Unmasking the Violence

Unmasking the Violence

A shocking 1977 case of spousal abuse, and Farrah Fawcett's subsequent TV movie dramatization, altered laws and attitudes. (Lansing State Journal)

In a watershed 1977 trial, Francine Hughes was acquitted of murder after pouring gasoline around her sleeping ex-husband and setting him on fire. The case revealed more than 12 years of brutal spousal abuse and became a rallying point for a movement to change domestic violence laws.

In 1977 there was little police could do in domestic abuse cases and no social services existed to supporter victims or batterers.

It was “The Burning Bed,” the 1984 made-for-television movie starring Farrah Fawcett as Francine Hughes, that changed societal attitudes. Images of the former “Charlie’s Angel” being beaten and bloodied brought the issue of domestic violence into American living rooms.

With an extensive multimedia package, including a three-part video project, the Lansing State Journal takes a look back at the crime that put Dansville, Michigan on the map a quarter century ago. The first video provides background on the Francine Hughes case with archival photos and an interview with Hughes’ lawyer reflecting upon the trial. The second video takes a historic look at how domestic violence laws and public awareness have changed in 30 years and includes interviews with a judge, law enforcement officials and social workers. The third video is a profile of Dansville today, including interviews with locals about the legacy left behind by this world renowned case.

Burning Bed: Turning Point, Part One: 5:45
Burning Bed: Turning Point, Part Two: 8:36
Burning Legacy: 5:55

CHANNEL: Lansing State Journal

Multimedia Producer: Ryan Loew
Multimedia Editor: Cody Hinze

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