Abuse doesn’t stop at Prison Walls.
Walls blind us to abuse and media romanticizes Rape.
In “Mapping the Margins,” Kimberle Crenshaw states that, “Over the last two decades, women have organized against the almost routine violence that shapes their lives.” Throughout time women have taken a step in fighting the domestic violence that has become their everyday lives, whether it is from fleeing the abuser or protesting for awareness. Sadly self defense isn’t always as clear as it seems and the victim may face an even bigger consequence for fighting back, prison. In Frontline Feminisms Angela Davis says that,
Considering the fact that as many as half of all women are assaulted by their husbands or partners (Belknap 1996, 172), combined with dramatically rising numbers of women sentenced to prison, it may be argued that women in general are subjected to a far greater magnitude of punishment than men.
In many cases a women’s self defense may back fire. For example if a woman who has been constantly abused decided to push back and her abuser dies, that woman may end up in prison for murder. Many women also face jail time for defending their loved ones, such as children, from an abuser. An abusive husband or spouse who constantly abuses a woman may file for kidnapping when the woman flees with her children. Although many women take the right decisions, it doesn’t always go their way. Many times the justice system is corrupt against women, and instead of helping out battered women who have made a mistake due to fear and desperation, those women are put behind bars.
When women take a step to end the abuse they have let into their lives they often times end up in jail, only to face abuse once again inside prison walls. Battered women who go to prison are often times in a vulnerable place having escaped an abusive situation only to be taken to prison were their vulnerability is taken advantage of.
The abuse that many women face inside prison walls has been something that our society has turned away from. Although there has been a number of protest and conferences regarding awareness and women rights in domestic violence that have caught the attention of many in our nation, there hasn’t been highly talked about movements to raise awareness for abuse women face in prison. I am not in any way stating that movements and organizations to help women in prison don’t exist but rather that those movements are often silenced, ignored, or turned away from. Many live in a fantasy where they believe that those in prison are there because they deserve it, because they took a wrong path, or they have let their unrealistic selves to think that the justice system is fair. In Are Prisons Obsolete Angela Davis states,
Addressing issues that are specific to women’s prisons is of vital importance, but it is equally important to shift the way we think about the prison system as a whole.
Battered women in prison are faced with the reality that within those walls they will be exposed to abuse all over again. What they have fled from is the same thing they are exposed to once again. The abuse that many women face behind prison walls differs in a way that prison abuse and assault is something that they are forced to accept. Not only do they have to keep interacting with the abuser but they will also have no voice in speaking out. Women that are abused by officers fear the power that the officers holds over them and because they are inmates they have no resources to seek justice. Their voices are ignored, it becomes a he said-she said situation in which women often times loose.
Females are still at risk of abuse and rape and unfortunately because they are inmates there is often no legal remedy available for them to seek justice.
The abuse that women in prison face daily isn’t just something that we as a society has turned away from but also something that media has found a way to romanticize. Sexual assault that many women have been victim to and that continues behind prison walls has become a concept that can be seen portrayed in a widely popular show, Orange is the New Black.
In OITNB we are able to see two cases of romanticized rape. One case is when Daya (a prisoner) begins to have sexual intercourse with an officer, Bennett. In prison women loose their right to consent therefor any sexual relationship they “consent” to is rape. In Daya’s case we see an officer taking advantage of an inmate, and as time goes by Daya falls in love with him and we see all the “cute” things he does for her, like letting her chew tobacco in secrecy. The couple even goes as far as Bennett proposing to Daya, which she accepts. This couple becomes a romantic forbidden love that many fans begin to “ship”.
In OITNB we also witness the case of Tiffany Doggett and officer Coates. Coates rapes Doggett and then showers her with gifts while saying that she made him do it as she led him on. Tiffany is seen to brush of the assault and accept his gifts because he “didn’t mean to, he just got mad” and because it was her fault, she states that she was flirting to much. Doggett accepts his apology and even begins to feel guilty. Doggett who was raped outside of prison is once again raped but this time inside prison walls. Although in the show we are able to see that sexual assault is something that women may experience in prison we can also see that sometimes the power the officer holds will force women to brush it off or allow it because of fear and the fact that they will have to see the perpetrator daily. Therefor sexual assault becomes part of the daily lives of many women behind bars. The show takes something serious that many women fall victim to and they put love into it, making it something that many viewers won’t take serious or put much attention too. Viewers will be more likely to be caught up in the romantic love story and forget that those relationships are sexual assault.
As a long time fan of OITNB I hadn’t really paid much attention to how the show took important matters and romanticized them. I was also that part of society that had turned away from the reality that occurs behind prison walls. A part of me was always aware that women in prison faced abuse, but another part of me wasn’t aware that battered women who defended themselves fell right back to the same cycle. I had turned away from such a harsh reality probably because it wasn’t my reality and the walls put up allowed me (a victim) to live in my own bubble and fight for awareness for those on the outside. I failed to understand that those trapped also deserved someone to fight for them.