CW Domestic Violence
Open letter to Stanley Elkins and Dennis Watkins:
I am writing this letter to the people most directly responsible for Bresha Meadows’ detention, which has already taken months from her young life. I am writing to the two people most responsible for the charges which could take years more from Bresha, even decades if she were tried as an adult. By every single account of the abuse that she and her family suffered, Bresha has already been denied the freedom that is feeling safe, that is knowing she will safely go into her future. How much longer will she be denied safety, freedom, and a future?
Earlier this year a similar case made national headlines, that of Cherelle Baldwin, whose actions taken in defense of herself and her young son resulted in the death of her abuser. Connecticut prosecutors, whose first trial resulted in a hung jury, lost that case to an outright acquittal, but only after Cherelle spent 3 years incarcerated, separated from her young son. Cherelle’s story is like so many women I know, who after filing restraining orders, calling police, etc, still were left to defend themselves. Add to this, an adult has more legal option than a child. I wonder how much safer the world would truly be if we invested in community-based support networks over the cost of detention and prosecution of survivors.
As a survivor of violence myself, and an advocate for those forced to survive both interpersonal and state violence, I know that utterly victim-blaming question often asked: “why didn’t (she) just leave?”. I wonder if you are preparing to ask that question in the course of your prosecution of this child survivor of domestic violence. As a juvenile court prosecutor no doubt you already know, Mr Elkins, that 84% of girls in juvenile detention suffered family violence before their detention, and that this abuse is often directly related to their criminalization. For example, a number of youth in detention are there for status offences, including running away (from abuse). I wonder, given Bresha’s aunt is a police officer, and even she acknowledges there was no way to safely intervene in this situation, how it’s possible the state can punish Bresha for what no doubt felt like the only option left to this injured, traumatized child who feared for herself and her whole family. I wonder if Mr Watkins is familiar with another statistic, which is that (officially) over 75% of women in adult prison are survivors of domestic violence and juvenile incarceration increases the likelihood of adult incarceration.
I do know three things for certain though. I know that I am grateful that I survived and had resources available to me to do so, and that I can join in what will be unrelenting, broad-based support of Bresha. I am grateful that Bresha survived, though she did not have the benefit of those resources. Finally, I know what so many of us survivors, organizers, advocates, lawyers and policy people out here are asking: Will you, Mr Elkins and Mr Watkins, interrupt the cycle of violence this child, Bresha Meadows has been trapped in for 15 years now? Will you let Bresha go home, where it is finally safe, where she can reclaim what is left of her childhood?