After her husband spent just two days in jail for giving her a beating that left her with fractured facial bones, Jennifer Kershaw took the unusual step of filing a civil lawsuit—and taught him a $21.5 million lesson. On Tuesday, a jury in Franklin County, Ohio, awarded the 36-year-old elementary school teacher $1,580,000 in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages, the Columbus Dispatch reports. State laws capping such awards may cut the amount by up to 90%, but Kershaw, who has now divorced Jerry Bailey, says the message the victory sends is the important part. "It's brought back a lot of dark times that I tried to grow away from," she says. "But I really believe that it's going to be healing for me, and this is for all women who have been abused in some way."
Bailey—who was fined $100 after being found guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence in the 2013 attack on his wife—had tried to stop the lawsuit, arguing in legal papers that it was "a complaint of conduct and claims arising out of the marital relationship." A judge disagreed last fall and allowed the rare spouse-on-spouse civil lawsuit to proceed separately from divorce proceedings. Kershaw's lawyer tells the Washington Post that "attitudes are still behind the times, which I think is why we really haven't seen a case like this." He tells the Dispatch that he hopes the court victory will send the message that it is "not OK for people to commit domestic violence. And for those who do, there will be consequences." (In another incident, a man allegedly challenged his daughter to a gun duel.)