Sandra Bland Was Taking Control
**In this article I intend to show how Sandra took control of her abusive situation with a cop who had over-extended his authority, in an effort to get the situation over with. This post will reference abuse and intimate partner violence. In no way am I asserting that Sandra was a victim of domestic violence. But her behavior has a familiar ring to it. This article will explore that familiarity.**
I watched the videos that have surfaced showing Sandra Bland’s arrest, and have read the transcript of her altercation and subsequent arrest in a strange town in Texas. Make no mistake that police officer completely overstepped his bounds and treated her absolutely with less than dignity. And everyone is asking the question: “Why did Sandra appear to goad him along during her detainment by this cop?”
My immediate response is, “Actually, every one of us would have responded the same way, if we are truly honest with ourselves, because every one of us would have been deeply offended by his attitude towards her.” Many white people have shown instances where they have been equally hostile towards a police officer, and were let go with only a warning or a ticket. Just YouTube that.
But upon further reflection, I came to the realization that Sandra was more than just mouthy. She was doing more than simply asserting her rights. She was surviving. She knew where that whole interaction was going. She knew that cop had lost sight of her humanity, and she knew things were going down. It really didn’t matter what she said or did, he was going to play this out in exactly the way it played out.
What Sandra did, was take control of an out-of-control situation, by speaking exactly what he was doing, as he was doing. She was calling out his explosive behaviors, in an effort to survive. This is a difficult concept to understand or grasp, but I’m going to work with some of Alice Walker’s theories on intimate partner violence to try to explain it.
Women who are deeply entangled in a relationship domineered by abuse are often viewed as having no control. They often feel as though they have lost control over the situation, but these women quickly learn that they can manage the abuse in some ways. They learn how to control when the abuse occurs and, to some extent, how long it goes on. Women who are in abusive relationships learn to escalate the abuse quickly, in order to get it over with. Their language might look like goading, it might look a lot like Sandra’s language, almost taunting the perpetrator.
Typically, when women do this in abusive relationships, they know who they are dealing with. They know the exact point the perpetrator will go to, and then he will stop. They know what he will do and how far he will go. This is a victim’s way of exerting some sort of control over the situation, and her way of trying to survive.
When a victim does this and does not survive, however, that means the perpetrator went even beyond his own limits. The escalation went beyond either person’s expectation, and the victim died. Sometimes the escalation happens with the victim, and the victim ends up killing the perpetrator.
Sandra’s words and behavior sound an awful lot like a woman trying to exercise control over an uncontrollable situation, by at least bringing the abuse on in order to get it over with. I have no way of knowing whether Sandra had been abused in her past, or whether she has witnessed abuse in her past, but her language has that familiar feel to it. I don’t think she set out to make this happen, in any way, shape or form. But I do think she knew it was out of her control and her survival instincts set in.
Regardless of what her behavior and words sound like, she deserved better treatment from that cop, and from that jail, than she received. She was stripped of her human dignity, reduced to a few words and a very grainy video. May her words haunt us, and, just like her mother has requested, may the anger be channeled to do good and make changes happen.