CW: Domestic violence
Dear Prosecutors Dennis Watkins and Stanley Elkins,
My name is Bonny Wells and I currently reside in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I’m writing to you concerning the case of Bresha Meadows, a 14 year old currently being held in detention for killing her abusive father. I am writing to urge you to release Bresha Meadows from detention immediately.
My mother, my sister and I lived with a man for four years who was physically and emotionally abusive. As a child I witnessed by mother being picked up and thrown, hit, pushed to the floor, and repeatedly verbally abused. Although I was never physically abused, witnessing violence against my mother was severely traumatizing and continues to influence the way I interact with the world to this day.
Living in an abusive environment forces children to consider and prepare for possibilities that nobody of any age should be required to consider. As a child, riding home on the school bus I regularly contemplated the possibility that I might come home to find my mother dead. I formulated plans for how to react if I found my mother dead or seriously injured: who I would call, who would care for my younger sister, and where we would live if my mother died. It is difficult to capture the constant terror that permeates an abusive home. I sometimes slept with shoes on in case we had to quickly escape during the night. I say these things to illustrate the way living in an abusive environment changes how children view the world. I constantly feared for the safety of my mother, my sister and myself. Every aspect of my life was centered on the desire to survive. This severely distorted my thinking. It’s important to understand that anybody in the same situation would be affected the same way.
We lived with our abuser from the time I was 6-10 years old, a little younger than Bresha is now. However, I cannot stress enough that in an abusive environment, overwhelmed by the desire to protect my sister and mother, I would have considered any and all available options to make the violence stop. I can certainly say that if I were older and more physically capable, I would have considered physically attacking our abuser to defend myself, my sister and my mother. In an abusive home, children are forced to make decisions that can literally mean the difference between life and death for their loved ones. Bresha Meadows was forced to make a choice no child, and in fact no person, should be forced to make, and she should not be punished for it.
Trapped in an environment where survival and defense of her loved ones was her highest priority, Bresha Meadows responded in the best way she knew possible. I am incredibly concerned now for Bresha’s mental health and well-being. Her response was the response of a scared and traumatized child and she should be treated accordingly; with counseling, not incarceration. Incarceration will only add to the trauma she has experienced, and I fear it already has. To help Bresha heal from a time in her life that must have been unspeakably violent and traumatic, she should be released immediately from detention and she and her family should receive counseling services and support.
I sincerely hope you decide to release Bresha Meadows. Her incarceration is a cruel punishment that will do nothing but compound her trauma and cause further pain and distress for her family.