Victoria Law @ Filter. Excerpt below:
I’ve interviewed numerous adult survivors of domestic violence imprisoned for defending themselves. Again and again, they tell me that they turned to the police and legal system, both of which failed to protect them. Perhaps the police took their abuser away for a few days, but that didn’t stop the violence. Perhaps the courts issued an order of protection, a piece of paper that their abuser flagrantly ignored. Perhaps the police did nothing. Perhaps their abuser was the police. This same legal system that failed to protect them then punished them for their survival. In prison, many are subject to violence—at the hands of other incarcerated people, staff members or the day-to-day practices.
At the same time, much prison abolition organizing continues to reflect larger society’s failure to consider the societal and cultural shifts needed to end gender-based violence or to develop concrete ways to prevent and address domestic and sexual violence in daily life.
“The two are not really talked about together,” says Hyejin Shim. Shim works at the intersections of gender and state violence, as both a staff member at the Asian Women’s Shelter and an organizer with Survived and Punished, a grassroots group supporting criminalized and incarcerated survivors of gender-based violence. Though efforts to end gender-based violence and prison abolition are often positioned as incompatible, Shim notes that “both are focused on ending violence,” whether that violence is from an individual, the state or both.
One way to address interpersonal violence without relying on state violence is through transformative justice. Transformative justice refers to a community process that addresses not only the needs of the person who was harmed, but also the conditions that enabled this harm. In other words, instead of looking at the act(s) of violence in a vacuum, transformative justice processes ask, “What else needs to change so that this never happens again? What needs to happen so that the survivor can heal?” There’s no right or wrong set of footprints to follow in transformative justice; instead, each process depends on the people and circumstances.
Shim notes that people frequently engage in transformative justice processes, even if they don’t use that term. They come together to support people in their circles who have been harmed—helping them identify what they need and how to access those needs. At the same time, Shim points out that these kinds of skills are often undervalued in organizing circles. “In movement spaces, you might have a direct action training or a facilitator training, but not one for skills to work through conflict or support survivors,” she noted. In this #MeToo moment when more people are coming forward with their own experiences of sexual and domestic violence, “the support needed is not really there or been developed.”
Anti-violence organizers have developed resources to help fill those gaps. Creative Interventions, an organization dedicated to providing “resources for everyday people to end violence,” has developed a 608-page on-line guide of strategies to stop interpersonal violence. Organizers and abuse survivors Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani and Leah Lakshmi Piepnza-Samarasinha compiled a 111-page zine entitled “The Revolution Starts at Home” (which later became a book), documenting ways that social justice organizers have held abusers accountable.