Abolition and Gendered Violence

CW sexual assault, intimate partner violence, other forms of gendered violence, racist state violence, slurs, misogynoir

“But what do we do…”

  • One of the biggest areas of pushback abolitionists get is concerns about how we as a society respond to gendered violence.

    • These concerns are understandable in a society plagued by gendered violence as badly as our society is; however, these arguments are usually rooted in fear, with little understanding of the reality.
    • The truth is, police & prisons don’t currently address gendered violence. The vast majority of sexual abusers will never even be charged; fewer than 5 in 1000 will ever see a day in jail. And even if they were punished more often, playing whack-a-mole with abusers does nothing to address the broader pattern of violence against womxn, femmes, and other trans*, nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people.
    • Because of these facts, it doesn’t make sense to ask “Well what do we do with the abusers” — what do we do with them now? They’re in our universities, our governments, and our places of power: they can go on to be both the president and presidential challenger of the United States.

Prisons as site of violence

  • Not only does the carceral system not address gendered violence; it exacerbates it.

    • Some of the worst perpetrators of intimate partner violence — at least 40% of all police officers — are in fact police. And sexual violence is the second most common complaint of police misconduct, after excessive use of force. It is an all-too-often occurrence for survivors to call the police for IPV cases and have the police dismiss them or enact further violence on them themselves.
    • The entire function of police is to enforce the settlers’ laws — to uphold the unjust status quo. So the police will always uphold cisheteropatriarchy as well. It’s a feature of the job, it’s not something that can be trained away.
    • Furthermore, when perpetrators of gendered violence are imprisoned, they are not rehabilitated; instead they are exposed to more violence, sexual & otherwise — at least 60% of it committed by the guards. Sexual violence is unacceptable inside of prison And out. #MeToo MUST include the ~200,000 sexually assaulted in US prisons every year.
    • No part of this process is justice.

The carceral system especially fails survivors of color and trans* / non-binary / intersex / gender-nonconforming survivors.

  • Many states have mandatory arrest laws for IPV cases - these laws often lead to the survivor themself getting arrested. Far too many people have become abolitionists from sitting in a jail cell after they needed protection from their abuser and did not find it forthcoming from the state.

    • “According to the ACLU, nearly 60% of people in womxn’s prison nationwide, and as many as 94% of some womxn’s prison populations, have a history of physical or sexual abuse before being incarcerated.”*
    • “Survivors are criminalized for being Black, undocumented, poor, transgender, queer, disabled, women or girls of color, in the sex industry, or for having a past ‘criminal record.’ Their experience of violence is diminished, distorted, or disappeared, and they are instead simply seen as criminals who should be punished. They face hostility from police, prosecutors and judges, and they are often denied the support “good victims” receive from anti-violence advocates.”*
    • * quotes from the Survived and Punished website.

FAR too many survivors of violence have had the carceral system weaponized against them for defending themselves against their abusers.

  • “Marissa Alexander defended her life from her abusive husband by firing one warning shot that caused no physical harm. She was targeted by a racist smear campaign by Florida State Attorney Angela Corey designed to frame her as an ‘angry black woman,’ but never as a victim of domestic violence. She was prosecuted and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.”*

    • “Nan-Hui Jo fled her abusive American citizen partner with her child to seek safety for her and her young daughter. She was then arrested for child abduction, and the district attorney who prosecuted her tried to portray her as a manipulative illegal immigrant seeking to cheat U.S. systems, calling her a ‘tiger mom’ who was too competent to be a victim.”*
    • These experiences are sadly not unique; womxn of color have long been regarded by white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy as having #NoSelvesToDefend. There will never be true justice for survivors until we “abolish these anti-survivor systems and create new approaches that prioritize accountable, community-based responses to domestic and sexual violence.”*
    • * quotes from the Survived and Punished website.

Justice MUST be survivor-centered. Or it’s bullshit.

  • The safety, comfort, and healing of the survivor must always be the FOREMOST consideration in any true justice process. This is another reason the current system is not justice.

    • The current system asks “What law was broken, and what punishment is warranted.”
    • Real justice asks “Who was harmed, and how can that harm be addressed?”
    • People invested in patriarchy & the status quo often wrongly twist considerations of justice into being primarily about the perpetrator and bleat about how it’s wrong to “cancel” them.
    • BULLSHIT. Protecting people from abusers is NECESSARY. Nobody has a right to keep a platform, a leadership position, a cushy job, or be free from consequences with no remorse or meaningful restitution..
    • Abolitionists are NOT saying abuse should have no consequences. By all means, let’s get all the abusers fired & stop exposing people to their harm. Abolitionists are saying that the carceral system is not justice, and that we need community-led structures of accountability THAT CENTER THE SURVIVOR if we want actual justice in matters of gendered violence.

And we must Always, Always, ALWAYS be working for a world free from the broader systems that enable gendered violence in the first place.

  • As long as we live in a cisheteropatriarchal society that upholds a harmful & false gender binary in which men are “endowed with the right to dominate and rule… and maintain that dominance through… psychological terrorism & violence,”* we will not be free from gendered violence. So we need to attack that violence at its root cause.

    • We as a society must reject the colonial gender binary. We must ensure that the full self-determination of womxn and trans*, nonbinary, intersex, & gender-nonconforming people is not merely accepted, but respected. We must ensure young men are taught healthy behaviours, consent, and boundaries from an early age.
    • We must tie our dream for the future into a comprehensive one of a society free from every form of power-based oppression.
    • And we must abolish policing & imprisonment.