Amanda Knox traveled to Italy as an exchange student in 2007. She was twenty years old. It has been reported that her stepfather, Chris Mellas, believed that Amanda was too naive to live abroad. He surely could not have imagined that she would be arrested and tried four times for the murder of Meredith Kercher.
No level of sophistication would have allowed this family to envision that Amanda would become embroiled in a judicial system and culture that would sensationalize an, admittedly, vicious and seemingly senseless murder to the point of turning speculation into fact or that the principal of Double Jeopardy that is taken for granted in the United States holds no ground in Italy.
Be that as it may, Ms. Kercher was murdered on November 1, 2007. Ms. Knox was arrested and charged as one of the participants in said murder. It has taken eight years for this case to be settled.
On Friday, March 27, 2015 Italy’s final court of appeals found Amanda Knox to be not guilty. What now? How does Amanda Knox reclaim her life and what is to be done with the trauma within that she will live with for the rest of her life?
The author, Barbie Latza Nadeau, wrote about Amanda Knox in a book, Angel Face. Ms. Nadeau was in the same prison at the same time on drug charges. She reports that first the inmates ignored Amanda, then they were hostile, and, ultimately, accepted her as just another member of the prison population.
How does a young woman, barely, 20 years old, adjust to a life that is foreign in every way? She faced the possibility of spending 28 years in that prison. One can only suppose that she had sufficient self-esteem, that was nurtured within her family, to sustain her and allow her to hold on to her ability to think and behave rationally.
Effects of Prison Time
During the time that Ms. Knox was imprisoned, she suffered from loss of weight and thinning hair. Dr. Naomi Murphy, a forensic psychologist, in discussing Amanda said, “People don’t realise how much of your life is controlled in prison. You are locked up in your cell for a lot of the time, you have someone else telling you when you can eat and when you can shower. A lot of people who come out can struggle to make decisions for themselves.” Murphy, N. (2015, February 1). Will Amanda Knox ever have the life she dreamed of. Stylist.The fact that Amanda continued to pursue her studies, undoubtedly, provided her with some structure and a sense of purpose.
It is not known what Amanda was exposed to in prison, but it is possible that she endured physical and sexual abuse, was exposed to hard drugs and other forms of psychological and physical violence. This was not the life that twenty-year-old Amanda Knox was prepared for.
Amanda Knox has suffered confusion and depression as she has attempted to reinstate herself in her old life. It is common for individuals who have faced accusations of guilt to retain that sense of guilt although they have been exonerated. It is impossible to return to “what was”. Imagine the difficulty of returning to a loving environment in which there is no one who can really know or understand the full extent of ones ordeal.
Amanda has reported feeling angrily pursued since the death of Meredith Kercher. She has often believed that those wishing to prove her guilt forgot, at times, that she was a human being.
What does one do with this toxic, chronic despair? At best, with the help of loved ones and skilled therapeutic professionals, she will be able, at some point, to make peace with the events of the past eight years. It seems inescapable that Amanda Knox will always feel like “the other”, an outsider. She must scale an enormous, slippery incline in order to achieve any semblance of normalcy.
John Wilson, professor of psychology at Cleveland State University, studies the psychological impact of wrongful imprisonment. In his analysis of the effect of unjust incarceration, he discusses what he calls “soul death”: “This Soul Death is accompanied by a sense of abandonment by humanity and by God that entails feelings of vulnerability and distrust of mankind.”Wilson, J. (2002, December 10). [Television broadcast].john wilson. If true, this leaves one to question the value of a life, once vital, that now lacks an awareness of a unique and essential singularity . If one genuinely loses a sense of self, what is left? What is needed to rebuild the trust that life, itself, is worthwhile?
In the world that most people expect to live in, beauty is something we reward. In the case of Amanda Knox, her “angelic” good looks drew the worst kind of attention. In soap opera fashion, many who followed her case could not resist focusing on her looks and relishing the opportunity to contrast her look of innocence to an unproven certainly that she had committed a crime that was especially loathsome in terms of violence and sexual assault. For those who live in a world of black and white certainties and prefer drama to truth, the story that was invented was just too good to resist.
Tragically, a very young woman was turned into a caricature that was titillating to the so-called masses. Allegations were made about her character that had no basis in fact. The more salacious the report, the more it was repeated. It appeared that no one could or would attempt to stem the gossip, so the story got juicer and juicier, and a young life was contaminated and devalued.
Hopefully, one can learn from this; remembering that individuals in the news are HUMAN beings. When people believe that they are above it all, when one rejoices in the undoing of another, people forget, that with a shift of the wind, with the slightest slip of personal good luck, anyone could be the next to face disgrace and humiliation. Something to think about.
Naomi Murphy, MD (2015). Will Amanda Knox ever have the life she dreamed of. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.stylist.co.uk/people/willamandaknoxeverhavethelifeshedreamedof. [Last Accessed 2 April 2015]
John Wilson (2002). Burden of Proof. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/burden/interviews/wilson.html. [Last Accessed 2 April 2015].