THOUGHTS ABOUT COMMUNITY SUPPORT AROUND. INTIMATE VIOLENCE

Author: люди. Link to original: http://www.anarcha.org/sallydarity/IntViolzine.pdf (English).

Translations of this material:

into Udmurt: Перевод "THOUGHTS ABOUT COMMUNITY SUPPORT AROUND. INTIMATE VIOLENCE". Translation is not started yet.
Submitted for translation by Ksunechka_88 29.03.2011
into Russian: Размышления о поддержке внутри сообщества. Насилие в личных отношениях. 69% translated in draft. Almost done, let's finish it!
Submitted for translation by only 12.11.2010

Text

THOUGHTS ABOUT COMMUNITY SUPPORT AROUND. INTIMATE VIOLENCE

This zine was inspired by a group process. It is in no way is a substitute for the process that we went through and we firmly believe that everyone should be starting small groups of their own, discussing this topic and generating your own zines. We would love to read them.

The process we went through: as a group with five people of varying genders we took on the following topics, one per week, in meetings of about two hours.

1. definitions: what is abuse? what is domestic violence?

2. definitions: is there such a thing as consensual violence?

3. how do sexism and homophobia relate to intimate violence in both het and queer relationships?

4. how does US dominant culture affect domestic violence (in the US)? what roles do the histories of racism and immigration play?

5. what are the issues involved in a community response to intimate violence? what is accountability?

6. what does good support for all parties involved in intimate violence look like?

We weren’t trying to come up with definitive answers to anything, just to explore the ideas and learn from our various histories with the topic. Some of us had history in non-profit social work and all of us had dealt with conflicts in our political communities (we are the type of people who get called when someone has a problem). Most of us had experienced intimate violence in our personal lives, both as kids and as adults. None of us had ever been publicly accused of abusing someone, but we all had friends who had been accused of this.

A couple of us had been in other groups around this issue that had fallen apart, at least partly because the topic is so damn intense. So we made the questions theoretical because we thought it was important that nobody got personal before they felt ready. By the end of the group everyone had discussed personal experiences and felt safe doing it. We agreed that giving ourselves enough time to really consider what we thought, and trusting each other to work through controversial questions, was an essential part of getting somewhere different in these conversations. We also thought it was important that we did this with people we knew and trusted. Many of us had been part of large conversations and presentations in which people didn’t know each other well or at all, and these conversations never seemed to go very far. People could neither learn nor share as deeply as needed, since there were few (if any) deep personal connections or commitments. So we wanted to keep our group small. If other people wanted to talk about the issue we encouraged them to have their own small, trusted groups.

The process of this group has been inspiring in a way that a lifetime of political work has seldom been. Doing work that is concrete and theoretical and emotional rocks my world. And at the risk of sounding sappy, this group is amazing - smart and dedicated and brave. Reading this zine can not reproduce this group process. The value of this work is the community connections created through talking with yer buddies.

You can e-mail zines or constructive criticism to [email protected]

INTRODUCTION

What is this?

- This zine has suggestions for how to do good support for people who have recently experienced intimate violence, both the survivor and the abuser. We define intimate violence as any kind of ongoing abuse or violence that happens between people who are tight with each other: lovers, friends, housemates, band or commune members, affinity groups, superhero crew, people raising a kid together etc. It includes physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, or psychological violence or any other kind of abuse (there’s a list of some common fucked up behaviors on page 34).

- Included are ideas for how to do both physical and emotional support, as well as support to help folks start to understand what they’ve experienced and take responsibility for their actions. We’re calling this third process transformative support for short. The way the support process is laid out might make it all look pretty simple, but don’t be fooled, it’s not. To give an idea of how complicated things can get, we’ve also included some stories from our lives.

Why is this important?

- It might seem weird to write a zine for supporting both the victim and the abuser. So here’s why: we believe in revolution and community and people’s capacity for change. We believe in helping each other figure shit out, that we all fuck up sometimes and we all have the capacity to fuck up majorly, especially having been raised in this sick and twisted environment they call civilization. That the only way stuff is really going to get any different is to call each other on shit and then learn how to do it better the next time around.

- Right now the two most common responses to fucked up behavior are ignoring/denying it, or getting rid of one of the people. We refuse to ignore it! Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women: more than muggings, stranger rape, and car accidents combined. In every community, including ours. It’s time to give back our “it’s none of my business” and “there’s nothing I can do about it” blinders. Smashing oppression and building a healthy com¬munity takes all of us.

- On the other hand, if kicking people out of a scene is the only way to deal with violence, it creates a dynamic of demonization that doesn’t help the abuser admit to having been a jerk. It also makes people who like them (maybe even the abused party, since they started out tight) less likely to want to talk about the incident(s) in the first place. People who fuck up are often great and wonderful some of the time, and might be doing important work in the community. If we bought everyone who ever fucked up a one way bus ticket to Nebraska, the scene would get real small real fast. And it wouldn’t be very fun for the folks in Omaha.

- That said, the process is only going to work for folks if they both: a) actually want support and b) are interested in changing themselves and/or their situation. There are lots of creative ways of encouraging people to be more interested in change, ranging from baking them yummy food to threatening them with boots. If they’re really and truly not into it, it’s (and perhaps they’re) not worth your effort. In which case all you need to do for them is stop them from hurting the other person by any means necessary. But don’t give up trying to convince them without a good prolonged struggle (including some time outs for everyone involved), because when you can get them interested in change, hot-dam, it’s a revolutionary process (more suggestions on how to sway a reluctant jerk on page 30).

- Plus, creating a model for community support allows for earlier intervention. Helping folks talk through shit when they’re still in the yelling stage just might keep them from getting physical. A lot of violence is about isolation. The fact that this culture’s got its head stuck deep in the sand is part of what allows people to beat each other half to death. We did some reading about domestic violence in cultures around the world, and it really does exist everywhere. But in some places people are not so isolated from one another; there, if your friends and neighbors hear you fighting, they come over to see what’s up. Or the women in the neighborhood come over and stand around your house holding sticks and make the guy take off for a while. And in those places injuries from intimate violence were not severe and death was almost unheard of.

- Unfortunately this society doesn’t come stocked with too many good alternatives for dealing with Intimate Violence. Cops suck. The criminal injustice apparatus, which systematically targets and brutalizes communities of color, radical and queer communities and immigrants, is not the first place many of us think to call when we are under attack. Courts are notorious for letting male abusers off the hook, and simultaneously slamming female survivors for fighting back. Besides, jail never helped anyone (more about the police on page 36). There are some services like shelters and group counseling out there, which can be good as far as they go. But social services tend to be pretty limited in their options and outlooks. Our friends who work at social band-aid institutions are at best overworked and constrained by the legal system. At worst social workers could give a shit, or would think doing community support was wrong and try to sabotage it. So be careful. If you’re thinking about referring someone to an agency, do a little research. Try to find out what the organization’s reputation is, and what it’s actually going to be able to do for someone first.

A few words about words

- In intimate violence, or any conflict, it’s not always super easy to tell who’s the bad guy. Sometimes, as in your classic “wife-beater” scenario, where a man punches and screams at a woman, who is unable to leave him because of money/kids etc., there is clearly one person who is doing 99 or 100% of the fucking up. But it’s not always that clear cut. It could be that one person says mean shit and the other one throws ashtrays (although in general people are good at playing out the roles society has created for them). In any case, English is pretty limited in its terminology, and most of the words that do exist around this stuff have connotations that we’re not thrilled with. For example, the word “abuser” tends to demonize, “victim” is disempowering, “survivor” assigns value for suffering, and “accused” questions the validity of the problem. And since we’re not smart enough to come up with our own words, we’ve decided to use symbols instead: A for the survivor/accuser/person who was harmed, and « for the abuser/accused/one who’s fucking up the most.

- Also, we’re gonna use gender neutral language. « is male in somewhere around 90% of domestic violence cases (ongoing abuse between partners/lovers). But we also know that domestic violence occurs in 1/4 of all relationships, het, homo or otherwise. Not only is it important for queer folks to be able talk about the violence in their/our relationships, but its important for us to acknowledge that women can also be jerks. We are all capable of a full range of human expression, even the shitty kinds. Patriarchy is a raging menace, and definitely contributes to the existence of violent behavior, but it’s not the only cause of abuse.

- We like to *#$≠%@&! We wrote this the way we talk, using language that’s accessible to our community, because this issue is a problem in our community. We’re not out to save the rest of the world, at least not before 4:00 this afternoon. But we welcome anyone who wants to translate the zine into other dialects so it can be useful in different communities.

When, how and for whom is this useful?

- This zine is targeted at folks who are looking to give support to their friends. But it would also be useful for someone who is interested in getting supported, in order to get ideas for what they might be able to ask for. Especially of they’re isolated. In a lot of abusive situations both parties can lose contact with their friends, or perhaps they’re new in town and that’s part of what made them vulnerable to the abusive situation in the first place. To A and * : If you’re having a hard time and don’t have many folks who you’re close to, don’t be shy - call, email or drop in on an old friend or acquaintance and ask for help. Try to be as clear as you can about what you want from them. Most humans (and many other animals) are pretty into doing good deeds as long as they have a good idea what they’re getting into.

- Not all communities have tons of people standing around just waiting for the opportunity to do support. Probably this zine will work best in larger, or more established communities. That doesn’t mean you can’t take it and adapt it for your situation. If your community has limited support to offer, you might also decide to look for support elsewhere, like domestic violence agencies, the courts, cops etc. (See page 36 for more on calling the cops).

- The support process is going to work best if you look at this stuff and talk about it with your buddies way before a crisis looms in on the horizon. Study groups are great (we love ours) or you can just chew on it for a while with a good friend. Crises are mega-fucking-hard to deal with even when everyone’s prepared and on their best behavior. And getting folks in the community talking about this subject is half the battle. So what are you waiting for?

- But…of course we don’t (yet) live in a utopia, so if the shit has already hit the fan and you’re reading this on the way to help out Jean Doe, go for it. Under one condition: don’t even think about doing it all yourself!

Support (like revolution) is a cooperative team sport. WARNING! DANGER! If you try to be someone’s sole support person you will get discouraged and burned out to a crisp. You are not a superhero even if you have the cool outfit. (See page 26 for tips on how to take care of yourself as a support person and as a member of a support team.)(See page 13 for cool outfits.)

- Sometimes A will come asking for support, but not always. If you see bruises on someone, or a friend confides in you about something their lover did that was way uncool, think about how you’re going to talk to them and what you want to do before you do it.

a. They may not recognize the uncool act as abusive.

If you want to talk to them about it, be clear that you think that kind of behavior is not acceptable without passing judgment on them or *. Using labels like “jerk,” “asshole” or “loser,” to refer to *, or words like “domestic violence” or “battered women,” might alienate A or make them feel defensive. There’s a good chance that A cares a lot about * despite what you have perceived as abuse. Do be concrete as far as the behaviors that you’re concerned about. Just saying “that sucks” or “that’s fucked up” may make it seem like you think what * did isn’t great, but is within the limits of normal behavior.

b. They might not want to deal with it. You can always try to persuade them, but ultimately, it’s their decision (* does not get this option). If you coerce A into accepting support they don’t really want, you are not actually helping them figure our their shit, but are instead turning into one more person who orders them around. Especially don’t insist that someone leave a violent relationship if they’re not ready. They might have good reasons for not wanting to. Leaving is often the most dangerous moment in an abusive relationship. (79% of physical violence between married couples happens after ▲ leaves. See page 32 for safety precautions when leaving.) –––

c. You might not want to deal with it. You are not required (or able) to support everyone in the galaxy with a problem. If they want help you can always refer them to someone else you trust or to an agency or a hotline.

d. They might

want to deal, but not want to talk about what went down.

Common sense tells us that talking things through makes them better, and that’s probably eventually true in most cases. But folks who study Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD - a chronic psychological condition that comes from trauma, including intimate violence) say that if someone’s just been through some really crazy shit, it’s not the best thing to make them describe it all right away. The most important thing is to do whatever they need to calm them down, soothe them and make them feel safe as soon as possible. Then they talk when they’re ready, and maybe they won’t be ready for a while - it could even take a month. In the meantime you can do not-talking-it-out kinds of support for them.

e. Think about what you’re willing to do before you offer. A’s are dealing with a lot of shit and can be overwhelmed and confused and need a lot of different things. You get to decide how much you can handle. It’s better to start slow than to suddenly back out on someone because you got swamped.

f. Look at the power dynamics. Gender difference is obviously not the only factor that causes power imbalances in a relationship. Race, culture and class (etc. etc.) are also factors that affect not only power but also safety, communication styles and access to services. We decided to refer to power dynamics in general terms throughout the zine, but we encourage you to keep concrete examples in mind as you read along.

Can this be used for situations where • and A didn’t ever have a close relationship?

What we’ve written is designed for crises involving people who are/were intimately involved in each other’s lives, so a lot of what’s in here wouldn’t apply to a situation where folks don’t know each other so well. The

fact of having a connection can create a mixed bag of emotions - guilt, anger, love, longing, frustration, tenderness, confusion, or just all around crazy. It can make people put up with funk they wouldn’t necessarily take from someone they didn’t know so well. They (* or ▲) may not recognize the bullshit or might excuse the behavior in a way that people involved in a stranger or acquaintance assault probably would not. It’s very likely an ongoing dynamic, although the people directly involved in it might point to a single incident. One of the jobs in supporting people around intimate violence (transformative support) is to get both ▲ and * to look at that dynamic and what part each person played in it, and take responsibility for their own piece, in order not to have to suffer the same hell again later. If ▲ didn’t really know *, then a lot of that stuff doesn’t apply. But keeping that in mind, the suggestions for coordinator, physical and emotional supp ld bably still be useful.

We divided support into four main categories - physical, emotional, “transformative” and coordinating. That doesn’t mean you need one person for each kind of support; stuff can and will overlap. And for some categories you may need several people (remember not to take it all on yourself!). * and A should have different support teams, and their support will look a little different, but all four roles apply to each one (as long as they’re willing to deal with their doo-doo on some level).

Coordinator

Depending on the situation, there could be a lot to do, and it makes sense to have one person who’s making sure everyone is communicating with each other, and that the supportee’s needs are getting met. For the people who are doing support up close and personal, it can be easy to lose track of the bigger picture, so it makes sense for a coordinator to keep tabs on the original support plan, and whether it’s being followed. They can try and find relief support if/when others start to burn out, help facilitate meetings or look for facilitators, and provide contacts to counseling services or other outside resources. The coordinator could also arrange meetings within or between ▲ and *’s support teams to generate ideas and help each other out, or to help prevent a civil war from starting.

Physical

Includes: For either A or •fr

• a place to stay/housing

• food

• money

• childcare

• medical attention

• accompaniment

- to and from work, home, or other places they go a lot

- at home, meetings, shows etc.

For A

• people on call in case of emergency

• someone to talk to neighbors/community members/housemates to let them know that

• is unsafe and/or 86’d for the time being.

Most of the time in domestic violence when we think about

▲ leaving an abusive situation, we imagine them moving out of the house, staying with a friend, maybe even moving to a different city. Basically becoming homeless or going into hiding and screwing up their whole life in order to feel safe. Sometimes that’s necessary, but safety could also be achieved by getting * another place to stay, a “bodyguard” etc. Accompaniment is a lot of work, and isn’t always necessary, but it might be important for ▲ to feel safe/supported etc. If ▲ is asking for escort service (for either themselves or *), it’s a good idea to do it, at least for a while, even if it doesn’t seem like that big a deal to anyone else. A knows the most about their own situation, and if they’re afraid for their life/safety, they probably have more than good reason to be (42 percent of all women who are murdered are killed by an intimate partner).

▲ might also just not want * in their face. Depending on how public a space *’s getting banished from, this can be one of the hardest things to negotiate, (especially if A isn’t comfortable talking about what happened yet) because it means everybody and their mother gets involved, and starts throwing their two cents all over the room. But exiling * from a house/organization/infoshop/practice space doesn’t have to last forever. Usually A and * can go back to standing to be around each other after everything calms down (though it could take a while). Proposing that the expulsion last for a month or two, and then be reviewed, could prevent the decision from feeling like a life or death situation that requires everyone to start screaming and getting defensive.

Emotional

Includes: • listening to them vent

• assuring them you’re there to help them out

• talking them through their support/safety plan

• encouraging them to ask for what they want

• helping them express their emotions safely

Emotional support is a role best filled by (a) good friend(s), or at least someone who gets along with the supportee, in case they’re isolated and don’t have a lot of best buddies around. The emotional support person (ESP) can also challenge the supportee to look at their shit, but the ESP’s main job is to help * or A feel safe enough to do what they need to do and continue working stuff out in therapy, mediation, transformative support, how-not-to-be-a-violent-asshole classes etc. It can be tricky, but you want to try and be nice to them, without excusing their unhealthy behavior, or vilifying the other party.

When you’re the ESP for ▲ it’s good to remember how complex their emotional soup could be at the moment. Most likely there were good parts that kept them in the relationship with the other person, and they probably miss them, even if all they’re telling you is what a jerkoff that person has been for the last 6 months. They might be confused and just want to hibernate and not deal with anything. Part of your job is to lay out a bunch of options and help them talk out what their needs are, because they might not be able to articulate them very well. But it’s important that, if they want support, they be the ones who decide what that support is going to look like. Don’t make decisions for or push shit on them. Their empowerment process includes taking responsibility for their own life.

As an ESP you can help folks unlock their box of feelings without being crushed by what falls out. You can hang out with them while they’re doing emotional push-ups, assure them that they’re supposed to be feeling crazy right now, and try to help them figure out which emotion is trying to sneak out at any given moment. Its not always that obvious - women tend to mask anger with sadness or depression, and men cover both fear and sadness with anger, so if they’re down for it, you can explore a range of different activities and see what happens.

FEAR • don’t be alone

• hold a stuffed or living animal

• turn on the night light/sleep with a friend

• review support plan

• ask them what else they need/want to feel safe

• have the support team meet with them, just to tell them “we’re here for you”

• take a self defense class/martial arts

• write about it

SADNESS • crying is good

• acknowledge that they’ve experienced loss -even losing a really fucked up relationship counts as loss

• if y’all are into rituals you could have one where they say goodbye to the other person/that dynamic, or write a letter they’re not gonna send, etc.

• draw pictures, paint, write poetry

ANGER • hit pillows or punching bag

• go running, jump in a mosh pit, or do some other heavy physical activity (without hurting self or others)

• break glass bottles somewhere where the baby raccoons won’t step on them

• scream/sing along with your favorite cookie monster band

DEPRESSION

• wake them up and make them go for a walk with you

• go out dumpster diving/to the woods/to a party/to eat

• let them sit, but not forever

• jump up and break something

• read poetry together

When you’re the ESP it’s important to be aware that this is a vulnerable time for the person you’re supporting. Physical contact can be especially complicated. Even things like hugging, back rubs, holding hands or snuggling, that might seem harmless, can trigger bad memories. They might want to be comforted and at the same time feel freaked out by being touched. So ask before you touch.

And in the process of doing a lot of emotional work, y’all might be tempted to get involved in ways that you won’t feel so comfortable with later (or sooner), in which case its pretty much impossible to keep doing support. So be careful and think before you act (see page 27 for more on rebounding).

Pages: ← previous Ctrl next
1 2 3 4