Transformative Justice


I am still moved by our last call. It got real. Men talked about being perpetrators. About the harm we have caused. I am grateful for the courage to speak truths that render us so vulnerable. And I am grateful for our group’s capacity to receive. And to hold each other in confidence.*

In Pleasure as Praxis, Corinne Manning interviews adrienne maree brown for BitchMedia. I was struck by the clarity and wisdom of this exchange on transformative justice:

[Manning] You specify that we need to attempt transformative justice in order to someday achieve it. In many cases we attempt to enact this in community where there has been sexual assault or intimate-partner violence. The level of connection that we both tap into and share while building accountable communities is terrifying. How do you attend to that shaky moment of “before,” of both choosing community and individual connection?

[brown] It’s scary because we’re often trying transformative justice processes for the first time when there’s been a big harm. It helps so much to notice small ways you can shift. When a friend hurts your feelings, can you get curious? When you read news about someone causing harm, can you wish they’d get support/healing for what’s broken in them, rather than hoping they get jail time—which, in most cases, will further break them? Do you have an abolitionist vision to work toward? We are responsible for imagining beyond our oppressors rather than continuously turning on each other for being oppressed.

How can we engage in the practice of transformative justice before there is big harm? What can we do to take responsibility for harm done and to help other men do the same? This is much easier said than done. It is hard to be authentic about it. The dictates of “wokeness” can leave us with a set of steps that can be performed. Without anyone being actually transformed.

In “Relinquishing the Patriarchy” adrienne reminds us that

domestic violence isn’t always a bruised eye – there are so many ways to terrorize an intimate...

i have witnessed men (who i thought “knew better”) in states of road rage, alcohol-induced rage, property destruction, gaslighting/manipulation intended to make their female partners feel crazy, and physical intimidation. if this is what they do in front of a witness – i know it’s worse when they have no concern of being seen.

i have seen men endangering their children in these moments. i have heard stories of men grabbing, hitting, pushing against a wall, and giving silent treatment for days to their woman partners and their children.

We can find the parallels with sexual coercion. All the ways in which the sexual space can get weird before it crosses into that is clearly not consensual.

Can we address these things? Can we turn towards them together? Are there ways to collect ourselves and pay attention to what is broken in us? Where do we go for healing? How do we make amends? What does it mean to live a life of atonement?

Let’s keep talking. Learning. Changing. And moving.

*We are inviting a giant leap of trust. Confidentiality is at the very heart of this work together. It must be honored by all. Confidentiality can and will be broken if it is the only way to keep someone from hurting themselves or someone else.

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