Wow, what an evening! Tonight I went back to the prison where I was incarcerated for 26 years to share the evening with women of Convicted Women Against Abuse the group I founded twenty years ago. I wish I could really explain what it felt like getting closer to the prison. I had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to vomit and my knees wanting to go out from under me. I was an absolute basket case not really knowing what to expect.
Upon entering the parking lot and exiting my car, I began to feel dizzy and lightheaded and the overwhelming feeling of heartbreak. I then entered the building and after handing over my identification I attempted to go through the metal detector, which by the way took me about five tries to finally be cleared. I at first thought it was my jewelry, which I removed, and then after still setting off the detector I realized it was my heels. (go figure) Needless to say, this did not help my already rising anxiety.
As we began our trek onto the yard of CIW towards the Aud. where the banquet was to be held I was immediately informed that I was not to hug any of the ladies for any reason. I of course already knew this, but it did not make it any easier as it bothered me not being able to acknowledge with each of them how much I miss them and carry them with me at all times.
I was asked by the Chairperson, a long time friend of mine Margaret, if I would present certificates as well as be the guest speaker for the evening.
As I was called up to speak, and once on the stage looking out at all of my sisters, I was struck with the overwhelming feeling of guilt that I was free and yet they weren’t. This feeling became more intense as the evening progressed. I attemped to share with the ladies those things that we all take for granted out here, that most never even think about like an automatic flushing toilet, a sink that turns on without a handle, just by the nature of you putting your hands under the faucet, automatic hand towel machines, etc. As I did this it my broke my heart to see so many of the same faces that are still there after almost twenty years, for most still members of CWAA.
I was then called up again and presented with a certificate as the Founder of Convicted Women Against Abuse. I was truly and unequivocally humbled by their presentation to me.
Never do I forget why I fought so hard to found CWAA, and it has been the most rewarding and amazing journey to see the growth and spirit of my sisters who have survived years of abuse…yet still remain in a justice system that still does not get it!
I was again reminded upon leaving at the end of a wonderful evening why it is so important to me to give these women a voice and no longer allow them to be treated as nameless and faceless women.
The documentary which I am a part of, Sin by Silence, represents so many of the women of CWAA and the cost of violence in their lives. When will the injustice end and these women be given the chance to show they are more than a number, they are our sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmother and friend.