What if black communities committed to ending intimate partner violence?
What if we used everything we knew about the root causes of partner violence and put our full resources and expertise to work? What could we create to heal our communities? How much pain and trauma could we prevent? How many lives could we save?
Some people tell me it’s silly to think of such things. They say we are so far from that being a reality. We can’t even acknowledge male privilege, or affirm the value of black trans women’s lives. How in the world can we come together and use all our power to end intimate partner violence?
But I imagine anyway.
My imaginings don’t go to a utopia, though. They go instead, towards a future where IPV is rare. A future where our communities have developed our own responses to intimate partner violence that are not linked to the criminal legal system. A future where the causes of intimate partner violence are rooted out in everyday practice before they can take form. A world where misogynoir, transphobia or racialized homophobia doesn’t prohibit one from seeking care.
A world where healing and restoration are the focus, not vilification, or disposal. Below I have shared a few points on what I believe would need to be included in such a future. The list is not exhaustive, but I hope it does spark us to think, and to expand, what we think is possible.
In My Black (Feminist) Future:
Gendered socialization will be declared a public health emergency. National recognition of how forced gender socialization contributes to domestic violence and mental health will be the norm. Programs will be established at black schools focusing on cultivating “responsible young people” with a number of qualities that are gender non specific and do not stem from respectability politics. Administrative and legislative policies will be set in place that prohibit policing gender in public schools.
We will have Community Healing & Accountability boards in every city. They will be organized by neighborhood jurisdiction. When someone has committed harm these boards will execute alternative housing (in someone’s home as a first option, before a shelter), and lead all involved through a black feminist and womanist informed accountability and restoration program where those who have harmed will face their actions to the community at large, those harmed receive protection and all are supported in healing. These programs will be lead by members of the communities and be funded by these communities.
Emotional Health Education will be standard in all communities and schools.Programs will be created that cultivate emotional intelligence for children of all genders and sexualities including exercises, games, meditation and yoga.
Services that address Black Women’s healing and accountability, including shelters, will be inclusive and competent for Black Trans and Cis women.
Black Feminist Clinical Therapy, will be a widely practiced approach in black communities to address mental and emotional health. BFCT will include creating dynamic exercises, activities and clinical spaces that dismantle ideas and complexes that perpetuate transphobia, sexism, misogyny,ableism and racism. Dismantling these ideas will be seen as synonymous to achieving better mental health outcomes. Individuals trained in this approach will include clergy, licensed therapists, activists, organizers and all community folks interested.
The Violence of Black women, against children, men or anyone, will not be minimized.
Shelters, support and preventative services will exist for all genders and sexualities, including Trans-amorous black men, black trans men and GNC individuals.
We will not label people “abusers” or “victims.” We will discuss ‘those who have caused harm” and “those who have suffered harm”, releasing individuals from having to hold a life long title for a behavior or experience.
Rape services for those who are harmed will be competent for all genders and sexualities, and those harmed will receive a Support navigator to help them move through the process of healing.
Black men of all sexualities, will have intentional collective spaces to process their anger and the trauma they have experienced from their mothers and women in their lives in a manner that is not misogynistic. These groups will be led by individuals trained in a BFCT approach. That anger processed, along with members in the group holding each other accountable to their privilege, will decrease violence against black women, girls and gender non-conforming individuals;as the lack of these kind of spaces contributes to misognynoir.
Intimate Partner Violence between Black Lesbian and Queer Women will not be minimized because it’s just “two women.”
Services, buildings and spaces will be fully accessible.
IPV responses will consider the range of cognitive and physical differencesthose who have created harm and suffered from harm possess.
Black women will have support groups to help them process unhealthy gendered norms and expectations that inhibit their well being.
Colleges & Universities will not be permitted to privately handle sexual assault and rape cases.
Black Gay & Queer Male communities will be critically challenged on how gay male sex culture contributes to the minimization of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.
Children and witnesses to violence will have programs and spaces to processtheir experiences and heal and this will be considered necessary to prevent cycles of violence.
This is a future I think about everyday. It is a future I am constantly revising and revisiting.It is future that despite where we are now, I know is possible. And I know that I, nor anyone else, can make it a reality alone. I invite you to join me in this envisioning. What would a black future for our responses to intimate partner violence look like to you? There is so much more that could be said. I look forward to growing and hearing from you, as we collectively conjure this vision.
Illustration by Lenoi Jones