– Andrea Smith and Luana Ross, Introduction: Native Women and State Violence (via arielnietzsche)
The antiviolence movement first prioritized a response to male violence based on grass-roots political mobilization. However, as the antiviolence movement has gained greater public prominence, domestic violence and rape crisis centers have also become increasingly professionalized, and consequently are often reluctant to address sexual and domestic violence within the larger context of institutionalized violence. As a case in point, many state coalitions on domestic/sexual violence have refused to take stands against the anti-immigration backlash, arguing that this issue is not a sexual/domestic violence issue. However, as the immigration backlash intensifies, many immigrant women do not report abuse for fear of deportation. This narrow approach toward working against violence is problematic because it is impossible to seriously address sexual/domestic violence within communities of color without addressing the larger structures of violence, such as militarism, attacks on immigrants’ rights and Indian treaty rights, the proliferation of prisons, economic neocolonialism, and institutional racism.
In addition, rape crisis centers and shelters increasingly rely on state and federal sources for their funding. Consequently, their approaches toward eradicating violence focus on working with the state rather than working against state violence. Mainstream antiviolence advocates are demanding longer prison sentences for batterers and sex offenders as a front-line approach to stopping violence against women. However, the criminal justice system has always been brutally oppressive toward communities of color. In addition, Luana Ross (1998) has demonstrated that the majority of Native women in prison are there as a direct or indirect result of abuse. As Stormy Ogden’s article implies, the antiviolence movement, including tribally based programs, has often failed to be accountable to the women most vulnerable to violence — women in prison. Ogden bravely discloses her experiences of imprisonment for welfare fraud. She connects her personal biography to the larger societal structure, forms of imprisonment, and colonialism. Ogden’s work indicates that it is essential for anti-domestic/sexual violence activists to develop strategies that do not further the victimization of women in prison. She also points to the contradiction of relying upon the state to solve problems it is responsible for creating. Native people are per capita the most arrested, most incarcerated, and most victimized by police brutality of any ethnic group in the country (Armstrong et al., 1996: 81).