First Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Day at VSPW

by Linda Field, former prisoner, survivor
September 1, 2006, dawned a beautiful morning full of hope and anticipation. I left the mountains driving to the Central Valley area and enjoyed all that my freedom offered. I was going back to prison this morning. Unlike the first time I went, I was excited and truly looking forward to the day.
Cheryl Orange Jones joined me as we headed to Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, CA. When we arrived, Andrea and Marisa from Free Battered Women were there, waiting to escort us in. I had no fear in my heart, only joy. I was going to visit my sisters.
We entered the visiting check-in area and I waited to see the reaction of the correctional officers. We were greeted cordially and proceeded to check in. As I am in a wheelchair, I had to be ?wanded? to make sure I was not bringing in any contraband. The sergeant apologized, as he did not have a female officer to do this. I silently thought of the many times a male officer had patted me down, intimately, thinking me much taller than my 5’1″. I remember going on tip-toes to avoid his thumb.
We were greeted by excited women, who swarmed us. Nikki Diamond and Pat Caetano were waiting for our arrival. They too had returned to the prison to encourage their friends still inside. As the gym filled with inmates, we started. A beautiful version of ?Independence Day? was sung and many eyes teared as the meaning crept into hearts.
I wanted to sit with the audience because that was where my heart was. Our message was do not give up hope because we are out there fighting to get every battered women released from her prison. We do not want any woman to return to a battering situation. Battering doesn?t just affect them, but their children also. They will think it is normal, but we know it is not. No child should have to grow up in fear and no adult should have to cower down in fear.
When Nikki spoke, so many knew her personally that the energy could be felt in the gym. Teary eyes and heartfelt feelings caused the women to rise to their feet and clap for her. Nikki opened her heart to them and spoke about her own abuse as a child and many were able to relate.
As we were limited on time, there were many things left unspoken but the most important message was, we are family, God loves you and will not forsake you, and neither will your sisters outside. We will carry the torch of freedom and fight to get you released. We will not be quieted, we will not give up hope that someday all of us will be free on the outside and on the inside.
We were able to come here today because of the efforts of Free Battered Women and the Habeas Project. I was in prison for 19 years on a 25 to life sentence for killing my husband who abused my children and me. On January 3, 2006, I was taken back to court and re-sentenced to voluntary manslaughter, 13 years, time served, no parole. I am free now and will continue to fight to help free my sisters.
We love each and everyone of you. Remember Charisse Shumate who said, ?Battered No More.?