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11 2 Black Feminist Criminology and the Power of Narrative “I Just Wanted to Tell My Story” Billie is a 42-year-old who has remained in the same western U.S. city and lived in low-income status her entire life. Although she has completed some formal vocational training, she left high school in her final year and throughout her life has maintained sporadic employment. Billie experienced abuse from a number of family members during her upbringing , including her mother, a brother, an aunt, and her grandmother. During adulthood, she has encountered four abusive heterosexual intimate relationships, including that with her current common-law husband, Odell, whose main form of abuse is mental and verbal. Billie began abusing alcohol and other drugs in her twenties, and, though she was able to overcome her addiction to crack cocaine, she continues to struggle with her abuse of alcohol. In fact, a day after I set my interview appointment with Billie and a week prior to the actual interview, she telephoned me in great despair and in desperate need of assistance. She phoned while at her home, where she said Odell and her teenage son were verbally abusing her. I could hear the men yelling at Billie, and her son eventually picked up the phone to inform me that “everything’s all right. She’s OK.” After the phone was handed back to Billie, I found it difficult to understand her, as she slurred many of her words, making incomprehensible statements . I surmised that she was likely under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, but, and more important at that moment, I determined that there was indeed some form of significant discord occurring in the home and against Billie. I asked Billie if she felt her physical well-being was in imminent danger,1 and she contended that it was not but that I was the only person she knew to call. This declaration by Billie supports other research on Black women that has suggested that they are unaware of or do 12 Black Feminist Criminology and the Power of Narrative not feel comfortable in seeking assistance from professionally established sources of support.2 It was both poignant and revealing that I, a researcher to whom Billie had spoken on the phone on only one occasion, was her resource for dealing with her victimization. I confirmed the happenings in the home at that time with Billie’s adult daughter, Nia, to whom I had spoken the day before when Billie called to set an appointment to participate in the study.3 After Billie again returned to the phone to speak with me, she insisted that she needed to talk to someone. Although it was well beyond the scope of my research (and certainly not approved by the Human Research Committee of my university) to conduct any form of counseling with the women interviewed, I made the decision to simply conduct my interview with Billie that day and provide her with referrals to social service agencies. Billie and I agreed to have Nia drive her to a convenience store near their home, where I would meet them. However, the two did not show, and I was subsequently unable to reach Billie by phone for several days. I had no last name for Billie at that time, no complete address, and only a wireless phone number, so I was unable to even contact police to conduct a welfare check on the home and could only hope that nothing grave resulted from the verbal altercation. Fortunately, the day before Billie’s originally scheduled interview with me, she contacted me to confirm the appointment. I verified that Billie was safe, but she did not offer any explanation for the incident or for why she did not meet me at the convenience store. Only once we met did I learn of Billie’s extensive history of drug use and her continued struggles with alcohol addiction. Essentially, even though family and intimate partner abuse were undoubtedly occurring when she called me the week before , Billie had been heavily intoxicated with alcohol. She did not wish for me to provide her with any social services resources to assist her with the familial abuse or her alcohol and drug addictions. Billie expressed that she was proud that she had not drunk since the day of her frantic call to me a week before, and we both wished out loud for her continued strength in combating both her alcohol abuse...


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Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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