This Little Light and Mace of Mine

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I have felt a range of emotions in the two weeks since Eliza “Liza” Fletcher was viciously assaulted, kidnapped, murdered, and her body burned and left like garbage. Like many of you, my introduction to her came on social media through two degrees of friendship separation.

I was shaken by her disappearance because I also like to run in the quiet hours when my children are occupied or sleeping.

But when I saw the photograph of her baby boys and heard her on video singing, “This Little Light of Mine,” an uncontrollable rage consumed me. “WHY?” I wondered. Well, “why” and a string of angry expletives. I’ve felt this rage so many times over the last twenty-something adult years of my life when violent things happen to women.

Why do these bad things happen? And how do we mitigate them without turning into a paranoid and pessimistic person or a helicopter mom?

I don’t know about y’all, but this mama is tired. For years now, we have been inundated with stories of evil upon evil and the all-consuming darkness of criminality and conflict. In our age of over-information, something deep within me wants to throw every ounce of this society in the trash, take my children and wander off the grid into the wild unknown. It’s the adult nervous breakdown version of taking my toys and going home.

As a person of faith, who believes in the push and pull of light and dark, I know there’d be some psychopaths out there, too, and that I must not give up on shining my little light.

In the days when Liza Fletcher was missing, I watched a myriad of responses to her husband, marriage, family, running patterns, habits, and so forth. I believe so much of internet gossip and unsolicited opinions come from a desire to make sense of an unexplainable situation and therefore eliminate any possibility we will encounter the same fate.

Opinions swirled on social media about the city and location she was running, what she was wearing, the time of day of her run, and the availability of a cell phone or other emergency devices like mace. In other words: what could she have done differently to stop a criminal from murdering her?

Why on earth do we do this?

I surmise it is because it feels impossible to change the justice system. I am guessing that anymore we feel unable to identify or get away from where the boogie monster lives. In summary, all the big things seem too big to tackle and the small things seem like our only hope for controlling life and making sure we stay safe and positive.

While I do not discount or minimize what happened to Liza Fletcher, she is sadly one of the thousands. She is part of our country’s horrible truth about violence against women.

Please continue to check the boxes of safety as you navigate your life, but know this: your odds of being assaulted or murdered are much more likely to come at the hands of someone known to you.

Most of the statistics published by reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control or national centers on crime or domestic violence publish conflicting and confusing data, but one constant is that approximately 9 out of every 10 murders of women at the hands of men are by someone the victim knows.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, and/or contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.

We must, for our survival, adapt to the world in which we live. It does not mean giving up the things we love or hiding in safe places. Evolutionary adaptability means carrying the mace, running with a partner, mix-up your routines and patterns; it also means educating yourself on all the dangers of violence against women, not just stranger violence.

You may not experience intimate partner or domestic violence, but with statistics like 1 in 4, the odds are that at some point, a daughter, sister, or close friend is more likely to experience this type of violence than violence at the hands of a stranger.

It seems like an insurmountable task to affect change in a world where criminals seem to be taking over and the wheels of justice turn slowly. But do not despair; in spite of these statistics, we know that women en masse are a powerful force.

Mama, continue to get up with a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and a planner full of to-dos and fun.

We may collapse into bed bone-tired and weary every night, but in the wee hours of darkness, when the sun has yet to rise, and others have yet to waken, we will continue to carve out a small sliver for ourselves.

To be quiet.

To re-center.

And to run…

with our sports bras and our mace, on the pavement, and to the polls, but especially to the aide of our sisters. The ones who know their victims and the ones who don’t.

For Liza, Tiarah, Cherica, Anne, Gabby, Shannan, and every other female homicide and domestic violence victim, we’re gonna let it shine.

These little lights of ours.

We’re gonna let it shine.

All Around the Neighborhood.

We’re gonna let it shine.

Let it shine.

Let it shine.

Let it shine.

For support and resources for victims of homicide, violence, or other crimes, visit https://victimconnect.org/ or call 1-855-4VICTIM (855-484-2846).

Visit FavorHouse to learn about the signs of domestic violence. If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, please reach out to FavorHouse of Northwest Florida through the 24/7 Hotline at 850-434-6600.

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Dana is a mother to high-schoolers Rowan and Arden, and Pierson (a first-grader). Although she is an Arkansas native, she has been a seasonal resident of the Gulf Coast, since age nine, when her mother moved to Destin; she’s been a Pensacola resident for the last 13 years. Dana attributes her Mayberry-esque childhood in Warren, Arkansas, as enormously influential in honing her definitely Southern style of storytelling. A degree in Journalism from the University of Arkansas (Woo Pig Sooie!) developed it further. In addition to writing, she loves photography, doodling, and painting. She is always up for a new adventure, especially in the great outdoors. She can’t live without Jesus, Diet Coke, funny memes, flair pens, or mascara, and loves personality tests (she’s a 1w9 and an I/ENFJ, ambivert). Her life is dictated by what she whispers to herself every morning, “You’ve only got this one precious life.”

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