Lunchtime Insights: An Introduction to Domestic Abuse & Emerge Services.

You are invited to join us on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, for our upcoming “Lunchtime Insights: An Introduction to Domestic Abuse & Emerge Services.”

During this month’s bite-sized presentation, we’ll explore domestic abuse, its dynamics, and the barriers to leaving an abusive relationship. We will also provide helpful tips for how we, as a community, can support survivors and an overview of the resources available to survivors at Emerge.

Enhance your knowledge of domestic abuse with the opportunity to ask questions and dive deep with members of the Emerge team who have decades of experience working with and learning alongside survivors of domestic abuse in our community.

In addition, folx interested in co-conspiring with Emerge can learn about ways to increase healing and safety for survivors in Tucson and southern Arizona through employmentvolunteering, and more.

Space is limited. Please RSVP below if you are interested in attending this in-person event. We hope that you can join us on March 19.

Creating Safety for Everyone in our Community

The last two years have been difficult for all of us, as we’ve collectively weathered the challenges of living through a global pandemic. And yet, our struggles as individuals during this time have looked different from each other. COVID-19 pulled back the curtain on the disparities that impact communities of color experience, and their access to healthcare, food, shelter, and financing.

While we are incredibly grateful that we’ve had the ability to continue serving survivors through this time, we acknowledge that Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities continue to face racial prejudice and oppression from systemic and institutional racism. Over the last 24 months, we witnessed the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, and the murders of Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, George Floyd, and Quadry Sanders and many others, including the most recent white supremacist terrorist attack on Black community members in Buffalo, New York. We’ve seen increased violence toward Asian Americans rooted in xenophobia and misogyny and many viral moments of racial bias and hatred on social media channels. And while none of this is new, technology, social media, and a 24-hour news cycle have catapulted this historic struggle into our daily conscience.

For the last eight years, Emerge has evolved and transformed through our commitment to becoming a multicultural, anti-racist organization. Guided by the wisdom of our community, Emerge centers the experiences of people of color both in our organization and in public spaces and systems to provide truly supportive domestic abuse services that can be accessible to ALL survivors.

We invite you to join Emerge in our ongoing work to build a more inclusive, equitable, accessible, and just post-pandemic society.

For those of you who have followed this journey during our previous Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) campaigns or through our social media efforts, this information probably isn’t new. If you have not accessed any of the written pieces or videos in which we uplift our community’s diverse voices and experiences, we hope you will take some time to visit our written pieces to learn more.

Some of our ongoing efforts to disrupt systemic racism and prejudice in our work include:

  • Emerge continues to work with national and local experts to provide staff training on the intersections of race, class, gender identity, and sexual orientation. These trainings invite our staff to engage with their lived experiences within these identities and the experiences of the domestic abuse survivors we serve.
  • Emerge has become increasingly critical of the way we design service delivery systems to be intentional in creating access for all survivors in our community. We are committed to seeing and addressing survivors’ culturally specific needs and experiences, including personal, generational, and societal trauma. We look at all the influences that make Emerge participants uniquely them: their lived experiences, how they have had to navigate the world based on who they are, and how they identify as human beings.
  • We are working to identify and re-imagine organizational processes that create barriers for survivors to access the resources and safety they need.
  • With help from our community, we have implemented and are continuing to refine a more inclusive hiring process that centers experience over education, recognizing the value of lived experiences in supporting survivors and their children.
  • We have come together to create and provide safe spaces for staff to gather and be vulnerable with each other to acknowledge our individual experiences and allow for each of us to confront our own beliefs and behaviors that we want to change.

    Systemic change requires time, energy, self-reflection, and at times discomfort, but Emerge is steadfast in our unending commitment to building systems and spaces that acknowledge the humanity and worth of every human being in our community.

    We hope you will stay by our side as we grow, evolve, and build accessible, just, and equitable support for all domestic violence survivors with services that are centered in an anti-racist, anti-oppression framework and are truly reflective of the diversity of our community.

    We invite you to join us in creating a community where love, respect, and safety are essential and inviolable rights for everyone. We can achieve this as a community when we, collectively and individually, have tough conversations about race, privilege, and oppression; when we listen and learn from our community, and when we proactively support organizations working towards the liberation of marginalized identities.

    You can actively engage in our work by signing up for our enews and sharing our content on social media, participating in our community conversations, organizing a community fundraiser, or donating your time and resources.

    Together, we can build a better tomorrow – one that brings racism and prejudice to an end.

DVAM Series: Honoring Staff

Administration and Volunteers

In this week’s video, Emerge’s administrative staff highlight the complexities of providing administrative support during the pandemic. From rapidly changing policies to mitigate risk, to re-programming phones to ensure our Hotline could be answered from home; from generating donations of cleaning supplies and toilet paper, to visiting multiple businesses to locate and purchase items like thermometers and disinfectant to keep our shelter running safely; from revising employee services policies over and over to ensure staff had the support they needed, to quickly writing grants to secure funding for all the rapid changes Emerge experienced, and; from delivering food on site at shelter to give direct services staff a break, to triaging and addressing participant needs at our Lipsey Administrative site, our admin staff showed up in incredible ways as the pandemic rages on.
 
We’d also like to highlight one of the volunteers, Lauren Olivia Easter, who continued steadfast in her support of Emerge participants and staff during the pandemic. As a preventative measure, Emerge temporarily ceased our volunteer activities, and we sorely missed their collaborative energy as we’ve continued to serve participants. Lauren checked in with staff frequently to let them know she was available to help, even if it meant volunteering from home. When City Court re-opened earlier this year, Lauren was first in line to come back onsite to provide advocacy for survivors engaged in legal services. Our gratitude goes to Lauren, for her passion and dedication to serving individuals experiencing abuse in our community.

DVAM Series

Emerge Staff Share Their Stories

This week, Emerge features the stories of staff working in our Shelter, Housing, and Men’s Education programs. During the pandemic, individuals experiencing abuse at the hands of their intimate partner have often struggled to reach out for help, due to increased isolation. While the whole world had to lock their doors, some have been locked in with an abusive partner. Emergency shelter for domestic abuse survivors is offered to those who have experienced recent incidents of serious violence. The Shelter team had to adapt to the realities of not being able to spend time with participants in person to talk with them, reassure them and provide the love and support they deserve. The sense of loneliness and fear that survivors experienced was exacerbated by the forced isolation due to the pandemic. Staff spent many hours on the phone with participants and ensured that they knew the team was there. Shannon details her experience serving participants who lived in Emerge’s shelter program during the last 18 months and highlights lessons learned. 
 
In our housing program, Corinna shares the complexities of supporting participants in finding housing during a pandemic and a significant affordable housing shortage. Seemingly overnight, the progress that participants made in setting up their housing disappeared. Loss of income and employment was reminiscent of where many families found themselves when living with abuse. The Housing Services team pressed on and supported families facing this new challenge in their journey to find safety and stability.  Despite the barriers that participants experienced, Corinna also recognizes the amazing ways our community comes together to support families and the determination of our participants in seeking a life free from abuse for themselves and their children.
 
Finally, Men’s Engagement Supervisor Xavi talks about the impact on the MEP participants, and how difficult it was to use virtual platforms to make meaningful connections with men engaged in behavior changes. Working with men who are harming their families is high-stakes work, and requires intention and the ability to connect with men in meaningful ways. This type of relationship requires ongoing contact and trust-building that was undermined by the delivery of programming virtually. The Men’s Education team quickly adapted and added individual check-in meetings and created more accessibility to MEP team members, so that men in the program had additional layers of support in their life as they also navigated the impact and the risk that the pandemic created for their partners and children.
 

DVAM Series: Honoring Staff

Community-Based Services

This week, Emerge features the stories of our lay legal advocates. Emerge’s lay legal program provides support to participants engaged in the civil and criminal justice systems in Pima County due to incidents related to domestic abuse. One of the greatest impacts of abuse and violence is the resulting involvement in various court processes and systems. This experience can feel overwhelming and confusing while survivors are also trying to find safety after abuse. 
 
The services that the Emerge lay legal team provides include requesting orders of protection and providing referrals to lawyers, assistance with immigration assistance, and court accompaniment.
 
Emerge staff Jesica and Yazmin share their perspectives and experiences supporting participants engaged in the legal system during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, access to court systems was greatly limited for many survivors. Delayed court proceedings and limited access to court personnel and information had a great impact on many families. This impact exacerbated the isolation and fear that survivors were already experiencing, leaving them worried about their future.
 
The lay legal team demonstrated enormous creativity, innovation, and love for survivors in our community by ensuring that participants didn’t feel alone when navigating legal and court systems. They quickly adapted to providing support during court hearings via Zoom and telephone, remained connected to court personnel to ensure that survivors still had access to information, and provided the ability for survivors to actively participate and regain a sense of control. Even though Emerge staff experienced their own struggles during the pandemic, we are so grateful to them for continuing to prioritize the needs of participants.

Honoring Staff—Child and Family Services

Child and Family Services

This week, Emerge honors all the staff who work with children and families at Emerge. The children coming into our Emergency Shelter program were faced with managing the transition of leaving their homes where violence was happening and moving into an unfamiliar living environment and the climate of fear that has permeated this time during the pandemic. This abrupt change in their lives was only made more challenging by the physical isolation of not interacting with others in person and was undoubtedly confusing and scary.

Children living at Emerge already and those receiving services at our Community-Based sites experienced an abrupt shift in their in-person access to staff. Layered onto what the children were managing, families were also forced to figure out how to support their children with schooling at home. Parents who were already overwhelmed with sorting out the impact of the violence and abuse in their lives, many of whom were also working, simply did not have the resources and access to homeschooling while living in a shelter.

The Child and Family team sprang into action and quickly ensured that all children had the necessary equipment to attend school online and provided weekly support to students while also quickly adapting programming to be facilitated via zoom. We know that delivering age-appropriate support services to children who have witnessed or experienced abuse is crucial to healing the whole family. Emerge staff Blanca and MJ talk about their experience serving children during the pandemic and the difficulties of engaging children via virtual platforms, their lessons learned over the last 18 months, and their hopes for a post-pandemic community.

Love Is an Action—A Verb

Written by: Anna Harper-Guerrero

Emerge’s Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer

bell hooks said, “But love is really more of an interactive process. It’s about what we do, not just what we feel. It’s a verb, not a noun.”

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, I reflect with gratitude on the love we were able to put into action for survivors of domestic violence and for our community during the pandemic. This difficult period has been my greatest teacher about actions of love. I witnessed our love for our community through our commitment to ensuring that services and support remained available for individuals and families experiencing domestic violence.

It is not a secret that Emerge is made up of members of this community, many of whom have had their own experiences with hurt and trauma, who show up every day and offer their heart to survivors. This is undoubtedly true for the team of staff who deliver services across the organization—emergency shelter, hotline, family services, community-based services, housing services, and our men’s education program. It is also true for everyone who supports the direct service work to survivors through our environmental services, development, and administrative teams. It is especially true in the ways we all lived in, coped with, and did our best to help participants through the pandemic.

Seemingly overnight, we were catapulted into a context of uncertainty, confusion, panic, grief and a lack of guidance. We sifted through all of the information that inundated our community and created policies that tried to prioritize the health and safety of the nearly 6000 people we serve every year. To be sure, we are not healthcare providers tasked to care for those who are sick. Yet we serve families and individuals who are at risk every day of serious harm and in some cases death.

With the pandemic, that risk only increased. Systems that survivors rely on for help shut down around us: basic support services, courts, law enforcement responses. As a result, many of the most vulnerable members of our community disappeared into the shadows. While most of the community was at home, so many folks were living in unsafe situations where they did not have what they needed to survive. The lockdown decreased the ability for people experiencing domestic abuse to receive support by phone because they were in the home with their abusive partner. Children didn’t have access to a school system to have a safe person to talk to. Tucson shelters had decreased capacity to bring individuals in. We saw the impacts of these forms of isolation, including increased need for services and higher levels of lethality.

Emerge was reeling from the impact and trying to maintain contact safely with folks living in dangerous relationships. We moved our emergency shelter overnight into a non-communal facility. Still, employees and participants reported having been exposed to COVID on a seemingly daily basis, resulting in contact tracing, reduced staffing levels with many vacant positions, and staff in quarantine. In the midst of these challenges, one thing remained intact—our love for our community and deep commitment to those who are seeking safety. Love is an action.

As the world seemed to stop, the nation and community breathed in the reality of the racialized violence that has been occurring for generations. This violence exists in our community, too, and has shaped the experiences of our team and the people we serve. Our organization attempted to figure out how to cope with the pandemic while also creating space and beginning healing work from the collective experience of racialized violence. We continue to work toward liberation from the racism that exists all around us. Love is an action.

The heart of the organization kept beating. We took agency phones and plugged them in at people’s homes so that the hotline would continue to operate. Staff immediately began hosting support sessions from home telephonically and on Zoom. Staff facilitated support groups on Zoom. Many staff continued to be in the office and have been for the duration and continuation of the pandemic. Staff picked up extra shifts, worked longer hours, and have been holding multiple positions. Folks came in and out. Some got sick. Some lost close family members. We have collectively continued to show up and offer our heart to this community. Love is an action.

At one point, the entire team providing emergency services had to quarantine due to potential exposure to COVID. Teams from other areas of the agency (administrative positions, grant writers, fundraisers) signed up to deliver food to families living at the emergency shelter. Staff from across the agency brought toilet paper when they found it available in the community. We arranged pick-up times for folks to come to the offices that were shut down so that folks could pick up food boxes and hygiene items. Love is an action.

One year later, everyone is tired, burned out, and hurting. Still, our hearts beat and we show up to provide love and support to survivors who have nowhere else to turn. Love is an action.

This year during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we are choosing to lift up and honor the stories of the many employees of Emerge who helped this organization stay in operation so that survivors had a place where support could happen. We honor them, their stories of pain during illness and loss, their fear of what was to come in our community—and we express our endless gratitude for their beautiful hearts.

Let us remind ourselves this year, during this month, that love is an action. Every day of the year, love is an action.

Our role in addressing racism and anti-blackness for Black survivors

Written by Anna Harper-Guerrero

Emerge has been in a process of evolution and transformation for the last 6 years that is intensely focused on becoming an anti-racist, multicultural organization.  We are working every day to uproot anti-blackness and confront racism in an effort to return to the humanity that lives deep within all of us. We want to be a reflection of liberation, love, compassion and healing – the same things we want for anyone suffering in our community.  Emerge is on a journey to speak the untold truths about our work and have humbly presented the written pieces and videos from community partners this month.  These are important truths about the real experiences that survivors have trying to access help.  We believe that in that truth is the light for the way forward. 

This process is slow, and every day there will be invitations, both literal and figurative, to revert to what has not served our community, served us as the people who make up Emerge, and that which has not served survivors in the ways that they deserve.  We are working to center the important life experiences of ALL survivors.  We are taking responsibility for inviting courageous conversations with other non-profit agencies and sharing our messy journey through this work so that we can replace a system born out of a desire to categorize and dehumanize people in our community.  The historical roots of the non-profit system cannot be ignored. 

If we pick up on the point made by Michael Brasher this month in his piece about rape culture and the socialization of men and boys, we can see the parallel if we choose to.  “The implicit, often unexamined, set of values contained in the cultural code to ‘man up’ are a part of an environment in which men are trained to disconnect from and devalue feelings, to glorify force and winning, and to viciously police each other’s ability to replicate these norms.”

Much like the roots of a tree that provides support and anchorage, our framework is embedded in values that ignore the historical truths about domestic and sexual violence as being an outgrowth of racism, slavery, classism, homophobia, and transphobia.  These systems of oppression give us permission to disregard the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color  – including those who identify in the LGBTQ communities – as having less value at best and non-existent at worst. It is risky for us to assume that these values still don’t seep into the deep corners of our work and influence everyday thoughts and interactions.

We are willing to risk it all.  And by all we mean, tell all the truth about how domestic violence services have not accounted for the experience of ALL survivors.  We have not considered our role in addressing racism and anti-blackness for Black survivors.  We are a non-profit system that has created a professional field out of the suffering in our community because that is the model that was built for us to operate within.  We have struggled to see how the very same oppression that leads to unconscionable, life-ending violence in this community has also insidiously worked its way into the fabric of the system designed to respond to survivors of that violence. In its current state, ALL survivors cannot have their needs met in this system, and too many of us working in the system have engaged a coping mechanism of distancing ourselves from the realities of those who cannot be served.  But this can, and must, change.  We must change the system so that the full humanity of ALL survivor is seen and honored.

To be in reflection about how to change as an institution within complicated, deeply anchored systems takes great courage.  It requires us to stand in the circumstances of risk and account for harm that we have caused.  It also requires us to be precisely focused on the way forward.  It requires us to no longer stay silent about the truths.  The truths that we all know are there.  Racism is not new.  Black survivors feeling let down and invisible is not new.  The numbers of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are not new. But our prioritization of it is new. 

Black Women deserve to be loved, celebrated, and lifted up for their wisdom, knowledge, and accomplishments.  We must also acknowledge that Black Women have no choice but to survive in a society that was never intended to hold them as valuable.  We must listen to their words about what change means but fully assume our own responsibility in identifying and addressing the injustices that happen daily.

Indigenous Women deserve to live freely and be revered for all that they have woven into the earth that we walk on – to include their very bodies.  Our attempts to liberate Indigenous communities from domestic abuse must also include our ownership of the historical trauma and truths that we readily hide about who planted those seeds on their land. To include ownership of the ways that we attempt to water those seeds daily as a community.

It is okay to tell the truth about these experiences. In fact, it is critical to the collective survival of ALL survivors in this community.  When we center those who are listened to the least, we ensure the space is open for everyone.

We can reimagine and actively build a system that has a great ability to build safety and hold the humanity of everyone in our community.  We can be spaces where everyone is welcome in their truest, fullest self, and where everyone’s life has value, where accountability is seen as love.  A community where we all have the opportunity to build a life free from violence.

The Queens is a support group that was created at Emerge to center the experiences of Black Women in our work.  It was created by and is led by Black Women.

This week we proudly present the important words and experiences of the Queens, who journeyed through a process led by Cecelia Jordan over the last 4 weeks to encourage unguarded, raw, truth-telling as the pathway to healing.  This excerpt is what the Queens chose to share with the community in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Violence Against Indigenous Women

Written by April Ignacio

April Ignacio is a citizen of the Tohono O’odham Nation and the founder of Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots community organization that provides opportunities for civic engagement and education beyond voting for members of the Tohono O’odham Nation. She is a fierce advocate for women, a mother to six and an artist.

The violence against Indigenous women has been so normalized that we sit in an unspoken, insidious truth that our own bodies do not belong to us. My first recollection of this truth is probably around the age of 3 or 4 years old, I attended the HeadStart Program in a village called Pisinemo. I remember being told “don’t let anyone take you” as a warning from my teachers while on a field trip. I remember being afraid that in fact someone was going to try and “take me” but I didn’t understand what that meant. I knew I had to be in sight distance from my teacher and that I, as a 3 or 4 year old child then became suddenly very aware of my surroundings. I realize now as an adult, that trauma was passed on to me, and I had passed it onto my own children. My oldest daughter and son both recall being instructed by me “don’t let anyone take you” as they were traveling somewhere without me. 

 

Historically violence against Indigenous people in the United States has created a normalcy among most tribal people that when I was asked to provide a thorough insight to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls I  struggled to find the words to talk about our shared living experience which always seems to be in question. When I say our bodies don’t belong to us, I am talking about this within a historical context. The United States government sanctioned astronomical programs and targeted the Indigenous people of this country in the name of “progress”. Whether it was forcibly relocating Indigenous people from their homelands onto reservations, or stealing children from their homes to be placed into boarding schools clear across the country, or the forced sterilization of our women in Indian Health Services from the 1960 throughout the 80s.  Indigenous people have been forced to survive in a life story that is saturated with violence and most times it feels as though we are screaming into a void.  Our stories are invisible to most, our words remain unheard.

 

It is important to remember that there are 574 tribal Nations in the United States and each one is unique. In Arizona alone there are 22 distinct tribal Nations, including the transplants from other Nations throughout the country that call Arizona home. So the collection of data for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls has been challenging and almost near to impossible to conduct.  We are struggling to identify the true numbers of Indigenous women and girls who have been murdered, missing, or have been taken. The plight of this movement is being led by Indigenous women, we are our own experts.

 

In some communities, women are being murdered by non-indigenous people.  In my tribal community 90% of the cases of women who were murdered, were a direct result of domestic violence and this is reflected in our tribal judicial system. Roughly 90% of the court cases that are heard in our Tribal courts are domestic violence cases. Each case study may differ based on geographical location, however this is what it looks like in my community. It is imperative that community partners and allies understand Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls is a direct result of perpetrated violence against Indigenous women and girls. The roots of this violence is deeply embedded in archaic belief systems that teach insidious lessons about the worth of our bodies – lessons that give permission for our bodies to be taken at whatever cost for whatever reason. 

 

I often find myself frustrated by the lack of discourse of how we are not talking about ways to prevent domestic violence but instead we are talking about how to recover and find missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.  The truth is that there are two justice systems. One that allows a man who has been accused of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, including non-consensual kissing and groping of at least 26 women since the 1970s to become the 45th President of the United States. This system parallels the one that would erect statutes in honor of men who raped the women they had enslaved. And then there is the justice system for us; where the violence against our bodies and taking of our bodies are recent and illuminating. Grateful, I am.  

 

In November of last year the Trump administration signed Executive Order 13898, forming the Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indian and Alaskan Natives, also known as  “Operation Lady Justice”, that would provide more ability to open more cases (unsolved and cold cases) of Indigenous women directing the allocation of more money from the Department of Justice.  However, no additional laws or authority comes with Operation Lady Justice. The order quietly addresses the lack of action and prioritization of solving cold cases in Indian Country without acknowledging the great harm and trauma that so many families have suffered with for so long.  We must address the way that our policies and lack of prioritization of resources allows for the silence and erasure of the many Indigenous Women and Girls who are missing and who have been murdered.

 

On October 10th the Savanna Act and Not Invisible Act were both signed into law. The Savanna Act would create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans, in consultation with Tribes, which will include guidance on interjurisdictional cooperation among tribal, federal, state, and local law enforcement. The Not Invisible Act would provide opportunities for tribes to seek preventative efforts, grants and programs related to missing (taken) and the murder of Indigenous peoples.

 

As of today, the Violence Against Women Act has still yet to be passed through the Senate. The Violence Against Women Act is the law that provides an umbrella of services and protections for undocumented women and transwomen. It’s the law that allowed us to believe and imagine something different for our communities that are drowning with the saturation of violence. 

 

Processing these bills and laws and executive orders is an important task that has shed some light on larger issues, but I still park near the exit of covered garages and staircases. I still worry about my daughters who travel to the city alone. When challenging toxic masculinity and consent in my community it took having a conversation with the High School Football Coach to agree to allow his football team to participate in our efforts to create a conversation in our community about the impact of violence. Tribal communities can thrive when they are given the opportunity and the power over how they see themselves. After all, we are still here. 

About Indivisible Tohono

Indivisible Tohono is a grassroots community organization that provides opportunities for civic engagement and education beyond voting for members of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

An Essential Path to Safety and Justice

By Men Stopping Violence

Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse’s leadership in centering the experiences of Black women during Domestic Violence Awareness Month inspires us at Men Stopping Violence.

Cecelia Jordan’s Justice Begins Where Violence Towards Black Women Ends – a response to Caroline Randall Williams’ My Body is a Confederate Monument – provides a terrific place to start.

For 38 years, Men Stopping Violence has worked directly with men in Atlanta, Georgia and nationally to end male violence against women. Our experience has taught us that there is no path forward without listening, truth-telling and accountability.

In our Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) we require that men name with exacting detail the controlling and abusive behaviors they have used and the effects of those behaviors on partners, children, and communities. We don’t do this to shame men. Rather, we ask men to take an unflinching look at themselves to learn new ways of being in the world and creating safer communities for all. We’ve learned that – for men – accountability and change ultimately lead to more fulfilling lives. As we say in class, you can’t change it until you name it.

We also prioritize listening in our classes. Men learn to hear women’s voices by reflecting on articles like bell hooks’ The Will to Change and videos like Aisha Simmons’ NO! The Rape Documentary. Men practice listening without responding as they give each other feedback. We don’t require that men agree with what is being said. Instead, men learn to listen to understand what the other person is saying and to demonstrate respect.

Without listening, how will we be able to fully understand the effects of our actions on others? How will we learn how to proceed in ways that prioritize safety, justice, and healing?

These same principles of listening, truth-telling and accountability apply on the community and societal level. They apply to ending systemic racism and anti-Blackness just as they do to ending domestic and sexual violence. The issues are intertwined.

In Justice Begins Where Violence Towards Black Women Ends, Ms. Jordan connects the dots between racism and domestic and sexual violence.

Ms. Jordan challenges us to identify and excavate the “relics of slavery and colonization” that infuse our thoughts, daily actions, relationships, families, and systems. These colonial beliefs – these “confederate monuments” that assert that some people have the right to control others and take their bodies, resources, and even lives at will – are at the root of violence towards women, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness. 

Ms. Jordan’s analysis resonates with our 38 years of experience working with men. In our classrooms, we unlearn entitlement to obedience from women and children. And, in our classrooms, those of us who are white unlearn entitlement to the attention, labor, and subservience of Black people and people of color. Men and white people learn this entitlement from the community and social norms made invisible by institutions working in the interests of white males.

Ms. Jordan articulates the devastating, present-day effects of institutional sexism and racism on Black women. She connects slavery and the terror Black women experience in interpersonal relationships today, and she illustrates how anti-Blackness infuses our systems, including the criminal legal system, in ways that marginalize and endanger Black women.

These are hard truths for many of us. We don’t want to believe what Ms. Jordan is saying. In fact, we are trained and socialized to not listen to her and other Black women’s voices. But, in a society where white supremacy and anti-Blackness marginalize the voices of Black women, we need to listen. In listening, we look to learn a path forward.

As Ms. Jordan writes, “We will know what justice looks like when we know how to love Black people, and especially Black women…Imagine a world where Black women heal and create truly just systems of support and accountability. Imagine institutions made up of individuals who pledge to be co-conspirators in fights for Black freedom and justice, and commit to understanding the layered foundation of plantation politics. Imagine, for the first time in history, we are invited to complete Reconstruction.”

As in our BIP classes with men, reckoning with our country’s history of harm to Black women is the precursor to change. Listening, truth-telling and accountability are pre-requisites for justice and healing, first for those most harmed and then, ultimately, for all of us.

We can’t change it until we name it.