Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Introduction for Restorative Justice

“I have a (nonacademic) background in restorative justice but it is mostly around survivors and accountability processes. I am interested in looking at restorative justice on a larger scale and in relation to alternatives to the police, the PIC, school to prison pipeline and around the death penalty. ...

The central question to most of the work I do is: "What causes or helps some people to be more resilient to IPV/trauma then others? and are there ways that we can create systems which increase individual resiliency?"

Of course this begets many more questions... what is resiliency? What does it look like? Does it look different in different people? What is violence? What about offenders, are they also a product of violence and if so don't they also deserve to heal? Are we as humans fundamental flawed and is violence innate? I am also starting to see power and control as the underlying form of violence. My idea of what the word violence means has changed. I no longer see physical violence as that violent whereas the systems meant to keep people under control and keep the dominant power structure as very violent. I can see why people who have no power or control over their own lives commit 'violent acts' in order to regain some sense of control over their own lives. A couple years a go I went through PWCL's IPV advocacy training and there was a man who worked (only) with offenders. At the time I thought 'I could never do that.' Now, I feel differently. I've been able to apply some rj/tj principles to situations in my own life wherein I cannot confront my abusers but I can still learn to forgive them and see that they are a product of the system. In doing this I increase my own resiliency. This helps me know that resiliency can be taught. Also  I have been able to learn to recognize red flags and set boundaries that keep me from being harmed by others (Aimee helped a lot with this too). We seem to have two settings: everything is our fault or nothing is our fault. The second category seems to be the one where people inflict the most damage on others but the first means a lot of harm being focused on you. The reality is that we do not have to chose either or more accurately we can chose both. And we can learn to recognize when a person is projecting one or the other and create appropriate boundaries. Aka applying harm reduction to everyday relationships. I think to me TJ is learning the skills to break the cycle of violence in ourselves. Then ideally learning to teach these skills to other people. This seems natural, innate. So I wonder how to teach this to other people and how to use these methodologies to transform the systems which are at the root.”

I suppose that is a lot of theory and not a lot of who or what I do/am. But before I go there I want to tangent for a moment about a conflict I had the other day. Without going into it too much what I realized from the conversation I was having with this person was that I was verbally taking accountability for my part of the conflict even though this conflict and a prior one which we are still working through, I was the one who expressed discontent for their behavior. They continued to see me as the “bad guy” and reprimand me for “lashing out” aka standing up for myself. They have not had a ton of life experiences outside of somethings that caused some PTSD. They said at one point in the conversation, well I showed the text to three people and they all agreed with me. I realized that I had also spoken with people and they had all agreed with me but I had not used this person's name nor any defining characteristics. With nonviolent communication (NVC) techniques, the other person does not need to have any knowledge of NVC for you to use NVC with them. I want to find ways to make transformative justice the same way. Since I am one of the 'everything is my fault' people, a lot of violence ends up directed towards me and I need to learn ways to transform that violence into justice.

I am still not sure if this is an introduction. I am just not very good about talking about myself. I would rather do, even if doing means deconstructing theory. Also I am reading Seeking Safety right now and I am excited to pursue harm reduction and tranformative jsutice techniques around substance abuse and PTSD.

I have been taking conflict resolution courses for three years now (more on the transformative justice side of the equation), most recently as a TA. I am also a trained Domestic Violence Advocate. Basically I am interested in how to save the lifes of trans and queer people who are often also caught up in the prison industrial complex. *Insert rant about the socioeconomic discrimination and violence that happens to trans folks and how that increases risk factors around homelessness, safer sex, alcohol and drug use, etc that often contribute to engagement in illegal economies because of a lack of social services.

I am trans/genderqueer. I am not wanting to be harsh or anything but it usually becomes a thing at some point so I am going to ask that it does not become a thing. I am not a research topic and I am not here to statisfy your curiousity. I am working on a thesis around trans sexual health specifically associated risk factors such as domestic violence. If I speak about trans issues that does not give you a free pass to vocalize your opinions about what it means to be a trans person (unless of course you are a trans person). This is one of the things I have learned to do to decrease harm that happens towards me. I have learned that I have to verbalize it because authority figures will not do anything to help me nor anyone in my communities. I recognize that interactions with cisgendered and heterosexual individuals generally is going to harm me and thus I look for ways to reduce that harm. This is one of the offlabel uses of harm reduction I have. I am very invested in harm reduction approaches that are outside of policy and provider services. I am interested in exploring harm reduction approaches of restorative justice specifically around substance use and mental health.

I heard once 'Hurt people, hurt people. Also hurt people, heal people.' This is what restorative justice ideally means to me. Justice, to me, means an individual's decision to transform themselves from a hurt person who hurts people into a hurt person that heals people. I feel that most people define justice as retribution. But retribution doesn't heal anyone and sure doesn't break cycles of violence.

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