14-year-old Bresha Meadows is in the fight of her life.
The teen, who previously had experience with troubling grades, only later to run away from home twice, reportedly telling her relatives that she feared for her life, due to an abusive father. Meadows told them that he was beating her mother, walked around with a gun in the house to intimidate her and her siblings, and threatened to kill the family. Two months later, Bresha shot her father, Jonathan Meadows, in the head with his gun.
According to the Huffington Post, family members have confessed that Jonathan was indeed a “physically and verbally abusive man who terrorized his family and controlled his wife’s every move.”
Brandi Meadows, Bresha’s mother, filed a civil domestic violence protection order against him, writing, “In the 17 years of our marriage, he has cut me, broken my ribs, fingers, the blood vessels in my hand, my mouth, blackened my eyes. If he finds me, I am 100 percent sure he will kill me and the children.”
The protection order was dismissed at her request and the couple stayed together.
While Jonathan’s family had denied claims of abuse, Bresha’s mother calls her a hero, thankful for the sacrifice she made to end the violence in the family. “She is my hero. I wasn’t strong enough to get out and she helped us all.”
The Bresha Meadows Freedom Campaign began a petition to raise awareness of her case, which has garnered 6,000 signatures.
“The criminal punishment system does not view black children as children. In 2006, black youth represented 43 percent of all youth detained in the US juvenile system. Black youth are disproportionately arrested and face a 40 percent higher chance of pre-trial detention than white youth,” the petition states.”White youth are 50 percent more likely than black youth to be offered alternatives to incarceration. Black youth are disproportionately transferred to the adult system where they also face aggressive prosecution. In 2002, black youth were sent to adult prison at nine times the rate of white youth.”
“If Bresha is tried as a youth, she risks rampant abuses in the juvenile system, including a high chance of isolation in solitary confinement. If Bresha is tried as an adult, she risks direct transfer to an adult prison in Ohio,” the petition continues. “Young people incarcerated in adult prisons face horrifying rates of sexual and physical violence. If convicted as an adult, she faces the possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison. Even if Bresha is acquitted of all charges, once she’s prosecuted as an adult, any future charges will track her into the adult system.”
The case of Bresha Meadows echoes the cases of other black women who have fought back against physical violence and promptly punished for it. Black transgender woman CeCe McDonald was sentenced to 41 months in prison after she stabbed a man for hurling racist, homophobic, and transphobic epithets to her and her friends. Renata Hill, a black queer woman, was convicted after stabbing a street attacker with a kitchen knife. Perhaps the most recent until Meadow’s case was that of Marissa Alexander, a black woman living in Florida sentenced to prison after firing warning shots at a man who abused her.
“Girls and women incarcerated for actions taken in self-defense are disproportionately black,” the campaign argues. “84 percent of girls incarcerated in the US experience family-based violence prior to being criminalized. Three women are killed per day in the US by a current or former partner, and 75 percent of these women are killed within hours, days or weeks after attempting to escape the abuse.”
Since word of Bresha’s case has hit social media, a firestorm of support has been cast towards the teen and attention towards black women and the criminal justice system.
“[Support] has been coming literally from across the globe,” her lawyer, Ian Friedman, tells Democracy Now. “My office has just been flooded with mail and emails and calls from people, you know, that want her to know that she’s being supported and prayed for. Gifts are being sent. Even a group of women sent a big box of painted rocks to my office, which was very nice, you know, with little sayings of encouragement. The petition that we received yesterday, now over 7,000 people who are calling for Bresha’s release. So, it really is incredible.”