Women as villains (Part 2)

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.

Afterwards, it was a media frenzy, and I was portrayed to be more of a monster than my codefendant was, in spite of the fact that he was the one who committed the physical act. The media devoured the salacious nature of our relationship, and played up every juicy detail they could, taking every angle. They didn’t care that a tragedy had occurred: a mother’s life was taken senselessly, for no reason; a family had been torn apart, was devastated and would never be the same. 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, re-victimize a victimized family.

So where does the woman-blaming theme come into play in my case? 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 codefendant 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 articulation and eloquence thrown in my face; even my opinions and ability to express my views on religious, social, and political issues – positive attributes, now signs of witchcraft, evidence of guilt. If this would have happened a few hundred years ago, I would have gone up in flames.

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 codefendant and me in an equal light, not seeing our case for what it was. My codefendant 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.

I’m surrounded by other ‘nasty,’ ‘evil’ women like myself every day, whose situations may differ greatly from my own, though 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 remains to be, in my opinion, a lack of understanding. If the experts, judge, and prosecutors in my case would have tried to understand the deep-rooted insecurities from my physical flaws I was dealing with as the time and the dynamics of my relationship with my ex-boyfriend, they could have gained the insight to apply to other teenage girls in similar situations to myself, but they didn’t. In regards to my peers serving life for killing their newborn babies, as an example, if their prosecutors would have made the effort to understand the pressures each of them were under in their individual situations, fear for some, the fact it was an accident and they didn’t know what do for others. Once again, the prosecutors didn’t. Like me, these women were labeled with disgust, scorn, out of a lack and refusal to try to understand, and they were hastily thrown away like used condoms. Years later, many of them have proven they are deserving of second chances, though in my opinion, that isn’t something they should have to prove. 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 while 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 to the state will reinforce what negative feelings about themselves they have.

I definitely have the propensity to be a ‘nasty,’ ‘evil’ woman, a royal bitch. I own it. Every other woman I know has that same proclivity as well, as does every man to act in the same way, and every person regardless of the gender or sex they identify as. 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. How we want to treat fellow humans is a decision me must make ourselves. Don’t allow your assigned gender or the popular culture to dictate how you treat others. Think for yourself; do what feels rights. Write your own narrative. Be nasty.


(Photo Credit: Ms. Magazine)

About Jamie Silvonek

Jamie Silvonek was convicted of first degree murder of the death of her mother at the age of 14. She is serving 35 to life without parole at SCI Muncy in Pennsylvania. Jamie has the unconditional love and support of her father and maternal grandmother. Jamie is housed with other young adult offenders in an adult prison.