Marissa Alexander has become a recent major topic in the Black community. For those of you that aren’t aware of the Marissa Alexander case I will give you a brief overview. Marissa Alexander is a mother of 3 that was arrested on Dec 30,2010 after firing a warning shot to scare her abusive husband. After the incident she was charged with three counts of aggravated assault and on May 11, 2012 Marissa was sentenced to 20 years in prison due to Florida’s 10-20-life gun law. The 10-20-life gun law states that firing a weapon during the commission of a crime is a mandatory 20 year sentence. Before Marissa was sentenced she had hopes of being free based on the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida because her actions were based of self defense. This case has sparked many opinions on what should of been the outcome of her sentencing and Marissa’s family is currently disputing her sentencing in hopes of having her home sooner than later.
Personally this case has brought domestic violence to the forefront of my mind. I have always been aware of domestic violence but at times it was pushed into the back of my mind because I was not directly affected by it. As I get older though I have known more and more women , specfically Black women, that have dealt with domestic violence either in their current or past life. I think the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about domestic violence is “Why don’t you just leave?”. In our minds it is easy to think that if a woman is getting abused then she should drop everything and leave to a safer situation but it is not that easy for someone that is currently being abused.
We would like to think that our system would embrace and protect Black women from abusive spouses. As I have spoken to Black victims of domestic violence and researched options I have begun to understand why they feel stuck in their situation. Many victims have called the police in hopes of being protected from their abuser and many of those calls have not resulted in the victim getting the help they need. In some cases the abuser is arrested but in many cases the arrest isn’t a long term imprisonment. Cases like the Marissa Alexander case is a prime example of watching our system fail a victim of domestic violence. Most women do not have family or friends that can help them get out of an abusive situation so they are left to their own devices.
Many Black women do not have the income to just leave their homes and begin somewhere new and far away from their abuser. A study in 2010 reported that the single median wealth for single white women came in at $41,000, single hispanic women came in at $120 and single black women came in at only $100. This gap in wealth has pressured many Black women to stay with an abuser that can provide for them and their children if they have any. There are programs for domestic violence victims but sometimes these programs are limited in how many women they can help leaving victims to feel discouraged. There are also shelters but sometimes women fear that their abuser will find them or unfortunately they fear the violence that comes along with living in a shelter. On ocassions this discouragement and abuse leads to women to extreme measures to escape the violence but my hope is that if we bring this topic to light in the Black community that extreme measures will never have to happen and their will be less Marissa Alexander cases in our community.
So how do we help our fellow Black women that are victims of abuse? I believe we have to begin in the prevention of domestic abuse by bringing our Black daughters up in a environment that is positive and supportive. We have to teach them that they are worth the best that life has to give and also teach them that confidence and validation should come from the inside and not from outside factors. We have to be open and honest about domestic violence and how it starts so that they can be aware of the signs and be able to remove themselves from a situation that is no good for them. Of course there are women that are already victims and we have to support them through sisterhood first.Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to Queen Afi Gaston, the founder of Domestic Violence Wears Many Tags (www.DVWMTS.org). I viewed a video on her sister circle which is simply a room full of women that speak about their experience with domestic violence in order to empower eachother which was amazing to watch. Victims need to realize that they are not alone and that there are other women in this world that love them even if they don’t love themselves. The support and love can make it easier for victims to begin action towards a better life.
Before I end this post I would like to offer some advice for domestic violence victims. It is important for women to understand that when dealing with abuse that is important to report the abuse promptly. Most women are abused at least five times before reporting it. After reporting the abuse be sure to be cooperative with all physical examinations and take as many photographs of your injuries as possible. Do not clean up your house or the area where the abuse happened. Use as many legal actions as you can such as a protective order against the abuser. If you do not feel comfortable calling 911 please call the National Domestic Violence hot line at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). You are not alone.
With Love& Support