The Andrea Yates case in the news again. Her conviction is being thrown out because of an expert witness' false statements at her trial.
Whenever I read about a woman like Andrea Yates, who was convicted of drowning her five children, I always think, this isn't the real story, the real story is the story behind the story.
The real story is: How did she get to that place?
I always want to sit down with her and speak gently, learn what she's like, how she ticks, who she is, and how she came to make the choices she did. I always want to write her story.
From thinking about many cases, not so newsworthy as Andrea's perhaps, but just as tragic, and just as preventable, I've come to my own conclusions about prevention. I think the place to begin is with
the girl. Andrea did what she did, not because of Rusty, her husband, who shall always be held in revulsion by women everywhere, not because of the confrontational fool evangelist, but because she could not say no.
Years ago, when I was writing my first book, about equality for women in the church, a woman who'd heard about what I was doing came to visit me. As we sat on my front porch she told me she and her husband were planning to go as missionaries into a primitive area with little in the way of financial support. Her husband had told her they wouldn't be able to afford the expense of birth control supplies so they would just have to trust God to not give them any children.
She thought this foolhardy, but did not have the confidence of certainty since it was her husband who was so convinced of this plan, and lack of faith and doubting God's power seemed involved. I told her I'd suggest she tell her husband the faith would need to be on his part, in that he'd need to trust God to take away his desire for sex under those conditions, because there wouldn't be any. I also told her it was a foolish plan and she should have no part in it. She said she thought so, but needed someone to confirm it. She'd say no.
Andrea couldn't do that. And because she couldn't say no she was backed up into an increasingly small and dangerous corner. She was very much like a reproductive rat in a cruel scientist's lab. When she got to the end of her resources, she turned and fought the only way her tormenters allowed a trapped rat of a woman who couldn't say no to fight.
If you train a girl to not be able to say no to a husband or a male authority figure you set her up for potential tragedy. She's just waiting there on the curb of the world for a predator to drive by.
We'd all like to know how we can do something, anything, to help Andrea. We also want to find the potential Andreas and head them off at the pass.
I think we can do so something, right where we are, day by day. We can teach our girls, and all the girls we meet, to say no. We can teach them how to decide when to say no and when to say maybe and when to say yes for now, but it's open to change. We can give them practice saying no and making it stick. We can model saying no and making it stick, without remorse, without guilt. We can teach all the ways to say no graciously, and the few they'll need to say it not so graciously.
No. The gift for a life, a gift to save lives.
What or who do you need to say no to today?