Dear Mr. Dennis Watkins and Mr. Stanley Elkins:
Please drop all charges against Bresha Meadows, and allow her to recover with her family in freedom. The notion that this girl ought to be prosecuted or punished is deeply misguided. Bresha asked for help escaping her abusive father, who assaulted her mother regularly and repeatedly threatened her life with his gun. Bresha’s community and the police did not protect her; they turned her away. When she ran away from home to escape her father, the police brought her back to him.
Bresha killed her father as he slept. It is tempting to imagine that such behavior cannot be self-defense: we tell ourselves that you don’t have to kill, you can walk away, you can get help. Bresha tried all that, and it was denied her. We tell ourselves that we are a society that protects the vulnerable. All too often we are wrong, and this is one of those cases. Every remaining course available to Bresha was awful, and she made the least awful choice. She and her mother are alive today, and the people most charged with protecting vulnerable people like her had nothing to do with it.
I am privileged not to be a victim of child abuse. This good fortune, which should be a right, is a privilege instead. I know, and have known, a number of people who were not so lucky. I know that many abusers tell their victims they cannot escape, that no one cares about them or will help them, and that the police will not protect them. They tell their victims vicious lies.
And I am asking you, please, do not make those lies true. If you prosecute Bresha Meadows you will be telling every victim of abuse that you are not with them, that the awful words spoken to them by their perpetrators to subdue and terrify them are the truth.
The law, we are told, serves to uphold society’s sense of right and wrong. I implore you, do not punish Bresha Meadows for surviving. It is bad enough that her father abused her and her mother, that the police failed to protect her, that they took her back to her abuser, and that she is in jail now. What has been done to her must be undone, the terror and oppression and abuse put to an end. Do not build on that edifice; free Bresha, that it may be dismantled and she may heal.
Fayetteville, New York