Survivor advocates in Nashville, TN are urging the DA to drop charges against domestic violence survivor, Shantonio Hunter, who is being unjustly prosecuted for the death of her three-year-old son Elijah because she was unable to control her abuser.  Their letter to the DA is below.  Advocates welcome organizations to endorse this letter.  Please contact them at nashvillepartdef@siliconvalleydebug.org

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,

Participatory Defense Nashville and Free Hearts

Tennessee Organizations
Black Lives Matter Nashville
Democracy Nashville-Democratic Communities
Faith Matters Network
​Gideon’s Army
Healthy and Free Tennessee
Memphis Feminist Collective
Nashville Feminist Collective
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Nashville

National Organizations
A.L. Costa Community Development (Union City, CA)
Black Women’s Center for Carceral Empowerment
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
CAN-DO Foundation
The Change Project
Civil Survival
Families for Justice as Healing
From Life to Life
Justice for Families
The Ladies of Hope Ministries (New York, NY)
Let’s Start Inc. (St. Louis, MO)
Mommie Activist and Sons
Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration (Chicago, IL)
Montgomery County Community Action Development Commission (Montgomery Co., PA)
New Beginnings Reentry Services, Inc. (Boston, MA)
Operation Restoration
The Real Costs of Prisons Project
Reentry Central
Resource Information Help for the Disadvantaged and Disenfranchised
Sex Workers Allies Network
Stand Up Baltimore
Survived and Punished
Witness to Mass Incarceration
Women Who Never Give Up
Youth Justice Coalition

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