She’s quiet, reserved and draped with a smile to mask her pain. She’ll carry a full conversation, adding pleasantries and offering advice while the beat of her heart is secretly racing in tandem with her thoughts. The person she loves more than anyone else has been incommunicado for over three days. Did he run out of the mere 300 phone minutes he was allowed to purchase this month? Was he was trapped in the middle of a violent riot and poked throughout his body by a makeshift weapon, strategically crafted out of a plastic toothbrush? She won’t know until he calls...or he doesn’t call. She listens to the trivial woes of others, quietly nods and smiles. She certainly won’t let you know she’s struggling; she’s too exhausted to defend her relationship for the umpteenth time this week. She wears invisible shackles.
With 1-in-100 people incarcerated in the U.S. alone, “She” is your executive, your real estate agent, your son’s teacher, your daughter’s best friend’s mom. She’s the woman behind you in line at the grocery store; who politely smiles then quickly looks down at the floor. “What if I’m too friendly and they ask questions about my personal life,” she thinks, shifting her gaze. She’s one of the 60,000 misunderstood women that I have dedicated my life to supporting.
She is me.
I once got angry at the stigma that exists against those in my position. Now, I use it as fuel to educate and empower the women who are on this journey beside me. We are misunderstood and I understand why. When reporting their stories, the media needs a hero and they need a villain. Despite the details of a case, our loved ones are portrayed as a lowlife sinner; the scum-of-the-earth. His wife is automatically guilty by association. Why are we held accountable for his crime; a crime we did not commit? Who said we are approving of what he did because we stand by his side? A documentary that looks at the stigma wives and families face is so important for the prison wives community because we have been silenced; we are forgotten and misunderstood. In reality we have tapped into an unknown strength that exists deep within us. We are thriving in the face of adversity while navigating the most isolating, depressing and difficult experience of our lives. We are silently conquering it with a smile.
Ro Clausen is a gorgeous, successful, kind, ambitious woman who lives a double life - by day she works as an executive but lunch hours and evenings she’s a prison wife Rockstar supporting +50,000 women in 13 countries through her social media network “Strong Prison Wives and Families.” Weekends she drive 6 hours each way to visit her fiancé Adam serving a 213 years sentence for a series of armed robberies (more to come on that). She can't tell anyone at work. Many of her friends and even some family members don't know. The stigma and the backlash is too strong. Here’s her personal introduction to “prison wives” and their invisible shackles:
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“I never expected to live this ‘prison wife’ life and I felt completely overwhelmed by doubts, fears and embarrassment. It was like being suddenly teleported into a country where I didn’t speak the language and wasn’t sure if anybody was friendly. Meeting RO and hearing “Oh, sweeties, YES. You can do this. I’m here and it’s going to be OK!” felt like a lifeline in the middle of an ocean. Now I’m helping pass on lessons to others, my marriage is amazing (despite our circumstances) and I’ve learned to be my courageous, confident and my cheeky self again! Without her support, influence and wisdom, it never would have happened. She’s amazing and I’m so thankful we met!”
"I never asked for this, I certainly didn’t dream of being in love with a man in prison when I was a little girl but here I sit each day, I muster up the strength to survive and force myself to find the light in the darkness of this HELL I am living. I want to share the “light” by encouraging, empowering and supporting everyone within my reach who needs help finding their smile."