Art above by Adriana Bellet.

Black women punished for self-defense must be freed from their cages, by Mariame Kaba, The Guardian; Excerpt below:

While self-defense laws are interpreted generously when applied to white men who feel threatened by men of color, they are applied very narrowly to women and gender non-conforming people, and particularly women and gender non-conforming people of color trying to protect themselves in domestic violence and sexual assault cases. Black women have been excluded from definitions of “respectable” and/or “proper” womanhood, sexuality and beauty, influencing how their right to bodily autonomy – and agency – is viewed.


In 2017, there were 219,000 women in US prisons and jails, most of them poor and of color. In 2014, according to the Sentencing Project, black non-Hispanic females had an imprisonment rate over twice that of white non-Hispanic females.


Sociologist Beth Richie has suggested that a key to responding to women in conflict with the law is understanding their status as crime victims. Multiple studies indicate that between 71% and 95% of incarcerated women have experienced physical violence from an intimate partner. In addition, many have experienced multiple forms of physical and sexual abuse in childhood and as adults. This reality has been termed the “abuse-to-prison” pipeline.


These numbers are high because survivors are systematically punished for taking action to protect themselves and their children while living in unstable and dangerous conditions. Survivors are criminalized for self-defense, failing to control abusers’ violence, migration, removing their children from situations of abuse, being coerced into criminalized activity and securing resources needed to live day to day while suffering economic abuse.


Three years ago, I co-founded an organization called Survived and Punished (S&P). Our work focuses on freeing criminalized survivors of gender-based violence. Too many women and gender nonconforming people are in prison for defending themselves against their abusers, and we are demanding that Governors Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo use their clemency powers to free these survivors from their cages. As Dr Alisa Bierria, a co-founder of S&P, suggests: “Our political strategies must recognize that racialized gender violence and state violence are not isolated or oppositional, but integral to each other.” We are determined to ensure that more people understand these connections.

Read the whole article here.

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