MCEDSV Statement On Police Reform

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your
time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

-Lilla Watson

This moment is one which demands we speak.
This statement begins, as it should, by recognizing the extraordinary events that have begun with

the horror of George Floyd’s murder and has built into a new civil rights movement that has grown beyond our nation into a reckoning with the racism that has so marked and stained our history from the very beginning of this nation straight through until today. This coalition stands in support of the movement to change the course of this history and create a just future.

The Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence unequivocally supports the statement and the movement that Black Lives Matter. As a Coalition built around giving a voice and a response to the unheard victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, we can and do raise our voices in support of this plain and simple fact. Moreover, we offer this statement of support in order to give the room and space for those who have been leading the fight and charge against these entrenched racisms and merciless crimes to speak in this moment.

We are a Coalition that raises its voice on behalf of victims, and we here raise our voice in solidarity with those who have been killed as a result of police brutality. Through the repeated testimony year after year, it is clear from horrifying tragedy after horrifying tragedy that our society has been too long ignoring a truth, a truth that is now plainly in front of eyes with every photograph and video that has come forth demonstrating what our Black brothers and sisters have been telling the rest of the

world. The only candle lighting this darkness burns brighter now as a society too long asleep appears to be rising. We raise our voice in solidarity and give space for those voices in this moment to tell their truth. It must be heard and reckoned with.

Even within our areas of advocacy, we recognize that Black and Indigenous women who are victims of these crimes receive less police protection, less interventions, fewer prosecutions of their assaulter, and less assistance. Black suspects for these crimes, regardless of victim, are often policed more violently & prosecuted more zealously and successfully. Given what we know about the frequency of sexual assault and domestic violence, it is neither possible nor credible that there are such disproportionate outcomes without examining this as the result of institutional racism. This must addressed.

We raise our voice like many of our sister coalitions in this support, and we are listening to the voices of those who are calling for this change. We are listening carefully because we recognize that while we

may not be the object of these protests, we have failed to hear the voices of our Black colleagues and Black victims as well as all people of color, just as every part of society has failed them. These lives matter. Their voices matter, and we have failed not just in hearing them but in taking no action steps in response to their calls of extraordinary pain and loss.

As part of being a Coalition that listens, we hear and affirm the voices of those who call for radical reform to policing and other institutions. We are attentive to the nature and substance of the changes being proposed and we stand in support of any effort to make real and substantial progress. We bring to this listening our own experiences of bearing witness to case after case of rape victims treated poorly and without compassion, domestic violence victims who have found no protection from the police, the twisted legal proceedings which turn a victim into the accused and offer no justice.

We note that it has taken centuries of fighting to establish that a man needed consent from his wife for sex, let alone the rape outside of marriage We are barely a century past the “rule of thumb” which established the width of the branch which could be used to beat one’s wife. Rape is still a weapon of war in countless conflict zones today, and even in the United States 1 out of every 5 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. We have barely achieved a point in society where these crimes have begun to be recognized for their severity of impact. We support envisioning an idealistic future, but we advocate now in a world where the goal on the horizon has mountains yet ahead to climb.

As a long as someone is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds in the United States, we will stand for those victims and raise our voice on their behalf. As long as someone is suffering violence from a domestic partner every 3 seconds, we will stand for those victims; we will raise our voice to say “enough!” on their behalf; and give whatever help we can to their needs and their restoration.

MCEDSV insists that the seriousness of these harms and the historical denial of these crimes be centered. We cannot support any efforts that would regress our society back to a place where sexual assault and domestic violence are treated as something other than or less than a crime. Women have worked long and hard to take matters once considered private to recognize as serious and life impacting. We further cannot support any approach that attempts to provide restoration for the victims of those crimes without accountability of the perpetrator. We acknowledge that perpetrators often have their own trauma and we call for healing of that trauma as they are being held accountable for crimes committed. We exist to advocate for a world that acknowledges these crimes, prevents these crimes and makes recovery possible for victims of these crimes — we are committed to those ends.

Yet, there is a need to rethink how we respond to crime holistically and how we fund the police.

Yet, there is a need to look at exchanging the funding of police to services which also uplift and support healthier communities and safer neighborhoods with perhaps fewer police and more societal supports of a different form an approach.

Yet, we know that we have perpetuated racism within our own movement and ensured that women of color often do not feel comfortable as employees in our agencies or victims within our programs because of the racism that blatantly exists there.

We support all efforts to eradicate the racial disparities in the policing and prosecution of sexual assault and domestic violence. We support efforts to reduce over-incarceration provided they protect the safety and security of victim, particularly victims of color. We support efforts to improve community

and safety through social work, mental health provision, and community organizations. We support all efforts to improve our own movement and come to a reckoning with our racism, bias and white fragility.

A change must come, including the de-militarization of law enforcement, divestment in over- policing and reinvestment in areas such as mental health, violence prevention, housing and economic justice. We believe that this can be done concurrently with the understanding that some crimes require criminal accountability- particularly those crimes that are inter-personal and have historically been tolerated within American society. We also believe the DV&SA movement must wrangle with its own history of racism to truly have an authentic conversation regarding societal reform. Too often our own work has mirrored and co-signed that of the racism of the society at large.

To that end we ask for the following:

  • Put poor/working class women of color in the center of analysis, organizing practices, and leadership development. Recognize the role of economic oppression, welfare “reform,” and attacks on women workers’ rights in increasing women’s vulnerability to all forms of violence and locate anti-violence and anti-prison activism alongside efforts to transform the capitalist economic system. (INCITE 2018)
  • While prison abolitionists have correctly pointed out that rapists and serial murderers comprise a small number of the prison population, we have not answered the question of how these cases should be addressed. The inability to answer the question is interpreted by many anti- violence activists as a lack of concern for the safety of women. Increase accountability of offenders including the offenders of women of color. (INCITE 2018)
  •  Prison and police accountability activists have generally organized around and conceptualized men of color as the primary victims of state violence. Women prisoners and victims of police brutality have been made invisible by a focus on the war on our brothers and sons. It has failed to consider how women are affected as severely by state violence as men. The plight of women who are raped by INS officers or prison guards, for instance, has not received sufficient attention. In addition, women carry the burden of caring for extended family when family and community members are criminalized and warehoused. Several organizations have been established to advocate for women prisoners; however, these groups have been frequently marginalized within the mainstream anti-prison movement. (INCITE 2018)
  •  That the DV/SA movement do its own work to acknowledge the erasure of women of color’s contributions to the field.

o Staff training on the history of Black Women being erased from our DV/SA movement be mandatory and that credit be restored to all appropriate works and intentionally credited.

o Development of paths to leadership for Women of Color within our movement, including paid transportation, overnight and curriculum for leadership cohorts be provided.

o As BIPOC are historically economically disenfranchised, ensure economic justice in all its forms; payment of a self-sufficiency wage for all staff including frontline workers is required.

o All Training on historical trauma and racism is integral to our mission; to begin this work, MCEDSV lifts up the work of Kalimah Johnson in her development of the Black Women’s Triangulation of Rape and the work of Uniting Three Fires Against Violence, our sister Tribal Coalition and asks if compensated they be compensated not only for their presentation but the time taken to develop the expertise in their work.

o Evaluate our own shelter programs including the ways in which we –recreate systemic racism through internal policies, rules and regulations.

  • MCEDSV asks that there be a divestment in the militarization of the police and a reinvestment in community solutions including housing, economic justice, maternal health, and all health equity.
  • MCEDSV asks that the State of Michigan end law enforcements’ ability to have consensual sex with anyone in custody and criminalize LE behavior should they attempt to do so.
  • MCEDSV asks that there be an Investment in insuring that law enforcement understand historical racism, sexual assault, and domestic violence together with providing resources to law enforcement to develop strong community relationships. We ask that there be an end to the protection of police unions that refuse to begin to hold racist LE accountable with termination.
  • MCEDSV asks that law enforcement be held accountable for the use of excessive force and that there be an end to qualified immunity for law enforcement and prosecutors.
  • MCEDSV seeks substantial financial investment in prevention of violence programs
  •   MCEDSV seeks expansion of safe harbor provisions for victims of sex trafficking and relatedoffenses.
  •  MCEDSV seeks financial Investment in solutions that lift up de-volution to ensure that inaddition to criminal penalties, community solutions are honored such as greening, juvenileintervention and other successful programs.
  •  MCEDSV seeks Investment in prison programs to re-habilitate offenders that is trauma basedand assists offenders in managing behavior that is related to a trauma response together withstronger victim notification protections if an offender is released early.
  •  MCEDSV asks that Michigan ban background checks and pass laws that insure that a criminalhistory should not be a reason to deny employment unless that offense is directly related to the job at hand (e.g. a sex offender with a CSC I with a child under 12 seeking to work with small children).
  •  MCEDSV also asks that the State of Michigan commute the sentences of those currently imprisoned for now legal drug offenses sentences.
  •  MCEDSV seeks an end to policing of families. Although African American children represent slightly less than 18 percent of all children in Michigan, more than half of the children in out-of- home care are African American, or one of every 50 African American children in the state. It is imperative that we revamp the child protective system to ensure that poverty, misogyny and racism are no longer used as an excuse to remove children from homes. For families that require foster care, ensure that there are enough resources that children of color are placed with family or in community to insure that children do not have to give up family, friends and school.