Crazy Wedding Story Of The Week: Do My Entire Wedding For Free | Betches

Whether you hate the wedding-industrial complex, are a bride planning a wedding and want to feel better about your own demands, or just need something to read, we’re doing a new series where we share the craziest, most out-of-touch wedding story we found on the internet that week. Submit your own crazy wedding stories to [email protected] with the subject line Crazy Wedding Story, and we just might feature yours. And make sure to follow @BetchesBrides on Instagram and subscribe to our podcast, Betches Brides.

You guys know how livid I get when people suggest you do something for “exposure”. You know why? It’s never the legit companies and brands that will actually give you good exposure that pull this sh*t. They understand the value of work and talent. It’s always no-name brands that will offer to “expose” you to their 12 followers. Take it from someone who’s been there—any job worth the exposure would actually pay you. This upcoming story, though, is somehow even worse than your regular, run-of-the-mill, cheap-ass unknown brand looking for free work. Because it’s a cheap-ass unknown person who thinks YOU should pay for literally everything in her entire wedding. I know what you’re thinking, and no, she’s not even an influencer!!

The Set-Up

Today’s story comes from Reddit’s /choosingbeggars subreddit, where a total douche-monkey of a human posted the most asinine Facebook post ever. WHO is friends with this trash anyway to see this post, I ask you? It starts off like this:

Ah yes, a brutal reminder of why I hate the South. “Hi y’all!”—it’s like she’s already gearing up to pyramid scheme all of us. Why do I already want to punch this chick in the face? “I can lol I deserve it”! All I can think of is this:

Also what the f*ck is with all the typos? “Afe getribg”? Girl, with that kind of proofreading, you should be writing for BuzzFeed (ba-dum ching). All I can do with this so far is feel really badly for Mr. David. But of course we’re just getting started.

Mrs. David goes on to tell us that she got a free historic wedding venue because Mr. David’s godmother owns it. Cool, good for you, Glen Coco. She even says, “This means my wedding will be historical! Lol!” Oh yes, I’m so sure that one day children will study the dream wedding of Mrs. David in their history books. Lol.

The Entitlement

So because the estate is far away and they’re having their honeymoon in Dubai, Mrs. David reasons that she shouldn’t have to pay for a damn thing in her own wedding. Sure, sure. She already has a free venue but why should she pay for travel costs?

Or a photographer?

Or a caterer?

Or a dress?

Or music? Flowers? Seating? And BTW, it must be an orchestra, because “this will be classy”.

But don’t worry everyone! Because, and I kid you not, Mrs. David is starting AN INSTAGRAM SOON! So you will be, and again, I quote, “begging [them] for the opportunity” to work for exposure! Because obviously, Mrs. David will be an instant Instagram hit, making millions and paying you back for feeding probably 200 people in exposure!

I honestly wish I was kidding:

I’m not actually convinced this isn’t satire.

My favorite part is how Mrs. David demands that everyone be a professional (“not a hobby but getting PAID AS A JOB”) even though she isn’t willing to pay them at all. Does she not see the irony? Let me tell you, if anyone is willing to work for free for absolutely no reason, it means they can’t charge for their work. Meaning they aren’t paid for the work. Meaning they are not a professional, which by definition means being paid for said work.

Also, here’s what I don’t understand. They can afford a honeymoon in Dubai, but didn’t plan even a minor budget for a wedding? Don’t get me wrong, I can get behind the idea—I’d much rather go to Dubai then have a wedding—but then just… don’t have the wedding? They’re not even paying for a venue, or a dress, like I don’t understand how Mrs. David thought she’d have an entire wedding for free? Paid for by whom? Like, all of these people would have to pay out of their own pockets for these services, so that Mrs. David and her seven followers will give them exposure? I cannot comprehend this at all.

The Closing

Mrs. David then wraps it up:

Yeah, I’m sure everyone is just gonna jump right on that. While I’m so grateful to the Redditor who posted this, I’m a little salty that they included no comments. Like, the comments have to be absolutely amazing, right? What do you even say to something like this? I’ve got to acknowledge that this story seems fake, like that other viral wedding story that turned out to be a marketing ploy, but it’s more fun for me to act as if it’s real. I mean, people do suck, so you really never know.

All I can say is good luck to Mrs. David and her free dream wedding, and to Mr. David, I only have three words: Witness Protection Program.

Images: Fernanda Prado / Unsplash; Reddit; Tenor

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The War of the Roses at 30: still one of the nastiest comedies of all time

The brutal 1989 hit took a much-loved onscreen pairing, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, and tore them to pieces

Its easy to forget just how consistently, bracingly nasty The War of the Roses is, thanks in great part to the extravagant, and festive, studio packaging it arrived in, unwrapped in cinemas 30 years ago this month. It was fast-paced, glossy, Christmassy and, deceptively, it starred one of the most beloved onscreen couples of the 80s: Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Audiences were accustomed to seeing them bicker in the hit adventures Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile but their sparring was only ever of the screwball variety, a string of lighthearted quips signposting a Billy Ocean-soundtracked happy ending on the horizon.

At the end of the decade, they reunited to show us that happily ever afters are as fantastical as treasure maps and that early romance will more likely give way to seething resentment and sadistic violence. The film was a cruel R-rated footnote to their era of PG-13 flirting and it both shocked and compelled me as a child whose family was in the thick of a divorce at the same time. I didnt see it upon release I was five at the time but as it tore its way to the small screen, it became an early object of obsession. Each rewatch was met with a certain amount of parental displeasure, an understandable concern that I would blur the lines between what happened on screen and what was happening in real life

The War of the Roses unfolds as a cautionary tale, shared by the lawyer Gavin DAmato (Danny DeVito, the reliable third wheel in Douglas and Turners previous two capers and also playing director here) with a client seeking a divorce. Urging him to consider his options, he tells the story of the Roses, a couple whose marital bliss ended in disaster. They met great. They agreed on that, he says, while were taken back to a charming meet-cute as Barbara (Turner) and Oliver (Douglas) compete at an auction in Nantucket. The film leaps forward from the auction to the bedroom to their first apartment to their first house, the couple gliding from one rite of passage to the next, ticking every box that society has taught them to tick. Barbara becomes the perfect housewife, Oliver goes from associate to senior partner at his law firm and they have two cute kids, one boy and one girl.

Everything was working for the Roses, Gavin says. Let me restate that. The Roses were working for everything.

Because in Michael J Leesons exuberantly cynical script, based on the book by Warren Adler, hard work only gets you so far. The Roses were doing everything they thought they needed to do to be happy but it wasnt enough. Those cute kids grow up to be overweight and insolent. That grandiose house ends up feeling empty and alienating. Their relationship goes from fun and frisky to stale and stuffy. The cracks that start to show are initially relatable the annoying way your partner laughs, the rambling way they tell a story, the endless fucking snoring and the escalation is believably restrained. For a while. But the potholes they encounter culminate in more of a sinkhole, those niggling issues no longer fixable with just a brave face.

Barbara asks for a divorce. Oliver says no. Barbara wants the house. So does Oliver. Both stand their ground, refusing to abandon their much-loved home, and the competitive edge that brought them together on that rainy Nantucket day soon becomes the same thing that starts tearing them apart. Its the cruel irony of so many breakups and the film revels in this. As their beautiful house becomes a war zone, the ornament they playfully fought over years ago is brought back to be used as a cruel reminder of what they once had. Its the last straw that forces them into their final physical duel, which leads to their deaths.

Photograph: taken from picture library

In this years wonderful, Oscar-tipped drama Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach similarly shows how divorce can bring out the worst in a couple, especially in one virtuosic show-stopping argument, but he also shows how humanity can still be maintained and, in a gut-wrenching final scene, how tenderness remains. In The War of the Roses, theres no such relief. As the crumpled-up couple lie dying on a broken chandelier, one thats crashed to the ground, Oliver reaches to touch Barbara, music swelling, but she pushes him off, a final, brutal rejection that remains one of the coldest endings I can remember in studio cinema.

Critics at the time were unsure what to make of it, unsure exactly how to enjoy watching a sprightly holiday comedy involving two big stars inflicting verbal and physical abuse on each other. In a mostly positive review, Roger Ebert nonetheless remarked: There are times when its ferocity threatens to break through the boundaries of comedy to become so unremitting we find we cannot laugh, while Janet Maslin praised its outstanding nastiness but worried that the ending took things too far.

It was rare in 1989 and arguably rarer now to see a film of this scale have the courage of its convictions, maintaining its dour worldview right up until the bitter and bloody end. Dark studio comedies tend to end with light in fear of scaring off the wider crowd needed to justify a hefty budget, but global audiences embraced The War of the Roses in all its filthy glory. It was a box office smash, making $160m worldwide (with inflation, that number doubles). And whats most revealing about its success is that it outgrossed both Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, a happy ending for a film so keen to avoid one.

But for all its critical and commercial wins at the time, it has not had the afterlife one might expect. In the years since, its cultural impact has been surprisingly slight and despite talk of adapting Adlers rather mediocre follow-up novel, The Children of the Roses, its the rare 80s hit not to receive a sequel, remake or reboot a blessing, Id argue. Its DNA can be felt, though, mostly in Gillian Flynns cynical marital thriller Gone Girl and its faithful big-screen adaptation, with the author herself naming Adlers source novel as one of her favourites. Whats fascinating, on my umpteenth rewatch this year, is just how cruel it still is, 30 years on, at a time when its much harder to shock. Its less the behaviour of the couple and more how it found its way into a film of this scale and gloss, uncensored, played for laughs.

As a child, I think I found something cathartic in its garish excess. It gave me the chance to laugh at a situation that was humourless in real life. As an adult, Im far removed from that experience, of witnessing my parents divorce, but closer to my own romantic history and theres something similarly fulfilling about witnessing the fall of the Roses. They act in ways that I would never but their relentless spite, right up until the finale, is oddly satisfying, a dogged commitment to not forgiving, forgetting or pretending that wounds have healed.

Its an untamed assault, a frantic, shameless race to, as Oliver puts it, the deepest layer of prehistoric frog shit at the bottom of a New Jersey scum swamp and, ultimately, a horribly convincing argument against matrimony. I remain unmarried.

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Barbara Taylor Bradford writing prequel to A Woman of Substance

Novelist says she returned to the story that made her name 40 years ago as she struggled to cope after her husbands death

Barbara Taylor Bradfords husband, Robert Bradford, always told her: Keep writing if anything happens to me, its your solace as well as your career. So when he died of a stroke this summer, it was natural for her to pick up her pen. But after 55 years of marriage, Bradford was surprised to find herself returning to the blockbuster novel that made her name in 1979: A Woman of Substance.

A prequel, Blackie and Emma, is due to be published next year, taking readers back before the start of her rags-to-riches bestseller with the story of Blackie ONeill, the closest friend of Bradfords most famous heroine, Emma Harte.

After Bob had died and I was alone, I was full of this idea, she said. In A Woman of Substance, Blackie is with Emma a lot, her best friend but we dont know what happens to him after he leaves Emma. So what did he do, did he have other women, did he have any scandals?

Bradford said that her husband was in hospital for only a week, thank God, [before] he sadly died. But while she was sitting with him in the hospital, she couldnt concentrate on reading: Youre just looking at the man you love unconscious.

She knew that writing a book would take her mind off things, but she was already under contract to write historical novel in her Falconer series, which would require substantial research.

I was sitting, my mind wandering, and I thought Thank God Ive got a book to write because I know hes not going to make it and Im going to be on my own, Bradford said. And then I thought Oh God I dont think I can write another Falconer because of the research It didnt frighten me but it was a bit daunting. Trying to imagine a book that would require less groundwork, inspiration struck: I suddenly thought I could write about Blackie.

Readers first met Blackie, played by Liam Neeson in the Emmy-nominated TV adaptation, as a young man of 18. At the beginning of A Woman of Substance decades before she is running a huge retail empire Emma is working as a kitchen maid at Fairley Hall in Yorkshire when she runs into Blackie on the moors.

Blackie and Emma will open five years earlier, with a 13-year-old Blackie orphaned in County Kerry. He leaves for a better life with his mothers brother in Leeds, where he becomes a navvy. HarperCollins said that it would reveal the true Blackie ONeill his tumultuous life, the obstacles facing him, the desire he has to throw off the impotence of poverty and move up in the world. Like his friend Emma, he is ambitious, driven, disciplined, and determined to make it to the top.

HarperCollins publishing director Lynne Drew said that when Bradford rang her and told her she was planning to write Blackies story, it gave her goosebumps. I could immediately hear the excitement in her voice, she said, and knew the fans would go wild.

Bradford was born in Leeds in 1933 and left school at 15 to join the typing pool at the Yorkshire Evening Post, becoming the papers first womans editor at 18 before moving to London at 20 to work as a columnist and editor on Fleet Street. A Woman of Substance took her two years to write, with the original manuscript running to 1,520 pages. Today, it has sold more than 30m copies around the world. In a foreword to the 40th anniversary edition, Fern Britton wrote that in force of nature Emma Harte, Barbara created a heroine who has inspired women for the past four decades inspired them to be courageous, break rules and follow their dreams.

Bradford finished the outline for Blackie and Emma a week ago, just before coming to the UK to promote her 34th novel, In the Lions Den. The 86-year-old said she will sit down to write when she returns to her home in New York, but planning Blackie and Emma has already helped her cope in the wake of her husbands death.

Bob was by my side at the beginning when I wrote A Woman of Substance, she said, and I felt compelled to tell Blackies story I rather like the idea of visiting Blackie again and inventing a life we never saw, and seeing Emma again.

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‘Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary’ peels back the layers behind a cult classic

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary kicks off with a quote from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, who called Galaxy Questthe 1999 space comedy that lovingly satirized Star Trek and convention culture but can stand on its owna perfect film alongside The Godfather, Dodsworth, and A Place in the Sun. Its a bold claim, serving as a threshold for the amount of reverence Never Surrender and the people involved with the documentary have with the film.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary

RELEASE DATE: 11/26/2019
DIRECTOR: Jack Bennett
RELEASE: Theatrical
On the eve of Galaxy Quests 20th anniversary, the films cast, crew, and some of its most famous fans reveal how Galaxy Quest got made and the cultural impact it left behind.

If youre already a fan of Galaxy Quest, you dont need much convincing about whats so great about it; you already know. If youre a bit dubious or havent seen it, Never Surrenderwhich is produced by Fandom and Screen Junkiesoffers a strong and often persuasive argument for why people love it so much. And as Galaxy Quest is about to approach its 20th anniversary, Never Surrender is a fascinating look (one thats sometimes viewed through rose-tinted glasses) at what went into making a film that shouldnt have worked.

Thats not to say that the cast and crew go out of their way to pretend that making Galaxy Quest was smooth sailing; it wasnt by any stretch of the means. It was one of DreamWorks first projects, it included a screenwriter and director with little experience (the latter replacing Harold Ramis), seemingly no actor wanted the role that Tim Allen eventually played, and the movie was screwed by its marketing, which seemed to think that Galaxy Quest was a family-friendly holiday movie instead of the R-rated comedy planned from the start. Many of the behind-the-scenes issues arent exactly unique in the entertainment industry.

Yet, as Never Surrender captures so well, Galaxy Quest ended up being something like lightning in a bottle. Its the kind of movie that made Star Trek: The Next Generation star Brent Spiner jealous, that made Spiners co-star Wil Wheaton declare it as the best Star Trek movie (yes, even above Wrath of Khan), and that made filmmakers and now-professional nerds like Damon Lindelof, Greg Berlanti, and Paul Scheer (who was attached to the Galaxy Quest TV show in the works thats on hold) all positively giddy just thinking back on it.

When you talk about the fans, youre talking about us, Lindelof says. Were one of you.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary/Fathom Events

At its core, Never Surrender is an in-depth and behind-the-scenes glimpse into how Galaxy Quest got made from the people who made it. Nearly the entire cast of the filmfrom Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Sam Rockwell to supporting players like Justin Long, Missi Pyle, and Jed Reesall make appearances alongside several key players behind the camera. It dives into the minutiae of filmmaking, revealing Easter eggs and smaller details along the way; even if you already know that information, it doesnt feel stale.

It does branch out to reveal the impact of the film among its fans including Roxanne and Harold Weir, a couple who cosplay as Thermians, in the lead-up to a fan screening of Galaxy Quest. (They also went at the world premiere at New York Comic Con in cosplay.) But the film is far more focused on the production side of things. On one hand, you get the kind of stories you dream about hearing about filming. But sometimes, ignoring whats unspoken, or how an actors political views might affect how you view something beloved that theyre in, leaves a little something to be desired. It also means that, between the cast and crew, the majority of the people interviewed are white men, which is only a partial reflection of the fandom both then and now.

And then theres the Alan Rickman-shaped hole of it all. Its not that Rickman, who died in 2016, was left out of the documentary. Its far from it, and theres a visible shift in tone as the cast shares memories of him as they talked about how warm and supportive he was even underneath an English exterior. Some of the most delightful moments of Never Surrender are candid stories about Rickman on-set; director Dean Parisot shares home movies he made for his children, which featured Rickman in costume charmingly ragging on their dad. As is often the case, Rickman gets the best line of the entire documentary, which occurred during the filming of one of Galaxy Quests most emotional scenes.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary/Fathom Events

At one point, Berlanti notes that Galaxy Quest wouldnt get made today because geeks are no longer the underdogs. Thats true, in a sense: geeky properties rule the box office with Marvel movies and Star Wars movies consistently bringing the largest hauls; Game of Thrones was the most popular TV show in the world. Going to a fan convention, even one specifically geared toward a single television show, is no longer a niche activity; chances are highly likely that the fan who ultimately helps save the day would not look like Long.

But in another sense, Galaxy Quest was the kind of mid-budget film that might not get made today because of its oddities. It would probably cost too much money for an indie film while also being something overlooked by studios spending hundreds of millions on major blockbusters. It got to be weird and embrace its geekiness, inspire dozens of projects that came after it, and even with its earnestness on its sleeve, Never Surrender demonstrates one key thing: Galaxy Quest, and the message it carries (including that of its title),is timeless.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary will be released in theaters as part of Fathom Events on Nov. 26.

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George R.R. Martin offers high praise for the new ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel series

Earlier this week, HBO announced that it greenlit House of the Dragon, a House Targaryen-centric Game of Thrones prequel, straight to series, listing Ryan Condal and George R.R. Martin as co-creators. Now, Martin is opening up about what exactly that will mean.

Although Martin had a hand in creating the seriesnot to mention that House of the Dragon will be based on his Targaryen history book Fire and BloodGame of Thrones director Miguel Sapochnik is the co-showrunner of the series with Condal. But theres no ill will from Martin, who said of Sapochniks involvement that theres no one better.

In a blog post about the latest update from Westeros, Martin expands on his initial impression of Condal, who he met long before they would co-create House of the Dragon together.

Hes a terrific writer and a fan of my books since well before we met, Martin wrote. He tells me that he discovered the series just after A STORM OF SWORDS was published, and Ive loved the books for 19 years. (He is also a huge fan of my Dunk & Egg stories. In fact, that was the show he wanted to do initially, but Im not prepared to bring Dunk & Egg to television until Ive written quite a few more stories). Working with Ryan on the development of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has been a dream.

According to Martin, House of the Dragon was the first series that he pitched to HBO when the idea of a follow-up to Game of Thrones started to emerge all the way back in 2016. Martins involvement in the prequel process even included personally asking Game of Thrones writer and executive producer Bryan Cogman to pitch a series, which Martin called an adaptation. HBO passed on Cogmans series (which Cogman confirmed in April) and he signed a deal with Amazon Studios.

He also confirmed that Jane Goldmans Age of Heroes series is no longer happening, which HBO has yet to do. He pushed back against the idea that HBO canceled Goldmans series because it was greenlighting Condals series, pointing to the CSI and Chicago franchises as examples of TV franchises with multiple series airing at once.

It goes without saying that I was saddened to hear the show would not be going to series. Jane Goldman is a terrific screenwriter, and I enjoyed brainstorming with her, he said. I do not know why HBO decided not to go to series on this one, but I do not think it had to do with HOUSE OF THE DRAGON. This was never an either/or situation.

But Martin is clearly excited about House of the Dragon, and he wrote about everything that still needed to be done on the show, suggesting that hes going to be at least somewhat involved in the process of making it; he even teased the possibility of writing episodes for House of the Dragon. But only after his biggest obligation is finally met, he added before fans could possibly chastise him for not focusing on The Winds of Winter.

But let me make this perfectly clear I am not taking on any scripts until I have finished and delivered WINDS OF WINTER, he wrote. Winter is still coming, and WINDS remains my priority, as much as Id love to write an episodes [sic] of HOUSE.

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Kelly Bachman’s “Rape Jokes By Survivors” Comedy Show Addressed Trauma With Humor

Zack Travis

Kelly Bachman’s “Rape Jokes By Survivors” Comedy Show Addressed Trauma With Humor

Amber Rollo never expected to come face-to-face with Harvey Weinstein. But on Oct. 23, at an Actor’s Hour event at Downtime Bar in NYC to support her friend Kelly Bachman’s comedy set, she noticed Weinstein sitting in the audience and knew she had to say something. Rollo says she walked up to Weinstein’s table, looked him straight in the eyes, and called him a “monster” — only to reportedly be cursed at by a man in Weinstein’s group and ignored by Weinstein himself. (A rep for Weinstein did not return Elite Daily’s request for comment on the sequence of events at the bar.) Rollo recounted this moment in front of an audience at the “Rape Jokes By Survivors” comedy show, put on by Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) as part of New York Comedy Festival 2019 on Nov. 8 at SubCulture, using her interaction with Weinstein as the night’s rallying cry.

Rollo’s tweets about what happened with Weinstein at the Downtime Bar went viral and she’s experienced a whirlwind of media attention, as have Bachman and actor Zoe Stuckless, for calling out Weinstein publicly. “We confronted him, and now we’re famous,” Rollo tells me in an interview before the show, describing the influx of press inquiries and messages shes received after her thread about the Weinstein encounter went viral. “Rose McGowan slid into my DMs.”

McGowan also sat front row at the “Rape Jokes By Survivors” show, where Rollo, Bachman, and five more comedians identifying as sexual assault survivors used their stage time to tell their stories, laugh about the trauma they’ve endured, and describe how they’ve taken their power back in the aftermath of their experiences.

Zack Travis

Intended to “explore the narrative of how we joke about rape,” according to a description on UCB’s website, Rollo and her fellow performers did not mince words on stage. Bachman described how she’s been labeled as “rape girl” for telling jokes about her sexual assaults. Rollo revealed she’s been assaulted multiple times while unconscious. As disturbing as these stories were, the show felt celebratory and healing. These comedians used their worst moments as material intended to make others laugh.

“Comedy is really cool in that it allows us to talk about things that are typically out of bounds in polite society,” Rollo says. “So, I think that it’s a really useful tool to use when speaking truth to power.” Knowing it can be triggering to hear people talk about their sexual assaults, Rollo used this event as an opportunity to help fellow survivors feel less alone. “It’s cognitive behavioral therapy in a way, to hear something that triggers you and then feel not othered but accepted and included,” she says. (Emily Dworkin, the co-author of a 2017 study on sexual assault and mental health published in the , recommends cognitive behavioral therapy as one of the best methods for healing after an assault.) Rollo notes low reporting rates for rape — according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, only 24.9% of rape or sexual assault crimes in 2018 were reported to police — and the hesitance many people feel to talk about it as her motivation for speaking openly about this issue. “[Comedy] gives an opportunity for survivors to have a voice that they typically wouldn’t be able to have,” she says. “This is a way to get it out into the open, out into the public.”

Arti Gollapudi, a Brooklyn-based comedic performance artist, took the stage to read excerpts from her poetry book, “Boys I’ve Kissed and Hated.” She told the audience about leaving a previous abusive relationship, and joked about staying single to avoid falling back into another scary situation. Gollapudi is familiar with using trauma to make art — she’s hosted two recurring shows — “Boogie on the Brink” and “Yourself, Your Body” that deal with topics related to grief and emotional pain.

But Gollapudi says she hasn’t always been so self-aware and open. The first time she was assaulted, at 18 years old, she didn’t acknowledge the experience to anyone. “I didn’t even realize what had happened to me until three years later,” she says. “When I was in my second semester of college, nobody knew how to talk about it. And when I came back for my fall semester, my assaulter was still going to parties with me.” She describes feeling shame about confronting her own trauma. “I was always like, ‘I’m very strong and opinionated, and I read all these books, and I know about all the feminist pedagogy,’” she says. “And to admit that I’m like that, but I’m someone who has been abused, was not necessarily an easy thing for me to come to.”

Zack Travis

When she started writing comedy about her experiences, her mindset shifted. “The moment I decided to perform and talk about [it], that kind of ripped down my barriers around that shame,” Gollapudi says. “Like, you can’t laugh at me if I’m laughing at it first.” Sharing her trauma was a way to reclaim her story, and to acknowledge that other people can relate to what she’s gone through.

Also at “Rape Jokes By Survivors,” comedic musician Dylan Adler performed songs about going to therapy, direct-messaging his high school bully on Facebook, and dating as a queer-identifying person. He even briefly mentioned his own assault. “I’m able to laugh at things that to me in the moment seem sometimes very scary and painful,” Adler says. “Even with something I went through a day before, if I can write and make a joke about it, it’s like I’m looking at myself from an objective standpoint, and I’m able to take a little bit of the power out of some of the experiences.”

Adler hoped fellow survivors in the audience would leave the show feeling supported and seen. “I think the more people are open and honest about their experiences, the less shame people might have in sharing their truth,” he says. “Dealing with trauma is hard enough, but it’s even more difficult to deal with it by yourself.” And for those who maybe haven’t personally experienced sexual assault, hearing about others’ experiences creates empathy. “People can learn just how deeply a sexual assault actually affects a person, and how deeply a sexual trauma affects a person, and how important it is for a person to be actually believed and validated in their story,” Adler says. “Something huge for me and other people is for their story not to be belittled and for them to be believed.”

Zack Travis

I was there, and “Rape Jokes By Survivors” was cathartic. It was jarring at first to hear the performers joke so audaciously about difficult topics, but the audience was receptive and affirming, cheering when a comedian riffed about overcoming trauma; sitting in somber silence when another described an assault in graphic detail.

As for Rollo, she’s processing her encounter with Weinstein the same way she processes so many of her life experiences — by writing them into comedy. (Her sets include commentary on losing her parents at a young age and other feminist issues.) “I have to fight the belief that am alone or that the world is against ,” she says. “And every time I say something about it on stage and the audience laughs with me and relates to me, I am fighting that idea. It can be very powerful. It can be very scary, as well, but it can be really really powerful when I put enough thought and work into it.”

Rollo’s headlining set at “Rape Jokes By Survivors” reinforced that unifying theme. She asked the audience to remember the Oct. 24 statement issued by a Weinstein representative, which referred to the Actor’s Hour incident as “uncalled for, downright rude and an example of how due process today is being squashed by the public.” Rollo — who has since changed her Twitter name to “Downright Rude” — proudly told the crowd, “You know what’s rude? Rape is rude!” (To date, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual abuse, CNN reports, and his trial on the charges of predatory sexual assault, a criminal sexual act, first-degree rape, and third-degree rape is set to begin Jan. 6, 2020, in Manhattan, following an appeal denial to move the trial to Albany County or Long Island‘s Suffolk County.) In return, the audience joined her with chants of “Rape is rude!” — a fittingly tongue-in-cheek and utterly sincere ending; a defiant assertion and a rousing call for change.


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Serial Bank Robber Who Wrote Book About Prison Time With Bernie Madoff Faces Fifth Robbery Charge

Ralph Griffith, a serial bank robber who penned a self-published book about his time in prison with Bernie Madoff, appeared in federal court Wednesday to face his fifth bank robbery charge.

Griffith spent his 68th birthday at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, where he was ordered to remain in jail pending his trial for an alleged armed robbery of a Milwaukie Wells Fargo Bank in July, The Oregonian first reported.

The career criminal, who describes himself as the founder and executive producer of XAK Media Group, was released from California prison in August 2017 after spending time behind bars for three San Francisco bank robberies in 2003. He was also previously convicted of a bank robbery in 1985.

Shortly after his 2017 prison release, Griffith wrote a self-published book, The Real Bernie Madoff: Our 7 Years Together in Prison, about his time behind bars at a North Carolina federal prison with the former financier, who was convicted of running one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history.

I lived with the man, Griffith said in a YouTube video about the book. After about seven years I got a pretty good understanding about what Bernie Maddoff was up to.

The 68-year-old has also written fictional accounts of his life of crime, including a four-paragraph story called The Proper Way to Rob a Bank and another involving a character who inadvertently robs a bank and a star is born.

On Wednesday, prosecutors argued that his stories about his misdeeds prove he is still a danger to the community. Griffiths defense lawyer, Mark Ahlemeyer, insisted his clients books are protected under the First Amendment.

Ahlemeyer declined to comment about the allegations to The Daily Beast on Wednesday, citing the active criminal case.

On July 26, authorities allege Griffith walked up to a Wells Fargo teller at around 10:30 a.m. wearing sunglasses, a black wig, a white surgical mask under his chin, and clear gloves. Court records show Griffith rested what authorities believed to be a black handgun on the counter before pointing it at the teller and saying, Give me the money and no one will get hurt.

After the teller handed him a stack of cash with a GPS tracker hidden inside, a second bank employee walked overand Griffith allegedly demanded money from her as well.

You too, sweetie, he said, according to a federal affidavit obtained by The Oregonian, before stuffing the cash into a grocery bag.

Griffith allegedly threw away the two GPS devices and left. One tracker was later located in some bushes with a ripped $20 bill attached, and the second was found in the middle of the street. Surveillance video caught Griffith fleeing the scene in a blue Nissan Sentra.

On Tuesday, Griffith was allegedly on his way to rob another bank when he got into a minor accident, prosecutors allege. While searching the car, authorities found multiple medical masks, wigs, and black sunglasses in the front passenger seat.

It is my belief that Griffith was on his way to conduct another bank robbery at the time of his traffic accident and arrest, FBI agent Zachary Clark reportedly wrote in the affidavit.

Griffith is currently being held at the Multnomah County Detention Center. He is expected to be back in court on Oct. 24.

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4 Lies About Sex I Learned From the Church

I’ve heard people say that growing up as an evangelical meant they never talked about sex. This wasn’t my experience. I grew up in the thick of evangelical purity culture and we talked about sex A LOT. We just spent all of that time talking about how and why NOT to have it.

As someone who waited until I was married to have sex, I was assured that I would be guaranteed an easy and rewarding sex life. When reality turned out to be different, I was disappointed and disillusioned. Only through gradual conversations with other married friends did I realize I wasn’t alone.

I started to wonder if maybe the expectations themselves were wrong. Maybe what I’d been told or had inferred about marital sex simply wasn’t true. These ideas came from multiple churches that I attended, from my Christian school, various summer camps, teachers, parents, and books I was encouraged to read. I know that my experience isn’t universal, but I also know that it is not unique. Since I have started writing about this, I have heard from thousands of people who have shared similar stories.

Here are four of the biggest lies I was taught about sex.

1.) Any and all physical contact is like a gateway drug to sex.

Once, in high school, I attended a big Christian youth conference. One night, one of the chaperones addressed the girls: “Ladies, we have noticed some very inappropriate touching going on…”

The inappropriate touching she meant turned out to be two high school couples in the youth group holding hands. This woman was deadly serious. “I know it may not seem like a big deal to you,” she said. “But hand-holding leads to OTHER THINGS!”

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I heard similar things from parents, teachers, church leaders and books. In my church, it was not unusual for people to pledge not only to save sex until marriage but even to save their first kiss for their wedding day. “Don’t start the engine if you aren’t ready to drive the car,” and other similar metaphors warned me that any physical contact was a slippery slope straight into the jaws of fornication.

On this side of things, I can honestly say that there are SO many conscious decisions you have to make between kissing and having sex. Despite what Hollywood says, clothes do not just fall off, and bodies do not magically and effortlessly fit together.

If you are committed to waiting until you’re married to have sex, there are many valid reasons to set boundaries on your physical relationship, but the fear of accidentally having sex shouldn’t be one of them.

2.) If you wait until you are married to have sex, God will reward you with mind-blowing sex and a magical wedding night.

Before my wedding night, I had been told that honeymoon sex isn’t usually the best sex. I had heard that good sex takes work. I knew that it would probably be uncomfortable at first. But what nobody ever, EVER told me was that it might not work at all. On my wedding night, my mind and heart were there, but my body was locked up tighter than Maid Marian’s chastity belt.

I entered marriage with the firm conviction that God rewards those who wait, only to find myself confounded by the mechanics. I felt like an utter failure, both as a wife and a woman. And while we did (eventually) get things working, this was hard, frustrating, embarrassing and a huge blow to our confidences.

Saving sex for marriage is not a guarantee that you will have great sex or that sex will be easy. All it guarantees is that the person you fumble through it with will be someone who has already committed to [loving] you forever.

3.) All boys think about is sex, and good girls don’t think about it at all.

As a teenager and young adult, I cannot count the times I heard something to this effect: “Boys have raging hormones and are always thinking about sex.” We girls, on the other hand, were the guardians of virtue — our own, yes, but more importantly our brothers-in-Christ. I was taught that boys would go as far as we would let them and that it was our job to keep things in check. Along with the other good girls, I gave side hugs and wore tops that covered not just my chest but my shoulders as well.

Aside from the issue of whether or not girls should be responsible for others’ thoughts, I actually think this whole idea is degrading to men as well. It implies that men are animals or that they are slaves to their sexuality. The idea that sex is such an overpowering urge for teenage boys that they cannot control it is the exact same attitude that has led some to downplay sexual assault. (After all, how can you blame someone for something they are incapable of controlling?) Like all blanket statements, it’s also damaging because it generalizes all men’s experiences and our expectations of them.

I constantly heard about how much men love sex, so when I got married, I expected that we would be having sex at least [five] times a day. This might be true for some people, but I will be honest and say that this has never been true in my marriage. But because I believed that was the norm, I immediately inferred something was wrong with me. Why weren’t we having sex at every minute that we were not eating or sleeping or working? If this is what all men want and that’s not what our sex life looks like, then I must be doing something wrong. Spoiler alert: that wasn’t true. What was wrong were my expectations, which were based on the story I had been told over and over rather than on reality.

On the flip side of this is the belief that good Christian women aren’t sexual, or even that sex is something they do as a sacrifice for their husbands. For years I was casually told that “girls don’t care about sex.” Well, as it turns out, I do. This has been a deep source of shame for me. It was supposed to be something men cared about. If I actually wanted to have sex with my husband, wasn’t that somehow unfeminine? For a long time, I felt like a freak until I started to realize that I wasn’t the only one. I just didn’t know that because no one else had ever admitted it.

Girls (even “good Christian girls”) think about sex. In fact, girls can actually (gasp!) like sex. This doesn’t make you a freak. It doesn’t make you unfeminine or unnatural. God created us, both men AND women, as sexual beings. Enjoying sex makes you a human being created by God, in the image of God, with the capacity and desire to love — physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and sexually.

4.) If you wait until marriage, sex with your spouse will be free of guilt or shame.

Many Christians have spent years — from the day they hit puberty until their wedding day — focusing their energy on keeping their sex drives in check. Then, in the space of a few hours, they are expected to stop feeling like their sexuality is something they must carefully control and instead be able to express it freely. And not only that — but express it freely with another person.

Many of us have programmed guilt into ourselves — this is how we keep ourselves in check throughout our dating relationships. And that “red light” feeling we train ourselves to obey doesn’t always go away just because we’ve spoken some vows and signed some papers.

It took me several months to stop having that sick-to-my-stomach guilty feeling every time I had sex with my husband. Not only that, in “losing” my virginity, I felt like I had lost some essential part of my identity. I subconsciously believe that my virginity was a core component of my moral character. Even though I knew this wasn’t true intellectually, I couldn’t help feeling that if purity was synonymous with virginity and sexual innocence, wasn’t I now impure? Not everyone experiences this, but for the many people who do, it’s terribly isolating. Once again we’re experiencing something our churches and communities never acknowledged as a possibility. We feel alone and broken and filled with a profound sense that this isn’t the way it’s meant to be.

I don’t regret waiting until I was married to have sex, and I’m not advocating that churches stop teaching that sex is designed for marriage. But I do think there is something seriously wrong with the way we’ve handled the conversation.

If our reason for saving sex until marriage is that we believe it will make sex better or easier for us later, we’re not only setting ourselves up for disappointment, but we’re missing the point entirely. Those who choose to wait do so because we hold certain beliefs about the sacredness of marriage and about God’s intentions and wishes for humanity, and we honor these regardless of whether they feel easier or harder. In the meantime, we in the evangelical church have a lot of work to do correcting the distorted ways we talk about sex and sexuality, especially to our youth.

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Bresha Meadows Thought You’d Understand

Photos by Maddie McGarvey

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio ― There are things that Bresha Meadows remembers about the night she killed her father and things she doesn’t. She tells me this as she slowly picks apart a chocolate chip cookie, discarding the stale edges. We’re sitting at her attorney’s dining room table in an east side suburb of Cleveland. Although Bresha is 18, she looks younger, with warm brown eyes and a slightly upturned nose, which her boyfriend playfully teased her about the first time they met. She lifts her chin when she laughs, and she laughs often. The more distressing the story she’s telling, the more she breaks into a smile. It’s a nervous habit.

Her guess, she says, is that her mind blocked out some stuff to protect her. She remembers steadily extracting the gun from under her dad’s pillow as he slept on the couch. Then putting it down. Picking it up. Putting it down. You know when you can kinda like, foresee something?” she asked. “I sat there thinking and pictures kept flashing in my head, like my mom’s funeral casket, and then my sister and brother are old enough to move out, and it is just me and him left in the house.” Her dad had been sexually abusing her since she was 8, she said, and beating her mother for her entire life. The last thing she thought before she pulled the trigger was: It’s never gonna stop. It’s only gonna get worse. She clicked the gun and spun around like a wooden spinning top.

She was 14.

She doesn’t remember screaming, though her mother describes hearing an unearthly sound, high-pitched and deafeningly loud. When the police arrived to arrest her, she was dripping wet. After shooting her father, she bolted upstairs and jumped in the shower fully clothed. “I felt myself going into shock, so I tried to get cold water on me,” she explained. The police officers who responded, all men, allowed her to put on dry clothes before taking her down to the station, but insisted on remaining in the room as she undressed, she said.

I’d been covering Bresha’s case since 2016, but this was the first time we’d met. In court, her back was always to the public gallery. From behind, she struck a fragile figure, often visibly shaking and shifting foot to foot as she stood in front of the judge, her hands clasped behind her. In person, she was lighter, more animated, although she chose her words with a degree of caution and precision rarely observed in teens. That’s a repercussion of jail, she said. She is always bracing for something terrible to happen. 

The fact that we were even having this conversation was improbable. Normally kids who kill a parent are tried as adults and go to prison for decades, even if they are victims of severe child abuse. Bresha was an outlier. Eighteen months after the shooting, she returned home to her family in Warren, Ohio. This spring, she graduated high school with a 4.0 for the year. 

During one of our conversations, I asked her what she wanted from her new life. She paused and a look of confusion flashed across her face. It was the wrong question, impossible for her to answer. Her childhood was focused on survival; it left no space to dream. Recently, she purchased an old Jeep. It had a cracked windshield and an oil leak, but it ran. When she is driving, she said, she is able to capture the rare and blissful feeling of having complete control over her life.

A Childhood Deferred

Bresha Meadows poses for a portrait in her lawyer’s home in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on Oct. 2, 2019. Meadows killed her father after he allegedly terrorized and abused her family for years.

The hours and minutes leading up to the shooting on July 28, 2016, were unremarkable. Jonathan Meadows, 41, drank vodka mixed with pop and yelled at Bresha’s older brother before passing out on the couch. At the young age of 14, Bresha was accustomed to this pattern. Drinking, then fighting. Her dad was prone to physical violence, she said, and his cruelty grew when he was drunk. His favorite target was her mother, Brandi, who married him when she was 19. “Most of the time he’d keep the bedroom door closed when he hit her, but if he was drunk, he’d forget and leave it open,” Bresha said. Some days, she’d come home from school to find her mother with a fresh black eye. She recalled one occasion when she was hanging out in her bedroom and heard a loud thud. She peeked her head out and tiptoed down to her parents’ room. Her mother was knocked out on the floor. “Do you remember that, mom?” she asked, turning to Brandi, who sat with her daughter during interviews in early October. Brandi shook her head no, her eyes watery. Bresha laughed nervously again.

When Bresha was little, her father used to tuck her in at night and offer up his cheek for a “zerbert,” the term for a raspberry popularized by “The Cosby Show.” She’d press her lips against his face and blow, making a silly noise. It was their special evening ritual. Later, she would come to dread bedtime. Around the age of 8, her father began molesting her, she said. He told her to keep it a secret and she did. But soon after, Bresha started asking her mother if they could leave Daddy. “She was the first one to say it to me,” Brandi said. In 2011, when Bresha was 9, Brandi had a stroke and ended up in the hospital for a week. For Brandi, the medical emergency served as a wake-up call. “I realized this is not what I want. Like, I don’t want to die here, living like this in front of my kids,” she said.

As soon as she was well enough, Brandi fled to her mother’s house in Parma, Ohio, with her three children ― Bresha and her older siblings, Brianna, now 22, and Jonathan Jr., now 24. In a protective order filed at the time, she detailed her husband’s brutality. “In the 17 years of our marriage he has cut me, broke my ribs, fingers, the blood vessels in my hand, my mouth, blackened my eyes,” she wrote. “If he finds us, I am 100 percent sure he will kill me and the children.” Sitting on the back porch of her mother’s house, Brandi opened up to one of her sisters, Martina Latessa, a Cleveland detective who knew firsthand the complexities of domestic violence. Still, a few months later, Brandi returned to her husband, a decision that she still hasn’t forgiven herself for. Once they were home, Bresha said, things deteriorated further. Her dad believed his children betrayed him by leaving, and was paranoid they’d do it again. “We wasn’t allowed to talk no more after that,” Bresha said, nodding at her mom. “If he walked in and we were talking, he’d get mad.” 

On left, Bresha (baby in center) is pictured with her mother, father and two siblings. On right, Bresha (in black) poses with her family. To her left is Ja’Von, her cousin, who also went public with his allegations of abuse at the hands of Jonathan Meadows.

When Bresha was 12, her dad raped her for the first time, she said. She hadn’t had a period yet, but started menstruating soon afterwards, which led her to wonder if the two were related. “I don’t know if that could bring a period faster,” she said, her voice trailing off. She shared a room with her sister, and her father would time his visits for when his youngest daughter was alone. At 13, she ran away to Cleveland, seeking help from her aunts. “I needed to breathe,” she said. Latessa, her aunt, was struck by how withdrawn her niece appeared. “She was rubbing her hands together and shaking and very closed off,” she said. Bresha told her that her dad’s violence was getting worse. He had strangled her mother, and threatened to shoot all of them. When Latessa told Bresha that she had to go home ― her parents had reported her missing ― she broke down crying. On the car ride back, she lay comatose in the backseat. She didn’t tell her aunt about any sexual abuse, but Latessa wondered about it after spotting cut marks on her arms. Self-injury is common among female victims of molestation, she said. Latessa made Bresha memorize her phone number and took her to the Warren Police Department so that Bresha could tell them about her father’s violence, and what it was like inside the home. Nothing came of the report, Latessa said. The police did not immediately return a request for comment. 

Three months before the shooting, Bresha’s family moved houses. For the first time in her life, she had her own bedroom. Most teens crave their own personal space. But for Bresha, sleeping alone meant she was never safe from her father. She stopped sleeping and developed chronic, debilitating headaches, terrified of her father’s surprise visits. She ran away again. “Every time I left, they just sent me back. It was pointless,” she said. “You could walk through that house and you knew it, he had control, he wasn’t going to get in trouble.” One night, she was in the process of hanging herself in her closet, she said, when her friend walked in and stopped her. 

Before she pulled the trigger, Bresha said, it hadn’t actually occurred to her that she would go to jail. She thought it was obvious she was acting in self-defense, and everyone would agree. Nowhere is her 14-year-old mind more evident than in this calculation. It wasn’t until she was inside the Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center, and heard her charge ― aggravated murder ― that it dawned on her that she was in serious trouble. If she was tried as an adult and convicted, she could spend the rest of her life behind bars.

‘The Archetypal Violent Act’

Bresha Meadows poses for a portrait in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. 

Parricide, the killing of a parent, is extremely rare. Only about 50 children under the age of 18 in the U.S. kill their parents each year, according to an estimate by Kathleen Heide, a professor at the University of South Florida who was hired as an expert witness by Bresha’s defense team. Most are victims of severe child abuse. And, like Bresha, most act while their parent is asleep or otherwise incapacitated because it is the only time they believe they can fight back and win.

To a child, it’s a rational choice. “It’s when their fear level is a little lower,” said Paul Mones, a lawyer who specializes in defending children who kill their parents. But it usually dooms them in court. Under most self-defense laws, a person is only justified in using deadly force if they believe they are being threatened with imminent death or serious bodily harm, with an emphasis on imminent. There is no exception for juveniles, Mones said, although in a handful of cases, courts have allowed testimony on battered child syndrome ― a condition resulting from severe abuse ― to explain why a child might truly believe their life was in danger despite the absence of an imminent threat.

Mones, who wrote “When a Child Kills: Abused Children Who Kill Their Parents,” said that in most of his cases, his clients were charged as adults, convicted and sent to prison for at least 10 years. “There’s a strong streak of retribution against youth in the juvenile justice system,” he said. “The killing of a parent, no matter what, is still viewed as the archetypal violent act of kids, the ultimate rebellion.”

On left, Bresha is seen inside the Warren Police Department a few hours after the shooting. On right, she appears at one of her many hearings at the Trumbull County Family Court.

The practice of trying children as adults is commonplace in the U.S., especially if the defendant is a person of color. Bresha is Black. “We have this expression, ‘If you can do the crime, you can do the time,’ which from a developmental point of view is ludicrous,” said psychologist James Garbarino, who studies the use of violence by children. A growing body of neurological research has found that the parts of the brain associated with functions such as planning, reasoning, judgment and impulse control are not done maturing until a person is in their 20s. Kids simply think differently than adults. The Supreme Court has acknowledged this in a series of landmark decisions. In 2012, the court ruled that it was cruel and unusual to sentence a child to life in prison without the possibility of parole, because it “precludes consideration of [a child’s] chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.” Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan noted that it also prevents the justice system from taking into account a child’s home environment, from which a child “cannot usually extricate himself — no matter how brutal or dysfunctional.” 

In addition to their cognitive immaturity, children are also especially vulnerable to the effects of trauma. Back in the 1990s, a landmark study found a significant link between negative childhood experiences and chronic health problems later in life. Ongoing research into adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs as they are called, has found that the more ACEs a person has, the more likely they are to develop heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, depression; struggle with substance abuse; or end up incarcerated. (You can take the 10-question ACE test here.) The exact mechanism that links childhood trauma to negative health outcomes is unclear, but scientists hypothesize that it has to do with the stress response. When we feel threatened, our bodies react by increasing our heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones, such as cortisol. Learning to manage stress is a normal and healthy part of growing up. But when children are constantly stressed, it can literally shape the developing brain. 

Bresha has an ACE score of 7. While extremely high, it is not out of the ordinary for girls in juvenile justice. An estimated 45% of female juvenile offenders have an ACE score of 5 or higher, according to a Department of Justice report. Like Bresha, 31% were sexually abused prior to incarceration.

For many children, you can draw a straight line between the trauma they experienced and the crime that put them behind bars. They’re not bad kids, they’re hurt ones. 

The Fight Of Her Life

Ian Friedman, the lawyer for Bresha Meadows, in his home in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. 

On Bresha’s first night in juvenile detention, she got a surprise visit from Ian Friedman, a criminal defense attorney based in Cleveland. Before they met, he wasn’t planning on taking her case. His trial schedule was full and the family couldn’t pay. But he promised Brandi, who came to see him in his office that day, that he would talk to Bresha in person before making up his mind. “My first impression was that she was a little girl who didn’t have anything, didn’t come from anything and wasn’t going to get a fair shake in the system,” he said. “I was concerned that she would get flushed down the toilet.” He took the case on the spot.

Outside the jail, Bresha’s case was beginning to go viral. A few days after the shooting, Brandi went on local television and called Bresha a hero. “I wasn’t strong enough to get out and she helped me,” she said, sobbing. The heartbreaking clip was picked up by national news outlets, including HuffPost. Latessa, Bresha’s aunt, also began speaking to reporters about the violence in the house and her niece’s recent repeated attempts to run away. By this point, Latessa was a detective in Cleveland’s special domestic violence unit. (She has said she was inspired to work with domestic abuse victims after witnessing her sister’s untenable situation.) Her clear, calm recounting of what she knew about the family lent credibility to her Bresha’s claims of self-defense. So did the account by Bresha’s cousin, Ja’Von Meadows-Harris, who described being physically and emotionally abused by Bresha’s father when he lived with them. Jonathan Meadows’ sister denies that he was abusive, and says that he was a good dad.

The racial dynamics of her case ― as a young Black girl, Bresha was more than four times more likely to end up incarcerated than her white peers ― also caught the attention of activists. An organizing collective, called #freebresha, began ginning up public support, promoting the family’s GoFundMe, organizing book drives and starting a petition to demand Bresha’s immediate release.

Bresha Meadows talks with her lawyer, Ian Friedman.

On the inside, Bresha was struggling. Every morning in juvenile detention, she woke up in a panic to a loud pop. It was her cell door snapping open, but to her, it sounded like a gunshot. She suffered from flashbacks to the night of the shooting, and anxiety attacks. The worst part was that she couldn’t talk to anyone about it. She was in the midst of the biggest mental health crisis of her life, and she didn’t even have a therapist, she said. When she entered the jail, her mother had to sign a form that stated “other than prescription refills and emergencies, your child will not be approved for any medical appointments while in detention.” Renae Hoso, the juvenile court coordinator for Trumbull County Juvenile Court, told HuffPost that detained youth generally have access to a licensed professional counselor, but she could not speak to any specific services provided to Bresha. Bresha, who was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, maintains that she didn’t receive needed psychiatric care while incarcerated. “I felt like there was nothing to live for,” she said. Another girl in juvie taught her to cut herself with a snapped hair elastic. 

Meanwhile, she began to receive a steady stream of letters from people who had heard about her case. They sent her books to read, and encouraged her to stay positive. People thought she was brave, she said, though she didn’t see it that way. “When I think about it, I don’t think I did it because I was strong,” she said. “I did it because it was the last resort.” 

Behind the scenes, her attorney, Friedman, was working hard to get her a deal. “It was terrifying the whole time,” he said. “If we made a mistake, even the slightest mistake, a little girl could end up in prison and that would alter the course of her life.” In December, he won his first victory. Four months after Bresha was taken into custody, prosecutors announced that they would not try her as an adult, removing the threat of a life sentence. The longest she could go to prison if convicted was until the age of 21. It was welcome news to Bresha, but her 21st birthday still seemed forever away. It meant she would spend the rest of her childhood behind bars, separated from her family. Being in jail was beginning to remind her of being in her dad’s house. The authorities had complete control over her life — when she ate, when she slept, whom she talked to. She felt entirely powerless. “It kind of triggered me, being in there,” she said. “I’m like, y’all don’t understand. I’ve been through this.”

As the months wore on, she sunk into a deep depression. Friedman and her family were increasingly worried about her mental state. “It was insane. You had this girl whose condition was just deteriorating every day,” he said. “To us, this was the central issue of the case.” In April, after Bresha had been in jail for over eight months, Friedman took action. He filed a motion urging the judge to release Bresha and put her on electronic surveillance pending trial, arguing that the lack of mental health services inside Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center was akin to cruel and unusual punishment. “It was clear she had sustained some real trauma throughout her life and needed care. And here she was, sitting in jail for excess of 250 days without it,” he said. He attached study after study to his 21-page motion, showing the negative effects of long periods of incarceration on teens. “The research caused us to believe this would end with irreparable harm towards Bresha,” he said.

The motion seemed to move the needle on her case. The following month, Friedman secured a plea deal. On May 22, 2017, she pleaded “true,” equivalent to guilty in juvenile court, to an involuntary manslaughter charge. It was her 299th day behind bars. She was sentenced to a year and a day in juvenile detention, with credit for time served, as well as six additional months at a residential mental health facility and two years of probation. 

She was 15.

Home For Healing

Bresha Meadows stands with her mother Brandi Meadows outside her lawyer’s home in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

On a recent morning, Bresha was debating whether people are born optimists or pessimists, or made that way by their life experiences. She was leaning toward the latter. She used to be bubbly and chatty, she said, open to talking to anyone. Now, she shies away from big crowds. When she returned to her high school in February 2018, she was embarrassed to notice that she was walking with her hands clasped behind her back, a holdover from juvie. In any situation with multiple outcomes, she said, she is primed to expect the worst. 

She plans to go to college and study criminal justice, but she’s not sure where yet. It will depend on money, mostly, and where she has enough family support. She might become a lawyer like Friedman, or a detective like Latessa. Or a domestic violence advocate, so she can support families like her own. 

“Most of the kids just need help, you know?” she said, referring to the children she met while in juvenile detention. “They always had something behind why they were there. Not like, an excuse. But you gotta remember, a kid has a kid’s mind. We don’t have adult minds. And so it’s like, for them to incarcerate us as if we’re adults ― it just crushes us. It messes with the mind a lot, actually.” 

Bresha Meadows and her mother Brandi Meadows show their matching semicolon tattoos.

These days, Bresha and Brandi spend a lot of time at home, just hanging out. In a way, they’re both convalescing. They got matching tattoos: a semicolon with an arrow through it. The image signifies that “the story is not over,” Bresha said. Life goes on. In many respects, she’s just like any other teen: She binges Netflix, Snapchats with her friends, and longs for new experiences, away from the trappings of her hometown. She’s never left Ohio, except for one time she was helping her mom deliver phone books and they crossed the state line into Pennsylvania. She’s never roller-skated. When we spoke, she had yet to take a plane ride, though that was about to change. This week, she is flying to Chicago to give a talk at an event for grassroots activists. It will be her first time speaking in public about what happened to her. She is nervous, she said, but feels compelled to do it. For all the other children who didn’t get a second chance like she did.

“I feel lucky, but I also feel bad, ’cause like, how am I any better?” she said. “I can’t do much, but I feel like I’m supposed to do something.” 

This story has been updated with more information on mental health services at Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center.

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Michelle Obama Shared The Cutest Back-To-School #TBT To Make A Major Point

Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Michelle Obama’s 2019 Back-To-School TBT Photo Has An Adorable Message

From grinning, eager kindergarteners to college students returning to campus, the first day of school is a universal new start — whether exciting or dreadful, or sometimes, both. For those who no longer have September to mark the passage of time, it may come with a jolting reminder of times past. Former First Lady Michelle Obama knows what feels like, and on Instagram, she showcased one of the most quintessential parts of the back-to-school experience: picture day. Michelle Obama’s 2019 back-to-school TBT photo has an inspiring message that may have students feeling a bit better about returning to class.

In the caption, Obama wroteabout “all the young people heading back to school and reflecting on my own days as a student in Chicago.” She reminisced about the things she — and all of us, really — went through as students. “I learned a lot in school—how to do my multiplication tables and structure a paragraph, yes, but also how to push myself, be a good friend, and dust myself off after a failure,” she wrote.

The post features an adorable image of the former first lady as a young student sometime in the 1970s, complete with short bangs and an awkward smile. Her plaid outfit and brooch necklace really complete the effect. It looks like a photo you’d find in a family photo book, or in your dad’s wallet. To be honest, the fact that she seems to have blinked in the photo just makes it that much more relatable.

Her post was not really about herself, though. Obama had a bigger point to make about how easy it is for people, especially those in the United States, to take education for granted. Just as her education led her to become a top administrator at the University of Chicago, write a best-selling memoir, and tackle children’s issues in the White House, she wants other girls to have the same chance, too.

“I believe every girl on the planet deserves the same kind of opportunities that I’ve had — a chance to fulfill her potential and pursue her dreams,” she wrote. “We know that when we give girls a chance to learn, they’ll seize it. And when they do, our whole world benefits.”

Obama made the post to her 32 million Instagram and 13 million Twitter followers on World Charity Day. She chose to tag the Girls Opportunity Alliance, which is a program of the Obama Foundation, focused on empowering adolescent girls and grassroots education leaders across the world. The post urged others to also share back to school photos and visit the program’s GoFundMe. Obama launched the Girls Opportunity Alliance almost one year ago on Oct. 11, 2018, the International Day of the Girl.

During her time in the White House from 2008 to 2016, Obama often prioritized education and women’s issues. In 2010, she launched efforts to promote physical activity and healthy nutrition among children, which first brought her interest in youth policy to the public eye. Over the coming years, she would also spearhead Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn, which aim to help students go to and stay in school.

Obama herself received a formidable education. A Chicago South Side native, she attended Whitney Young Magnet High School, a public magnet school for gifted children, and graduated as salutatorian. She then headed to Princeton and Harvard Universities for her undergraduate sociology and law school degrees, respectively.

With both of her daughters off to college, Obama is now an empty nester, but she’s still taking the role of nation’s mom very seriously. She and her husband have often said their role as parents always comes first. It seems there’s no sign of her slowing down on a national level either, when it comes to getting girls healthy, happy, and on the path to taking their own back-to-school photos.

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