Bresha’s Story, Our Story | Sojourners

Bresha’s Story, Our Story

Last night, the family and friends of 15-year-old Bresha Meadows gathered for a vigil to declare, “Enough!”

Enough to the domestic violence in their communities. Enough to the systems and laws that fail to protect victims. And enough to the criminalization of survivors like Bresha who are imprisoned for defending themselves.

Over the last few months, Bresha’s plight has gained national support as advocates call for her immediate release. Accused of killing her father after enduring a lifetime of abuse, prosecutors have threatened to charge Bresha as an adult, which could potentially leave her in prison for the rest of her life.

For me, Bresha’s story hits way too close to home.

Fifteen years ago, my brave sister made the perilous decision to leave her abusive partner and father of her newborn child. I shudder to think what could have happened if my nephew, who is the same age as Bresha, grew up in a home witnessing that kind of trauma and violence. It is a nightmare no child of God should have to endure.

Bresha is a survivor in need of restoration, not incarceration.

Yet around the country, children — particularly girls of color — are funneled into the Abuse to Prison Pipeline. Many are disproportionately arrested on charges such as truancy, substance abuse, or running away — behaviors often linked to family violence. In the most dire circumstances, girls like Bresha go to extreme measures to protect themselves.

In so many ways, Bresha’s story parallels that of Tamar, the daughter of King David who was violated by a family member and forced to suffer in silence (2 Samuel 13:1-22). Likewise, Bresha’s trust was broken time and time again by her own flesh and blood. And Bresha’s cries for help fell on deaf ears as she and her mother reported the abuse to family members and authorities — but to no avail.

The police failed to protect Bresha. Child protective services failed her. Her family failed her. Enough is enough.

In the U.S., domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions. Every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted, beaten, or abused. Every minute, 20 people — women and men and those of various gender identities and sexual orientations — are impacted by intimate partner violence. And each day, thousands of children are exposed to domestic abuse in their homes.

The cries of Tamar echo today in girls like Bresha. It’s time for the faith community to step into the breach and stand up for Bresha and all survivors of violence and abuse.

As Bresha spends another night in jail under suicide watch, we must remain vigilant. Her life is of sacred worth, yet represents all the women and girls — our mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, and daughters — whose lives hang in the balance through disturbing rates of violence, exploitation, and abuse.

Her story is our story. And her wellbeing must be ours.

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month and beyond, join Sojourners and partners across the country in praying for Bresha’s release and healing. Only then can we break the cycle of violence in our homes, congregations, and communities.

For the Tamars and Breshas of today, we pray and act with conviction:

One: Tender God who gives us breath and gathers us under your wing, we come together on behalf of your bruised and battered people.
All: We pray for Bresha.
One: Save, heal, and protect those whose innocence have been stolen.
All: We pray for Bresha.
One: Be with those who sleep in fear or are too afraid to go home.
All: We pray for Bresha.
One: Comfort those whose love and trust have been broken in unspeakable ways.
All: We pray for Bresha.
One: Forgive us for failing your children, for turning away from the oppressed.
All: We pray for Bresha.
One: Give us the courage and conviction to rise up against injustice and make a difference in at least one life.
All: We pray for Bresha.
One: Make us a people who walk in wisdom and power to end the violence in our homes and communities.
All: We pray for Bresha. We say her name. And we commit to never forget her and all who suffer in silence. May their tears and fears be no more.