16-year-old Bresha Meadows, a teen symbol for domestic abuse survivors imprisoned for acts of self-defense, will be released from a mental health facility on Sunday, according to her supporters’ Twitter account @freebresha. She has been spared from a system which arbitrarily punishes victims, often women of color.
As part of a plea deal, Meadows pled “true” (essentially guilty) to shooting her allegedly abusive father at age 14, after spending ten months in Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center in Ohio. She was sentenced to 60 more days in juvenile detention followed by six months in a mental health facility.
Prior to the shooting, Meadows had run away from home twice and was diagnosed with PTSD; HuffPost reported that in 2011, Bresha’s mother filed a police report stating: “In the 17 years of our marriage he has cut me, broke my ribs, fingers, the blood vessels in my hand, my mouth, blackened my eyes. I believe my nose was broken. If he finds us, I am 100 percent sure he will kill me and the children.”
Meadows will now be on probation for two years. Her records will eventually be sealed and purged.
Supporters rallied around Meadows in 2016 when she faced the possibility of being tried as an adult for aggravated murder, which could have meant a life sentence. Meadows’ case is endemic, but relatively fortunate, for domestic abuse survivors, typically women of color, who are severely punished for acts of self-defense: Tewkunzi Green, who faces 34 years in prison for stabbing her husband as he choked her; Tondalao Hall, who’s serving a 30-year sentence for “failing to protect” her children while their abusive father goes free; Ny Nourn, who spent 16 years in prison for “aiding and abeting” the murder of her boss by her abuser (and has since been deported). And more.
The cases reflect much higher rates of domestic abuse and incarceration of women of color in general. According to a 2009 report by the Bureau of Justice, females are most often murdered by people they know; in 2007, black females were twice as likely as whites to be killed by a spouse and four times as likely to be murdered by a boyfriend or girlfriend. The ACLU notes that in 2004, black women were 4.5 times more likely than white women to be incarcerated. Furthermore, they report, “Girls of color who are victims of abuse are more likely to be processed by the criminal justice system and labeled as offenders than white girls. White girls who are abused have a better chance of being treated as victims and referred to child welfare and mental health systems.”
Our friends over at the Root point out that the NRA should be thrilled by these cases of women using guns to defend themselves against abusers, but unsurprisingly, they never seem to be around to pick up the torch. Fortunately Meadows has supporters elsewhere.
Like here! Congrats, Bresha!!