Arrested Justice

I am at a conference being hosted by my university today. I thought it might be nice to try live-blogging again. I am excited because the presenter is a researcher that I have relied a lot on for my own thesis research.

So here we go:

Arrested Justice: How Race/Ethnicity and Class Complicate the Experience of Violence Against Women Beth E. Richie, PhD


When we stop listening to women’s stories and reduce them to a certain experience, or impose a paradigm on to them, we miss the full picture and cause potential danger to those women.

Additionally, people in power may misuse our work to further their own agenda.

We have relied too strongly on quantitative data to shape our interventions and policies.

Potential mistakes of over-relying on quantitative data:
-we only get the data that is asked for
-we completely miss info that nobody cares about (i.e. violence against undocumented women).
-nuance is missed
-we miss broad swaths of violence against women because we have defined it under a limited scope.

There are unintended consequences for separating a certain group out of the broader context. For example, dv victims were granted an exemption in welfare reform but that came at the expense of other women in poverty.

Comparison of Violence Against Women by Social Status:
-poor women are more likely to experience and be trapped in abuse because they have fewer resources to escape.
-women of color are more likely to be victimized due to co-occurring problems.
-data is less likely to be collected on women of color.
-very little is known about adolescent violence and there are very few resources for them.
Sexual Identity
-we know very little about violence history of queer women because they are not seen as traditional violence.
-women in certain neighborhoods are much more likely to experience violence.
-pervasive culture of violence due to other problems.

Research consistently shows that complicated social statuses make violence worse.

Our first, most effective response is the criminal justice system. Though it may be an effective response for some, it does not serve all women well or equally.

We have invested heavily in mandatory arrest, prosecution, etc. but did not push for mandatory housing, mandatory child care, mandatory job training, or anything that would really serve victims well.

Additionally, our policies are leading to the arrest of women victims because it is being used as a blunt instrument by law enforcement and batterers know how to manipulate the system.

It should be noted that there is no causal relationship between violence and complicated social statuses–our criminal justice system that has been developed to target poor, people of color from certain neighborhoods.

What about women of privilege, are they doing so well from the anti-violence movement? The answer is no.

Perhaps anti-violence is not the most effective unifying system.

Qualitative Analysis:
– the cumulative effect of having multiple people who harm you, especially if your status is complicated, is that you will be more likely to experience harm in every sphere of their life over their entire lifetime.

-we need structure to be able to capture this kind of data that is currently not in place.

-the lack of response to the more nuanced view and community denial of violence against women leaves us at the place we are at: we do well for some women but not the women who are socially stigmatized.

If we’re going to be social justice interveners, we need to look at the individual level and the structural level.

Feminists need to take responsibility for the current status quo–we were trying to not few into the social stigmatized status and so we got non-specific data. There were good reasons for doing so but it has also contributed to a non-holistic approach to anti-violence work.


Legal and legislative changes became the dominant focus if the anti-violence movement which meant that we had to comply with the governmental structures.

This almost erased the knowledge and authority of the grassroots base.

The history is grim: we won mainstream support but we lost the movement as a result. We are no longer interested in a radical movement, rather in the perpetuation of our professional movement.

How is our movement different? We are saving lives so it is difficult to turn down funding with strings attached, knowing that it could potentially save lives.

Prison Nation
-buildup of criminal legal system coincided with the movement’s demand that legal and legislative changes be made to address violence against women.

-we criminalized a whole bunch of social problem and at the same time created more prisons with less regulation to deal with the increased demand.

-the anti-violence movement had blinders on and didn’t realize that their agenda was being used to further the agenda of mass incarceration.

-the prison nation has disproportionately impacted stigmatized communities.

-the convergence of the crime policy, economic conditions and concentrated disadvantages allows for the buildup of a prison nation.

-one reason why the anti-violence movement needs to reorient is because we are contributing to this problem.

-women are caught up in this in very violent ways. The ones who are most affected of those with less class and social privilege.

-instead of helping victims, we have criminalizes victimization as a way to address social problems.

How do we solve the problems talked about above?

The Violence Matrix–an attempt to re-orient the anti-violence movement.


We will loose just as many as battles as we will win but even in the losses we need to be making connections with multiple providers so that the next battle will be easier.

We have to be willing to walk to be hardest parts and examine the status quo.

Are there ways we can hold people accountable and make people safer?

Restorative justice is an interesting place to look to–it may not but we won’t know until we fully examine both.

We don’t work with men in an old-fashioned way. We keep them at arms length and consider them allies at best.

We have to be willing to look towards the longterm. If you say there will be no more violence against women, you have to understand that the whole world will have to change in order to accomplish this.

I have to go pick up my kids from school but I’ll be back later tonight with some final thoughts.