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CW: Domestic violence
Dear Prosecutors Dennis Watkins and Stanley Elkins:
I’m writing to urge that you drop the charges against Bresha Meadows. I’ve worked as an organizer, activist, policy advocate, educator, and researcher in the field of interpersonal violence for the past 12 years of my life. I know from this work all the ways our systems are ill-equipped and often fail childhood survivors of domestic violence. Local governments, social safety nets, and direct service nonprofits struggle to provide services for families like Bresha’s. To add to this the dynamics of power and control within abusive families – often creates a context where asking for support means taking life-threatening risks. Her case highlights a degree of desperation and a lack of options – that no young person should experience.
In Bresha’s history there were multiple times where she or her family attempted to get support, and yet the violence continued. As violence within her home escalated and with multiple threats against her life and her other family members, I believe that she had no other options than to defend herself. When you challenge family violence, you make a decision where you are completely ready to lose your own life literally and figuratively. You do this when no one else can keep you safe, and when for completely unfair circumstances it has become your role within your family to create safety. I know this role intimately not just from my work, but from my own life. When I was 19 years old, I was exhausted and fed up with emotional and physical violence within my own family. I had recently returned home from college to spend the summer with my parents, and had finally learned what it meant to feel consistently safe. I was tired of feeling worried, constrained, and controlled. I couldn’t stand watching the violence that my mother experienced from my father, nor worrying about my own safety. I made the decision that the violence was going to end. And for the first time in my life I fought back. During this incident my father and I both experienced injuries. I don’t remember much but at some point I called 911 believing that finally me, my brother, and mother would be safe. When the police arrived they assessed that I was the one to be arrested. After a conversation with me and my parents we were able to avoid my arrest, and I was sent to live with relatives. I was broken, disheartened, and lost faith and trust in people and systems. While I have experienced violence since then – I have never expected that the criminal legal system would support me.
I was luckier than Bresha. I had more options, more support, I was older. But I see my fate as connected with hers and all survivors who are behind bars for self-defense. Someone should have protected Bresha, supported her, got her out before things got this bad. She should have never been in this situation in the first place. And the truth is for black girls, like Bresha, and like I was, the already limited options for survivors are honestly non-existent.
I see Bresha as a hero. She did nothing wrong, but instead she did everything she could to stay alive. She has already faced immeasurable trauma; a level of trauma that many people cannot understand, and will never experience. If released it will take years for her to get the support she needs to move through this experience. Imprisoning her will only add more harm, more violence, and reduce her options even further. I hope you consider this perspective. We need to give Bresha the chance to experience safety. We have already failed her. We cannot fail her again.