Mothers who kill, mothers in prison
Two more children dead, another mother on her way to jail. Maybe. Maybe not. But in all likelihood, 29-year-old Shaquan Duley will spend time behind bars.
In 1985, if I had followed through with my own plan to drive my car over a hillside, or connect a hose from the tailpipe to the driver’s window, I could have been in jail, too—had I survived either plan.
Fortunately, I never followed through with what would have been the easy way out, from rearing three children ages four and younger, while seven-months-pregnant with my fourth child. I wasn’t a single parent, but I felt like one at the time. I know and understand the stress and frustration that comes from single-handedly trying to care for the needs of toddlers who can’t do everything for themselves. I know what it feels like to be criticized for what you are doing, even as your inner voice criticizes you more than anyone else could.
I’m not sure if that’s what sent Duley over the edge when she killed her two sons, but I have to admit I feel her pain. Not having taken that final step, though, I must also admit I don’t know how she feels now. I can imagine but, and I thank God for this every single day of my life, I never had to feel the pain or regret that comes from a single desperate action.
There are plenty of women, other mothers who have also walked in Duley’s shoes, who have, though. They sit in prison cells around the country, trying to mend their hearts and their minds, after taking their children’s lives. Abigail Arnold, who counsels these women from Coffee Creek Correctional Center in Oregon, told me their grief is overwhelming, and their guilt cannot be measured.
Arnold was kind enough to endorse my upcoming memoir, Sister of Silence, back in 2008 when she learned its topic matter relates to the women she helps. This is part of what she said: “Sister of Silence shows every woman who reads it that she is not alone, that all over the country she has sisters in her pain and fear and shame. For professionals, it offers precious insight into an achingly common theme in their clients’ lives. I look forward to using Daleen’ story as an inspiration to my clients, to show that they matter and that what they’ve survived isn’t their fault. With her gritty honesty and compelling style, Daleen has given my women a way to say, “If she made it, I can, too.”
I’d like to think that whatever happens to Duley, she might end up reading my memoir one day. Maybe it will help her see, like Abigail said, that she isn’t alone.
NOTE: Sister of Silence is coming soon to a bookstore near you. Prepublication orders are being taken now. If you are interested in buying a copy, please complete the information to the right of this article.
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My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.
For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.
Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!
Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”