You may have heard about Marissa Alexander, the black survivor of domestic violence from Jacksonville, FL who was sentenced to 20 years for defending herself from her abusive estranged husband. Despite the fact that Marissa caused no injuries and has no previous criminal record, and despite the fact that Florida’s self-defense law includes the right to “Stand Your Ground,” she was arrested by Jacksonville police, charged with aggravated assault, and sentenced to 20 years due to mandatory minimum laws.
Marissa’s supporters are getting organized and there’s a Free Marissa tumblr: http://freemarissanow.tumblr.com
and a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FreeMarissaNow
So, please help spread the word!
Marissa’s case is one of many that shows us how Black women and other marginalized people are especially likely to be criminalized, prosecuted, and incarcerated while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives. Her case also reminds us why anti-domestic and sexual violence advocates and activists must work to end mass incarceration, address the intersection of race, gender, poverty and prisons/policing, and seek truly transformative solutions to violence.
This is an amazing picture.
A reaction from Ruha Benjamin, author of People’s Science: bodies and rights on the stem cell frontier
Jonas Salk must be smiling just a little right now! In the 1950s when asked who would own the patent for the polio vaccine, he said “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”
This is a welcome reprieve.
We need a better politics about state and corporate surveillance and control of daily human life — especially those lives that regularly intersect with public institutions — than a frame of privacy rights. I keep trying to understand the shock about the NSA collecting phone and internet data, but then I see this painful video of a woman who was sexually assaulted by police, tries to tell a judge what happened, is ignored, arrested, and has her child taken to protective services, and I am reminded that we’re not having the same conversation about “privacy.”
I appreciate how this notion of “prison nation” makes clear that punishment surveillance extends out of literal prisons and into schools, streets, homes… Some of us have lives that are rendered fundamentally accessible and for the taking. The fact that some guy has a list of my facebook friends, or whatever, is tangential to this core and more urgent truth.
Best performance in Purple Rain.
Updates to the recently released DSM-5 could potentially transform how race-based traumas are diagnosed in ethnic minorities.
finally we are seeing PTSD in the context of everyday life. not everyone is a soldier, so basing all research around vets is not useful to most of the population, tho this is how PTSD is almost always talked about. and as this article makes clear (and what many of us already knew), trauma in this culture needs no bombs to scar you. this is a promising sign, because of that.
unfortunately it means if a new category or criteria are codified in the treatment field via DSM, you’ll be medicated and such, if diagnosed. not society. you will carry the stigma of what others have done to you through their own racism with another (or first) diagnosis); the doctor is NOT going to go out and diagnose society and make it change. which is what would really help.
on the other hand, if you need treatment for PTSD and have had a hard time convincing the therapist of why, this will give some added data to support you. so it’s a tiny step, but a good one.
As interesting as the term “racial battle fatigue” is, I’m just going to flash a yellow warning sign here. The move to diagnose people, especially people who experience emotional and spiritual consequences from racial violence, seems dangerous. The medical industry and our culture in general tends to pathologize people and medicalize their efforts to survive through violence, instead of seriously attending to the political context of injury.
I mean, as the article notes, PTSD is most often associated with soldiers — and that diagnosis hasn’t exactly transformed the way we handle medical support for veterans and people on active duty, military culture, and, of course, war.
But besides the fact that it’s unlikely to have the effect that I think people would hope it would, employing the medical industrial complex to “diagnose” us into showing that racism is a real, valid thing that causes actual injury ignores how it is itself a major system that helps operationalize and normalize racial violence.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t go to their therapists if that works for them, but I’m saying, as always, there’s a larger, messier, more devastating context here.
In “The Book of Woe,” Mr. Greenberg takes us on a rollicking journey from the DSM-5’s inception to its publication, regaling us with stories, alternately hilarious and infuriating, of internecine battles, personality clashes and political machinations. Mr. Greenberg is an outsider by virtue of not being a psychiatrist but an insider by virtue of serving as one of the investigators involved in field-testing some proposed diagnoses on actual patients. He interviewed the major players; he watched as feathers were ruffled and smoothed; he attended conferences, documenting with growing disbelief the failures of the American Psychiatric Association’s task forces to produce the scientific results they had aimed for.
Why would the APA rush publication in spite of unfinished field trials and failures to find high reliability among clinicians, the very things that their claims to a scientific DSM rely on? Do the math, Mr. Greenberg answers. In recent years, the APA has been steadily losing income from dwindling membership and dwindling ad revenues for its journals. The DSM-IV, which has earned $100 million, keeps the organization in the black. Faced with a looming deadline and terrible data, Mr. Greenberg suggests, the DSM directors did what any reasonable, self-protecting institution would do: They lowered the statistical criteria for acceptable standards of reliability and turned defeat into victory. As Allen Frances puts it in “Saving Normal,” they accepted agreements among raters that were “sometimes barely better than two monkeys throwing darts at a diagnostic board.”
Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music
1978, acrylic on canvas
Smithsonian American Art Museum
In a move that might discourage women from reporting domestic abuse, the NYPD has issued a new directive to its officers that they run a criminal check on both the accused and the accuser when responded to an abuse call. The New York Post is reporting that a new memo sent out by the Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski “requires detectives to look at open warrants, complaint histories and even the driving records of both parties.”
Advocates of abused women are worried that this new directive will dissuade women form reporting abuse, frightened of possibly being arrested for offenses like an outstanding traffic violation. Marilyn Chinitz, a lawyer who represents victims of domestic abuse told The Post that the directive “is very, very frightening.” She continued, “It would absolutely dissuade people. They would not report a crime because they would fear getting locked up. It would empower the perpetrator, and there’s going to be more domestic violence as a consequence, and you’re endangering children.”
cops are here to make you suffer
Running background checks on survivors of domestic violence is not a new practice. It happens regularly to black women, trans people, immigrants, poor women, and survivors of color. Mandating the policy is an expansion of an already common police practice used against people who are not legible as “survivors of domestic violence.” Any call to end this terrible policy should be part of a broader demand to stop criminalizing all survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
What will survival entail in the near and far futures?
Mar 15-16: Speculative Visions of Race, Technology, Science, & Survival @ UC Berkeley.
More info here: http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/speculative-visions
Prof. Beth E. Richie will discuss her new book, Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation, at UC Berkeley tonight (Feb 28th) at 5:00 pm, pacific. It will be livestreamed here: