If you haven’t heard, three days ago a woman, Bethany Arceneaux, was rescued by her family members after being kidnapped by an ex-boyfriend in a Louisiana parking lot. After finding out where she was being held, some of her family members went to the location, busted down the door and rescued a wounded Arceneaux (she had been stabbed), killing her captor in the process.
News coverage can be found here.
This story did not end in overall tragedy, the woman was rescued and treated and will be able to return to her family, but let’s talk about the protection of Black women in America. This woman had a restraining order against him and had been threatened and intimidated before. The question is where and what was the police response?
Although not foolproof, there is a lot of legitimacy behind why many people of color, especially Black people, ESPECIALLY Black women, don’t rely on police for protection. There remains so much privilege and prejudice wrapped up in who calls, who comes, and how long it takes to respond when it comes to police and the Black community, even when the law is being followed.
Specifically in relation to domestic violence, so many people who have never been through a situation involving domestic violence or relationship abuse like to give advice and pass judgment. This needs to stop. Unless you are there, unless you are that person, you don’t have all the facts and feelings, so shut up. One can be a concerned and sympathetic friend or ally without the “you should” and “if I were you,” because you don’t have to and you are not.
Some people are quick to judge and jump to restraining orders and police as the end-all-be-all for abused and threatened women. While that can be helpful in some situations, and I definitely believe in the law and its mechanisms, a piece of paper won’t protect you in an actual domestic violence situation.
And to add insult to injury on top of that, it really is difficult to get a restraining order against someone. It is really, really HARD. They don’t just hand out restraining orders, it is a PROCESS, and the victim really has to prove his or her case. Look it up.
And then once someone is granted a restraining order, I have heard many stories of police who take the interpretation of law into their own hands. Police assessing the situation themselves, especially with women of color, regularly lacking context and situational history, something like, “she has a restraining order but he seems fine right now.”
Or the police come HOURS later… or they don’t come AT ALL.
This is not to say this happens all the time or all police are subpar, but it does happen. I can think of at least five stories off the top of my head involving women who had an established restraining order and police came and made the judgment that the situation was okay. Where the aggressor is in clear violation just being in the vicinity, this woman has called for help and the response is a longer version of “calm down,” something we, as women of color, as Black women specifically, hear so frequently.
In some of those stories, someone DIED: either the victim, or the child(ren), and/or the aggressor.
Especially as a Black woman where people often think you overreact, it can be very frustrating to hear from someone who has not lived your truth to calm down. Especially when safety is involved, we all do what we have to in order to keep our children, our families, and ourselves safe, do we not? Sometimes it is not the popular approach, but before we pass judgment on a situation or decision, let us make sure we have all the facts; or agree to not pass judgment at all and just be someone to lean on.