Sunday, July 18, 2010

Statement from Cleveland Anarchist Black Cross on Domestic Violence

The Cleveland Anarchist Black Cross is dedicated to the abolition of the prison
system and to the struggle for justice for all people and against oppression of all
forms. We support political prisoners, but also want to understand issues related to
prisons and other violent tools of control in our society. We aim to educate about
the flaws of the prison industrial complex whether it be the mass imprisonment of
blacks and latinos, and youth, or the paramilitary policing of these communities,
the drug war aka chemical warfare by the government done onto communities of color
in the US and abroad in Colombia, Nicaragua etc. As a group that takes a stand
against domination in our society, we join the calls for the end to the prison
system. The system of prisons in this country as we know them was created as a means
of controlling and criminalizing freed black men and women and co-opting their labor
for the service of wealthy whites. The very roots of prisons were to normalize poor
people and women as workers for industry. The movement to eliminate this system and
to address the real sources of violence in our society, supported by people ranging
from Christians to anarchists, is widespread and ever growing.

Why talk about domestic violence? To ignore a facet of the violence and oppression
in our society as pervasive and wide-reaching as men's violence against women and
men in the home would be impossible for us. None of us escape the effects of this
violence. Furthermore, understanding the mentality and drive behind male domination
of people they profess to love provides insight and understanding into the
domination of indigenous and other people of color by white people, into the
violence and devastation of other living creatures and ecosystems by humans, into
the obsession with control and the master race phenomenon in our society. So
domestic violence, while itself a horrific and critical pattern of atrocities, also
gives us a lens to look at other aspects of our society.

Upon examination, the prison system bears more than superficial resemblance to the
individual prisons men create through domestic violence. The abuser/abusive system
cannot rely on physical force alone to control their prisoners, so psychological
manipulation and violence is employed as well. The specific techniques of isolation,
monopolizing perception, inducing debility and exhaustion, threats, demonstrations
of power and "omnipotence," making trivial demands, and degrading prisoners
(described in Biderman's Chart of Coercion) are used extensively in prisons to break
down incarcerated people and enforce compliance. These abhorrent techniques, coupled
with the high incarceration rates of latino and black people, and the jailing of
people for political dissent, reveal another aspect of a system that is bent on
social control by any means.

Further, it's important to recognize how the prison system supports the violence of
abusers. As the film Defending Our Lives portrays, police trivializing of domestic
violence reports often enables abusers by sending a message that the victims are
alone and that the violence they're experiencing is unimportant. The extensive
penalization of self-defense, where women are convicted for killing their abusers,
sends a clear message that victims of domestic violence must not stand up for
themselves. Many victims, disempowered and psychologically traumatized from abusive
relationships, end up criminalized for drug crimes, sex work, or other non-violent
crimes, and their abuse is replicated by prisons. Instead of seeking to end cycles
and patterns of abuse, the prison system reinforces this violence.

Looking for solutions to violence from the police or the prison system, it is
essential to recognize the marginalization of the primary victims of this violence
politically, economically and socially, and to be aware of the way that people
experience this violence differently depending on whether they're male, female or
transgendered; white or of color; straight or gay; rich or poor. Likewise,
marginalization and other forms of oppression must be taken into account when
considering domestic violence. Approaches that ignore these differences of power
have consistently left out or even negatively impacted poor people, people of color,
people who deviate from gender norms, and so on.

As a group looking for solutions to state violence, we think it's essential to also
focus on the pervasive violence in our communities. We must understand and address
the underlying dynamics of sexism, racism, economic violence and classism,
homophobia, speciesism, and other forms of domination that create and perpetuate
this violence. These systems cannot be looked at in isolation, as they all influence
and support each other and must be considered as a whole. While reforms to any of
these systems may have some benefits, we must always keep in sight that these
systems are inherently violent.

CONTACT 216-223-8621

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