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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Who Will Be There For Sophia?




I am proud to call Sophia — Dr. Sophia Marjanovic — my friend.

Sophia holds a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology. She is also a protester who educates the public about the dangers posed by the Dakota Access Pipeline. In a recent interview, she explained why:
“My tribe had an oil boom in the 1980s. Ever since I can remember, water has come out of the faucet red, yellow, orange and smelling of petroleum and having oil droplets on top of it. The number-one killer of our women is cancer."
You may have seen my friend in the news.

There was that time she crashed a hearing, with other protesters, to call on Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to oppose Administration policies which may harm women. In her words:
“I am concerned that under the Trump administration, women will be treated badly and you’re not going to stand up for us.”
Sophia is not an ideologue. She will openly criticize her own political partywhen it falls short of its ideals. In an interview with The Atlantic, she said:
“The Democratic Party wants our votes, but they don’t listen to our voices.”
I like honest people.

Sophia is honest — brutally so.

She has come forward with her own personal pain as a survivor of rape and sexual assault. (It should be noted, of course, that we are hearing only one side of the story; yes, false rape accusations exist, but they are exceedingly rare. I believe Sophia.)

Her message was aimed at other Native Americans struggling with victimization: Don’t fall into the trap of substance abuse. In her words:
“Unfortunately, I was sexually abused as a child, I was raped as an adult and I have faced many challenges that have lead me to feel unsafe….
“Regardless of either of those agitating experiences, I NEVER TURNED TO SUBSTANCE ABUSE OF ANY KIND (sic)….Instead of allowing the forces to win in crushing my spirit, I figured out how to survive by seeking out people, mainly Lakota uncles, mothers and grandmothers, to guide and protect me.”
Unfortunately, Sophia has also been forced to come forward with another private struggle, one which nearly destroyed her. Now afraid that she will become the victim of an extrajudicial killing, Sophia has taken to social media to tell her story of domestic violence, police misconduct, and retaliation.

She has not seen her young son since December 2015, and lives in fear for her life.

For my friend Sophia, the pain never goes away. In her own words, she is caught in the Bermuda Triangle of a vengeful ex-spouse, police brutality, and family court corruption.

Sophia and I met in synagogue last year.

She and I had a falling out over the election, because we were on different sides of the aisle.

Eventually we got over it.

And I learned that in addition to everything else she does, and despite her inability to get her own son back — even for a custody visit — Sophia has become a court watcher.

It’s hard for me to watch my friend suffer so much. So I asked her what I could do to help. Apparently others have as well.

In typical Sophia style, she responded by letting us help in a way that helps others, too — by working on the passage of a House Concurrent Resolution 72, which aims to improve the functioning of family courts through a combination of, among other things:
  • Congressional hearings on the current practices of family courts with an eye toward improving outcomes in custody cases.
  • Enhanced standards for the introduction of evidence and expert testimony.
  • Court compensation for expert testimony, presumably to prevent the wealthier parent from having an unfair advantage in the case.
So if you want to help Sophia — and other parents — regain the visitation and/or custody they deserve, here’s what she is asking you to do:
“Make an appointment with your US Congressional representative during their August recess and ask them to support House Concurrent Resolution 72. Please make that appointment today and inbox me to let me know when you are meeting with your representative.”
For some reason I do not understand, my friend Sophia has lived a life pockmarked with suffering.

It is the cruelest of brutalities that she cannot gain access even to see her son.

What is wrong with our system of justice?

Will anyone be there for Sophia?

____

Posted August 10, 2017 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released to the public domain.