My name is Denyce Gartrell, and the following explains my cause and why it is so detrimental to the lives of abused women, families, and to society as a whole.
First, let me say that, "Saving your life should not be a crime". But, for many women in the U.S., it is. For example, on January 27, 2015, the internationally recognized case of a woman name, Marissa Alexander made national news headlines, as she was released from the Duval County courthouse in Jacksonville, FL.
Marissa, a mother of three children, once faced 60 years in prison for shooting into a wall to ward off another attack from her abusive husband. No one was hurt, and Marissa, an educated woman who earned a 6-figure salary on her job of 10 years, had no prior criminal history at the time of this incident. Thousands protested the absurd prison sentencing of a woman who shot into some drywall to protect her life.
After three years of incarceration, thousands of supporters from the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign (www.freemarissanow.org) pressed for justice in her case, and finally, Marissa is home with her children, but she's still serving two more years of house arrest by electronic monitoring, even as I write this post. In other words, her home is now her prison that forcibly permits legalized intrusions from law enforcement officials that will affect her life, her children, and her family, as they all will be subject to random home visits, phone calls, limited freedoms, a lack of privacy, and more.
BUT, MARISSA'S CASE IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF A BROKEN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM THAT PENALIZES VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TWICE!!!!!!!
Currently, there are NUMEROUS women who are BEHIND BARS for protecting their life, and who have been overpenalized with prison sentences that far exceed the actions they took.
BUT, MOST OF US HAVE NEVER HEARD THEIR STORIES!!! In fact, if the George Zimmerman (the man who shot & killed Trayvon Martin, the black, unarmed teenager who was walking home from the store) case, and Florida's "STAND YOUR GROUND" law had never made national news, Marissa's case of self-defense probably would not have been brought to light, and she most likely would still be in prison today.
WHAT HELPED MARISSA GAIN HER FREEDOM & A LOWER SENTENCE??? The galvanizing of supporters across the world who learned about her case & consequentially, pressed for her freedom. AND, THAT IS WHY I'VE CHOSEN TO CREATE THIS DOCUMENTARY TO BRING ABOUT A NATIONAL AWARENESS TO THE EPIDEMIC OF INCARCERATED VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, WHO ARE HIDDEN FROM PUBLIC VIEW & TO HELP OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE STILL IN MARISSA'S SHOES!
Take a look at Charmaine Pfender, who has served 29 years in prison for defending herself against a man who attempted to rape her at knifepoint. Charmaine was 18 years old at the time of this incident. Or, Tondala Hall, an imprisoned African-American woman who failed to prevent her abusive boyfriend from physically abusing their daughter. By the way, even though Tondala did not physically harm the infant, and was also fearful and battered by her boyfriend, he received only TWO (2) years for breaking their 3-month old infant's ribs and femur; while Tondala is serving THIRTY (30) years. SO, HERE'S WHY I'M RAISING FUNDS TO CONDUCT A DOCUMENTARY ON THIS HIDDEN EPIDEMIC OF INJUSTICE TO WOMEN. 1. To date, there has been little research to determine how many cases exist when it relates to battered women and criminalization, nor the neurobiological processes that create a "fight or flight" response, when they are forced to protect their lives. 2. Unless their case hits the national news, like Marissa's, (which is unlikely), most of these women, who are serving extensive prison time, will NEVER be heard. 3. We are dealing with criminal justice officials who are insensitive, uneducated, and untrained to properly deal with domestic violence issues. Therefore, the same system that now holds these women behind bars, failed to protect them, many times from the abuser that they hurt or killed. 4. EDUCATING THE PUBLIC, LEGISLATORS, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS ABOUT BATTERED WOMEN SYNDROME, AND WHY PENALIZING VICTIMS IS NOT REHABILATION IS CRITICAL, IF THEY ARE TO RESPOND TO WOMEN IN THESE SITUATIONS APPROPRIATELY. THEY MUST ALSO REALIZE THAT TAKING A WOMAN AWAY FROM HER CHILDREN IS ADDING TO A SOCIETAL PROBLEM, NOT SOLVING IT. 5. This documentary will bring LIVE testimonies & interviews from ABUSED WOMEN INSIDE OF PRISON that can serve as EDUCATIONAL TRAINING, not only for the above mentioned, but also for Domestic Violence Programs within DV shelters; Teenager Programs; Corporations; Faith-based Organizations, Public Access Channels, Conferences, and more. WHO WE ARE & WHY WE ARE IN NEED OF FUNDS: Anyone who has ever produced a QUALITY documentary knows that costs can range from $100,000 to $300,000 or more. HOWEVER, THIS FUNDRAISING EFFORT REFLECTS THE COSTS NEEDED TO BEGIN THE PRODUCTION STAGES. My Director, Ramona Ramdeen, is an experienced, top quality filmaker, who is well-known in the industry, and who comes highly recommended. I have full confidence that, the team I've hired will represent the most effective work to bring awareness to this criminal injustice epidemic against battered women. As the Creator and Executive Producer of this piece, I am passionate about its creation, mission, quality, uniqueness, contents and purpose because, I too, was the educated business woman, with two Master's degrees and financial stability, who found myself sitting behind bars for protecting my life from an abusive husband. In fact, it was my own experience that gives me the personal knowledge and perspective that, NOT ALL PRISONERS ARE CREATED EQUAL. While sitting in my cell, there was no one to hear my story, and no one who was even interested. I felt practically helpless. I had to depend on people on the outside to work for me, and hoped that they would follow my instructions, and were as passionate about getting me out, as I was to prove my innocence and to be released from the walls that were enclosed around me. Fortunately, I spent 14 days in jail and when I returned back to court for a bond hearing, the judge reduced my bond from $100,000 to $5,000. As I explain in my book, "My Story: The Victim Who Broke Free", the charges were eventually dropped when my then husband admitted to the abuse and refused to testify if it went to court. But, my case is NOT the norm. I knew, while sitting in jail that, my life's mission was to help other women in my shoes. AND, THROUGH THIS DOCUMENTARY, I WILL TURN A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE INTO A POSITIVE ONE BY SHEDDING LIGHT ON OTHER DV VICTIMS WHO HAVE NOW BEEN ABUSED TWICE!!! PLUS, THESE WOMEN DESERVE FOR THEIR VOICES TO BE HEARD!!! The following includes production costs to be accrued: Incidentals Cameras Agreements Travel Food Staff, and other filming expenditures... These women are our mothers, daughters, sisters, siblings, and they should NOT be sentenced to long prison terms for saving their own lives. Protecting one's life and property isn't a priviledge; it's a a constitutional right! And, as the Creator and Executive Producer of this documentary, my goal is to save the lives of young girls who see the interviews, and to give hope to those who are incarcerated, as they will know that, their life matters. Please help me to put a face and voice to these women who suffer in silence and behind prison walls. And, I pledge to be their voice, as we aim to make a better society by creating change, and also sending this film to the White House--- my ultimate goal. Thank you for helping me to help abused and battered women in prison, and across the world! X