Remember that when Marissa Alexander fired her warning shot to save her own life, she caused no injuries. Now she’s facing the very real possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison for that act of self-defense. That should send a chill down the back of every person in this country who believes that women who are attacked have the right to defend themselves.
I had the great privilege of interning for an organization called The Business of Me last year. The Business of Me (TBOM) was started by a woman named Nancy Salamone and aims to help domestic violence victims take control of their lives. Nancy and team TBOM have developed an EAP program for teaching financial independence, gone into shelters and created networks of support, and wrote a novel telling Nancy’s story. Along with the work she is doing to educate, prevent, and fight domestic violence, Nancy is a living example of the myths often associated with it and how to live the life you deserve. Nancy Salamone was in a domestic violent relationship for over 20 years. She was a successful, Wall Street executive by day and an abused wife by night. One of the most impacting lessons I learned through TBOM is that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate.
I was greatly educated on the cause while working for this inspiring woman and her organization. The attitudes surrounding domestic and intimate partner violence are so skewed and I see that clearly now because of TBOM. That is why stories such as Marissa Alexander’s story not only frustrate me, but give me that feeling in the pit of my stomach. That feeling of rage and disgust and the need to do something.
If you are not familiar with Marissa’s case, here’s a quick summary. Marissa Alexander, a Florida resident and mother, was convicted on three charges of aggravated assault in 2012. She was convicted after firing a warning shot in the direction of her husband. This shot harmed no one and was fired in a moment of self-defense. Marissa claimed she was physically assaulted and received a death threat from her husband that very day, causing her to seek self-defense in the form of a warning shot from a gun she had a permit for and was trained to use. Marissa faced a minimum of 20 years behind bars because of Florida’s 10-20-Life law, despite the fact that Marissa’s husband admitted to being abusive towards her and other women. She tried to claim self-defense under Stand Your Ground, but was found guilty. Marissa’s case will be retried in July and State Attorney Angela Corey is looking to triple Marissa’s life sentence to 60 years in prison. For firing a warning shot in self-defense. A shot that hurt no one.
So my question is, what kind of message is this sending to abused women? The number of women who stay silent and maintain their abusive relationship is high enough. Why encourage this mentality by convicting a woman who was defending herself and physically harmed no one and not convict her abuser? This issue is a gender issue, a race issue, a Stand Your Ground issue, and simply a cultural issue. Why is so much blame and pressure and shame put on victims in our culture? Whether it’s domestic violence or rape or molestation, we are so quick to look at the victim and tell them they are wrong. Why is it that the perpetrator deserves the right to be seen as innocent until proven guilty, but the victim isn’t worthy of the same? Why is it that a white man can shoot and kill an innocent black child and declare Stand Your Ground and walk away a free man, but Marissa Alexander isn’t allotted the same freedom?
Domestic violence is an issue that affects us all. Victims often feel helpless and keep quiet because of the fear they face at home and now they’re seeing that fear justified on network television. So when are we going to help them? When are we going to make the world safer for them to step outside?