UPDATED 04/02/2018

I originally wrote this post in September 2016 before meeting with the Grayson County Sheriff and his deputy in December 2016. I’m adding the BIGGEST change that needs to happen — ATTITUDES! Attitudes within the criminal justice system as a whole towards domestic violence, sexual assault, and mental illness, especially for women.

My personal experience has been with Sherman Police Department, and I realize this is a nation wide issue. We’ve met with so many–criminal investigative detective, Sherman police officer, former assistant chief of police, current chief of police, current assistant chief of police, and dispatch; Grayson County District Attorney’s Office–assistant DA; Justice of the Peace; Grayson County Sheriff’s Office; SW Institute of Forensic Science–Medical examiner; Texas Ranger (consulted by assistant DA and current chief of police for opinion)….. everyone we met with thus far has blamed Amanda’s death on her past history. The man she lived with also had a past history of violence, yet he was treated like the victim. I’m angry with the system that failed her more than once.

I often think about the women I’ve lost. I am so sad and grieved for everything they had to endure at the hands of men that controlled every part of their worlds. We grew up enduring domestic violence. I personally lived the cycle of abuse with my parents until I left home at 17, but the damage and pain linger.

I also think about the other women (& men) and children all over the world that suffer at the hands of people that are supposed to love them. How can we have a different outcome? How can we make these tragic stories end differently? It has to be one of three four ways: change in the criminal justice system, stop the abuse, leave the abuser, or the likelihood that someone will die. Those are the only solutions to this senseless, preventable crime.

There must be training, education, and accountability for EVERY area of the legal system–police departments, prosecutors, judges, representatives, and any other person involved– starting with the 911 call. The small town mentality, and attitude toward women, as well as mental health issues, has to be addressed! Until men are held accountable, with prosecutions (no plea bargains) and jail time, women & children affected by DV will not be safe. Domestic violence is one of the most dangerous types of crimes, and needs to be treated accordingly.

Stopping the abuse has to start early. Abusers were most likely abused themselves. There must be early intervention, education, and programs to help the abuser figure out what’s going on inside them. We have this deep need to control our world, but we do not have any right to control the actions of others, whether physical, psychological, financial and/or emotional. We have to break the generational cycles of abuse. We have to be the generation that says ENOUGH! The abuser needs to be loved on as much as the abused if safe to do so. The flip side though is that they have to want healing, acknowledge the problem, and take responsibility for their actions.

Leaving the abuser is a complicated matter. Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the most dangerous times. Often women stay because there is so much fear of leaving safely. People often get frustrated at women for staying with an abuser. I know I got frustrated with Amanda many times. As a child, I got frustrated with my mom for staying with my dad. Blaming the woman for staying is NOT acceptable. They get caught up in the domestic violence cycle – abuse, remorse and apologies, calm, & abuse. Not to mention the fear brought on by threats. If we can’t get the abuser to stop, how can we help the abused feel safe in another environment?

If abuse continues, there is a pretty good chance that someone will die. I’ve lost three women in my life to domestic violence homicides (I’m praying that the truth be revealed in Amanda’s case). In the loss of my sister Vivian, she was leaving her boyfriend, and he killed her. My mother went to check on her hours after it happened because Vivian wasn’t answering the phone, and he killed my mom as well. When I asked why he did it, he said he didn’t want to lose her. Amanda was threatened to be killed numerous times if she left Brayan; but the night she suffered brain death, he told her to be gone by a certain time and if she wasn’t he would kill her. He did! It doesn’t have to end this way! Women, please take precautions and find an advocate. Call your local crisis center. Don’t do it alone. If a violent man feels he’s loosing control of the situation or his partner, it is likely he will ensure no one else can have you either. It’s classic behavior.

Please read and share Amanda’s story of injustice and our family’s story of domestic violence.