WHat People are saying
“My journey to healing is ongoing. It’s included friends and family, therapists and counselors, living in homeless shelters and single-room occupancies, writing articles and speaking out publicly. But one thing I’ve never done is engage my ex-partners. I don’t want to open doors that have been intentionally closed. Do I think there is value in hearing directly from a man who has a history of violence? Yes. We can weigh his intent, interrogate his claims of “doing the work”, and call for accountability. But my concern is always that we’re careful not to harm the most vulnerable people – the ones who are our mission and focus.
I have a lot of emotions about Ray Rice being at the conference and I’m choosing to honor all of them. When I was first told that he was going to be there, my initial response was “oh” mixed with a little bit of “what the hell?” Then I thought to myself, I want to know some things. I want to know why he feels whatever work he’s done gives him a public voice now. I want him to explain to the advocates in the room exactly how he's changed and why that change is credible, knowing what we know about recidivism. I want to know about the work he is doing with other men in areas of anger and masculinity and how that has influenced his own heart.
People, particularly black women, Native American women, and trans women, are dying. Those of us who survive are living with deep, lasting scars; the kind you can’t see. From activists to policy analysts to journalists dedicated to the cause, we’re all working every day to stop it. And the work is hard; it’s confusing and exhausting. A lot of times it feels like we’re screaming into the void – that unless DV is a popular news item that day, the general public doesn’t think about the issue. But we still do the work. And if that work now includes cautiously bringing male perpetrators into the conversation with the help of trained professionals, and if we can use that information to protect more people, tear down the structures that continue to allow violent partners to get away with it, and improve our response to domestic violence, then I’m willing to try. But I’m only willing to try if the things we do center domestic violence victims and survivors. Survivor-led, survivor-focused, survivor controlled.”
“We can no longer address domestic violence in the same binary way we have for the last 20-30 years. It simply does not represent the multiple dimensions and realities of families. It is by taking the step to speak with those who cause harm that we move closer towards transformative justice for all our communities. If not us, who will take this on?”
Program Director, Mountain Crisis Services
“I believe that the only way we can stop the cycle of violence is by assisting the whole family when it is safe to do so. By assisting only the survivor, we are missing a key person- the one that has done the harm; the one that needs education and support. In many cases, the person that has done harm has been harmed themselves. Our organization tries to do this through our Batterer's Intervention program.
Several years ago we assisted a DV survivor that wanted to keep her family together; she wanted to get help for her husband . She stayed in our transitional housing Program while he was receiving substance use and Mental Health counseling. He was also active in our Batterer's Program and other services in the community. They are now living together and have their child back from CWS.
I feel like supporting the whole family can work if the community is on board. The key point here is if the family wants the help and is willing to change then it could happen and there is hope.”
Scott Howell, LMFT
Perspectives Program Manager, Empower Tehama
“Tony Porter speaks to the heart of the problem men face when trying to navigate life from a false set of beliefs. His message is part of the solution to ending DV. I believe that the greatest healing factor to a family system is to address the false beliefs of the one driving the dysfunction.”
Executive Director, Haven Women's Center of Stanislaus
“We work with survivors to heal the effects of abuse. We work with systems to change the societal attitudes that cause abuse to happen to begin with. But for people who choose to use violence? As a society, we throw them away or ignore what they did. We don’t know how to respond other than with one of those two extremes. Healing is not found in extremes. We have to find another way. We have to find a way that centers the experience of the survivor in safety and empowerment while providing a path for the person who abused that includes accountability and redemption should they choose to walk it.”
Kendall Evans, MA, LMFT
Program Director, Another Way: Stopping Violence and Abuse
Staff Therapist and Supervisor, Open Paths
“You cannot end hate with hate. You have to use compassion. Compassion for a person and their history does not mean making excuses for their behavior. To truly end Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, we have to understand fully why people abuse and harm people they say they love. Dominance, manipulation, control and violence in a relationship are ways people can have ‘connection’ without being vulnerable.
To end Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse, we must help people who have caused or would cause harm, learn healthy and safe connection that includes being vulnerable. For Ray Rice, and other men like him, to learn and then pass on safe and healthy relationship behavior to others means that he is “Breaking the Cycle” both with those he teaches, his current relationship and, importantly, with his own children.”
Executive Director, Empower Yolo
“I applaud CPEDV for making this unconventional choice of speaker and format for the next Shifting the Lens conference. We live in a time when survivors are speaking out like never before, and they are demanding accountability. As a movement we haven’t been able to define what that means, often because the survivors who call our crisis lines and show up at our offices, have different needs. Staying, leaving, and unsure of what to do next, they depend on us for guidance and frankly, sometimes our response has been lacking, especially when the survivor chooses to stay with the person who caused them harm.
We currently have a standard criminal response, which is not meted out fairly, especially in communities of color, but it does assume potential for change. In that light, a survivor-centered response would be to work with those who cause harm if they are willing to hold themselves accountable. In order to do that effectively, we need to hear what they have to say and incorporate what they have to tell us in the work that we do, especially in our prevention work.
25 years ago I would have refused to attend this conference or I would have walked out in protest, but now I am choosing to go. After hearing Ray Rice speak, I doubt that I am likely to give him a standing ovation or even clap, but I will listen.”
Program Manager, Community Action Partnership of Madera County
“Everyone in the movement to end domestic violence agrees on the common goal of prevention. What we disagree on is how to stop this vicious cycle. The generations before me broke the silence and established resources for survivors to escape. The criminal justice system adopted laws and court mandated services to hold batterers accountable. My generation is demanding equity by calling out the injustices inflicted upon survivors of color, immigrants, and incarcerated women.
We will not give the power of justice to a system that normalizes violence against women of color by excluding us from Megan’s Law, Marsy’s Law, and Jessica's Law. Following the death of Nicole Brown, we watched the government approach the field with funds to support organizations that operate domestic violence programs. At that same time we watched immigrant survivors beg for their U-Visas to get approved. I will not standby and disregard the lack of urgency demonstrated by this system towards survivors of color.
Black women that are killed by their partners are given background checks before their loved ones are notified of their death. There is an automatic effort to identify them as criminals, sending the perception the public that somehow they were responsible for their own death. The media will spend more time reporting what type of problems they had rather than reporting what type of harm they experienced.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is releasing incarcerated men from prison at a record breaking rate. Meanwhile, women are being sent to prison at a record breaking rate. Women that defend themselves from domestic violence attacks are more likely to be immediately arrested, in comparison to men that attack women.
Nothing we've done to date has been proven to prevent domestic violence. We are at a place in the movement that is requiring us to expand our vision of accountability and rather than excluding harm doers from the healing process, we are open to alternatives to justice that includes people that commit harm in the healing process. We are going beyond this platform of survivors versus batterers with punishment. This means that rather than shifting power from batterers to a system for justice, we are placing power in solutions by engaging both sides.
The purpose of being open to including harm doers as part of the solution is to reach our goal of prevention. We will not break the cycle by alienating harm doers! Depending on one method for justice worked for some survivors but excluded others, especially those from marginalized populations. Some find the power of watching a rehabilitated harm doer tell their story to a group of people at an awareness event more impactful than a news episode of a harm doer being sentenced to serve time. Some survivors want justice by confronting the harm doer about the harm caused. Survivors should not be powerless in determining which method of justice will work for them.
Survivors that seek to participate in healing dialogues with the harm doers get the opportunity to restore what was broken by sharing how they were hurt. Harm doers observe who they harmed, and to what degree. This process puts a human tone to the event because it centers the survivor, not the state. The survivor can immediately see the reaction of the harm doer and an opportunity to acknowledge the pain becomes present. This is the beginning of healing which sets the foundation for positive change.
In the criminal justice system, survivors do not determine if a crime was committed, the state does. And if a crime was committed , its against the state not the survivor. Survivors will get used to help build the case to determine guilt but survivors do not determine the conviction . Many survivors report feeling revictimized by the criminal justice system. In the event that many crimes occurred, only those with a substantial amount of evidence will be upheld. There could also be a substantial amount of evidence but if the harm doer is offered a plea deal, they could only be held accountable for one of the crimes committed.
This process complicates an already complicated situation. Survivors lose credibility when this happens because the event is downplayed. When the survivor is kidnapped, beaten, and raped but the harm doer is only convicted of a lesser charge such as battery, the public assumed the survivor didn’t suffer a greatly. The harm doer doesn't see the full impact of the harm committed and the opportunity to address the entire event is never presented.
Alternatives such as restorative justice present the full impact of the harm, and allow the survivor to share how the harm doer can help them heal. I’ve picked up checks that harm doers voluntarily offer to survivors to help them with housing and uninsured counseling sessions. I’ve seen the power of a public apology! When a harm doer offers a public apology, it eliminates the hardships survivors encounter by people questioning their honesty. Especially those in denial about a harm doers actions. It becomes impossible for people to question a survivor when the harm doer takes accountability in a public manner.
This also allows for the harm doer to take full responsibility of their actions. These actions are not court ordered, they are voluntary. This requires a sense of individual maturity and promotes personal growth. The main difference about the criminal justice system and victim/offender restorative processes is the intention. The criminal justice system seeks to convict and restorative justice seeks to heal. Survivors are at a place today where they want a voice in deciding what is best for them. Survivors are becoming more empowered in voicing how they want to seek justice and we have respect their autonomy.”
Executive Director, RISE San Luis Obispo
“For years, RISE has sought opportunities to engage diverse stakeholders in the movement to end violence and heal communities. While survivors’ voices drive our victim services, we have yet to center the voices of those who have done harm in our prevention work. If we truly wish to end gender based violence, it is imperative we understand the factors that lead people to harm, as well as those that lead people to change. What better way to do so, than to bring them to the table?”