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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Statement from Cleveland Anarchist Black Cross on Domestic Violence (2010)

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 216-308-1612 clevelandabc@riseup.net

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