Instead of speaking on behalf of survivors, please work to enable them to speak for themselves. I am a survivor of child abuse and nothing you say here speaks to my experience. Reading this interview was yet another experience of erasure. If you allow survivors to speak for ourselves, I promise you, we will say many different things because we face different situations that require different solutions. Some people will want counselling. Some people will want the criminal justice system. They will not use the word “carcerality” and will not have an unified theory of the evil state.

That you thought of abusers as bad throwaway people tells me so much about how little you listened to abused women and children. If you had listened to them, you would know that we thought of them as flawed people, with whom we deeply identify with, and whom we love deeply. Yet we do not know how to get them to stop hurting us. Sometimes things get so bad that we do want them to go to jail, to be punished. We do not speak with a unified voice and you do not speak for us.

I have come to expect high-minded callous insensitivity from the likes of Martha Nussbaum (see her article on “Transitional Anger”), but to be honest I did not expect to have the same reaction to one of the founders of the first women’s shelters. This shaming of people’s impulse to punish is so very upperclass, on a continuum of upperclass expectations of behavior to not feel or show anger and aggression. Anger and aggression is a natural part of the self defense response. It is already muted in abused women and children, in those who are vulnerable. Please do not dampen it further. What are you asking of us? That we forgive and forgive and when they kill us, you will forgive on our behalf?

Please do not say ever again in the presence of a survivor that nobody had taken any time to love and care for violent men and show them a different way of being. Do you not know that how much abused women and children love the violent men who are their husbands and fathers? Yet the immense love that abused women and children pour out does nothing to stop them from beating us, maiming us, or even killing us. Or is it that what they really needed was just the love of a social worker? The love of society? The love of ancestors or perhaps Jesus Christ?

Yes, abusive men often show deep remorse after committing violence. But what often occurs after a few days or weeks is more violence. This is a cycle abused women and children know very well. That they can say it is wrong and feel that it is wrong does not mean they will be able to stop themselves next time. In relating to these abusive men from a position of safety where you are a helper or one who bestows and are never at their mercy, you have no experience of the threat and danger they pose and no real understanding of violence.

It is disingenous to suggest that the criminalization of domestic violence has led us to mass incarceration and for profit prisons. You leave out the primary motivation in seeking criminalization, which was to keep women and children safe. You elide the fact that in many circumstances, the wishes and desires of the community is in direct conflict with the interest of vulnerable women and children. Many communities do not care to stop domestic violence, child abuse or sexual assault. You underestimate what was acheived by criminalizing domestic violence. The criminalization of domestic violence was how many communities were even able to begin conceptualizing it as a wrong.

While you congratulate yourself on being able to see the humanity in violent men, I should remind you that every survivor knows the humanity of their abuser by necessity. We are always making desperate appeals to it, walking on eggshells trying to avoid setting off the cycle of violence into motion again. The terrible truth that you fail to recognize is that it is not the absence of humanity that explains terrible acts of violence. Every survivor knows, what I certainly know, is that it is humanity that is capable of cruelty.

To all the “white feminists” who placed the safety and wellbeing of women and children over the needs and wishes of the community, I express my heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for seeing us and saving our lives.

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