It’s an incredible and heartbreaking story: the family of a young woman who was kidnapped last week by her abusive ex-boyfriend confronted him in a stand-off and saved her life.
Bethany Arceneaux, 29, was kidnapped on Wednesday in Louisiana, by Scott Thomas, her ex-boyfriend and father of her child. Arceneaux filed a restraining order against Thomas in June, explaining he threatened to kill her before and “put a knife to my neck countless times.” But he ignored that order — as all too many abusers do — and on Wednesday, showed up outside the daycare where she was retrieving their child. Witnesses saw Thomas force Arceneaux into his vehicle, leaving their two-year-old child alone inside her car as he drove off.
At some point, according to KATC news, Thomas allegedly called Arceneaux’s family and asked them to take care of his kids, because he was going to kill both himself and Arceneaux.
Police found Thomas’ car abandoned in a sugarcane field with one of Arceneaux’s shoes inside. Then Arceneaux’s family, who was actively participating in the search as well, reportedly got a tip to look inside an abandoned house across the street from the field, where they also heard screams. So a dozen members of the family took matters into their own hands.
Her uncle, Marcus Arceneaux, explained to KATC news that the family converged upon the abandoned house and saw Arceneaux inside through a window. Her cousin kicked in the door and there they found Bethany Arcenceaux being held against her will, who reportedly told his ex-girlfriend that he was going to kill her if the family tried to rescue her.
At some point either before and/or during the confrontation, Thomas began stabbing Arceneaux, and he was shot to death, reportedly by her cousin. “We found her. We went and got her in that house. We kicked doors down. It was like a movie unfolding,” said Ryan Arceneaux, Bethany’s brother. A picture of her uncle Marcus carrying Bethany Arceneaux in his arms right after the rescue is now famous.
There are so many things to say about Bethany Arceneaux, violence against women, race, and police apathy that I know I can’t do them all justice. But here’s this: the Arceneaux family’s motivation indicates a lot of things about the trust — or rather, lack thereof — people of color have with law enforcement. Arceneaux is a woman of color who was victimized. She had been physically abused and threatened by a man who was terrorizing her and it was her family, not law enforcement, who ultimately protected and saved her. People of color have seen time and again that their safety is not the priority and the kidnapping of a Black woman does not elicit the “national tragedy” response the same way, say, Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping does. In the days since the kidnapping and rescue, the extended Arceneaux family has made numerous comments alluding to their belief that they had to do this rescue themselves to get it done (or at all) before it was too late. Added Arceneaux’s older brother, “We did not wait on the authorities. We did it our own selves.” Added Ryan Arceneaux, ”If we would have waited, she would have been dead.” One of Arceneaux’s cousins, Dawnetta Roy, said it was “upsetting” that the family found her themselves and not the police.
Blogger Trudy at Gradiant Lair articulated how women of color who are victims of violence are unprotected and even sometimes punished — as in the case of Marissa Alexander — by law enforcement, in a post:
This idea that “all” protection [of women] must be rejected because it is anti-feminist is a LUXURY of White women who are alway deemed worthy of protection in the first place. … Bethany’s life matters; she deserved to be saved. With higher rates of domestic violence and rape than White women while simultaneously being deemed not as valuable as White women, ‘unrapeable’ and disposable, yes, our lives can be saved too. They matter, too.
We can only hope that the trial of Marissa Alexander, the death of Renisha McBride, and the kidnapping and physical abuse of Bethany Arceneaux prompt a long overdue look at the suffering of women of color in a racist, sexist society.
Bethany Arceneaux suffered multiple stab wounds in Friday’s attack and unimaginable psychological torture and physical abuse in the days before. But today, she was released from a hospital and is excepted to make a full recovery. No charges have been filed against Arceneaux’s cousin, who police said used deadly force to prevent bodily harm or death in accordance with state law. Her uncle Marcus told KATC, “We can finally go to sleep at night. … She said, ‘My family came and got me.’”
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.