Abstract: Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Outside of Systems of Policing and Punishment: Participatory Action Research in the Defund Moment (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Outside of Systems of Policing and Punishment: Participatory Action Research in the Defund Moment

Friday, January 14, 2022
Congress, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sid Jordan, JD, PhD Student, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
DeAnn Alcantara-Thompson, Consultant, Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence, Seattle, WA
Background and Purpose: Grassroots and state responses to domestic and sexual violence have been a particularly productive site for black feminist theories of power, intersecting oppression, and police and prison abolition. Abolitionist feminism has taken shape against neoliberal criminal legal responses to domestic and sexual violence by illustrating the interconnectedness of interpersonal and state violence. As activist-led efforts to defund the police have gained ground, many have looked to the community-based alternatives and visions of women of color and abolitionist feminists in responding to interpersonal violence. Transformative justice (TJ) has emerged as a political framework for responding to violence outside of state systems while working to change the underlying conditions in which violence occurs. Although TJ is fundamentally preventionist, practitioner tools have focused on intervening when violence occurs. Building within the TJ framework and using participatory action research (PAR), Mapping Prevention 2020 was launched in Seattle to identify, connect, and drive resources toward domestic and sexual violence prevention efforts outside systems of policing and punishment.

Methods: Mapping Prevention was launched within a coalition of domestic and sexual violence advocacy organizations. An 11-member team conducted interviews with 46 local community organizers leading violence prevention work using strategies that address racism and other intersecting forms of oppression. Most participants were Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) who organized at the intersections of multiple forms of oppression (e.g., immigrants, sex workers, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, youth). The research design was structured to strengthen relationships between team members, participants, and local organizations. Our primary aims were to: 1) understand how participants described the goals and visions of their work; and 2) provide guidance for public funding for domestic and sexual violence prevention. Transcripts were analyzed using participatory processes of cutting and sorting, inductive and deductive coding of interview transcripts, and concept mapping.

Results: Transformative prevention efforts were characterized by practitioners' understanding of root causes and theories of practice. Root causes included histories and processes of land dispossession, labor exploitation, neighborhood and diasporic displacement, educational stratification, malintent and mistreatment by state actors, xenophobia, the enforcement of binary gender norms, and broadly, white supremacy. Knowledge frameworks and theories of practice were described in terms of black liberation, reparations, sovereignty, decolonization, collective and intergenerational healing, queer and trans liberation, accessibility, accountability, community- and self-determination, and economic collectivism. Practical strategies also differed from dominant domestic and sexual violence models and ranged from community response models for de-escalation and accountability to cultural healing practices, and from political solidarity projects to parenting supports.

Conclusions and implications: By characterizing transformative prevention models, the initiative helped guide public funding earmarked for gender-based violence prevention to models led by and for BIPOC and rooted in antiracist and anti-oppressive practices. The team used community-building events, social media campaigns, and a unifying theme song to build momentum and relationships, provide for accountability as a research team, and create a platform for continued knowledge exchange.