.

Attracted to Williams, who seemed like a responsible, caring father, she began dating him and soon moved in with the pair. But Williams quickly changed — drinking heavily, passing out in the street, using drugs, accusing her of sleeping with other men, “all kinds of crazy things,” Seeley recalls. And then the violence began. The first time he hit her, she told him, “Don’t ever put your hands on me again.” But he did — again and again.

Seeley’s adult daughter, Iacha Moore, who only met her mother’s boyfriend after Seeley and Williams had moved in together, tried to help, but couldn’t. Seeley’s adult daughter, Iacha Moore, who only met her mother’s boyfriend after Seeley and Williams had moved in together, tried to help, but couldn’t. Moore remembers receiving calls from her mother when Williams was in a rage. “You’d hear him in the background calling her all sorts of names and she’d be crying,” Moore says. But her mother never admitted what was happening. “I was in denial for a long time,” explains Seeley. “I felt ashamed. My self-esteem was so low. I was afraid that people would blame me.”

In 1996, a year after they started living together, Williams tried to choke her. Seeley finally called the police, who arrested him and took him to jail. Williams’ daughter, who had been in the apartment the entire time, began crying when her father was handcuffed. The police told Seeley that the girl would be placed in foster care if no relative picked her up. “I didn’t want that,” Seeley says. “So I stayed to make sure she would be OK.” Thinking back, she says, “I should have left.” If she had, she might not be in prison today.

Two years later, Seeley was arrested for the murder of Oliver Williams, which she says was done in self-defense after he tried to choke her. Sentenced to 19 years to life, she has spent the last 11 of them at Bedford.  Read the rest of this article by Victoria Law here.

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