Within Reach

As people of faith, what is our responsibility to girls and young women who suffer abuse, lash out, and wind up in prison?

IT'S NOT ONE of the Bible stories people often talk about. The tragedy of Tamar, a young woman who was raped by her half-brother and told to “be quiet” while those in authority refused to seek justice on her behalf, is recounted in 2 Samuel 13. We learn in scripture that Tamar became “a desolate woman.”

Bresha Meadows is another young woman who was molested by a family member and forced to suffer in silence. For years, Bresha endured “unrelenting abuse” at the hands of her father. Twice, Bresha ran away to her aunt’s house to escape; twice, Bresha’s aunt took her to Child Protective Services to report the abuse; and twice CPS said there was nothing they could do. Later, in a desperate act of survival, the then-14-year-old shot and killed her father. She was arrested and charged with aggravated murder. Bresha’s case points to an alarming trend: “Almost every teenage girl in the juvenile detention system has endured family violence before entering the system,” writes Sojourners women and girls campaign associate Jenna Barnett.

As people of faith, what is our responsibility to girls and young women who suffer abuse, lash out, and wind up in prison? In the eyes of the criminal justice system, these girls are violent criminals who get what they deserve. Many of these young women become subject to mandatory sentencing laws that impose harsh punishments for those convicted of crimes—even crimes committed by juveniles in abusive situations. But as Barnett reminds us in our cover story, no one is ever beyond the reach of God’s love—or our compassion.

As we went to print with this issue, the Trump administration announced it was ending the DACA program, threatening to deport 800,000 people who were brought to the U.S. as children. Immigrants of all types have been under attack by this administration and, as Dhanya Addanki explains in “Safe House,” churches across the country have opened their doors in response.

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