How to Protect Yourself and Your Community Against Violent Abusers
Survivors know all too well that their abusers hide in plain sight.
We hope we notice them before they see us walking through town. We hope we’re not alone when they do see us or find us. We hope that you, anyone out there, believe us.
The lack of accountability for the harm women and other marginalized groups experience is atrocious. Life-altering and ending. Often, we are left reimagined and forced to become anew.
I use the word survivors to respect the fact that many people died from the harm I and others have experienced. I used survivors because I honor their passing every time I acknowledge our life.
My focus in this article is on women-identified persons who experience violence. To address one aspect of that, I developed a working list of demands for workplace and community accountability. My goal is to get a stronger and larger conversation about what's possible to protect one another.
If we know that the law enforcement approach doesn’t always prevent sexual assault, domestic violence, and other instances from occurring, then we must be brave enough to take matters into our own hands to protect ourselves.
I eluded this in previous writings, asking for human resource departments to step up their screening to identify people who have caused community harm. I think that protections go beyond the workplace, but it’s a place to start.
In a previous opinion piece, originally published in 2018 in the Portland Tribune, I stated:
“Many of us work alongside perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and do not know it. How can public and private sector organizations protect their employees if they are not even considering the impact of their own staff?
I urge us to consider asking more questions and including survivors of violence in our equity work.
How do we operationalize the need to include community harm (regardless of legal action) as a basis of a character standard for our colleagues? When perpetrators are unchecked, they don’t heal the wounds they have that cause harm. Not intentionally screening for this hurts everyone.
The system doesn’t provide enough protection for survivors of violence, especially women. My own personal experience mirrors this reality as I have perpetrators hiding in plain sight without any accountability.
They are trying to work with you. They are asking you for funding. They are re-branding themselves to hide from the harm they have caused and continue to perpetuate.
Below is a 10 point plan of sorts, modeled after the Black Panther Party demands.
They are demands to protect survivors from their abusers but, more importantly, to prevent future violence.
1 — We believe that women, women of color, the LGBTQ community, differently-abled people, the elderly, and immigrants are constant targets of violence (inside and outside of their homes) and must be supported. Investigations must be able to occur without the traditional involvement of law enforcement.
2 -- We believe that abusers' control over their past and current victims are the only strings holding their lies together. We know that once these lies are revealed, their ability to hurt others will diminish.
3 — We believe that bystanders are accountable for the harm caused by perpetrators, when they participate, hide, lie or ignore the harm being done to someone else.
4 — We believe that survivors and their families should continue to organize themselves and with allies who support them in their healing journey. There is strength in numbers.
5 — We believe that the private and public sector should seriously reassess their hiring processes to screen for how a person has or hasn’t hurt people. Not having a criminal record doesn’t make you a safe person. There needs to be a deeper screening of candidates, especially those who are working with children and families.
6 -- We know that white supremacy informs the false perception of a person’s worth, criminality, or value in society. We reject any belief that invalidates the inherent value of any person.
7 -- We demand that people everywhere must do something if they see something. Countless people could have been saved from death if not protected if someone did something. We acknowledge the threat of violence can be a deterrent, but waiting for that perpetrator to finish with them, is sealing your own fate.
8 — We demand that all people live a life free of violence. This includes ourselves, our families, children, our elders, and future generations.
9 — We demand that accountability should start with the perpetrator's families and loved ones. If that cannot be done because of their complicity, community allies should step up and conduct their own investigation and support survivors in keeping them safe.
10 -- We believe that preventing perpetrators from causing additional harm and holding them accountable for the damage they have caused will prevent violence and allow communities to heal fully.
Are we willing to have perpetrators working alongside perpetrators, unchecked? Do we want them teaching our children and leading community-based organizations without any accountability? Are we willing to have perpetrators of abuse giving speeches on justice while they go home and diminish someone’s personhood with their hands? I am not.”