Just as hearing is different from listening, knowing the facts isn’t quite the same as achieving awareness. I’ve learned this the hard way in the past few months as Ascend Justice has launched our Incarcerated Survivors Project. I “knew” lots of facts: 98% of people in women’s prisons report that they are survivors of gender-based violence; the criminal legal system often harms, rather than protects survivors; and the way that you experience and perceive the criminal legal system will likely vary depending on your race.
It wasn’t until Ascend Justice and the Women’s Justice Institute screened a film called And So I Stayed and heard from survivors who had spent decades in prison that I moved past just knowing the facts about incarcerated survivors. At that moment, awareness felt like the grief of so many mothers who have missed year’s of their children’s lives, like the anxiety and desperation borne of isolation, and fury at a system that locks up the women who fight back, the ones who choose to live rather than be killed.
You probably know the facts of domestic violence: that it impacts 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men and that it costs our country upwards of $12 billion each year. You may know that gender-based violence is still normalized and trivialized in pop culture and by the systems that are meant to address it. If you’d like to grow your awareness, here are some ideas: listen to survivors. If you are a survivor, tell your story AND listen to others whose experience may be different from yours. Attend a Domestic Violence Awareness Month event: we recommend Look At Me: A Performance by Incarcerated Survivors of Gender-Based Violence on October 27, where survivors inside of Logan Correctional Center will be performing a piece they wrote based on their experiences.
Of course, we hope that you will continue to support Ascend Justice as we listen, amplify survivors’ stories, and work to improve the systems that serve them.
Margaret R. Duval
To read our October newsletter in its entirety, please click here.