Today, when women are victimized by rape, people say, “What was she wearing?” “Was she alone?” “Was she drinking?” When a woman falls victim to domestic violence and abuse, people say, “Did she provoke him?” “Why didn’t she leave?” “Why didn’t she ask for help?” “Was she cheating?” “How was their relationship otherwise?”
Asking these unnecessary questions after a woman is victimized perpetrates the illogical, false notion that somehow she was at fault, and that men cannot help or control themselves. The idea that men are enslaved and impotent to their raging hormones and sexual impulses is preposterous: They are sentient, self-controlled human beings who are ultimately responsible for making choices, deciding how to act to the same degree that women do. Men have the ability to choose to degrade, to objectify or to respect women, and the importance of that choice should be instilled in them from an early age.
Though men are often considered to be purely sexual beings who can’t control themselves, they often get a pass from society, almost like dogs that hump everything in sight. The behavior may be disgusting and repulsive, but they’re dogs; it’s what they do, so you excuse them.
Women don’t get a pass for being inherently “evil.” When a man commits a crime with a woman, the blame is often put on the woman for corrupting or misleading him, or the woman is portrayed as the mastermind regardless of whether she was or not.
I can relate to the latter personally. The feelings of guilt and remorse that haunt me due to my involvement in the mother’s murder will never diminish or fade.
When I was 13, I entered a toxic, unhealthy relationship with a military man years my senior. Unsophisticated and inexperienced in relationships and insecure, I misinterpreted the red flags of an abuser to be signs of his love for me.
When my mother learned of our relationship, she tried to do her duty as my mom, protector and best friend, because she loved me unconditionally and without reserve. Her attempts to end the relationship prompted us to eventually consider murder as our only way to remain together. Even then, I still was envisioning my mom supporting us at the wedding of our dreams, to demonstrate how naive and out of touch with the gravity of the situation I was at the time.
Afterward, it was a media frenzy, and I was portrayed as more of a monster than my co-defendant, even though he was the one who committed the physical act. The media devoured the salacious nature of our relationship. They didn’t care that a tragedy had occurred: A father had suddenly lost both his wife and daughter, a brother his sister and mother in one fell swoop. Another family lost their son and brother as well.
The media didn’t care to ask what drove a normal, healthy, bright young girl to help murder her own mother. They only wanted to sensationalize and exploit a tragedy to sell papers, revictimize a victimized family.
Both the prosecution and the media and even my (female) judge took the stance that I alone was the puppet master, that I manipulated my unsuspecting co-defendant into committing murder. That he was so blinded by his love for me, so wrapped up by my lies, feminine guiles and irresistible powers of seduction that he was powerless against me: putty in my hands.
My intellect was used against me, my eloquence thrown in my face; even my opinions and ability to express my views on religious, social and political issues.
I took full accountability and ownership for my role in my mother’s murder. My mom, my family deserve that, and I couldn’t live with myself without doing the right thing. What offended me wasn’t my unconscionable actions being scrutinized in the public eye. What bothered me was the media not viewing my co-defendant and me in an equal light, not seeing our case for what it was. My co-defendant and I were equally responsible for my mother’s death. We both had choices, decisions, and we made the wrong ones. To pretend now that we weren’t responsible, culpable or had a choice is cowardly and dishonest.
I would do anything to bring my mom back, but I can’t. So now it is up to me to be truthful about how things escalated to that point, educate society about such tragedies, try to prevent other young women from entering abusive relationships like the one I was in, as they all end in tragedy and disaster. It is incumbent on me to make my mother proud, to let her passing not have been in vain and make the rest of my family proud as well. I’m determined to show society how much I, an “evil” woman, have changed.
Women labeled, misunderstood
I’m surrounded by other “nasty,” “evil” women like myself every day. Their situations may differ greatly from my own, but our stories are the same. We’ve all been labeled the marked, untouchable, scorned woman by society for what we’ve done or in some cases failed to do.
The tragedy is a lack of understanding. If the experts, judge and prosecutors in my case had tried to understand my deep-rooted insecurities from my physical flaws then and the dynamics of my relationship with my ex-boyfriend, they could have gained insight to apply to other teenage girls in similar situations — but they didn’t.
If only prosecutors had tried to understand the pressures or fears of my peers serving life for killing their newborn babies, sometimes accidently. Once again, they didn’t.
Like me, these women were viewed with disgust and scorn and hastily thrown away like used condoms. Years later, many have proven they are deserving of second chances, though they shouldn’t have to prove that. Generally, justice should assume people are capable of change and rehabilitation; only in the absolute worst of the worst, rarest of cases should it not, and only for the safety of community and society.
The sentence of 35 years to life that I accepted at such a young age sends society the message that I, and others like me, are incapable of change, disposable and not worth rehabilitating though still vital. This is a narrative I’ve already defied and will continue to prove wrong for the rest of my life.
Never mind me — what message does it send to our youth? If you make a terrible decision, we the state will throw your life away, you will no longer be worth anything? Children, especially teenagers, need to feel supported. The knowledge, even if it is subconscious, that they are disposable by the state will reinforce what negative feelings about themselves they already have.
I definitely have the propensity to be a nasty, evil woman. I own it. Every other woman I know has that same proclivity as well, as does every man. Good and evil exist in us all, but it’s up to each of us to choose what kind of individuals we want to be.
Jamie Silvonek was sentenced to 35 years to life in Muncy, Pa., at 14 for first-degree murder in her mother’s homicide. Now 17, she is looking forward to starting college through Ohio University’s correspondence program after graduating high school around April 2019.