Freedom has a price and for Marissa Alexander that price is $11,000.
And her "freedom" was two years of house arrest.
In 2010 Ms. Alexander fired warning shots into the air when she (and her nine day old daughter) were threatened by her ex-husband, Rico Gray. In his deposition, Gray admitted that there was a history a physical abuse towards Alexander. Years earlier, he was briefly arrested when he pushed Alexander and she hit her head on the bathtub (10). He also admitted that he had been arrested for violence against women twice before. On that particular day, he is quoted on saying the following:
I called her a whore and bitch and you ain't shit, like I told you...if I can't have you, nobody going to have you (19)
Although Alexander defended her actions with Florida's Stand Your Ground Law, the law famously used by George Zimmerman's defense after the death of Trayvon Martin, the judge ruled the law was not applicable in her situation. Instead, she pleaded guilty to three accounts of aggravated with a weapon.
So why was Alexander unable to use the same defense as Zimmerman? She after all, didn't kill anyone and was definitely being threatened. Well, according to the judge "she could have just left her house instead". This says a lot about how we treat female survivors of domestic violence.
When hearing about domestic violence, people frequently ask, “Why did she stay? Why didn’t she leave?”—rather than “Why does this person keep hurting the person he claims to love? Why doesn’t he stop harming her?"...By defending herself, she negates any claim she may have had to being the victim and gets framed as the aggressor
This is not the first time survivors of domestic violence have been criminalized in the justice system.
In 2006, Titches Lindley was murdered by is step-father, Alonzo Turner. His mother, Arlena Lindley, had faced multiple violent approaches by Turner famously documented in this BuzzFeed investigative article. By the end of the case, Lindley was sentenced to 45 years of prison for child abuse by "omission". When investigating the laws surrounding the charge, sometimes known as "Failure to Protect", many do not consider domestic violence under special considerations when prosecuting mothers.
Lindley would later testify, he had pulled her hair, choked her, sat on her, and pushed her to the ground in public; after she removed a bullet from his gun and threw it in the yard, he forced her to strip naked and search for it in the dark on her hands and knees; when she tried to escape with her son, he threw her in a car trunk and drove her back home, or called and threatened to kill Lindley’s family if she didn’t return
Perhaps, when 75% incarcerated women are domestic violence survivors, it is time that we reconsider portions of laws and try to better coordinate our efforts towards justice.