#FreeShantonio: End the Criminalization of Survivors

The Nashville Feminist Collective joins other advocates in Tennessee and nationwide urging Nashville DA Glenn Funk to drop charges against domestic violence survivor, Shantonio Hunter, who is being prosecuted for the death of her child because she was unable to control the violence of her abuser.

For more background on the criminalization of survivors through “failure to protect” laws and charges, see: “Child Abuse by Omission: How American Law Holds Mothers Responsible for Their Partners’ Crimes,” “Battered, Bereaved, and Behind Bars,”and “Why is California Keeping Kelly Savage in Prison for a Crime She Didn’t Commit?”

Shantonio and Elijah

How you can support the effort to #FreeShantonio:

  1. Court Support: Come to court next week, starting June 5 and show community support for Shantonio, especially on Thursday, June 8.
  2. Love Letters to Shantonio: Send her a note of support and encouragement as she heads to trial next week.

Shantonio Hunter
409871
CoreCivic
5115 Harding Pl.
Nashville, TN 37211

  1. Write the DA: Send an e-mail to Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn R. Funk (glennfunk@jis.nashville.org) urging him to dismiss all charges against Shantonio because:
  • Prosecuting Shantonio goes against the city and DA’s Office’s professed commitment to better serve victims of domestic violence in Nashville.
  • It is victim blaming to punish victims of domestic violence for the actions of their abusers.
  • The most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence is when they try to leave.
  • Shantonio did not “fail to protect” her child, she was unable to control a person who used abusive power against her and her child.
  • Domestic violence is isolating and it is common for victims of domestic violence to hide the abuse from others. Prosecuting survivors only further isolates them from the resources that they need.
  • Prosecuting and incarcerating domestic violence victims puts courts and prisons in the same punitive role as their batterers.

See below for the letter to DA Glenn Funk that NFC signed.

May 26, 2017

District Attorney General Glenn R. Funk
Washington Square, Suite 500
222 2 nd Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37201

Dear Mr. Funk,

As you well know, domestic violence is a persistent problem in Nashville, one which your office has committed to address by dedicating specialized assistant DA’s and a new division for domestic violence cases. And yet, Nashville continues to fail domestic violence victims because we continue to jail and prosecute them, as is the case for Shantonio Hunter who is currently being prosecuted for the actions of her abuser. Nashville can and must do better. For this reason, we the undersigned local, state and national organizations, urge you to dismiss all charges against Shantonio so that she can begin to grieve, heal and rebuild her life.

Incarcerated for the past four years while awaiting trial for charges of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect, Shantonio faces life in prison for “failing to protect” her three-year-old son Elijah, a charge that completely disregards the profound lack of control victims have while in abusive relationships. Domestic violence victims who try to protect their children from the abuse are often dangerously trapped in situations with no safe options. It is a well-documented fact that leaving the relationship is the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is especially lethal for black women like Shantonio who are about three times more likely to die at the hands of a current or ex-partner than victims of other racial backgrounds. Among black women killed by a partner, almost half were killed while in the process of leaving . And, though domestic violence and child abuse frequently overlap, victims like Shantonio are often held responsible for the abuse of their partner. Shantonio did not “fail to protect” her child, she was unable to control a person who used abusive power against her and her child.

Punishing Shantonio for essentially being a victim of domestic violence who was not only herself abused, but also tragically lost her child to this violence, is truly unconscionable. Prosecuting and incarcerating domestic violence victims puts courts and prisons in the same punitive role as their batterers, which compounds and prolongs victims’ experience of ongoing trauma and abuse. Criminalizing survivors only further isolates them from the community resources they desperately need. As Shantonio Hunter’s trial date quickly approaches, we urge you to take a step towards ending the criminalization of survivors by dismissing all charges against her. If Nashville is to be a city truly concerned with the safety of victims of domestic violence, then that concern and compassion must extend to all victims.

Sincerely,

Nashville Feminist Collective
Participatory Defense Nashville
Free Hearts
Black Lives Matter Nashville
Healthy and Free Tennessee
Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration (Chicago, IL)
The Real Costs of Prisons Project
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Nashville

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