The criminalization and continued prosecution of Marissa Alexander is the norm, not the exception, in how abuse survivors are treated. What’s exceptional is the amount of publicity—and ensuing outrage and organizing—Alexander’s case has engendered. “Although the journey has been long, and there have been many difficult moments, I could not have arrived here where I am today without the many thoughts and prayers of so many people who have voiced their support and encouragement,” Alexander said to the media after her release.
But countless other survivors caught in the legal system face their ordeals alone. No one organizes teach-ins, raises money to cover legal costs or calls for national days of action to draw attention to their cases. There are no friendly faces packing the courtroom to cheer them on. Instead, many are convicted and quietly begin serving lengthy, if not life, sentences. Alexander has recognized this and asked her supporters to use her prominence to help draw more attention and support to other incarcerated abuse survivors, such as Tondalo Hall, as well as others imprisoned for self-defense, such as Charmaine Pfender.
Unless the culture around domestic violence and self-defense shift, there will continue to be many more survivors who are criminalized, prosecuted and threatened with a living death simply for trying to stay alive.